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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, Das Boot, The Big Red One, The Great Escape, Empire of the Sun—the list of great movies set during the Second World War is, it sometimes seems, endless.
The most recent big-budget, high-profile WWII 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:
Here, LIFE.com shares photos—many of them from the very region of Europe where Fury is set—depicting tank warfare, in all its brutality and banality, 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 that tank crews frequently suffered inside and outside of their cramped, armored, rolling fortresses.