Fury – An Interview with the Heroes

Decorated World War II veteran Paul Andert, consultant on the imminent Hollywood movie ‘Fury’, shares some genuine stories about the realities of war.

With the forthcoming release of our ‘Armoured Fury’ Tank War Starter Set later this month, and with the October release of the movie ‘Fury’ – which chronicles the experiences of a US Tank Crew through the final months of the Second World War in Western Europe – we sent out a Forward Observer to gain some intel – organiser of the US Warlord Games Day, and our man across the Pond, Jon Russell went along to sit down with some of the veterans used as historical consultants for the movie – and to conduct a brief interview with Paul Andert.

Fury cast and Vets The cast of ‘Fury’ and some of the Veterans used as consultants for the film.

What is your name, when did you enlist and what units did you serve in?

My name is Paul Andert and I enlisted in 1940 at the age of 17 and served in WWII from October 1942 to May 1945. During this time I was a platoon sergeant for Company B of the 41st Armored Infantry 2nd Armored Division. I wanted to serve my country and didn’t want to wait around to be drafted.

 

What theatres were you involved in and how much combat did you see?

I served in Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and all across Europe. I participated in seven major campaigns plus three landing invasions. I was wounded twice and received the Silver Star, three Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. I was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2008 along with General Tommy Franks. In Aug 2013 the French Government presented me with the National Order of the Legion of Honour, Chevalier Degree.

I fought the Germans, Italians and, of course, the French when we landed in North Africa. As we approached the front, the closer you got the louder the bombardment sounded. Then finally after hearing the bombardments for a while, you get closer and you start hearing the small arms fire. Then you start seeing the bodies being brought back and the German and Italian bodies lying there. We never covered the enemies’ bodies, but we always covered a friendly body because that was the rule. We let the enemy be seen so we could say “we got you, buddy”.

So on the way up there you are thinking, am I going to be like this before it is over?

I shot at a lot of the enemy and think I got over two hundred, I quit counting after that. I don’t remember the first one but do remember the last one. After I hit him I wanted to make sure I got him so I walked over to where he fell and made sure he was dead.

I also remember the first German I killed in hand-to hand-combat. We were picked to conduct a night time reconnaissance mission. I was told to go conduct a patrol and penetrate as far as we could into the enemy lines and find out whether the Italians are moving in and the Germans are moving out or is it the other way around. I picked three guys from my unit and out we went. One of the guys was named Cemak and he was a cousin of the Mayor of Chicago at the time. So Cemak and I paired up and the other two guys were following us – they would get back if we got knocked out.

On the way in we ran across a German outpost, but we bypassed it so we could penetrate the enemy lines further. We got in close and discovered the Italians were moving out and the Germans were moving in. So after figuring this out we headed back.

The doggone German outpost was still there and now really in our way. We could not get around it and we had a time limit to get back without being fired upon. We were supposed to be silent. We looked at each other, and thought: well, we got to take this outpost out.

I looked at the trench knife I had. We had just turned in our World War One trench knifes because they had brass knuckles and a spike on the end. The Geneva Convention said that we couldn’t use those. We could use a knife, but we couldn’t use the spike or the knuckles!

So we each took a guy and we knew we had to do this silently and take them out. We both got them at the same time from the back praying that this would work. It did. You know, at this point though, the fear is gone. All that is left is the feeling of this has got to be done. So we did it. I can remember after we killed those two German guys and we moved past a little ways we drooped down and I looked at ole Cemak and I said, “You know what? I said a prayer before I killed that German.” He said “I did the same thing”. We both said “Dear God help me kill this guy”.

I was wounded twice during my time in WWII. The second time they ordered me back to the States but I went AWOL to rejoin my unit. In fact, at the same time I was fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, the rear echelon bubbas were working my court martial orders! How is that for gratitude?

Jon and Paul Andert

 Our man Jon Russell, and veteran Paul Andert.

How close did you become with your fellow soldiers and are there any that really stick out?

