Review: Russell Military Museum

20160710_151201This past Sunday we had the opportunity to spend a few hours at the Russell Military Museum.  This privately owned museum sits just south of the border between Illinois and Wisconsin about an hours drive north from Chicago.  The museum is situated right off the highway and is easy to get to.  A somewhat battered looking M3 Stuart light tank marks the entrance to the museum parking lot, a former car dealership lot converted into a museum in 2007.

20160710_151152If not for the light tank sitting out front and the sign on the building, a passer-by might be forgiven for mistaking the museum for a salvage yard.  Those expecting a highly polished, big budget affair such as the (relatively) nearby First Division Museum at Cantigny Park will be disappointed.  The Russell Museum is a “mom and pop” style museum, a labor of love by owner Mark Sonday and his family, who double as the museum staff.  While the museum may lack a certain amount of polish, it more than makes up for it in the amazing array of military hardware present in the collection.

Museum owner Mark Sonday has been building his collection over several decades, originally showcasing them at a previous location in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin (which wife Joyce Sonday now refers to as “Unpleasant Prairie”.)  Forced to move due to Pleasant Prairie using eminent domain to clear land for a retail development, the Sonday family became embroiled in a long legal fight to gain fair compensation for the theft of their land [Read more…]

Review: First Division Museum at Cantigny Park

DSC_0303This past weekend we had the good fortune to spend a long weekend in the Chicago area.  While there we were able to check out a couple museums housing tanks and armored vehicles.  This review examines the tank collection at the First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois.  Cantigny Park opened in 1958, being the creation of newspaper magnate Robert R. McCormick who had established the Robert R. McCormick Charitable Trust and designated Cantigny as a public space for education and recreation.  The park has a number of different features, including a museum dedicated to McCormick, extensive gardens, walking trails and a golf course.  Also housed on the grounds is the First Division Museum and an outdoor collection of tanks, of which this review will focus on.

Robert_R._McCormick_cph.3b30054McCormick had served as a Colonel in the First Division in WW1, hence his interest in preserving the history of the unit.  The museum is not large but is well worth the hour or so it takes to walk through the displays.  Walking through the museum, the first thing encountered is a series of mannequins dressed in the various uniforms of the First Division from each major US war.  This section then leads to a winding path in which the viewer progresses through each US war in chronological order.  The WW1 section is the most impressive, designed to emulate the trenches of WW1, including a replica French Schneider tank.


[Read more…]

News from around the Net

Here is a roundup of some recent tank and afv related news stories.  As usual, click on the title to go to the full article or click play on the embedded video.

Morocco World News – American Tanks Arrive in Morocco

timthumbAccording to the American Defense Security and Cooperation Agency, negotiations between the Kingdom and the United States for the tanks began in 2012. Morocco planned to purchase 200 Abrams tanks, complete with parts, equipment, support, and training, for over $1 billion. The two nations finalized the deal in September 2015.


IHS Jane’s 360 – China’s Norinco develops new Type 96 MBT variant

1682108_-_mainOne of China’s biggest military manufacturers, China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), has developed a new variant of its Type 96 (ZTZ-96) main battle tank (MBT) in time to participate in the 30 July to 16 August International Army Games organised by the Russian Ministry of Defence.  At least five T-96Bs arrived in Russia on 7 July to take part in the Masters of Automobile and Tank Hardware competition, according to Russian media reports. The ‘Tank Biathlon’ portion of this competition received wide coverage in Chinese state media last year when Norinco’s 50-tonne T-96A MBT was allowed to participate.


IHS Jane’s 360 – Practika reveals details on Kozak II APC

1682455_-_mainThe Ukrainian Private Joint Stock Company Research and Production Association Practika is now offering on the export market its latest 4×4 Kozak II armoured personnel carrier (APC), which has already seen active service on the Russian/Ukraine border.  The company classifies the Kozak II as a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) type vehicle and is based on an Italian Iveco 4×4 Trakker chassis.


