“To a New Yorker like you, a hero is some type of weird sandwich, not some nut who takes on three Tigers!”

Rarely, if ever, have the words ‘war’ and ‘comedy’ somehow been so successfully combined as in MGM’s 1970 classic movie ‘Kelly’s Heroes’. However, the movie which was originally entitled ‘The Warriors’ underwent a major transformation process from its inception to its release, including the cutting of entire scenes and characters and the addition of extended action sequences.

Several members of the cast and crew voiced their disapproval of the changes which altered a grittier war movie with depth of character and an integral romantic sub-plot into an action-packed, farcical comedy. However, the cult following that Kelly’s Heroes enjoys 50 years later and the plethora of infinitely quotable lines is perhaps the best proof that the final cut hit the nail right on the head.

Author Mark Barber has taken information from the final cut of the movie, Burt Hirschfeld’s accompanying 1970 novel of the same name, (based heavily on the original script) and the real-life history behind the units portrayed in the movie to bring a slice of Hollywood to your battlefields…

“We’re not worried about the German army, we’ve got enough troubles of our own. To the right General Patton, to the left the British Army, to the rear our own goddamn artillery, and besides all that it’s raining.”

Each of the three boxed sets, Oddball Heroes, Oddball Sherman & Hollywood Tiger, comes packaged with an eight-page booklet giving you a taster of the colourful heroes and vehicles found within the pages of the novel and as seen in the movie, complete with their special rules for your games of Bolt Action.

The Heroes

September 1944, and our titular heroes are what’s left of a reconnaissance platoon of the 35th Infantry Division, recruited mainly from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Most of the men first saw combat when the Division landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and have subsequently been blooded in the fighting in Saint-Lô and the Cotentin Peninsula before crossing the Moselle in September. Private Kelly, a soldier with a past, captures a German Colonel whom he subsequently interrogates. Discovering the whereabouts of some $16,000,000 worth of stolen gold under German guard in a bank behind enemy lines, he quickly sets about assembling a team to sneak through the lines and carry out ‘the perfect crime…

Private Kelly (as portrayed by Clint Eastwood): Originally a Lieutenant, Kelly is a veteran of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Hirschfeld’s account has Kelly and his men ordered to attack a hill held by German soldiers the morning after a heavy night’s drinking. Still intoxicated, Kelly uses his initiative to lead his men to capture the next two hills as well. Only after the battle does he realise he has taken the hills from units of the US Marine Corps. The movie account shifts the blame to Kelly being given orders to ‘attack the wrong hill’. Either way, he is blamed and busted down to Private.

Master Sergeant Jake ‘Big Joe’ Diamond (as portrayed by Telly Savalas): Tough, fearless, a born leader, suspiciously Greek-looking – Big Joe is the real leader of the platoon in a movie industry where 99% of officers couldn’t lead their way out of a paper bag, and the grizzled NCO is the only real hope for the common fighting man. Whilst he would never admit it to the men, Big Joe is more than happy to challenge his CO, Captain Maitland, when the welfare of the boys is at stake.

Staff Sergeant Crapgame (as portrayed by Don Rickles): In the words of Big Joe, the only time Crapgame comes out of the ground is when he smells a profit. A wily logistics NCO who is willing to get his hands dirty in any deal just so long as there’s something in it for him, Crapgame is the sort of guy who will happily neglect to report a man Killed in Action so he can keep collecting his whisky in the mail. Able to provide weapons, equipment, intelligence reports, and introductions to anachronistic proto-hippie tank commanders – Crapgame is your man. Just so long as he doesn’t have to lug a .30 caliber machine gun across the countryside.

Private Babra (as portrayed by Gene Collins): Indianapolis-born Private Babra is a quiet, simple soul as revealed by his somewhat less-than-Shakespearean wit and dialect when Crapgame attempts to talk to him whilst he is writing a letter home. Babra doesn’t seem to contribute a great deal to the team other than carrying Big Joe’s kit – to be fair to him he does pull a pin out of a grenade for Big Joe at one point. But don’t call him Barbara!

Oddball’s Shermans

Don’t load the paint ammunition!

