Volume 2, Issue 2
August 01, 2006


Welcome to the fifth issue of "Heavy Metal" -- the newsletter of 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 and 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 fifth newsletter, we bring to you the highlights of our 2006 Open House. This year's theme was the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The day dawned grey and overcast, but that was a blessing in disguise as it kept temperatures in the mid-70s and made the sun even more enjoyable when it poked through early in the afternoon (and it kept sunburns to a minimum!) The morning was filled with a purposeful bustle as the VMMV folks put the finishing touches on vehicles and pulled the last few into place. Meanwhile, re-enactors and exhibitors set up camp and begin to display their militaria.

As the Open House officially opened at 1000, the crowd began to arrive. Quickly a buzz arose as folks circulated amongst the American armor, the Soviet grouping and the British armored fighting vehicles. Kids and adults alike delighted in seeing the re-enactors in their full period uniforms, complete down to the last detail.

Finally, 1100 arrived and the first of many highlights-VMMV's parade of vehicles. Anticipation mounted as crews took their positions and fired the engines. Their roar soon filled the air. The British FV 432 APC lead the procession, followed by the Valentive Mk III, the massive Swiss Centurion Mk 7, Soviet T-55AM2, and ended with the classic American M5A1 Stuart. As each vehicle rumbled by the crowd, the ground shook to the clank of massive tank treads. The technical details of each vehicle and highlights of its operational history were ably narrated by Rich Isner.

Because the vehicle parade was so much fun, VMMW decided to do it again 30 minutes later!!!!

At 1200 the Open House enjoyed a presentation of the Flag by a Color Guard from the USMC. All activity stopped as Old Glory went up the flagpole. VMMV staff and spectators alike joined in singing our National Anthem.

Seats on the lawn and in the shade of the big oak tree then filled as Mr. Allan Cors, VMMV's owner strode to the lectern and greeted the crowd. Mr. Cors then welcomed VMMV's honored guests and spectators to the Open House. He asked the Swiss Defense Attaché, MG Urban Siegenthaler, to stand, and thanked him for his outstanding work in helping VMMV acquire a Swiss PZ 68/88-VMMV's newest addition to the collection (watch for details of it in an upcoming newsletter.) After the thanks, the PZ 68/88 rumbled by with a large Swiss flag streaming from its radio aerial. Later in the day, the PZ 68/88 demonstrated its fully stabilized fire-control system as the tank roared around the field while the cannon remained locked on target, regardless of the gyrations of the hull.

Mr. Cors highlighted how the Open House honored the legacy of our fighting men and women and how our hope for the future-the Museum of Americans at War-would continue to do so. Then Mr. Cors introduced Senator Chuck Robb.

Sen. Robb echoed Allan's sentiments and re-iterated the importance of honoring the sacrifice of our troops-past, present and future. Sen. Robb said it was his pleasure to introduce VMMV's next guest-Mr. Harvey C. "Barney" Barnum, Congressional Medal of Honor winner. Sen. Robb read the citation for Mr. Barnum's CMH, which he won in 1965 as a young Lt. in the Marine Corps.

Mr. Barnum then took to the podium and then asked our veterans to stand up by their era of service so that their courage, honor and sacrifice could be honored by the assembled crowd. A special recognition was given to the veterans present who had fought at Iwo Jima. Mr. Barnum discussed his Medal of Honor, spoke about his time in Vietnam as an artillery observer and then introduced VMMV's keynote speaker-Col. John Shipley, USMC (Ret).

Col. Shipley, a decorated Marine veteran, highlighted some of the difficulties faced during the 36-day battle for Iwo Jima-fanatical Japanese defenders, pillboxes of immense strength cunningly camouflaged, Mt. Suribachi looming, and the omnipresent black volcanic sand. In the end, despite immense quantities of naval gunfire and air support, it was up to the individual Marine and his personal weapon to get up and assault the bunker or take the next ridge in order to secure Iwo Jima. Col. Shipley put the Iwo Jima battle into the context of the Pacific War and compared it to the ongoing fight in Iraq. At the conclusion of Col. Shipley's speech, the crowd arose and gave a standing ovation to Mr. Barnum and Col. Shipley.

