Military Photo: WW-II Tank Recovered After 62 Years

Posted: 11/01/2006

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14September 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 pulled an abandoned tank from its archivaltomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia. The Soviet-built T34/76Atank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years. According to itsspecifications, it�s a 27-tonne machine with a top speed of 53km/h.

FromFebruary to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50km-wide, Narva front in the northeastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men werekilled and 300,000 men were wounded there. During battles in the summer of1944, the tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army.(This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tank�sexterior.) On 19 September 1944, German troops began an organized retreat alongthe Narva front. It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driveninto the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.

Atthat time, a local boy walking by the lake Kurtna Matasjarv noticed tank tracksleading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere. For two months he saw airbubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there mustbe an armored vehicle at the lake�s bottom. A few years ago, he told the storyto the leader of the local war history club �Otsing�. Together with other clubmembers, Mr Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of thelake about a year ago. At the depth of 7 metres they discovered the tankresting under a 3-metre layer of peat.

Enthusiastsfrom the club, under Mr Shedunov�s leadership, decided to pull the tank out. InSeptember 2000 they turned to Mr Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of the Narvaopen pit of the stock company AS Eesti Polevkivi, to rent the company�s KomatsuD375A-2 bulldozer. Currently used at the pit, the Komatsu dozer wasmanufactured in 1995, and has 19,000 operating hours without major repairs.

Thepulling operation began at 09:00 and was concluded at 15:00, with severaltechnical breaks. The weight of the tank, combined with the travel incline,made a pulling operation that required significant muscle. The D375A-2 handledthe operation with power and style. The weight of the fully armed tank wasaround 30 tons, so the tractive force required to retrieve it was similar. Amain requirement for the 68-tonne dozer was to have enough weight to preventshoe-slip while moving up the hill.

Afterthe tank surfaced, it turned out to be a �trophy� tank that had been capturedby the German army in the course of the battle at Sinimaed (Blue Hills) aboutsix weeks before it was sunk in the lake. Altogether, 116 shells were found onboard. Remarkably, the tank was in good condition, with no rust, and allsystems (except the engine) in working condition.

Thisis a very rare machine, especially considering that it fought both on theRussian and the German sides. Plans are under way to fully restore the tank. Itwill be displayed at a war history museum that will be founded at the Gorodenkovillage on the left bank of the River Narva.

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