14-ton U.S. Army M3 lifted into place in Bath after facelift
BATH | A key part of the Steuben County Veterans’ Memorial returned to its place of honor Thursday morning -- all 28,000 pounds of it.
The U.S. Army M3 Stuart tank has been at the location, also home to the Bath VFW, for about 45 years, according to Carl Peters, secretary of the Veterans’ Memorial board of directors and quartermaster for VFW Post 1470 in Bath.
The World War II-era tank was returning to the memorial following restoration work that left it looking like it had just come off the production line.
"It’s been great to see it all come together," Peters told The Leader of the restoration process.
Equipment such as the tank at the memorial site, or similar displays at VFW posts and other locations around the country, isn’t owned by the organization. Instead, it is on indefinite loan from the Army, through the U.S. Army Materiel Command, Peters said.
That comes with a responsibility to take care of the equipment and display it with honor.
"Every three years I submit photos and paperwork to Materiel Command, showing that we’re properly maintaining it," Peters said.
About five years ago, he and other leaders of the Veterans’ Memorial organization realized that to uphold that responsibility, the M3 would soon need some care.
A chance encounter put the group in touch with Sandman’s Sandblasting and Coating, which was at the time working on an aircraft for the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport.
Sandman’s agreed to do the restoration work for $8,500 -- the only problem was transporting the massive tank 70 miles to their facility in Manchester, N.Y., north of Canandaigua.
It was John Ferris Trucking, of Bath, and Wilcox Crane Co., of Canandaigua, that stepped up, offering lifting and transportation of the tank free of charge.
"I can’t thank these guys enough," Peters said.
The memorial also has an Vietnam-era AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter on site, but Peters said there’s something else he’d like to find space for.
"I’d love to have an artillery piece," he said.
The M3 Stuart tank went into service in 1941, and was the first U.S. tank to be produced on an assembly line.
It has a 37mm main gun, which may look small by the standards of a modern tank. But each round, weighing about two pounds, was fired at about 2,900 feet per second -- close to 2,000 mph.
The gun was an effective weapon against other tanks until the midpoint of World War II, when more heavily-armored German tanks took the field in Europe. It continued to be used in the Pacific combat theater, where Japan’s armored forces were less formidable.
Despite its 14 tons, it was categorized as a light tank.