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 (thats Bruce in the track commanders
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?
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?