Volume 8, Issue 1
August, 01 2012


Welcome to the 22nd 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 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 22nd newsletter, we highlight a little-known Soviet armored fighting vehicle, the PT-76 amphibious light tank.

Because wartime pressures forced the Red Army to drop an amphibious capability from their scout vehicles, they were keen to have this feature added back in to the first-generation of post-war reconnaissance assets. Around 1947, four Soviet design teams were given the task of coming up with a vehicle that would form the basis for a family of light armored vehicles.

The winning design team, led by N. Shashmurin, featured a unique hydrojet system for propulsion in water, whereas the other designs used a more conventional propeller layout. In 1950, after further testing, the prototype was accepted and formally designated PT-76 Amphibious Tank-76mm Gun.

Due to the amphibious requirement, the PT-76’s hull is unusually large to give it added buoyancy. If you look at our vehicle from certain angles, the hull has a vaguely boat-like quality to it, and at the rear are two exits for the hydrojets….all a legacy of the original amphibious design requirement.

The PT-76 holds several unique spots in the Vietnam War’s history….it was used by NVA forces to overrun a US Special Forces camp at Lang Vei during the night of 6-7 February, 1968. In addition, the PT-76 was used by the same NVA armor regiment in the only tank-on-tank combat with US armored forces during the conflict, at Ben Het on 3 March 1969. Lastly, the PT-76 has the honor of being the first tank to be destroyed by a US TOW antitank guided missile in combat, when, on 9 May 1972, three PT-76s were killed at Ben Het.

Our particular PT-76 was built some time during the era of the Soviet Union, although we do not know which factory or when it was produced. The vehicle was then sent to East Germany to be manned by East Germans as part of their National VolksArmee.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, VMMV acquired our PT-76 in the mid-90s. Upon inspection, we noticed several unique features in that many of the markings inside the turret and driver’s compartment are a mish-mash of Russian Cyrillic writing and German….so the crew of these vehicles needed to be fluent in two languages just to fight.

We have painted our PT-76 in the colors and insignia of a Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del (MVD)—Ministry of Internal Affairs—unit serving in the First Chechen War from 1994 – 1996, the last time the PT-76 saw active combat service, thus capping nearly 50 years of service. Stop and take a look at VMMV’s newest renovated vehicle and one of the longest-serving armored fighting vehicles in tank history. Over 5,000 PT-76s were built, many of them are still in front-line use in some of the 25 countries to which they were exported.



From the Files of VMMV......

In this section, we will examine historical records and files on armor in World War II from the perspective of the British liaison office to the US War Department. Some of this correspondence discusses the capabilities and performance of US armor, other files are the British view of German armor, reflecting their understanding of the technical capabilities of the panzers they faced. VMMV is proud to be the custodian of these historical treasures and wishes to thank Mr. Peter Upton for donating his father's war time papers.

These files represent the actual understanding of the Allies of German armored fighting vehicles and represent a critical link between the myths and propaganda of both sides and the post-war technical exploitation. Some of the data may be incorrect or missing, represent critical intelligence that was unknown to the Allies at the time. You the reader are presented with the data in raw form to allow you to see the ground truth of Allied intelligence.

In our 11th installment, we continue our examination of documents on the German tank known as the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. E or PzKw VI…more commonly known as the “Tiger.” The Tiger is synonymous with the Panzer Divisions and struck fear into the heart of Allied tankers during the course of WWII. Because of the large number of documents, we will break up the PzKw VI Ausf. E file over several newsletters.

With this installment, we present an undated eight-page document in which the Allies have examined and exploited at least one captured Tiger Tank to learn its strengths and weaknesses. The opportunity to analyze, test and see the actual capabilities of a tank is priceless. In many ways it is the only way to dispel myths that grow from either foreign propaganda or theoretical limits from the lab.

Click on page to enlarge

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8
Page 9


VMMV Acronym

The lexicon of armored vehicles is filling with a bewildering amount of acronyms. And at 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 the museum.

Provenance….Although several VMMV personnel are excellent cooks, when we talk about provenance, we do not mean French herbs (Herbs de Provence,) but the history associated with a vehicle, weapon, or personal item in our collection. Think of it as the evidence trail of where the weapon has been. Provenance can range from the oral history provided by a veteran, to capture papers associated with a Luger pistol brought back by a US GI from the ETO. The more paperwork and documents associated with an item, the stronger the provenance. For example, there are many M1 carbines still left, but the one carried by Audie Murphy is very valuable, provided the owner can document such a fact.

In some cases, the provenance of a vehicle in VMMV’s collection is literally stamped in steel. A careful examination of many of our vehicles will show part numbers, lot numbers, data plates or a matrix of modifications and the foreman’s mark who signed off on the repair or upgrade work. So at the upcoming Open House, get up close and personal with our vehicles and look for provenance right under your nose.

Volunteers Needed
Borrowing from Shackleton’s recruitment ad in 1913 of “Honor and recognition in case of success…..,” VMMV wants men and women willing to work very hard to keep our dream alive. VMMV volunteers are a group of dedicated patriots whose blood, sweat and hard work are what keep our vehicles rolling. If you think you have what it takes in terms of skills, passion AND dedication, we want you to sign up for our journey, just like the intrepid men accompanying Shackleton. Please contact VMMV’s volunteer coordinator, Mr. Bruce Oppenhagen, at livhist@vmmv.org and he will get back to you about how you might become part of our crew.

Open House Coming Soon in August
VMMV’s annual Open House is scheduled for 18 to 19 August. Please register at VMMV.org today so we can get a rough head count for planning purposes. But come on out and enjoy our collection, rain or shine we would love to greet our friends again.

See You at the August Open House!


Michael Panchyshyn-Editor