All of my troops were like brothers to me. Several names come to mind. Dynamite, Squint Eye and then there was a real character in my outfit. Every time the shooting started he would get scared and take off running. I would say, “where ya going?” and he would yell out “Shanging Ass” (what we would call running away during combat) so this became his nickname. He would always come back, so we carried him along. We had a few others that went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and stayed away, never to come back. But overall most of them hung in there.

 

Did you stay in after WWII and did you see any changes in the way battles were fought over the years after WWII?

I was demobilized after the War but was called back up when Korea got hot. They wanted me to train the guys going over there and the only way I would do it was if they promised me they would not send me too.

It was during this time I started to realize the Army had changed. I was out on the course training the troops the way I was trained and made sure they would be ready for combat. A NATO Colonel came up to me and asked me a question. He said, “Excuse me Sergeant, did you ask permission from those soldiers before you touched them?” I looked at him like he had just grown a third eye. I said, “No sir I did not!”

So after this the Army told me they were gonna ship me to Korea. With this news and what I experienced on the training field I got out and went back home.

Sherman with sandbagged hull

Movies like FURY are very lucky to get advice and help from people like yourself, how much of an impact do you think you have on the direction of the filming?

Well to really answer this question completely I have to see the whole thing first. What I can tell you is the other veterans (there were three other veterans called in to help, those three were tankers, Paul was the only infantry man in the bunch) and I feel the movie comes awfully close to the real thing.

I have read some of the early reviews for the film and there seems to be a lot of talk about it and how it may be too raw and the portrayal of the characters in it are not of clean cut kids but hardened and dirty fighters. The movie portrays just how very rough and dirty it was, and when I say dirty I don’t mean how muddy it was. The movies have been slowly coming around to show just how horrible war really is. Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and a few others come close to showing the real truth of combat.

You had a mission to do and you did it. You had to be dirty or else good men would get killed. When you are confronted by just how bad it is, if you want to survive you have to do everything you can to defeat your enemy and be the last one standing at the end of the day.

We always were moving forward. Patton always demanded this. He always said if the enemy was gonna get us, they were gonna have to get us when we were on the move. Patton also told us leaders to get in the front of the troops and lead from there. He told us you can’t push spaghetti, if you are in the lead you can pull it, and it will follow you.

Jon and Al Price Jon Russell chatting with Al Price – one of the Veterans who served as a historical consultant on ‘Fury’ .

What is your personal opinion on the characters portrayed in FURY, can you relate them to real life soldiers or are they larger than life for the movie?

No they aren’t really larger than life and I can relate to them. Again I need to see the whole movie but what we talked about and the questions they asked us veterans convinced me they were really working as hard as they could to get it right. We helped them with the timelines of some specific campaigns and even the cuss words we used and didn’t use. I can tell you Brad Pitt’s nickname “War-Daddy” is one I never heard, nor do I think anyone would ever want to be called it. We all told the actors to cut off their ponytails too! This kinda of stuff would never fly in combat or with your fellow squad members!

 

Paul and his fellow WWII veterans are still very active in the Tulsa community. They go to all the schools in the area and surrounding towns telling the school children their stories, helping them understand just what went on during the time period leading up the war, what they did during the war and what happened after they came home. These gentle giants are truly walking, talking, living and breathing history lessons. I am very grateful and humbled to call them friends. I encourage each and every reader to get in contact with their local veteran organizations and see what you can do to get to know this diminishing window into the past. Don’t let these stories disappear but continue on through you in retelling them to everyone who will listen.

This interview was conducted on 18 Sep 2014 in Tulsa Oklahoma by Jon Russell. Other interviews and sources were consulted and or referenced in this article:

Tulsa World News, Tulsa, Oklahoma 9 August 2013.

A collection of interviews conducted by John Erling and printed in the December 2013 copy of the Hell on Wheels Bulletin

An interview printed in the Community Spirit Magazine October 2013.

You can get a copy of Paul’s book (Unless You Have Been There) from the website (http://paulandert.wordpress.com/). As Paul has yet to receive any money from Amazon to this date (yes he is looking into it!) please don’t buy from them! Please call the number on his site to insure he will get the money!