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Unforgettable Scenes in World War II Movies

Updated on December 1, 2018
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Introduction

"Kelly’s Heroes", "Play Dirty", and "The Battle of the Bulge" are three World War II movies that are not among the most well-known. People who have seen many war movies might not remember if they’ve seen these movies. Each of these movies have at least one scene that is so memorable that by describing the scene people would immediately know if they’d seen the movie.

A World War II movie with at least one unforgettable scene.

Kelly’s Heroes

This 1970 comedy, set in World War II Europe, is somewhat anachronistic. In many ways it seemed closer to the then ongoing Vietnam Conflict than the Second World War. The first example is the movie’s theme song, “Burning Bridges” performed by the Mike Curb Congregation. Not unusual in movies at the time the song doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the movie.[i] "Burning Bridges", except for the opening instrumental, had a typical '70 sound. Most of the movie’s main characters go by nicknames. Donald Sutherland played “Oddball” who was a combination hippy/tank commander. The hit movie “MASH”, where he played Hawkeye Pierce, was released 3 months earlier.[ii]

Kelly (Clint Eastwood) learned the Germans had $16 million worth of gold in a bank. Kelly devised a plan where he and other U.S. Army soldiers, led by Oddball in his tank, would steal the gold. When they reached the town with the bank they found it defended by three Waffen-SS Tiger tanks and supporting infantry.[iii] Oddball’s Sherman tank was outnumbered and outgunned but this wasn’t going to stop Clint “Where Eagles Dare” Eastwood.[iv] In the ensuing combat Kelly and his band take out the supporting infantry and two of the Tiger tanks. Oddball’s tank is immobilized. The surviving Tiger’s crew positions their tank in front of the bank and use the Tiger’s 88mm cannon to block off all but one of the streets leading to the bank. Kelly and company have little chance of dealing with the Tiger or getting into the sealed bank. The rest of the U.S. Army would soon arrive. Crapgame (Don Rickles) suggest they attempt to cut a deal with the Germans. He reasons, “Maybe they’re Republicans.” This sets up the memorable scene.

Clint Eastwood first gained notoriety as ramrod Rowdy Yates in the TV Western “Rawhide”. In 1970 he was best known as "the man with no name” in Spaghetti Westerns.[v] A famous scene from the 1966 movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was where Clint Eastwood (Blondie), Eli Wallach (Tuco), and Lee Van Cleef (Angel Eyes) had a showdown over gold. In “Kelly’s Heroes” Kelly (Eastwood), Big Joe (Telly Savalas), and Oddball (Sutherland) walk down the street to face the Tiger. Kelly and Big Joe are armed with submachine guns and Oddball has a holstered handgun that he readies for a quick draw. The film played the same music as the showdown scene from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”.

[i] “Burning Bridges” isn’t a reference to wartime destruction.

[ii] Arguably “MASH” was also more appropriate for a Vietnam setting.

[iii] It’s not mentioned in the movie but the Tiger tank’s unit insignia is of the 1st SS Panzer Division, Lebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.

[iv] The 1968 movie “Where Eagles Dare” has the distinction of being the movie where a Clint Eastwood character killed the most people, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065207/trivia.

[v] “Spaghetti Westerns” was the nickname given to Italian made movies about the early American west. These movies were popular in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

A World War II movie with at least one unforgettable scene.

Play Dirty

This 1969 film is set in North Africa, 1943. Colonel Masters (Nigel Green) believes war is a criminal enterprise so he fights it with criminals. He has a band of commandos led by Captain Cyril Leech (Nigel Davenport). Leech and the rest of the band are murderers. Masters' superiors insisted a regular office go on this mission. They got Captain Douglas (Michael Caine), an officer who was working in a support job, to go with the commandos. The commandos, dressed in Italian uniforms, go off on their mission. While on the mission one of them is wounded. To get medical supplies Captain Douglas flags down a German Army ambulance. He, and the three men with him, kill the two drivers. Captain Douglas and two men sit in the cab and the other man gets in the back. As they drive off the men in the cab hear rustling noises in the back. One man looks behind and says, with a smile, “it’s just the nurse.” This sets up the memorable scene.

When the ambulance comes to a stop and they open the rear door the nurse (Vivian Pickles) and the commando jump. The nurse flips the commando. She kicks the commando in the crotch and proceeds to beat him up. Captain Douglas attempts to pull the nurse off the commando. The nurse reaches between her legs, grabs Douglas’s legs and takes him down. The nurse wrestles with Douglas until an amused Captain Leech decides to end it. He pulls the nurse off Douglas and knocks her out with a single punch. Leech turns to Douglas and rhetorically asks, “Don’t you know how to handle a woman?”

While such a movie scene today might not be so memorable in 1969 it definitely was a memorable scene.