Standard~Speaker – Event will celebrate WWII tank built in Berwick

imageThey brought “Stuie” home. Now it’s time to showcase the pride of Berwick — the Stuart tank built there and used in battle during World War II. Veterans of World War II and those who worked in the factory that built 15,224 Stuart tanks for the war will be celebrated this weekend as part of the inaugural “Weekend at Stuie’s.”


New China TV – Man builds 20-tonne tank as children’s teaching aid


World Conflict Films – Turkish Tank Taken Out By Kurdish Guerrillas In Sirnak

On Vacation

We will be on vacation the next four days.  Posting will resume on July 12.

Tank Talk: Ford M-1918 Two-Man Tank

Len Dyer of the National Armor and Cavalry Restoration Center discusses the American Ford M-1918 Two-Man Tank.

Washington Post on the AAF Tank Museum

The Washington Post has a new article on the American Armored Foundation Tank Museum in Danville, VA.

“Seven … eight … zero … zero … zero … three!”

Dan Gasser calls out the numbers in a booming, stadium-beer-vendor voice. His wife, Natasha, dips her right hand into a glass bowl and pulls out another winning ticket.

“Seven … seven … nine … eight … three … six!” Dan shouts.

roof_fund_picture-291x183It’s raffle time at the family-owned and -operated American Armoured Foundation Tank Museumin Danville, Va., a 300,000-square-foot former milling factory that contains more than five football fields’ worth of steel-plated history. Parked in neat rows like soldiers at parade rest are a rare World War I British tank, a Russian T-34 (arguably the greatest of all workhorse tanks) and a 65.5-ton M103, which was the last of the “heavy tanks” made in America. There are 52 tanks in all, plus scores of armored personnel carriers, self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons and long-barrel howitzers on wheels. This amount of muscle is on public display in only a handful of places around the world.

If the Gassers ever get the urge to invade North Carolina, they could do serious damage.

Read the full article here.

Video: M60 at a VFW hall

We would assume that just about everyone that follows this site in the US has seen an old tank sitting in front of the VFW or American Legion hall.  This short video appeared on youtube today showing one of these old warhorses being positioned onto a concrete platform outside a VFW hall.  Unfortunately, no details are provided as to which VFW hall this event took place at.

Walkaround Galleries from The Armor Journal

The website for the TAJ (The Armor Journal) magazine has added three new tank “walkaround” picture galleries since the last time we posted about them.  These galleries feature the MK IV “Female” tank at Fort Benning GA as well as the M1 Abrams and the M1917 Light Tank at the First Division Museum at Cantigny, Weaton, IL.  Click on the pictures below to go to the photo gallery page.




Video: Challenger 1 MBT – How it works

Here are a couple videos that recently appeared looking at the powerpack of the Challenger 1 MBT.   For those looking for video footage of the powerpack being removed from a Challenger, this is the video for you.


Translated Articles from Archive Awareness

Here is a round up of Russian language articles translated by Archive Awareness blog.  Click on the title to red the full article.

World of Tanks History Section: Taming the Panthers

1298322852_114-445On January 26th, 1944, the second day of the Korsun-Shevchenkovo Offensive, the contours of the pocket in which Army Group Center would be caught in were already being drawn on the map. The German response was a powerful counterattack in the zone of the Soviet 2nd Ukrainian Front. If it was successful, P. Rotmistrov’s 5th Guards Tank army would be encircled instead of the Germans.

In this battle on the snowy fields of the Ukraine, shiny new Panthers from the 1st battalion of the 26th tank regiment were supposed to be the ace up the German sleeve. Even though the unit only entered battle on January 28th, its adventures started much earlier, on the way to the USSR.


Object 257: The First IS-7

257-1The IS-7 heavy tank is well known to armour enthusiasts. A combination of impressive armour, a powerful gun, and an engine that could propel the 70 ton tank at 60 kph made it the pinnacle of its class. At the same time, no less than 7 vehicles existed under the IS-7 index, and three of them were called “Object 260”. The creation of this vehicle is shrouded in mystery, partially due to the conditions of secrecy created at the factory #100 design bureau. Thanks to recently discovered archive materials, we can now see how the IS-7 (back then, still Object 257) developed in its early stages.