Mr. Cors then presented a signed print to Col. Shipley displaying his heroic efforts during the Vietnam war to stop the 1972 attack of North Vietnam by blowing up the key bridge at Dong Ha. Col. Shipley's key role is superbly documented in the book-"The Bridge of Dong Ha"-and is memorialized in a diorama at the Naval Academy titled "Ripley at the Bridge." It was for this action that Col. Shipley was awarded the Navy Cross.

After the keynote presentation ended, VMMV held a narrated tour of some of the key vehicles in our collection. The strengths and weaknesses of each vehicle were contrasted with that of its counterpart and discussed.

As the tour wound down, the crowd lined up next to the battle area in anticipation of the Open House finale. The USMC Historical Company, in conjunction with the VMMV, was about to conduct a tactical demonstration against a bunker complex similar to those constructed by the Japanese on Iwo Jima. Last minute details amongst drivers, crewmen and Marines were worked out and then Gy.Sgt. Williams, USMC took to the field.

Gunny Williams first discussed the evolution of the composition and weaponry of the USMC rifle squad in WWII. When the Marines first landed on Guadalcanal in August 1942, they used bolt action 1903 Springfield rifles in their eight-man squad. With technology advances and changes in doctrine brought on by nearly three years of war, the rifle squad that landed on Iwo Jima was now equipped with the M1 Garand and consisted of 13 members-the squad leader, and three four-man fire teams to enhance the squad's fire and maneuver capability.

Then the Marines loaded up and the tactical demonstration began. First, naval gunfire was brought in to attempt to silence the bunker complex. But most bunkers on Iwo were too strong to be knocked out unless they took a direct hit. So, it was left up to the Marine infantrymen and supporting weapons to do the job.

The Marines arrived via an LVT(4), accompanied by an M4A1 and M4A3 Sherman in support. The 60mm mortar section provided suppressive fire as the Marines debarked from the aft end of the Amtrak. The 75mm cannon of the Sherman barked and delivered direct fire main gun rounds, while machine guns from the second Sherman and the LVT(4) chattered. After the third 75mm HE round, one of the flanking bunkers was knocked out.

Meanwhile, the Marines had deployed into their fire teams, and alternated using fire and movement to advance on the bunkers under the covering fire of the armored vehicles. Carbines snapped, Garand's PINGed as they ejected an en bloc clip, and BAR's stuttered. Using combat-proven tactics, the Marines worked their way into position to execute "Corkscrew and Blowtorch." Closing to point blank range, the bunker was hit by jets of flame as the flamethrower set about doing its searing business. Then a Marine charged forward to deliver a satchel charge in a coup de grace for the bunker.

After the explosion shattered the main bunker, the Marines surged forward. And to aid in the mop-up of the bunker complex, a war dog was used to sniff through the area to look for survivors. As the area was secured, the Marines reformed, and prepared for their next bjective. Meanwhile, a DUKW lumbered forward to provide logistics support to the tired Marines. The action was superbly narrated by Gunny Williams to the delight of the crowd.

That concluded this year's Open House, hope to see you next year!!!

The VMMV staff wishes to thank Randy Barnette and Chris McNulty and the chefs of the Springfield Hard Time's Café and Cue and the Woodbridge Hard Times Café and Cue for graciously donating their time and food to the VMMV staff and re-enactors alike. Gas and oil keeps the VMMV vehicles running, but the Hard Times chili dogs and ice-cold lemonade kept the people running during the Open House. Thanks again.

VMMV also wishes to thanks the Civil Air Patrol for their outstanding help in directing visitors and helping out with the parking.

Mike Panchyshyn-Editor