Vol 1. Issue 1.
April 2005

Welcome to the first issue of "Heavy Metal" -- the newsletterof the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles (VMMV). Our mission is our motto by working to restore armored fighting vehicles, artillery, small arms, uniforms, and accoutrements of the US military other countries, we hope to share the legacy of the sacrifice and courage of our fighting men and women with future generations of Americans. Located in Northern Virginia, our collection has grown to over 90 vehicles, starting out with the first US tank, the M 1917 through such legendary US vehicles as the M4A1 and M4A3 Sherman , M3A1 and M5A1 Stuart , M24 Chaffee , M3A1 Half-track , M36 Jackson and M3 Lee along with a few vehicles you might not know existed -- such as a prototype of the Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) tank.


Get to know your VMMV staff & vehicles


In this section we will introduce you to the people and armor of the Virginia Museum of Military Vehicles. We will chat with the VMMV staff, so that you can get to know the people who "keep 'em running" and work so hard behind the scenes. And also provide a behind -- the -- scenes look into the history of individual vehicles in the VMMV collection. In this, our inaugural newsletter, we have asked Bruce Oppenhagen about his duties as Volunteer Coordinator for the VMMV (that’s Bruce in the track commander’s position of the 432APC).

Bruce, describe your duties as Volunteer Coordinator.

"I keep a file of all of the individuals that have volunteered to help at VMMV, send E-mail to all the volunteers to arrange for help during the preparation and tear down for Open House, coordinate volunteer work and training days, and advise the museum staff as necessary."

Bruce is too modest. He rides shotgun on all of us enthusiastic volunteers and organizes work parties, staffing for the Open House and a myriad of other duties. Perhaps getting the volunteers on the same sheet of music is akin to herding cats -- but Bruce does it with boundless enthusiasm, endless patience and a smile.
How long have you been volunteering at VMMV?

"Since 1995."

How did you hear about VMMV and what drew you in?

"I was volunteering at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum at Quantico helping to restore a Russian SU-76 assault gun and a US Ontos when the staff and volunteers from the museum were invited to an Open House at VMMV. The Air-Ground museum sometimes contracted work, such as the sand blasting of vehicle hulls out to VMMV. That was in 1992 or 1993. I then attended the regular Open Houses for several years before I became a VMMV volunteer."

What started your interest in tanks and military vehicles?

"When I was 5 or 6 years old my brother and I used to watch Combat! and Rat Patrol on TV and play with GI Joes. This was in the mid-60's before GI Joes became the Adventure Team. I also liked to read The Haunted Tank and Sgt. Rock comic books. So I've had a general interest in the military since a very young age. Then when I was in 6th grade, 11 years old, I was given a magazine format book on the history of tanks. That really started my interest in tanks. Then I discovered a line of tank models by Monogram that included guide sheets on how to make dioramas using models. I became an avid model builder and eventually became pretty good at it. I lost interest in building models when my son was 3 years old and picked up a tank I was building and wanted to play on the floor with it. It was about that time I graduated to working in 1 to 1 scale!"

What is your favorite armored fighting vehicle of all time? Why?

"If I can only pick one I'd have to say the T-34. It balances good protection, firepower and mobility with no frills. I've had the privilege to drive the T-34/85's at VMMV and when you get done you feel like you have driven a tank. It has no automatic anything. Sometimes you need both hands to make it turn yet it just keeps chugging along and you feel like nothing can stop you. It's a rush.

"What is your favorite vehicle in the VMMV collection? Why?

"Picking one vehicle out of the collection and calling it my favorite is very difficult. I really like the T-34's. But I also like the museum's "Hetzer," which I recently helped make more Germanic and I think the Strv 103 (S-tanks) are amazing. The technology they use is incredible. Also, I have always had an interest in camouflage and the paint scheme on the Strv 103's fascinates me. Also, I was lucky enough to help guide the Strv 103 with its flotation screen raised during an Open House. I imagine that makes me one of the few, if not only person in the US to have done that. I have such a positive memory of that day that I can't help but include it in a short list of favorites.

"What is your favorite military history book? Why?

"A Bridge Too Far" by Cornelius Ryan. I first read the book when I was a teenager and it was one of the catalysts that started my academic interest in history. I have re-read the book multiple times and have also written several papers in college using it as a source and it stills stands up to more recent works on Operation Market Garden."

Ketchup or mustard?


Hamburger or hot dog?



VMMV Acronym

The lexicon of armored vehicles is filling with a bewildering amount of acronyms. And at the VMMV we have a few of our own. Here we will have the VMMV word of the day so you may better understand the conversations you might overhear at VMMV.
B.W.F = Blinding white flash. Comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. The blinding white flash typically occurs when a VMMV worker is wiring up an armored vehicle by connecting a battery (or batteries) to the electrical system. If all is not quite right, the result may not be a purring engine but a BWF, followed shortly thereafter by an exclamatory phrase such as -- "Dang, that was a pretty big BWF." After the BWF, typically the smell of ozone fills the fighting compartment along with a little bit of smoke as a gentle reminder.

Calendar of Events

April 15, 2005-Tax Day!

Stayed tuned to this newsletter for updates on this year's theme, special guest, and specific date. Hope to see all of you there!!!


Mike Panchyshyn -- Editor