Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



The American army’s first taste of war in the European Theater was in Africa, and it was a bitter one. They were led by an incompetent general who preferred to stay in his headquarters 70 miles behind the lines. The Germans under Rommel slaughtered the Americans at the Kasserine Pass. (You can see the aftermath of this disaster in the early scenes of Patton.) It was such a rout that many troops were separated from their units with no idea where they were or where they should go. This is the (fictional) story of one such group, in a tank commanded by Humphrey Bogart. They pick up some Brits and try to find their way home through the endless sand, with no water. They end up holding off a regiment or battalion (I’ve never been sure which is which, but it’s about 500 Nazis) who are also dying of thirst, and think the Americans are guarding a well, which is actually dry. It’s a damn good movie throughout. One silly thing: Lloyd Bridges trying to play a limey soldier. Luckily, he gets killed off early in the picture. I did a little research on the M3 Lee tank they are driving. American armor in the early days of World War II was devastating and virtually invulnerable … if it had been used in World War I. Actually, the M3 was a death trap, a tin can that was no match for Nazi tanks, which could strand off and destroy them with their longer-range guns. And if the M3 got hit … oh, brother. Its armor was riveted instead of welded, and the result was that the rivets popped out and became lethal bullets that perforated the crew. Who needs Nazis when incompetent American designers are out to kill you?