Volume 6, Issue 3
December 10, 2010


Welcome to the eighteenth 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 eighteenth newsletter, we interview one of VMMV's volunteers, Roland B.

Roland, Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in McLean, VA in 1931 and graduated from Fall Church HS at the age of 15 in 1947- then went into the DC National Guard for 4 years. In 1951 I was activated into the regular army for the Korean War and was stationed at Camp Stewart in Georgia. In 1952 my enlistment was up and I got out and went to work as a service station manager in McLean. Near the CIA HQ in Langley there was a military post during the Korean War to guard against attack on capital that the VA National Guard (VANG) took over. When the battery commander found out I was previously in the antiaircraft artillery, he talked me into joining to train the VANG for 4 years.

How did you get interested in collecting militaria?
I had two brothers who served in WWII, so I think my strong interest stemmed from them. One brother in the Army went over to North Africa in late 1942, fought till the end of that campaign, shipped to England and went into France after D-Day. He stayed in the European Theater of Operations and was awarded six combat stars. I found an old Jeep, brought it home and completely restored it from the frame up, which I still have today. I've been collecting WWII stuff ever since then and have what I think is a nice collection.


So you worked on Quad 50 caliber machine guns while in the Army?
When I first went into the DC National Guard, we were on quad 50 caliber machine guns which were mounted on a halftrack. Then we trained on 40mm cannons. Next thing I know, I was in Delaware, firing 90mm cannons over the ocean. Down at Camp Stewart we also had the 90mm. The VANG had 90s initially but switched over to the even bigger 120mm cannon….so I got to know all the AAA from small to large. The 120s had a really big bang…we had no ear protection, we just opened our mouth. When we fired them in Delaware, the sand on the beach would jump a foot in the air simply from the muzzle blast. The quad 50 machine guns and the 40mm cannon were aimed by eye, but the 90s and 120s were radar-guided, so I learned a little bit about the impact of radar while it was still in its infancy.

After the Army, what was it like being in Northern Virginia with all the growth?
McLean can't be recognized from the 1940s and I spent 50 years growing up there. Tyson's Corner was just an intersection of two dirt roads with a gas station and now look at it.

Rumor has it that you were the originator of one of VMMV's most cherished labels….."The Tank Farm." Tell us how that came about.
One day in the late 1980s when VMMV first opened I met the then-operations manager and we got to talking. I looked around and noted that there were no houses around and this was farm country. But instead of growing crops, as the operations manager noted, they were re-doing tanks….so I said this is a "Tank Farm" then. The ops manager laughed, and I went home and told a fellow volunteer (Larry from Vol. 3 Issue 2) we have a tank farm over there, which is how it caught on.

What is your favorite tank of all time?
The Sherman….love at first sight. It was the first tank I ever got familiar with, climbed up on, over and around. I also think the German Hetzer is a pretty neat little thing…compact.

Tell us more about your Jeep.
My Jeep is a 1943 Ford GPW with all the accessories. I bring it to various shows and parades, particularly around Veterans Day and Christmas. I've also brought it up for the Battle of the Bulge re-enactment at Fort Indian Town Gap and it has appeared in some shows at Virginia Beach. In earlier times when traffic around here wasn't so bad, I took it all over the area. The maximum army speed was 35MPH-it is geared too low to go much beyond 40 MPH.

Ketchup or Mustard?
Mustard, but I like so many things such as a good T-bone steak and apples….I love apples. When I was little, we had a small apple orchard in McLean where I lived and I ate them all the time, very good with a little salt right off the tree.

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 seventh installment, we will continue to examine several documents associated with the Panzerkampfwagen V or PzKw V…more commonly known as the "Panther." Because of the large number of documents, we will break up the Panther file over several newsletters.

We start with a three page report from 24 May, 1944 on the armor quality of Panther and its vulnerability to various British tank and antitank munitions.



And here we have a three view blueprint of the Panther Ausf D


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.

Hatch Key….Just like your family sedan, sometimes VMMV staff need a key to enter our armored vehicles. And we call that item a "hatch key." Tank hatches generally all lock from the inside to avoid allowing the enemy to climb up on the vehicle, open a hatch and toss a grenade inside. Another purpose is to keep the vehicle "locked" in a maintenance area to stop unauthorized movement of the tank. Hatch keys come in different shapes and sizes depending on the nationality and the vehicle, but their general purpose are to lock or unlock the vehicle's hatch from the outside. So the next time you hear one of the VMMV crew holler for a hatch key, you know they are just opening the equivalent of door to a car.

VMMV Hosts Veteran's Group

To help celebrate Veteran's Day, VMMV was proud to host a group of Vietnam veterans from the National Dusters, Quads, and Searchlights Association (NDQSA.) Approximately 12 veterans, several with their wives and children, dropped by the Tank Farm to visit and see the vehicles they rode in the war. Immediately, the memories of battles and comrades from long ago surfaced as they clambered onto one of VMMV's M-42 Dusters.


The veterans recounted harrowing tales under fire from iconic places such as Khe Sanh, Hue and many other lesser-known landmarks of Vietnam. The veterans were very interested in seeing our PT-76 amphibious tank, as that armored vehicle became a threat in the latter stages of the war. The visit closed out with heartfelt handshakes all around…the veterans having driven far and wide were able to share memories and VMMV was honored to display part of our collection to thank them for their service to our country. The visit was arranged by the NDQSA's historian, Paul K. and more information about the NDQSA can be found at their website…www.ndqsa.com.

Happy Holidays from all the staff and volunteers at VMMV. Have a great 2011.


Michael Panchyshyn-Editor