Raiders of the Lost Ark is a thrilling tale of action, adventure, and skull duggery. This popular film quickly became a cult classic for such iconic scenes as; Indiana Jones casually shooting a skilled swordsman rather than getting into a sword fight, Indiana Jones letting an engine prop solve his large, German problems, rather than continuing to engage in a losing battle of fisticuffs, and just about every scene with a snake in it.
That being said, when paying more attention to action and adventure, the producers let a number of historical Faux Pas slip by. From a modern alcohol bottles in a run down 1936 bar, to mislabeled countries on ‘period accurate’ maps, this movie has a number of historical inaccuracies, too many in fact, to cover in a single article. This article will cover some of the more glaringly obvious inaccuracies regarding arms and armaments, as well as a few minor details you might have missed.
- MP-40 IN ‘36
This one was glaringly obvious and has been mentioned many times by avid fans and historical aficionados alike. The MP-40, or MaschinenPistole-40 was a sub-machine gun invented by Heinrich Vollmer in, you guessed it, 1940. The first models would roll of the line in late 1940, and go on to become synonymous with Nazi Germany, being featured in such cult classics as Saving Private Ryan, Von Ryan’s Express, and the Sniper Elite games, where nearly every enemy had one.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, however, is set in 1936, four years before the MP-40 was even a glimmer in it’s papa’s eye. Yet nearly every Nazi and German soldier throughout the entire movie has access to one, despite them not existing at the time. This was a huge oversight on the part of the producers and prop people alike, and could have easily been replaced by MP-18’s, a common German SMG at the time, or they could have made it somewhat historically accurate and limited them to squad leaders only, after all, there were plenty of Kar98’s to go around in the 1980’s to arm the cast.
However, neither of those were done and we’re left with a gaping historical inaccuracy that only makes sense if Indiana Jones takes place in a separate universe that’s accelerated 4 years ahead.
2. Indie’s handbag
This one is relatively minor and doesn’t detract from the plot or story in any way, but is still a historical inaccuracy. Indie’s large leather fanny pack is actually a Mk. VII gas mask bag, except he doesn’t seem to have a gas mask anywhere in it or in his house, which is odd. Regardless, the mask and associated bag didn’t even exist till 1941, a full 5 years after the movie is set.
However, I think this one deserves a pass, as it’s such an important part of Indie’s character and personage I can’t imagine him with any other bag. Also, based on his irregular diet and constant travelling, he probably needs the modernity of the Mk. VII gas mask to sleep through the smell of his seedy hotel rooms and natural gas. Yes, I went there. Yes, I know it’s a bad joke. I’m not sorry.
3. P-38 Powers
Near the beginning of the movie we’re treated to a shootout in a bar. It’s a very interesting, somewhat grotesque, and enjoyable scene, but what stuck out to me was the Nazi’s use of the Walther P-38, which would appear again, later in the movie, wielded by the pilot of the (designed, but never produced) BV-38 Flying Wing. The only issue with this is, as the name suggests, the P-38 would not be designed or produced until 1938, two years after the movie.
Why didn’t they just have them use Luger P-08’s? No clue, especially since other characters did use that historically accurate firearm. It looks cool I guess? Either way, as a student of small arms, it was a equipment fail that could not go overlooked.
4.Mercedes-Benz type L 701
In one infamous scene, Indie chases a truck while on horseback, a Mercedes-Benz type L 701 to be exact. Unfortunately, this truck would not actual be produced until the 1940’s and the specific sublet model used in the movie, made by Opel-Blitz, would only be produced for a few months. The reasoning in using this particular truck is clear, it was available and looked period accurate, as well as being similar to many produced Opel-Blitz trucks of the era, but this particular equipment fail hasn’t made it past car and truck historians as well as many mechanics.
We’re not even going to try to find fault in chasing such a truck with a horse, as that would be entirely dependent on the top speed of the vehicle, how fast the driver was going, and how fast the horse was running; however, there are numerous other Opel-Blitz trucks of the era they could have used instead. It’s a little nit-picky to be sure but I just couldn’t let this one go.
5. The RPG-2
Moving on towards the end of the movie we have the scene where Indie threatens a group of soldiers and his adversary with an RPG-2. The only problem with that is while contemporary weapons like the bazooka were available for use at the time of the events in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the design of the RPG-2 wouldn’t begin until 1947. Even assuming that the above suggestion of a world 4 years ahead technologically, it would still be out of time and out of place. The producers could have just as easily had him use any other weapon capable of creating more chaos per trigger pull, such as a sub-machine gun, or a flamethrower perhaps, to achieve their goals. Why it HAD to be some sort of man portable anti-tank weapon specifically, I have no idea, as he doesn’t even use it.
Do I have to do a spoiler alert? I think I will anyway. Spoiler alert: Indie surrenders without firing, the Ark is opened, and a whole bunch of face melting happens, which makes me very disappointed that the Ark never made it to Berlin. Regardless, the point still stands that using an out of place weapon was totally useless at that moment.
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