Oddball’s Shermans are officially part of the US 6th Armored Division, but their Commanding Officer was decapitated by a German 88mm gun. The three tank crews have neglected to report this fact, which has allowed them to enjoy the delights of the French countryside in a rear echelon position, deliberately adopting the façade of a combat weary unit just out of action. The three tank commanders are Oddball, Whiskey and Moe; each of them commands a Sherman tank which has been heavily modified by Moriarty, the mechanical genius who occupies the co-driver position in the lead Sherman. These modifications include engine and gearbox improvements (forward and reverse), custom ammunition and decoy weaponry:

“These tanks are faster than any other tanks in the Europe Theatre of Operations. Forwards or backwards. See man, we like to feel that we can get out of trouble quicker than we got into it. We added a piece of pipe onto it and the Krauts think ‘maybe it’s a 90 millimeter’. We’ve got our own ammunition; it’s filled with paint. When we fire it…it makes pretty pictures. Scares the hell out of people. We’ve got a loudspeaker here and when we go into battle we play music very loud. It kind of… calms us down.”

In reality, the tanks are Yugoslavian Army M4A3E4 Shermans, a variant which featured a 76mm gun fitted to the original 75mm turret and mantlet. With postwar Yugoslavia being a treasure trove of Second World War vehicles and equipment, these weren’t difficult for the movie team to acquire for filming.

Sergeant Oddball (as portrayed by Donald Sutherland)
Private First Class Moriarty (as portrayed by Gavin MacLeod)
Turk (as portrayed by Shepherd Sanders)

The Hollywood Tiger

Perhaps the single most iconic fighting vehicle of the Second World War, the Panzerkampfwagon VI Tiger entered service in 1942. Feared on every front by its enemies until the last days of the war the Tiger combined excellent frontal armour with outstanding firepower, although it was only produced in relatively small numbers when compared to workhorses like the Panzer IV or Stug III. For the movie industry, the Tiger is often the ‘go to’ tank when depicting German armour in the Second World War. Unfortunately, Tigers are exceedingly rare to the point that there is currently only one working Tiger left in the entire world (131 at the Tank Museum at Bovington, UK).

Odd-looking Tiger fellas?
The Bavarian (as portrayed by Karl-Otto Alberty)

The 1969 Yugoslavian war epic ‘The Battle of Neretva’ found a clever way around this by converting a number of T-34 tanks to look like Tigers, a cost-effective solution due to the number of surviving T-34s available at the time. Whilst Tiger experts would instantly recognize the lack of interlacing wheels and the position of the turret relative to the hull, most would agree that the movie crew did a fantastic job! This is precisely why the crew for ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ used three of the Neretva Tigers when they started filming in Yugoslavia.

The Bavarian makes up the final miniature in the Oddball Heroes box, representing the Tiger commander confronted by Kelly, Big Joe and Oddball. He also grants special rules if selected as an upgrade for the Hollywood Fodder tank crew – but like all the rules presented in the booklets found within each of the Oddball’s Heroes boxed sets these are purely for fun – in fact, the Bavarian’s rules involve adopting a clichéd war movie accent – certainly not one for competitive play.

Recreate the Classic in Miniature!

The Oddball Heroes, Oddball Sherman & Hollywood Tiger sets each come packaged with an eight-page booklet giving you a taster of the colourful heroes and vehicles found within the pages of the novel and as seen in the movie, complete with their special rules for your games of Bolt Action.

The Hollywood Tiger is also available in a platoon of three at a discounted price.

Kelly’s Heroes Units and Force Selectors

With loving passion for both the movie and Bolt Action, the Kelly’s Heroes Units and Force Selectors digital download – written by Mark Barber – expands upon the rules presented in each of the box sets, adding in a fantastic series of scenarios, units and force selectors to bring that Hollywood glamour to the battlefields of Bolt Action. Packed full of 1970s humour, film one-liners, and all the characters from the film (plus more of the less well-known heroes). It’s no exaggeration to say that these are some of the wackier special rules to grace a Bolt Action tome, and all the better for it!

“Don’t hit me with them negative waves!”

The Kelly’s Heroes Bundle nets you one of each of the Hollywood-inspired sets.

  1. My older brother and I put Kelly’s Heroes on out top movies ever list, a staple of every summer when we were teens. Been looking for a way to get him into miniatures and I think you found it!

  2. I made Kelly Heros in to other scales for my gaming… and had the chance to talk to Sutherland two times, when he was in Denmark filning… He is a great guy

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