No doubt some of you remember this post, where I introduced the American Heritage Museum (yes, it is in Hudson, MA, how did you know?) and this post when I mentioned that I was actually invited to a preview tour of same. Well yesterday was the big day, Der Tag if you will, The Day, if you won't (do German that is).
I arose fairly early (well, 8-ish, which is early for me), ate breakfast, had some coffee. answered a couple of comments on the blog, then showered and shaved and jumped into Big Girl for the ride north. Ballpark it's about 72 miles, an easy drive on a simply gorgeous day in Spring. (Of course, it could have been raining and I'd still think it gorgeous, I mean I was on my way to see tanks, real tanks. No juvat, none of 'em had their turrets blown off, sorry.)
Met up with Nicholas Moran inside the museum (we were supposed to wait out front, Your Humble Scribe couldn't resist infiltrating the venue and getting a sneak peek), he's a great guy, great sense of humor. Apparently he's read the blog a couple of times and desired to know if the "AF" in "Old AF Sarge" stood for "Air Force" or "As Fire truck," as in "Old As Fire truck Sarge." I assured him that in reality both applied, though I claim it stands for "Air Force." Got a chuckle out of that I did.
|Nicholas Moran (left) and Z (right).|
He educated us, she checked us all in. See the t-shirt she's wearing?
We all got one. Plus pizza!
|View from the mezzanine, the Vietnam section.|
|View from the mezzanine, Battle for Berlin in the center.|
|View from the mezzanine, some of the vehicles from the North Africa section.|
The SdKfz-222 armored car in the right foreground is one of only two original vehicles still in existence.
|From the mezzanine, the inside of a Sherman (actually it's a Canadian Grizzly, almost the same). The museum plans to make this section look like a tank manufacturing facility.|
|Mezzanine view of Mr. Littlefield's first vehicle in his collection, the White Scout Car. Note the water cooled machine guns! (I missed one!)|
|Mezzanine look at the M-5 Stuart, Sarge wants one. They're little but they are awfully cool looking!|
|Another mezzanine view of that SdKfz-222, next to a German anti-tank gun.|
From that theater you proceed to a mock up of a section of World War I trench. While you're in the trench, short films are played, walking you through the American participation in that war. Pretty effective. When the artillery rounds start impacting on the screen, the floor shakes as if those rounds weren't that far off.
From there we moved to another small room, this one has a six-wheel Mercedes staff car and a very early war armored vehicle (I had no idea what it was and forgot to ask). The film covers the rise of Hitler and the rumblings of war emanating from Asia. Both areas have multiple screens which play different scenes, you really need to pay attention. I thought the presentation was very effective. In the trench portion you've got your head on a swivel trying to keep up, in the lead up to war section (rise of Hitler and Japanese Imperialism) you get a deep sense of foreboding. As the film switches to a final screen (behind you), air raid sirens sound, as you turn about, you're on battleship row on the 7th of December 1941.
While scenes of the Japanese attack play out, the screen rises into the ceiling to reveal a doorway onto the mezzanine, the tank display laid out before you. Still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. A very effective presentation.
The museum is not quite complete at this time, they still have some scenery to put up and they're also expecting some more vehicles. Including a rather rare PzKw I, Nazi Germany's very first tank. The museum officially opens May 2nd, they hope. If you're in the area, visit! The museum is a must see, one of their missions is to keep the history of American involvement in these conflicts alive and understandable. So far, so good.
I'll be going back.
We finally got down to the main floor and, of course, Yours Truly had to pose with the Panther. This particular vehicle was pulled out of a river in Poland and was featured on the second episode of Tank Overhaul. We couldn't see inside but the Major assures us it's in immaculate condition. Even the electrical wiring matches 1940's specs, cloth wrapped wiring, not plastic. As they don't make that type of wire anymore, Mr. Littlefield had it made! Major Moran says that the restoration cost north of $3 million. Yes, a three followed by six zeroes. Ah, to be that rich!
|Your Humble Scribe and Panther 501.|
|M-3 Grant tank as used in North Africa.|
|Peeking inside the SdKfz-222, she's immaculate inside!|
|The foe of the Panther, the mighty T-34-85.|
|Ground level view of the M-5 Stuart, I love this little tank!|
|Schwimmwagen, the amphibious version of the Kübelwagen, this one has Luftwaffe plates (WL).|
|Next to the Schwimmwagen is a truck towed Flak-38 20 mm gun. The Kübelwagen is to the right of the Flak-38.|
|An extremely rare T-34-76 in the background. Shades of Panzer Blitz*!|
Next to the T-34-76 is the Pak-97/38, German anti-tank gun based on the old French 75 mm cannon.
Yes, that's a Russian Maxim gun in the foreground.
|Another view of the T-34-85.|
|Another view of Panther 501.|
Note the lighting, the museum tries to create a mood for each display. This is meant to be the Battle of the Bulge, for the desert displays the lighting is very bright. It's very effective.
|The German Jagdpanzer 38(t), armored anti-tank vehicle. Sometimes (not exactly correctly) called a Hetzer.|
|Me-109G in the livery of Erich Hartmann's aircraft, Karaya Eins.|
|Another view. Usch was Hartmann's nickname for his wife Ursula.|
|Soviet Su-122 assault gun (behind Karaya Eins' right wing).|
|Soviet IS-2, Stalin tank. Actually runs!|
|German 88 mm Flak gun, very useful against tanks as well!|
|Major Moran educating us. The man knows his tanks!|
|View inside a Sherman's turret, this is a cutaway model used for training.|
|Late model Sherman as used in the Korean War.|
|Yes, the museum has a Pershing, aka T-26. Same type of tank which dueled the Panther in Cologne.|
|An actual section of the Berlin Wall!|
|M-41 Walker Bulldog|
|Soviet PT-76 amphibious tank.|
|M-48 Patton tank (on loan from the Marine Corps Museum).|
|The mighty M-1 Abrams, this vehicle actually saw combat. There is a film running to the right of this vehicle which tells its story. I haven't seen it yet, though I will.|
|A piece of steel from the World Trade Center.|
Lest we forget...
Will you see them? Why yes, yes you will.
Once again, my sincere thanks to Nicholas Moran, aka "The Chieftain" for his inviting me to the museum and being such a gracious, and knowledgeable host. I plan on returning no later than October of this year. I'm told they have a reenactment in that month.
But I have a wedding to go to around Columbus Day, not to be mysterious or anything...
Hope the dates don't conflict!
* An Avalon Hill game I used to play.