Vintage WWI tank gets facelift
January 7, 2010
- The tiny tank gracing the grounds in front of the depot's headquarters building went in for a facelift in December 2009.
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - The tiny tank gracing the grounds in front of the depot's headquarters building went in for a facelift in December 2009 and now looks almost as fresh as it did in 1918, the year it is thought to have been built.
Between Dec. 4 and 10, support shops in the Nichols Industrial Complex touched up the paint job and made minor repairs on the storied, weather-beaten display tank. The combat vehicle-stretching about 16 feet long and 6 feet wide and standing 7 feet high-was in service during World War I and possibly other wars.
According to historical files in the depot's Public Affairs Office, the tank was pulled from underbrush almost 30 years ago in a ravine on nearby Pelham Range, U.S. Army military property occupied by Fort McClellan. Because the tank did not come to Anniston Army Depot from a clearinghouse or museum, area experts could only infer that the tank was an American-made, 6-ton Special Tractor and not a French-made Renault FT 17, which is a "French light tank" after which the special tractor's design was copied.
The depot acquired the old, rusted vehicle in July 1980 after the hull, "with one track on and one track off," was discovered by then-depot employee Charles Johnson, who was the chief of maintenance cleaning and finishing branch. As reported in the Aug. 8, 1980, issue of TRACKS, Johnson was hunting on Range 23 when he stumbled upon the tank, which was missing its turret.
How did the vintage WWI tank make its way to Pelham Range' Speculators said they thought it was either used for training or it was dumped there after being deemed an eye-sore at its previous home.
When the depot first restored the tank's aesthetic features in 1980, it sat on display in the maintenance area. Records in PAO do not indicate the year the tank made its way to the headquarters building. There are about a dozen tanks on display throughout the installation, but none have the story of this special tractor.