Sunday, March 31, 2019

Fun Times in Hudson, MA


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!
Some pre-tour reconnaissance photos (most of these vehicles came from the collection of the late Jacques Littlefield) -

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.
View from the mezzanine, a StuG-III to the left, a Nebelwerfer center, a werfer of nebels as Major Moran likes to say (cracks me up every time I hear it), Nebelwerfer is literally a "smoke thrower," actually it spits out rockets. The GIs called it a "Screaming Mimi." To the right is a SdKfz 251, German halftrack, the real deal, not a Czech post-war version.
Another view from the mezzanine, to the left is the PzKw V, Panther, on the right is a Higgins boat, behind it are a British Comet (left), a British Churchill Crocodile (flame throwing tank, they don't have the trailer yet, they may have to scratch build that) and beyond that is a British Universal Carrier, sometimes called a Bren Carrier.
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.
After we were all checked in, the tour started. It's not all tanks and other vehicles to gawk at, no, not at all. You start off inside a small theater where you see a film which lays out the mission of the museum. We actually had a short briefing from Rob Collings himself, one of the founders of the Collings Foundation (which owns and operates the museum). The opening film covers the Revolution and the Unpleasantness of 1861-1865 as well.

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.
Sherman "Jumbo."
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.
Another view.
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...
An incredible museum. Do I have more pictures? Why yes, yes I do.

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.

50 comments:

  1. That LCVP was off of the USS HENRICO! Is that a Loon, or a V-1 hanging from the ceiling? I know the only real difference is that the Loon was a USN copy.

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    Replies
    1. I have been assured that it's a Loon. Indistinguishable from the real thing, at least to my eye.

      Delete
  2. Awesome doesn't even begin to describe it!

    Google says the museum is about four and half hours from Philly, and going well around NYC won't add all that much time to the trip. I'll have to start the planning.

    Bravo Zulu to your photo skills as that wasn't the best environment for photography.

    Great post. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. Well worth the trip John. There was a guy there yesterday from New Jersey, another from New York (said he lives not far from JFK Airport).
      I'll keep an eye on the projected opening date and publish here if anything changes.

      Delete
  3. Stuart....Jumbo...and PANTHER oh my! Stuart...JUMBO....PANTHER OH MY! STUART....JUMBO...PANTHER OH MY!........(drool). First the Cali mag ban ruling Friday and ...now.... this..... tanks Sarge, what a weekend.....

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad the courts are starting to read the Constitution, and not "interpret" it.

      Delete
    2. And Georgia passed it's little "Peeve off California" Law. Yes, a very good week last week for freedom.

      We'll see how quickly Cali responds to the 'high capacity magazine' ruling. They'll find a way around it in 3...2...1...

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    3. There is a new sheriff in town.

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  4. Really neat stuff. Thanks. By way of comment. just outside Danville, VA (Wherein my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren reside) there is a tank museum. Not quite as extensive as this one, but pretty neat. Also features a miniature battle ground where you can use RC model tanks to fight!

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    Replies
    1. I may have to get down that way one of these days.

      RC model tanks fighting? That I need to see, love that kind of thing!

      Thanks Cap'n!

      Delete
    2. I was just there at the AAF Museum yesterday, and the RC tank battlefield was pretty cool. Thought of you when I was looking at it. After seeing your pics, Sarge, I am not sure my little iPhone camera did very well in comparison. And the lighting was pretty bad - overhead fluorescent fixtures. But they have a pretty amazing collection - I spent four hours there and didn't get to all of the neat things ... they also have a "Rifle Room", a "Weapons Room", a "Hall of Generals", a "Helmets & Uniforms of the World" exhibit, and a room labelled "Sandbox Soldiers" which has 37 children's military uniforms. So I am definitely going back!

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    3. If they (the RC tanks) are armed with high-power bb or .22 guns, you could have fun chasing rats or mice in The City(cities.) Could be fun!

      Delete
  5. My son had a few questions: Did they route the restroom sewage under the duckboards in the WW1 area for a real 4D experience? Were there bold rats running in there with you to keep you on your toes (or chewing on them)?? He saw the track pads on the M1, and said he'd never seen one with them all intact before!!!

    Thank you for posting those awesome pictures. Almost makes me want to go visit, but I have a firm rule not to travel to communist countries.

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    Replies
    1. Now that would have been interesting, though it probably wouldn't pull in the tourist trade.

      Massachusetts isn't all that bad in the small towns.

      Delete
  6. Wow!! Looks very interesting! One question: Where exactly in the back yard would The Missus Herself let you put the M-5? Inquiring minds want to know... Good thing it is "little"...

    And I second John--those are some very awesome pictures. It looks like a very neat place to visit.

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    Replies
    1. He could always have a bigger shed put in, access to the rear of the property so The Missus Herself's grounds won't get messed up.

      Though the Stuart is neat (I had a chance, back in 1983, to buy into a group trying to buy an M5 from the Nat Guard. We failed, it got shot up. :(

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    2. I'd park the Stuart in the front drive, for convenience and for show.

