By Rick Cartledge
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks film the 101st Airborne in Europe during World War II
As you read this, Mr. Steven Spielberg and Mr. Tom Hanks begin work on a new series for HBO. They film the Airborne in Europe during World War II. Their motion picture will serve as a thirteen part series for the 2001 television season. We await their efforts with great interest. Meanwhile, as a behind the scenes look, we shall write of the preparation and will view some of the armament used in the production.
As they did with ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (see SAR Oct 99), Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Hanks have sought authenticity. Steven Spielberg’s legendary attention to the most minute detail again will be viewed in the upcoming HBO production. In ‘Saving Private Ryan’ Mr. Spielberg used Advanced Armament Corporation for the live gun sounds (see SAR Oct ’99). In ‘Saving Private Ryan’ he turned to International Military Antiques (IMA) for the on camera firearms and soldiers’ uniforms. For this production, Steven Spielberg turned again to IMA. For our story, we turn to IMA’s Christian Cranmer for an up to date report.
Mr. Cranmer returned from England in late January with facts in hand. He reports that Mr. Spielberg selected a four jet transport hanger at Hatfield Aerodrome in the United Kingdom as his base for logistical supplies. The logistical supplies and armament poured in from IMA. The massive hanger contained a mammoth selection of ordnance, both real and dummies. Mr. Cranmer commented on the dummies as being particularly impressive. Items from firearms to tanks appeared real from ten feet away. The real firearms to be used in the motion picture will interest our readers even more. Christian stated that each of them stood as first quality examples for close-ups and blank firing sequences.
In war the SS and the German parachutists kept their weaponry simple. They did not keep it quite as simple as the Airborne did. The Germans carried the Mauser rifle, the MP-40 as a sub gun, and the MG-42 as their LMG. Additionally the SS carried the MP-35 Bergman and the ZB-26. The ZB-26 stood as the only gun produced outside Germany adopted by the SS.
The Fallschirmjager also carried the innovative FG-42 parachute gun in small numbers. This rare weapon contained a number of innovations that continue to influence modern firearms development. Its night time muzzle blast proved to be an almost fatal flaw. Writer and Airborne historian Mark Bando reports examining an FG-42 G model some years ago. A trooper with the 101st captured the gun during the early fighting in Normandy at La Barkette. For the upcoming motion picture, Christain Cranmer states that IMA dropped the tailgate and loaded the wagon.
Almost unknown today, the Airborne acted as a secret operation during World War II. Airborne Commanders did not allow photographs of their troopers in any other than dress uniforms. They planned to meeet the German on the battlefield and tear him up. After the battle ended, the German would lick his wounds and never know what hit him. In truth, the Airborne kept it very simple. At least one M-2 Carbine found the unique role of a portable mortar (see SAR Feb 00). The M-1 Garand and the Thompson proved their worth. For their LMG, the 101st adopted the 1919A-6 after Normandy. The large steady bipod gave it more than 500 yards on the MG-42. More importantly, the Airborne A-6 fought as a one man gun. The MG-34 and 42 took two men. When the right mortar shell hit, the German gun lost two. The Airborne A-6 lost but one.
Mr. Cranmer stated that Mr. Steven Spielberg asked for a vast array of vintage firearms for use in his motion picture. As of this writing, we cannot tell you that all of the requested weapons will see service in the film. What we can do is to give the reader an overview of the guns assembled for the motion picture. In the accompanying photographs, our knowledgeable readers may view for themselves the depth of Steven Spielberg’s preparation.
Mr. Spielberg bases his film on the book ‘Band of Brothers’. This excellent work by Dr. Stephen Ambrose documents the story of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Regiment, 101st Airborne. Mr. Tom Hanks’ great success with ‘Apollo 13’ led to the HBO mini series ‘From Earth to the Moon’. Our readers already know of Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Hank’s work in ‘Saving Private Ryan’. That wonderful film work led both men to the current project. As you read this, the guiding hands of both men craft the filming of ‘Band of Brothers’.
In this report, written two months before a foot of film is shot, I remain confident of two things. First, Mr. Steven Spielberg and Mr. Tom Hanks will produce a film well worth viewing. Second, and more importantly, on HBO in 2001 all of us may view something of our heritage. In ‘Band of Brothers’ we shall catch in celluloid the following two things. Importantly, in a motion picture we shall view some of the fine men who contributed to the Airborne legend. Most importantly, we shall ‘…hear the Eagle scream.’
Ms. Tobe Becker
HBO Media Relations
1100 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
International Military Antiques (IMA)
P.O. Box 256
Millington, NJ 07946
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N10 (July 2000)|