WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 16, 2014) -- Soldiers and World War II veterans were among the honored guests Wednesday night at the world premiere of Brad Pitt's movie Fury, a fictional account of tankers in the "Greatest Generation."
The film features Pitt as an Army sergeant, "Wardaddy," who commands a Sherman tank with a five-man crew. The film is set in Germany behind enemy lines, April 1945.
At the premiere last night, reporters packed the red carpet at the Newseum, awaiting the arrival of the stars, including Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, and Jon Bernthal.
The event also included red carpet welcomes for the World War II veterans who served in the Army's 2nd Armored Division and who provided consultations for the movie.
The pre-movie ceremonies featured Army and other uniformed personnel, veterans, and military families.
The Army had a starring role in the red carpet events, as the Color Guard presented the colors, and a soloist with "Pershing's Own" U.S. Army Band sang the national anthem.
Pitt said during the movie's pre-production consultations, the World War II veterans provided great insight into what they experienced during the war.
The men, he said, "constantly portrayed this picture of fatigue, exhaustion, lack of food, hunger, poor conditions, bad equipment."
In filming the movie, he and the other actors gained a "deeper understanding" of the physical and mental dedication and demands on the Soldiers who served during that time, he said.
Pitt said they went through three months of training before even starting the movie.
"Certainly we learned a lot about leadership," Pitt said.
HONORING ARMY'S PAST, PRESENT
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who was representing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, paid tribute to the Soldiers of today, and those who served throughout the generations.
The Army is a "living, historical community," said McMaster, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. He honored the heroic actions of the World War II veterans in defeating Nazi Germany and liberating Europe.
"We feel very strongly the bonds that go back to these brave gentlemen here who fought in the 2nd Armored Division," he said, adding that it was an "amazing division by the way."
It is great being able to celebrate the accomplishments of the World War II veterans, McMaster said.
Among those veterans was Ray Stewart, who recalled his days as a tank gunner.
"I served with 2nd Armor, F Company, 66th Armor Regiment. I loved to drive a tank. I drove a tank from Germany down to the Bulge, which is over 100 miles, and I drove it in the rain, and the cold," he said, in reference to the Battle of the Bulge, which began in December 1944.
"By the time we got down to the Bulge, it was 11 degrees below zero," he said.
For more information about the Battle of the Bulge, go to www.army.mil/botb.
Stewart attended the premiere with his family, including his wife of 63 years, Dottie.
"She has been a good wife to me, a beautiful wife," he said.
World War II veteran and author Paul Andert was in the infantry with the 2nd Armored Division. He regularly speaks to schools about the war history. "I enjoy doing it," he said.
It was great being on the red carpet, he said, noting that he and Pitt "talked a lot."
The premiere offered a great opportunity to meet the heroes of World War II, according to Col. Max Moore.
"It really goes a long way to really reinforce the fact that 'once a Soldier, always a Soldier,'" he said.
LaBeouf, who portrays a member of the tank crew, said filming was an "extremely eye-opening" experience.
"It hits me on a soul level," he said. "I've fallen in love with the military."
The director of the movie, David Ayer, is a Navy veteran with strong family ties to the military.
"Both my grandparents served in World War II," he said, adding they were career officers who retired. "My uncle was in the Army Air Corps, flew 35 missions over Germany."
That generation never talked about their experiences, he said.
"It was the armored forces that had the combat mass really to punch through the enemy," he said.
"There's no more sort of intimate combat element than a tank crew. You got five guys, they're stuck in a metal box and they got nothing to do but to get to know each other," Ayer said.
SALUTE TO THE MILITARY
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus noted how the Army and Navy are "joint sister services." He lauded the United States military for how great it's been historically, and how great it is today.
"It's really important to have that trust, have that connection, between a democracy and the people who defend that democracy," he said.
The members of today's military are the "best we've ever had," and the "rightful heirs" to the great heroes of World War II.
"Thank you for what you do," he said. "We have the best, the most talented, the most skilled, the most dedicated force in our history."
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