      I wouldn't hide it in the backyard.

      Delete
    3. Beans - Yeah, won't sell it, use it as a target instead. The genius of government bureaucracy.

      Delete
  7. That M3 Grant makes me want to go all Bogart and go looking for a well in the desert.

    And the photo with the M4A3E2 Jumbo? Behind it is an M3 Halftrack with an M16 powered AAA quad .50 cal BMG mount. Those Quad (and dual) mounts were affectionately called "The Chopper" by GI's.

    So... Is Moran as mellow and cool as he seems in his video?

    And did you drop a "Bugger, the tank's on fire" reference around him?

    Inquiring minds want to know...

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    Replies
    1. I thought of that movie with Bogart when I saw that beast, Yes, I got a picture of the M3 with the quad .50s.

      Major Moran is an awesome guy. Yes, I asked him if he would do the "Bugger, the tank's on fire" thing, he didn't, but he did chuckle.

      Delete
    2. Heh, at least you tried.

      Wonder how he ran across this blog?

      Delete
    3. I didn't ask, maybe he just searched on his name. I have shown a couple (few) of his videos.

      Delete
    4. Chris,
      I really appreciate the sharing of your visit....I'm like you....all you have to do is say tanks.
      I didn't want to be the one to correct an identification.

      That is not a Grant, the Grant was the vehicle manufactured for the British, the turret was a different type, it had a cast bustle for the radio.

      The vehicle in the picture is an M3 Lee, as referenced by Beans from the movie

      http://www.toadmanstankpictures.com/m3_grant_vmmv_00.jpg

      That is a Grant


      Jack

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    5. Ah,crap-in-a-hat! I, who knows the difference between the Lee (two top turrets, radio in hull) and the Grant (one top turret, I think radio in the top turret?) and have known the difference since I was 8 years old, have made the ultimate mistake and mislabeled it. Dang it to heck! Argh. And have some anonymous Jack correct me, who used to correct all the gamers at the gamer palace (ie Toy and Hobby Store) and, man, I suck.

      Thanks for the correction, Jack. Somedays I think oldtimers is taking over.

      Delete
    6. Beans,
      I only appear anonymous, I've been a lurker since the passing of Lex.
      I don't comment often, because I hold most of the posters in awe.

      I too....knew the difference between those M3 since I was 8,
      in a different way....Sarge was AF, and he likes tanks....I was Navy....and I like tanks
      I hold the same affection for the M3 & M5 Stuarts

      Delete
    7. Thanks, Jack. Keep lurking and keeping us straight, if that's possible.

      Delete
    8. Jack - You are absolutely correct. To be honest, until you and Beans pointed it out, I had no idea how to tell the difference between the two.

      My education continues! Thank you!

      Delete
    9. Beans - We sit corrected.

      ;)

      Delete
  8. Thanks for the tour, Sarge.....

    Man, I could probably spend a couple of weeks exploring that place!

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  9. Wonderful post! I didn't know that tanks were "she", seems odd considering the appearance. Well now I have bought a book about them at use (thanks to you) and I have completed this course from Hillsdale College.

    https://online.hillsdale.edu/courses/worldwarii/lecture-02/world-war-2---lecture-2

    Victor David Hanson is so good at delivering the facts. I got his book, as well. Thanks everybody!

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    Replies
    1. I tend to call them "she," not sure if anyone else does!

      I'll have to watch that course.

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    2. In the USA, we (general we, may be going away as the 'we' culture goes away, too) tend to call a thing a 'she' as they become affectionate in their love or hate of said object.

      'My rifle, she shoots purty.' and 'My rifle, she's just like my ex-wife, never working...' 'My boat, she...' 'My car, she...' 'That danged frigid lawnmower, she done locked up again...' 'My knife, she...'

      'We' name just about everything important. Witness 'Big Girl,' the OAFSmobile, even though it's actually a Honda.

      Now, weird question for those female viewers out there, do y'all call your stuff by male pronouns and names?

      Delete
    3. I just started the course, Sarge, the first episode is awesome and VDH doesn't even make an appearance. Just got the URL for the second installment and will watch it tomorrow. HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

      Delete
  10. Thanks for the neat photos. By the way, "Note the water cooled machine gun!". you missed an ' s '.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

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    Replies
    1. In my excitement I didn't see the one on the back!

      Fixed it. Thanks Paul.

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    2. Had a friend who's husband owned a fully equipped White Scout Car, including the proper functioning three devices on the rails. I knew they were getting old and sick when I saw it for sale on armyjeeps.net a couple years ago. Never got to ride in it or play with the proper functioning devices, dangit.

      Lost opportunities, my life is full of them. Must be getting old...

      Delete
  11. Hey Old AFSarge;

    Awesome post, Now I want to plan a trip out there when I go to Boston this summer....well because I can...? Thank you for the many pics.

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  12. Great pics, and FYI, German 88s were also used as anti-personnel weapons...

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