Has any war ever been fought as many times as World War II? Countless books, plays and, of course, films about the war have emerged in the 75 years since the conflict began. Casablanca, Saving Private Ryan, Downfall, Stalingrad, Schindler's List, Das Boot, The Great Escape--the list of great movies set during the Second World War is, it sometimes seems, endless.
The most recent big-budget, high-profile production is Fury, written and directed by David Ayer and starring Brad Pitt (opening Oct. 17). This, according to the studio's marketing department, is what the movie's about:
April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.
In light of this, LIFE has posted a series of photos--many of them from the very region of Europe where Fury is set--depicting modern tank warfare as it was unleashed around the world in the 1940s. Some of the pictures are graphic. All of them were made by photographers who witnessed, first-hand, the destruction that tanks could inflict, and the grisly deaths tank crews frequently suffered inside and outside of their cramped, armored, rolling fortresses.
American tanks of the Army 7th Division using specially equipped flame throwers to burn Japanese defenders out of their caves and pillboxes, Okinawa, 1945. (W. Eugene Smith--The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A young German boy sits beside the road as a tank of the U.S. 9th Armored Division passes through his village on its way to Berlin, spring 1945. (John Florea--The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)