- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

VINCENNES, Ind. (AP) - Outside the Indiana Military Museum, 715 S. Sixth St., on Thursday afternoon, museum volunteers and military history buffs were abuzz with anticipation as they waited for the arrival of yet another unique addition to the facility’s collection.

Finally, a day after it was supposed to arrive, they caught their first glimpse of the massive, World War II-era Soviet tank as the flat-bed semi hauling it to its new home base turned onto Sixth from Willow Street.

“I can see it!” museum curator Jim Osborne said with a wide smile and a delighted chuckle, camera at the ready. “Here it comes!”

The arrival of the tank, in addition to other pieces of artillery from the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII, was the culmination of a long journey up from Triangle, Virginia, home to the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Osborne said the IMM has collaborated with that museum in the past and he’s been working for awhile to try to get this newest handful of equipment up to Vincennes.

The tank, Osborne said, is “the coup de grace.”

“The whole process has taken about two years,” he said. “There was a lot of paperwork, permit after permit after permit. The tank is the culmination of all of that.”

After the war, the tank eventually wound up in the Korean Peninsula and it ultimately was brought back from that part of the world after the Korean War in the early 1950s.

“Unfortunately, that’s about all the history we know and we probably won’t know any more about it,” Osborne said.

He noted that the tank wouldn’t even have been able to make the 750-mile journey to Indiana’s first city without the assistance of Pioneer Oil Co., 400 Main St., which provided a couple of huge trailers and the expertise of several drivers to help transport the tank and another big piece of equipment.

As a Vietnam War veteran himself and someone who has a great appreciation for efforts to preserve military history, Pioneer Oil president Don Jones Jr. was happy to help.

“What Jim has done here is an absolute miracle,” Jones said. “For us to have something like this here in Vincennes is truly a blessing.”

After a painstakingly slow process that spanned several hours in the hot sun Thursday afternoon and plenty of coaxing and logistical maneuvering, the tank gently rolled off the trailer and safely made it onto solid ground at last, to the applause and cheers of its adoring fans.

But their work isn’t done yet, Osborne said.

In compliance with the IMM’s agreement with the National Museum of the Marine Corps, volunteers will be doing plenty of restoration work on the tank.

“We had to comply with their requests in order for us to be able to have this, which certainly we agreed to do,” Osborne said. “We have to sandblast it, repaint it, preserve some of the original insignia that’s on it.”

Volunteers will be responsible for cleaning the tank’s interior with certain types of cleaners, according to the national museum’s specifications, and they’ll also have to “pickle” the engine.

“We’re not going to run it or start the engine, but we have to go through a process of making sure it is preserved,” Osborne said. “So we may have to use certain oils, drain it and put something else in it - all of those kinds of things will have to be done according to their specifications.”

The museum does as much restoration work in-house as possible, but it also gets help from local businesses that provide things like equipment and offer help with welding and sandblasting, Osborne said.

When all the restoration and preservation work is completed, the agreement also specifies that the tank be stored indoors. The plan is to eventually display the Russian tank next to its American equivalent with a story board describing each machine.

“People like to compare these things, figure out which had the best gun,” Osborne said.

The tank won’t be moved indoors right away, he added.

For the duration of the summer while volunteers give it some TLC, it will stay put behind the IMM warehouse, situated directly next to the museum itself, and visitors are invited to come take a look anytime during the museum’s normal hours.

“Getting big aircraft and big pieces of artillery like the tank doesn’t happen very often. You’re lucky if you get something new every year,” Osborne said. “This Russian WWII tank is so famous and there are so few around, especially in this area.”

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Source: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://bit.ly/2ajbZFp

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Information from: Vincennes Sun-Commercial, https://www.vincennes.com


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