Monday, January 21, 2013

Rare WWII Tank Recovered In Poland

This story reminds me of a similar situation I observed at Fort Drum NY in 1982 during winter warfare training.  A M48A5 tank was mired in mud up to the bottom of its turret.  All attempts to pull it out with recovery vehicles failed, even with two M88 recovery vehicles pulling in tandem.  I remember seeing engineers wading in the deep mud placing small charges of C4 explosive under the tank in an effort to break the incredible suction from the mud that held the beast in place.  If it had been combat situation instead of training, that tank may have been abandoned like the one in this story.
River in Poland yields a Valentine
Vintage tank hunters pulled a Valentine tank from the backwaters of the Warta River in western Poland this past October.  Military vehicle collector Jacek Kopczynski of Lodz, led the recovery operation. One of the founders of the Veteran Vehicles Bazaar in Poland, Kopczynski commented a day prior to the successful recovery, “If a person could manage to recover the Valentine, it will be a sensation in the world.  This is the first of its kind found in Poland.”

The Valentine Mk X tank is believed to have fallen through ice covering a tributary of the River Warta in western Poland, as it rolled towards Berlin as part of the Soviet Red Army’s massive assault on German defences.  Around 2,000 Valentines had been delivered to the USSR as part of Western military aid. Until this recovery, only three of the lend-lease Valentines were known to exist.

“We’re having difficulties getting the machine out,” Kopczynskia remarked during the operation. “Divers are using high-pressure water jets to try and free the tank, which is apparently in a very good condition.”

Reports that the Valentine had survived its watery resting place with little decay excited historians.  “If it’s true then it would be a world sensation,” commented Janusz Zbit, a military historian.  “After three years of restoration, it might be even able to drive again, which would make it the only surviving Valentine Mk X to have seen combat.”

Though recovery attempts failed on the first day of the mission, success came on the next day. Submerged since January 1945, the Valentine finally broke the surface in October 2012.

Zbit noted that this is the only complete Soviet lend-lease Valentine in the the world, commenting, “In Poland, there is not one such machine.  Once I found the remains of a Valentine at Bydgoszcz, but it was just rust, nothing more.”  He went on to boast, “This is well preserved. In two or three years it is possible it could be restored to driving condition.”  He noted, “There are reportedly three preserved throughout the world, but this would be the only one involved in combat.
You can see a video of the recovery here:

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