By TACOM Public AffairsMay 1, 2018
(Editor's note: The following article is part of a series of stories from U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command newsletters in 1968. The acronyms "ATAC" and "TACOM" are interchangeable throughout this series. This story ran in the May 1968 issue of "The Detroit Arsenal News.")
One of the lengthier tank retrieval operations in TACOM history was concluded successfully on Friday, May 3, when a heavy equipment transporter hauling a World War II M4A4 Sherman tank from a park site in the City of Livonia finally rolled on to the Arsenal grounds some 4 months after the project was first attempted.
It all began last November when TACOM received a letter from Livonia's Superintendent of the Department of Parks and Recreation. It seems that seven years ago the City of Livonia acquired the M4A4 tank of World War II vintage from the City of Dearborn where the vehicle had been on display in front of the Dearborn Historical Museum. It had been a familiar landmark since the end of the war.
When Dearborn officials decided it was time for the tank to move on, the predecessor to the man who currently heads Livonia's Department of Parks and Recreation enthusiastically asked for and received the tank. It was thought that the tank would make an ideal "showpiece" for the use of young children and with that idea in mind was installed at a Livonia Park site.
Apparently it was another example of the best laid plans going awry. In his letter to TACOM the present head of Livonia's Parks and Recreation Department indicated it just wasn't working out. He said, "It is not being used by the children. It is a gathering spot for teenagers who constantly disfigure it with obscene language and use it as a target for bottles."
The Detroit suburb asked for help in removing the tank. TACOM agreed to do the job and the planning began. The problem involved checking out with highway people for permission to move the overweight load. The Experimental Fabrication Division had to make arrangements to get the 50-ton Heavy Equipment Transporter back from the contractor where the vehicle was being studied and tested. Plans were finalized and January 5 was designated as the big day.
The abundance of spectators usually found at projects of this type never materialized. The three-degree-below-zero temperature and brisk winds, in all likelihood, were responsible for the absence of advice-offering onlookers. It was just as well because a detailed survey of the area and several vigorous attempts to shake the tank loose revealed that tank and ground were fused together by an accumulation of ice and snow. There was further evidence that the condition would exist until the Spring thaw. The operation was abandoned with the greatest of reluctance and the TACOM crew returned wearily to the Arsenal.
The second try involved the same preparation, problems, and planning as the original effort. In addition TACOM personnel made a trip to the site for a better look at the situation. May 2 was finally agreed upon as the date for another confrontation.
Supremely confident, the TACOM crew arrived at the scene at mid-morning. With the temperature fast approaching the 72-degree mark the size of the crowd quickly grew. The interested of all ages, held back at a safe distance by Livonia police, settled down for the struggle of the immovable object challenged by the irresistible force.
It was a formidable struggle and the issue was in doubt for several hours. The winch from the tractor of the 50-ton transporter was secured to the tank which over the years had sunk into the ground to a depth of about a foot. For every fraction of an inch of forward movement of the tank, the tractor was dragged back several inches.
After in indecisive tugging contest that lasted several hours, the issue was resolved when a nearby tree was used to anchor the tractor. This was the turning point. Secured by the tree the tractor stood its ground while its winch steadily dragged the armored World War II veteran from its resting place of seven years.
The hour was late when the job of loading the tank aboard the trailer was finally completed. Because of highway restrictions prohibiting the movement of overweight loads after a certain hour it was necessary for the transporter and its burden to spend the night in the fenced-in yard of Livonia's DPW.
Now that the celebrated tank is safely on the Arsenal grounds the question is what will TACOM do with it? The decision on its future is still a bit indefinite but at this point it seems an odds-on favorite that its final resting place will be on TACOM property as a historical monument.