Headscratchers / Kelly's Heroes

Fridge Logic:

Details on the Writers Cannot Do Math entry: Math kudzu and gold geekery.

    Gold Bar Geekery 
The things we're directly and unequivocally told:
  • There are 14,000 bars of gold in the stash. (The German prisoner states as much.)
  • The total value of the gold is around 16 million dollars. (Crapgame, once he gets "the Paris price" and corrects for the decimal point he misplaced the first time he figured it.)
    • This means each bar is worth $1,140 or near-enough for this purpose.
  • There are 125 boxes of gold bars "after splitting with Oddball and the Germans" (Crapgame again, in the truck as it's being loaded.)
  • Each box of bars is worth 8,400 USD (Crapgame, in the truck, talking to Bishop)
  • Kelly's men are taking 10,500,000 USD. (Bishop and Crapgame)
  • Kelly's men are splitting their share 12 ways — 875,000 each (Bishop and Crapgame)
  • The German tank commander got "an equal share" (Stated by Kelly, during the face-off.)

The assumptions (and what supports them):
  • The bars are nonstandard bars, weighing either 20 or 24 troy ounces (depending on whether there are 12 (for 20 oz bars) or 10 (for 24 oz bars) in each box), rather than the "Good Delivery" standard bar or a "kilobar", weighing 1 kilogram (32-and-a-fraction ounces).
    • The way the bars are handled. A single Good Delivery bar weighs between 320 and 450 troy ounces — between 24 and 29 pounds. No one noticed any oddness about the German's dispatch bag — like very heavy weight in it. Kelly, and everyone else who handles a single bar, handles it easily with one hand. The boxes are shown holding either 10 or 12 bars (there's never a completely unobstructed shot to establish which it is), and the soldiers handle them easily — in some cases, picking up two at a time, one in each hand. Seen in this clip, starting at about 1:20 A box of 10 or 12 Good Delivery bars would weigh between 240 and 350 pounds.
    • The total value of the gold as stated: just one of the smallest acceptable Good Delivery bars (320 troy ounces) would be worth over 11,000 USD; 14,000 of them would be worth 156 million USD, not 16 million. Not only would Crapgame have had to misplace the decimal point twice, and not have caught the mistake the second time, but a single bar would be worth more than the value he explicitly gives to each box of 10 or 12 bars.
    • The value as stated of each box: each box is worth $8,400. At $35.00 an ounce, that's 240 troy ounces (20 normal pounds — there are 12 troy ounces in an avoirdupois (standard) pound). A kilobar weighs 32(and a fraction) troy ounces. At $35.00 an ounce, one kilobar would be worth $1120.00. There is no way to get $8400.00 per box using whole kilobars. 7 would be worth only $7,840; 8 would be worth $8,960.00.
    • Good Delivery bars are stamped and hallmarked when they're made. None of the bars we see have any markings whatsoever on them. They're all smooth, flat, and highly polished.
  • Everyone present (except the German tank crew who we never saw) got an equal share. There are 18 shares.
    • Kelly and his men (12 total) are splitting $10,500,000 equally (Crapgame and Bishop, talking).
    • A Sherman's normal crew was 5. (Wikipedia)
    • A Tiger's normal crew was also 5 (Wikipedia)
    • Oddball and his crew, and "the Germans" (Meaning only the tank commander) presumably get the same amount (875,000 USD each). 875,000 multiplied by 6 equals 5,250,000, bringing the total to $15,750,000 in 18 shares. Multiplying it by 10, to give each of the German tank crew a share, brings the total to 19,250,000. Crapgame calls the total 16 million. He might round 15,750,000 up to 16 million. He would not round over 19 million down to 16.
  • Oddball and his crew and the German accounted for 62 (or 62.5) boxes for a total box count to start with of 187 (or 187.5).
    • We do see three members of the Tiger crew besides the commander. They're in the background seen grabbing some boxes just before the commander says they're leaving to Kelly. So that's at least four Germans including the tank commander, so those three extra guys should be factored in.

The Stumbling Blocks:

  • Nowhere near enough boxes. Taking the assumptions above, there were 187 or 188 boxes:
    • 14,000 bars, packed in boxes of 10, requires 1400 boxes.
    • Packed in boxes of 12, it requires 1166 full boxes and one partial box.


  • Nowhere near enough bars in each box:
    • 14,000 bars packed into 187 or 188 boxes requires 74 and a fraction bars to the box. Not 10 or 12.


