Volume 7, Issue 1
June 10, 2011


Welcome to the nineteenth 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 nineteenth newsletter, we highlight VMMV's renovation of one of its star attractions, its T-72 tank.

What has 780 horsepower, can shoot armor piercing rounds several kilometers, speaks several languages and weighs 44 tons? VMMV's T-72 tank! And last summer the decision was made to completely renovate the vehicle.

Our T-72 is actually East German in origin, but was built with a variety of Czech, German and Russian parts. Although the manuals are in german, many of the assemblies on the interior are marked in Cyrillic; imagine the difficulty in battle of having to mentally translate multiple languages.

Before any paint work was done, VMMV staff and volunteers tested major circuits on the T-72 and conducted a thorough maintenance and safety inspection. Several small problems were fixed, starting with the commander's hatch on top and we worked our way down. VMMV staff also figured out the intricacies of the T-72's legendary autoloader…a mechanical device that automatically loads ammunition into the vehicle's 125mm cannon.

Her fuel, oil, and coolant systems were overhauled, flushed, cleaned or topped off with fluid as necessary where we ended up flat on our back under the belly of the beast. After this preventive maintenance, it was time to start the engine. We were rewarded by the deep throaty rumble of a turbocharged V-12 diesel putting out 780 horsepower at full song.

Any tank needs grease….lots and lots and lots of grease. Whether to allow the turret to turn effortlessly, or the roadwheels to spin with minimal heat buildup, you can't overgrease a tank. So VMMV staff brought out a big bucket of grease, an air line and set about lubing and greasing any fitting they could find. We think the tank probably settled an inch or two with all the grease we used!!!! All this was done before final paint to avoid chipping the new paint.

VMMV then attacked the paint renovation task with their usual enthusiasm. Anything detachable was removed and cataloged to allow preservation work on the tank's exterior. First, a complete wash-down to get rid of caked-on dirt. Then we sanded rusty spots down to bare metal and applied primer. That took lots and lots of elbow work and sweat equity, but that didn't stop the staff and volunteers.

VMMV decided to paint the T-72 in camouflage colors, rather than Soviet base green. Since the vehicle was East German, we researched various schemes and settled on a combination of dark grey, green and light grey. As you can see, it took some time to paint the various layers. And just like any sundae isn't finished until the whipped cream is on top, VMMV finished off the brand new paint with genuine East German roundels salvaged during our initial trip to transport the T-72. Add in the East German flag, and no one can miss the new Queen of the Open House, VMMV's newly renovated T-72.


As part of the T-72's renovation process, we pulled the complete drivers seat assembly from its position to allow us to clean that area of dirt and debris. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a Cold War relic….a Soviet lapel badge. Our research indicates this badge was awarded only to Soviet officers during the 1960s to 1980s, and is a "Combined Arms Specialist, 2nd Class" lapel pin. It is interesting to think what Soviet officer was visiting this East German T-72, crawling around the drivers position and upon exiting, had his lapel badge ripped off, to await discovery by VMMV staff decades later.

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 eighth 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 have multiple, never-before-published exploitation photos of the PzKw V Panther. Enjoy a unique look at this storied vehicle.


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.

Bore Evacuator….In keeping with the T-72 theme of this newsletter, VMMV staff are routinely asked about the big "bump" on the barrel of the T-72. That is a bore evacuator and is designed to pull powder fumes down the barrel and away from the fighting compartment, to avoid poisoning the crew with noxious gases caused by powder combustion during the firing of the tank's cannon. Without such a device, the fumes would re-enter the turret, lowering oxygen levels and discomforting the crew. A bore evacuator does not reduce the recoil of the cannon, it just helps keep the turret free from foul air.

VMMV Open House Coming Up
Mark your calendars now for the next VMMV Open House. Once again it will be a two-day affair, on the weekend of 20-21 August, rain or shine. Load up on sunscreen now because all the staff and volunteers of VMMV look forward to seeing you again.

Michael Panchyshyn-Editor