A World War II movie with at least one unforgettable scene

The Battle of the Bulge

This 1965 movie is about the German offensive in the Ardennes Forest in December, 1944. The Americans named the battle, The Battle of the Bulge, because the offensive put a bulge in the battle line. The movie had a big name cast and some epic battle scenes. It had mixed reviews including President Dwight D. Eisenhower who denounced the film because of its historical inaccuracies.[i]

German General Kohler (Werner Peters) wants Colonel Hessler (Robert Shaw) to spearhead the offensive. Hessler isn’t impressed with General Kohler’s preparations until Hessler sees the tanks. Hessler’s orderly, Conrad (Hans Christian Blech), asks what kind of soldiers will drive the tanks. Conrad pointed out he, Conrad, was once a good soldier. Conrad reminds Colonel Hessler of what happened earlier when Conrad bolted from a car and dropped into a ditch because of an unarmed reconnaissance plane.[ii] Hessler tells General Kohler he wants to see the tank commanders. This sets up the memorable scene.

Colonel Hessler and General Kohler review the tank commanders. Most of the commanders are young. General Kohler answers Colonel Hessler’s comments and questions with an optimistic spin. After Hessler reviews the soldiers stomp their feet as they sing the first stanza of "Der Panzerleid".[iii]

"Der Panzerleid" has considerable popularity. At least some of the popularity is related to this four-minute scene. A group of Koreans reenacted this scene in 2006 for a YouTube video.[iv] The 2015 Japanese animated series "Girls und Panzers" uses this song as one of their marching anthems. Some militaries use the song, or the music, today.

[i] U.S. Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058947/trivia, last accessed 9/19/2018.

[ii] We first see Colonel Hessler and Conrad when Conrad is driving him and a U.S. spotter plane comes on the scene. Conrad stops the car and runs in to a ditch. Hessler chides him. Conrad points out the plane could have killed them. Hessler pointed out had Conrad taken the time to look he would have seen it was an unarmed reconnaissance plane.

[iii] While the first stanza is not political in 2017 German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen banned the German Army from publishing song books containing Der Panzerleid.

[iv]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey4WdiFV6mY, last viewed 9/23/2018, it had 166,531 views as of this date.

This 1965 movie is about the German offensive in the Ardennes Forest in December, 1944. The Americans named the battle, The Battle of the Bulge, because the offensive put a bulge in the battle line. The movie had a big name cast and some epic battle scenes. It had mixed reviews including President Dwight D. Eisenhower who denounced the film because of its historical inaccuracies.[i]

German General Kohler (Werner Peters) wants Colonel Hessler (Robert Shaw) to spearhead the offensive. Hessler isn’t impressed with General Kohler’s preparations until Hessler sees the tanks. Hessler’s orderly Conrad (Hans Christian Blech) asks what kind of soldiers will drive the tanks. Conrad pointed out he, Conrad, was once a good soldier. Conrad reminds Colonel Hessler of what happened earlier when Conrad bolted from a car and dropped into a ditch because of an unarmed reconnaissance plane.[ii] Hessler tells General Kohler he wants to see the tank commanders. This sets up the memorable scene.

Colonel Hessler and General Kohler review the tank commanders. Most of the commanders are young. General Kohler answers Colonel Hessler’s comments and questions with an optimistic spin. After Hessler reviews the soldiers stomp their feet as they sing the first stanza of Der Panzerleid.[iii]

Der Panzerleid has considerable popularity. At least some of the popularity is related to this four-minute scene. A group of Koreans reenacted this scene in 2006 for a YouTube video[iv]. The 2015 Japanese animated series Girls und Panzers uses this song as one of their marching anthems. Some militaries use the song, or the music, today.

[i] U.S. Movie Database, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058947/trivia, last accessed 9/19/2018.

[ii] We first see Colonel Hessler and Conrad when Conrad is driving him and a U.S. spotter plane comes on the scene. Conrad stops the car and runs in to a ditch. Hessler chides him. Conrad points out the plane could have killed them. Hessler pointed out had Conrad taken the time to look he would have seen it was an unarmed reconnaissance plane.

[iii] While the first stanza is not political in 2017 German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen banned the German Army from publishing song books containing Der Panzerleid.

[iv]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ey4WdiFV6mY, last viewed 9/23/2018, it had 166,531 views as of this date.

