NEW HOME: Camp Dodge Tank Gets Facelift

Since 1958, it sat alongside Beaver Avenue in Johnston weathering storms and gathering graffiti. But Wednesday it found a new, more dignified home.

It’s a sight unseen in decades – the old green general rolling once again. Even half a century out of service, it needed little introduction.

“If you were to show them a picture of a Sherman, they’d say ‘That’s a Sherman tank!’” said military historian, Brandon Cochran.

It sat in the same spot for 55 years, before finally being hauled in for a facelift. Wednesday it was on the move.

“It’s the oldest armored vehicle that the museum has in its collection,” said Mike Vogt, historian and curator at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge, “and because of that, we want to put it in a safer location so we can assure its longevity and its appearance for decades to come.”

The M4 Sherman fought alongside Allied troops in every theater of World War II.

“Toe to toe with a German tank, it really couldn’t hold up,” Vogt said, “but the American industrial complex at the time was able to churn those tanks out in significant numbers.”

Around 50,000 of them were built and thanks to their manageable size, they could be delivered everywhere.  Somehow, five men crammed inside among ammunition and supplies.

“And then that radial engine is right behind you,” said Cochran, “so all that heat off the block is coming right in you.”

The Shermans had their flaws in battle, but also their features.

“If the tank was disabled under fire,” said Vogt, “on the belly of this tank, there is an escape hatch and they could get out and have some cover by the body of the tank.”

The new coat of green won’t do much to hide this old tank. To the contrary, it becomes a 30-ton lawn ornament at Camp Dodge.

“Not only is it an homage to those Iowa veterans that maybe drove Shermans or served in armored divisions that had Shermans, but also as a piece of our collective history,” Cochran said.

It was actually the British who nicknamed the M4 after Civil War general William Tecumsah Sherman, whose brother Hoyt is one of Des Moines’ founding fathers.  But as that Sherman lies at Woodland Cemetery, this one has a new lease on life in Johnston.


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