  • The value of the gold doesn't match up with the number and weight of the bars at the same time.
    • You can have 14,000 bars that weigh 20 troy ounces, packed 12 to the box, but that only adds up to $9,800,000
    • You can have 14,000 bars that weigh 24 ounces, packed 10 to the box, but that only adds up to $11,760,000.
    • You can have 14,000 bars that are worth $16,000,000, but then each bar has to be worth $1142.00, and you can't have boxes that are worth $8,400 each without having a fraction of a bar in each box.


1) The whole mess can be explained by a prop guy making the bars (non-standard, Nazi spoils, off-the-record bars by the way) too big. 2) The writers just picked numbers that sounded good, and no one did the math at all.

The aftermath of the heist

So, what exactly would have happened after the film ended? Clearly, Kelly and his companions could not have returned to the Allied lines, as they would face court martial or even attack by friendly units, as they are driving a German truck (and in Oddball's case, a German tank). There are some implications that their intent is to desert to Switzerland, where they could bank the gold and ride out the war. How they would return to the United States without being arrested, though, is anybody's guess.
  • Considering that Colt thought Kelly and his men were actually pushing through on their own initiative rather than trying to steal a bank full of gold, it probably wouldn't have been hard into fooling him into pardoning their unauthorized attack.
    • Alternatively, their idea may have been to hide the gold somewhere in Switzerland and then return and finish fighting the war, with the survivors returning for the gold later. They were close enough to the Swiss border that it's possible they zipped over, then came back possibly later that night or the next day, and during that time they could've thought up a plausible cover story to explain their absence to Colt. Then again, if this is so, why leave the "Up Yours Baby" message for Maitland, which would seem to suggest no intention of returning, as surely Maitland would know who left it?
      • By the way Colt speaks to Maitland, one gets the impression the words of the officer busy buying things in Paris isn't going to hold as much weight as the men that were "stuck in a farmhouse for three days".
      • Assuming that the "Claremont" is in fact Clermont en Genevois, it's certainly close enough to the Swiss border to make this plausible (and since it's after the liberation of Paris, it's not too unbelievable that American troops could be that far south).
      • A lot of American deserters stuck around in France and other parts of Europe after the war, according to the account in this recent book, many after having been involved in some kind of crime. Kelly's gang would be no different, other than the magnitude of what they pulled off, from these Real Life deserters.

The Tiger Tank Crew

Okay, so the film doesn't call the Germans Nazis at all, but they don't hide the fact that the town and bank are guarded by the SS, the guys who basically became the inspiration for all evil empire shock troops everywhere. Did they manage to just find the one SS tank commander and crew who had given up on Germany, or are the stories about the loyalty of the SS overstating things?
  • Maybe both of these. The SS, like any group, was composed of individuals. They can't all have been rabid fanatics. And even if they were, this is a fictional movie, and the SS guys we see in the movie are equally fictional, therefore their opinion of Hitler etc. is subject to the whim of the writers. Judging by the Tiger commander's conversation with the SS lieutenant, it seems obvious he's got a fairly cynical and pragmatic world outlook (the dialogue is untranslated but the commander's overall tone and attitude are one of extreme indifference bordering on dry bemusement). Finally, the film is set towards the end of the war when most Germans, even if they were Nazis, had realized that the struggle had been lost. Heck, according to some accounts, even the commander of Hitler's personal bodyguard had just suggested to his superior commander to negotiate peace with the Allies.
    • Also conscription into the Waffen-SS (a different animal from the regular SS) had started in 1943. So there is a good chance you have a veteran sergeant (who might even have been seconded from the Army early on, as a few cadres were) sitting there with a 4 youngsters. Not exactly stormtrooper materiel.
  • What would happen to the German tankmen if they get caught, whether by Allies or Germans? They deserted from the German military—and deserting from the SS is bound to be treated harshly if they are taken by Germans—we know that suspected deserters were hanged without trial late in World War II. Since they are wearing US tankmen's uniforms they traded for from Oddball's crew, they can be shot as spies if they are caught by Allies.

  • What's scary is the none of Kelly's Heroes question where or who the gold REALLY came from.
    • Well, this is happening at a point in the war where the death camps hadn't been liberated and the true horrors of the Holocaust hadn't yet been revealed so it's likely that they are assuming that it's simply been stolen from banks and treasuries in Occupied Europe (which it may have been, of course). That's still bad, but it's not as morally repugnant.