Miltaries Using Music or Song of Der Panzerlied

Military
Song Title
English Translation
Austria
Der Panzerlied
The Armor Song
Italy
Sui Monti e Sui Mar
On the Mountains and on the Sea
France
Marche des Chars
The Tank March
Chile
La canción de los tanques
The Tank Song
Republic of Korea
충성전투가
Song of Allegiance

Sing Along Songs in Military Movies

Movie
Song
Movie
Song
Windtalkers
Marine Hymn
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
Top Gun
Bye Bye Blackbird - Chorus sang as Ciao Ciao Blackbird
Reds
L'Internationale
From Here to Eternity
Reenlistment Blues
The Hunt for Red October
Hymn of the USSR
Gods and Generals
The Bonnie Blue Flag
Zulu
Men of Harlech
All Quiet on the Western Front
Die Wacht Am Rhein
The Deer Hunter
God Bless America

© 2018 Robert Sacchi

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    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      3 months ago

      Yes, President Bush had a long life and he had a long history of public service. You serving food to impoverished people on Thanksgiving along with President Bush is a memory to cherish. Thank you for sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      3 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Off subject slightly except in regard to WWII...but I am thinking of the part that George H.W. Bush played in that war and his subsequent public service to our nation. He was such an honorable man. After his presidency, he and his wife Barbara continued public service to others raising many millions of dollars for good causes. One report said that they raised over a billion dollars for charity!

      I will never forget the day that we saw the two of them serving up food to people at our convention center on Thanksgiving Day. We were down there doing the same thing. There was no press involved. They just donned hairnets and aprons and were dishing out food to impoverished people while we were helping to carry the trays to the tables so that people could enjoy a hot meal that day. They spent several hours of their time doing that.

      We personally saw them doing other charitable acts in Houston. Our city and much of the nation is mourning the loss of our 51st President of the U.S. He will soon be interred next to his beloved wife Barbara and their daughter Robin who died of leukemia at a tender young age.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      4 months ago

      Good points. Oddball was the most memorable character of 'Kelly's Heroes'. 'Play Dirty' had a surprise ending. Of course the number one 'Men of Harlech' scene was from the movie 'Zulu'. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      4 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Robert

      'Oddball' is one of the most memorable characters in movies in general! Especially the way he used to castigate his driver for the 'negative vibes'. To me, he made that movie special.

      Can't say I remember much about 'play dirty' but I know I will have seen the movie.

      A memorable scene for me in 'Battle of the Bulge' is where Conrad finally realises that Hessler doesn't care about the war or Germany, he just loves to fight (something Conrad is sick of)

      One more memorable song (for me) is from the movie 'A Bridge too far' where the wounded paratroopers are about to be taken prisoner and the sing the song 'Men of Harlech'

      Really enjoyed this hub

      Lawrence

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 months ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liz Westwood - Yes, I know if someone isn't a war movie buff but lives in a house with somebody who is they might not remember a movie by name but if the movie is any good they have specific scenes that are unforgettable.

      Peggy Woods - There is also the 1964 movie, "The Train", staring Burt Lancaster. The plot line is the Nazis stole a bunch artwork from Paris and are transporting it by train. The French underground is trying to prevent them from doing that.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Yes, thank you. The Monument's Men was the one that I was thinking of. That was an excellent movie!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      5 months ago from UK

      My Dad used to watch a lot of war movies. Some of these sound familiar.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 months ago

      Do you mean "The Monuments Men"?

      Of course with "Kelly's Heroes" they were liberating the gold for themselves.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Robert,

      I always enjoy reading your movie reviews of old movies. Will put them on my list of ones to view. Kelly's Heros was a good one and reminded me of one that instead of going after recovering gold was intent on recovering art pieces. Cannot think of the title of that one but it was also good.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 months ago

      Yes, these are both memorable scenes from those movies. Patton was a well known movie, won 7 Oscars, It is so iconic, after all The Simpsons spoofed it, it was a bit too well known for the article's purpose. A Bridge Too Far would definitely fall into that category. Redford was in the boat with the Chaplin and they were praying as shells were landing among the boats. That scene should be memorable since they paid Redford a mint to do it. Even Redford admitted they overpaid him for the scene. A Bridge Too Far didn't do well in the U.S. market but it was very successful worldwide. I included A Bridge Too Far in my article on movies where the "bad guys" won. Shameless self promotion, I apologize. I'm glad it energized your husband. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      5 months ago from USA

      My husband and I are in the car and I’m describing your article to him (he’s driving) and he is enthused spouting off movies like Saving Price Ryan the beach landing scene, A Bridge Too Far Robert Redford’s crossing the river scene. and George C. Scott’s opening speech in Patton. You have him energized, as he’s a fellow WWII movie buff.

    • Robert Sacchi profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Sacchi 

      5 months ago

      Thank you both for reading and commenting.

      Louise Powles - Where Eagles Dare was a great mixture of action and intrigue. Eastwood in that movie could best be described to younger viewers as Rambo before Rambo.

      Mary Norton - Yes, sing along scenes can really capture the emotion of what is going on. "God Bless America" at the end of The Deer Hunter was very powerful.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      The Sing Along songs were a pleasant surprise at the end. She wore a Yellow Ribbon is one of my favourites.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      5 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I've not seen the others, but I do love Where Eagles Dare. That's a great film.

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