World of Tanks History Section: Defense of Fastov

fastov-1The aim to return what was lost in battle with a swift and powerful counterattack is common to any army. However, one must remember that haste is only necessary when hunting fleas and will lead to no good in war. This is what happened to the first German counterattacks at Fastov.

On November 7th, the Red Army took this important road junction about 70 km south-west of Kiev. Tankers of P.S. Rybalko’s 3rd Guards Tank Army delivered serious damage to their enemy and captured many trophies: vehicles, fuel, supplies. In the same day, the German command ordered the 25th Tank Division to retake Fastov. The division’s actions are a canonical example of haste.


IS-3: The Tank with a Piked Nose

kirovets-1The order to produce a new tank under the index IS-3 was received by Chelyabinsk factory management on December 16th, 1944. By January 25th, 1945, eight of the ten planned tanks had to be built. It took a fairly long time to build and “tune” the tanks, and they arrived in the army only by the time that the Second World War was at an end.


IS-3 in Combat

17The first time IS-3 tanks took part in any fighting was in Hungary, in 1958. A Soviet military force was maintained there to keep communications with forces stationed in Austria. In 1955, the troops in Austria were withdrawn, and in May of that same year Hungary joined the Warsaw Pact. The Soviet troops remained, now as allies, under the name “Special Corps”. It included the 2nd and 17th Guards Mechanized Divisions, 195th Fighter and 172nd Bomber Air Divisions, and auxiliary units. There were no Soviet forces within the capital, Budapest.


Rheinmetall’s Fighting Tractor

loltraktor-4German tanks of the first half of the 20th century are commonly associated with Tigers and Panthers, light and medium “Panzers” designed in the 1930s, and the first German tank, the A7V. Meanwhile, the work of German tank designers in the 1920s remains in obscurity, although many interesting designs were developed during that time. For various reasons, German designers were forced to work abroad. Nevertheless, secret work on domestic tanks began in Germany in the late 1920s. One of those tanks was the Leichttraktor.


Krupp Leichttraktor: Rival with no Future

krupp-4During the First World War, a special technical commission presided over all German tank development, headed by General Friedrichs. The commission appointed a captain from the automobile forces, Joseph Vollmer, to direct design work. When Germany lost the ability to develop and produce tanks after the war, a part of their engineers left the country and began building tanks for other nations. However, several years later, work on new vehicles resumed, and companies who were left during WWI had their chance. The Krupp conglomerate was one of those companies.


World of Tanks History Section: Pattons in Korea

m-46pattonbcompany6thtankbattalion24thinfantrydivisionmunsan-nicoreamarzo19512_-_kopiyaIn February of 1945, American forces in Europe received the Pershing tank. The reaction of the soldiers was positive: finally, something to fight Tigers and Panthers! The application of Pershings in combat was fairly successful, but there were some complaints about the new tank, one of which was about the poor mobility.


Dawn of Mechanization

birch-5The British were pioneers in creating not only tanks, but self-propelled artillery. The Gun Carrier Mk.I was developed back during WWI, not only the first SPG, but the first gun carrier. The gun could be removed from the chassis and used as towed artillery. The positional nature of the Western Front led to the Gun Carrier Mk.I mostly acting as an artillery tractor. After the war, a decision was made to focus on tractors, but the British did not forget about SPGs. In the 1920s, a small family of these vehicles was created, characterized by the Birch Gun.

Strv 74: Europe’s Last Medium Tank

74-9The Swedish post-war Strv 74 medium tank is interesting due to the fact that medium tanks died out as a class after the end of WWII. They evolved into main battle tanks, built by all leading tank building nations at the time. The Strv 74 was designed and accepted into service at the same time as the Soviet T-55, American M60, and a little earlier than the German Leopard. The Strv 74 was also the last Swedish tank with a classical layout, as it was replaced by the exotic turretless Strv 103. How was the last European medium tanks created and what was it like?