Volume 9, Issue 3
December 7, 2013


Welcome to the 26th 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 26th newsletter, we discuss VMMV's recent armored invasion of West Virginia.

What do VMMV, Gen. George Patton, Gen. BlackJack Pershing, Gen. Bernard Montgomery, and West Virginia have in common? They all came together for a TV production in October 2013 about great leaders in wartime. VMMV supplied the authentic backdrop for the segments on Gen. Patton by providing an M4A1 and M4A3 Sherman, along with an M5A1 Stuart. No computer-generated tanks here-nothing but genuine US-made steel from the 1940s!!!

The process started back in mid-summer when VMMV was contacted by the production company about providing authentic armored vehicles for filming a series about the great leaders of WWII. Since that fits right in with our motto, VMMV was happy to work with them. The production company selected an M4A1 Sherman, an M4A3 Sherman, and an M5A1 Stuart since the focus of this particular episode was on the great US tanker, Gen. George S. Patton.

VMMV worked with the production company to educate them about the unique logistics of WWII armored vehicles. After all, you just can't drive a 35 ton tank down the road like it was an everyday commuter car. Permits for oversize loads were pulled; routes and timing were planned by the production company to fit their shooting schedule.

Meanwhile, VMMV's skilled group of staff and volunteers pulled the three vehicles from storage and went over them with a fine tooth comb. Fluid levels were checked and re-checked; where necessary they were topped off. Battery connections were tightened down. And in the case of the M4A3, VMMV repainted the vehicle to suit the marking scheme desired by the production company. But only after VMMV verified it would be historically correct….after all, VMMV always desires to represent the historical truth.

In addition to preparing the actual tanks, VMMV's workers were busy preparing a logistics support package. You can't just find an oil filter for an M4A1 Sherman at your local auto parts store. Tools, large and small, were placed in the VMMV maintenance truck. A pile of spare parts were pulled-just in case, and fuel tanks were filled…..VMMV is a turnkey operation!!!

When the time came, the big rigs with their lowboy decks pulled in to VMMV and the two Shermans and the Stuart were loaded. VMMV technicians drove the vehicles up and on to the decks, always aided by a ground guide for safety. The tanks were secured with heavy steel chains by the trucking company to ensure our tanks remained safe and secure.

The tanks and maintenance truck arrived in West Virginia in early October. After unloading, the VMMV crew swarmed over the Shermans and Stuart to ensure there was no damage during the trip. Checks were made and everything was perfect. The crew then started to look around.

They saw a superb re-creation of a WWI battlefield, complete with trench line, bunkers, barbed wire and outposts-reflective of the type of combat and "No Mans Land" seen by Gen. Patton early in his career. After a bit, other actors representing great leaders of the time wandered by, such as Winston Churchill.


Our crew then ate a big dinner and went to bed early, knowing that long days were ahead. The alarm clock rang waaaaaaay too early the next morning, but our drivers and mechanics were already going about their business-readying the tanks so that they would be instantly available when needed by the production company.

Multiple segments centered on the army career of Gen. Patton were filmed. All of VMMV's vehicles performed flawlessly, a testimony to the tip-top shape that VMMV's skilled mechanics keep them in. Shermans rolled over the countryside in a convoy, while the Stuart scampered about in the mud. The growl of tank engines filled the air as our drivers maneuvered the vehicles with the skill of legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt taking the checkered flag at Daytona.

After a week of 12+ hour days, shooting wrapped up. VMMV mechanics began a reverse movement, loading up the tanks for the return to Nokesville. Handshakes were exchanged between new friends, after all, three WWII tanks are a great ice-breaker and conversation starter!!!

Oh, we know some of you want to know….the Craft Services during the shooting got thumbs up from all around!


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 15th installment, we begin our foray into the biggest and most-lethal tank in the Wehrmacht's inventory during WWII-the Tiger Ausf. B, otherwise known as the King or Royal Tiger.

Tipping the scales at 70 tons and mounting an even longer version of the fearsome 88mm gun from the Tiger Ausf E, the King Tiger reigned supreme on the WWII battlefield, whether on the Eastern or Western Front.

Here we have two exploitation photos of one of the first King Tiger's to fall in to Allied hands during WWII.

Click on picture to enlarge.

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.

Cruiser Tank-A uniquely British term and concept from the inter-war period that carried over into WWII. It referred to a tank with high speed and thin armor designed to "cruise" the battlefield and scout things out. Like a cruiser-class warship would do for the battleships in the Royal Navy. Fast and mobile, these tanks were also akin to a mechanized form of cavalry, so dear to the diehards in the British General Staff.

Unfortunately, the armor of "cruiser tanks" was too thin and it could be penetrated by virtually any antitank weapon fielded by enemy forces. Just like the failure of British battle cruisers in WWI, the theoretical concept of "speed is life" did not work out well in reality. And their main gun, generally a 2-pounder, was inadequate to deal with enemy tanks and lacked a high explosive shell to deal with enemy antitank guns. Probably the best example of the "cruiser tank" was the Crusader, widely used during the battles in North Africa against Rommel.

2013 Open House THANK YOU TO ALL!!!!!

VMMV's Open House, held in August 2013, was another smashing success thanks to the hard work of many people and organizations. So many in fact that we don't have space to list them all. But we do want to take a moment and highlight a particular few.

First, the living historians. Each year more and more groups of living historians come out to our Open House, helping bring history back to life for our fans and visitors. Their uniforms, gear and exhibits are amazing. And they are a fount of knowledge, answering question after question from the inquisitive crowd. VMMV says THANK YOU to the dozens and dozens of living historians who made 2013 so great and we look forward to even more in 2014.

In addition, VMMV would like to thank the Nokesville Volunteer Fire Department for coming out and helping to ensure we had the safest event possible. And to VFW Post 1177 who helped out with the parking, making sure folks could park their cars and then leave without being blocked in. Thanks to both.

Lastly, VMMV would like to thank Chris McNulty of the Manassas Hard Time Café and Cue, and Boe Delaeshmutt of Boodacades in Purcellville for donating their time and food to the hungry VMMV volunteers and living historians. Chris's chili dogs and Boe's BBQ filled many an empty stomach and their drinks hydrated thirsty volunteers. VMMV thanks these guys and regularly chows down at both of their establishments. Help support these restaurants that support VMMV by stopping by and saying that VMMV sent you.

Happy 2013 Holidays From VMMV and We Look Forward to Seeing You in 2014

Michael Panchyshyn-Editor