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  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

The Cold War ended, the Russians went home, the vast majority of the US 7th Army went home as well. The Germans stayed, it was their country and it was reunified. There was trouble in Albania and the states of the former Yugoslavia; crafting a new international reality is certainly never easy or inexpensive but the evidence seemed beyond dispute ... we won. In Kuwait, we won again.

Nations of the former Soviet block, to qualify for western economic aid, quickly began compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces programs. Poland found a new industry as they consumed hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of acetylene gas to render vast fleets of Soviet era tanks, fighting vehicles and cannon from all across Europe into scrap. They cut and they chopped and still the rail loads continued to arrive. So much recycled steel hit the market in Europe, the per ton price dropped below the costs required to render a tank into useable blocks. Welcome to the new economy.

  Cut up Soviet armored fighting vehicles wait for shipment to the smelter.
--Canadian Military Journal
  Two generations of Eaglehorse equipment in Germany.
--Stefanowicz / Frederecci

Did you ever wonder where your old tank, PC, fighting vehicle went or where it came from? Over at the Historical Records Division of General Motors, they can, with a little luck and about fifty bucks, produce the Build Sheet for that Trans Am in your garage that you are trying to restore. In the sparse language of business and manufacturing, the sheet details the date and time that your project car first started down the assembly line, what options were programmed, what was the paint code, it's all blocks on a form filled with number and letter codes. With a little more luck, they will produce a copy of the "pass through sheet" telling when your car, brand new and shining for the first time in natural light, emerged from the factory on day X, was assigned to lot Y for rail and road delivery to dealership Z. Fun stuff. At least you know how the story started. The record keeping for tanks is not nearly that exact.

  The "Hog 's Head" boys over in Ohio start in on a new Trans Am project car. Found in one of the usual places, under the passenger seat, tucked into the seat springs, the Build Sheet that accompanied the car from the factory.
--Hog's Head TA
  End of the line for a pair of M47s. Top: killed in action in Eretria, sabot hole in turret just above the bow gunner's hatch. Bottom: down range in Germany.
--Greville / Cunningham

Geoff Walden, a friend and contributor to this site, keep all numbers associated with his first tank while assigned to the 3 AD in the late 1970s. Serial number, USA number, hull number, he has it all and .... he works for TACOM, if anyone has the story on his tank, from production to final disposition, it should only be a few calls and e mails away. No luck. Between the manufactures and the users, there has never been a great demand for total tracking, at least for the M60 series. Somewhere along the line, his M60 A1 has been handed off from user to user, maybe rebuilt or maybe released to foreign sales. And the current location ... down range in Turkey, off shore near Florida, in front of the VFW Hall, Main Street Anchorage, Alaska ... who knows?

  The Newark Delaware Tank Plant celebrates milestones in M48 assembly. (Delaware Historical Society) A sad survivor that has lost its turret, now kept on as a project at the Massachusetts National Guard combined DS / GS Maintenance Center.
--Newark History Center / Stefanowicz
  In Vietnam, an M48 and an M551 after heavy mine damage. They are going home in the hull of a ship.
--US Army

The record keeping of the M1 series is better, but over at TACOM, they 're not talking. The initial production run of M1s has returned at least once to the factory for refurbishment and upgrade. They live on somewhere, maybe with the reserves. Same with the M3s.

The M113 series can be rebuilt and upgraded seemingly for eternity. Anniston Army Depot and United Defense of Arlington, VA split that business. Disassembly and hull repairs are done in Alabama, upgrades and assembly are done in VA. Thousands were refurbished and released to foreign sales. But there are some limits to that program, every fighting vehicle sold by the US government as a used, Blue Light Special is one less that General Dynamics or FMC can sell as new. Perhaps if some day, Bolivia and Bosnia ever square off, a few of the old Eaglehorse APCs will rattle forward to settle the question. Some from the fleet went to scrap, others now guard city parks and veteran's memorials. The best bet for troopers from the Germany period of our squadron is that your APC may still be out there, running or at least sitting, somewhere.

  Sitting in the back of a motor pool, one of the Sheridans that went into the foreign sales program and ended up in Singapore.
  Over 300 Sheridans were allocated to the NTC at the start of OPFOR program. As repair parts became scarce, non runners were cannibalized until little beyond the hull remained. Next stop, the same aluminum smelters that also render obsolete military aircraft into usable ingots.
--Scott Cunningham

For wheel vehicles, the fate of an individual is again, impossible to tell but the trend is that with each specific vehicle species, they worked and they died. At some point, one by one, the members of the fleet were washed out as non repairable. Next stop, the PDO yard. When there are too few survivors and a newer system is coming on line, the funding ends and that ... is the end of the program. At college in the mid 70s we would watch train loads of AMC manufactured military trucks and trailers roll out of town for points unknown. We steered clear of the union bars but were always amazed by the levels of production of the union guys.

  The last swimming exercise; in the early 1990s, the US Government and the Bureau of Fisheries and Coastal Management made hundreds of AFVs available for reef building through the REEFEX Program. The tanks were thoroughly cleaned, barged to the dump site and pushed over the side. Also used were old rail passenger cars, small ships and construction debris. The artificial reefs have a remarkable positive impact on local fish and shell fish spawning. Here, one of the 1662 Sheridans built, moves out to its final home. The REEFEX Program ran from New Jersey to Texas.
--NJ Div Fish, Game and Wildlife

Maybe a very few old wheels survived through the years and live on as heritage vehicles brought out for parades or they sit in the barns hoarded by fanciers, "hey ... wanna' see my Gamma Goat?!". At Daley in 1980, we finally washed out a few of the old border jeeps. Prior to turn - in, every serviceable part had been removed and replaced with a defective part; the living would feed off the dead. As they loaded the "dear departed" to the back of flat bed trucks with the wrecker boom, in mid air, one jeep folded in half like a closing wallet.

A few years later at Fort Polk, the battalion is on the fast tread mill of NTC prep and a part of it is a Level One tank gunnery. As the S4, I run in front of the lead company to insure the ammunition and all the rest of the support is in place as we move through the tables. Polk always offered surprises and that day was no different. Although the Army was phasing out the use of "hard targets" on ranges, just too much trouble in terms of range pollution, management and cost, plus the whole new generation of smart ranges was just coming on line, in Louisiana, we had learned to be last in line. A fleet of target vehicles was waiting their turn for the final act down range.

  Last round up in Germany. As M1 fielding went forward, these M60A3s at the Germersheim Depot are collected and wait shipment to the USA.
--Scott Cunningham

Looking at the bumper numbers, it was an odd lot, former Marine Corps Reserve 2.5 ton trucks from some unit in Biloxi and an assortment of ultra heavy Army wheeled tractors apparently just released from depot, freshly oiled and greased. I wish I had my camera with me, the tractors were model M249s, the ultra heavy tug for the 280 mm "atomic cannon" of the 1950s. Also in the group, three Air Force crash and rescue fire trucks from Barksdale AFB property disposal. Happy the tanker shooting at hot lime green and hot red targets at 1500 meters. In 1978, part of the target array at Wildflecken and Grafenwoehr were the much battered remains of M4 Sherman tanks that had helped win World War II. They had come a long way from the Detroit Tank Plant to lie shattered in the mud and the weak sun of Germany in that late Fall.

  An M48A5 as a land mark at the NTC.
--Scott Cunningham
  A dignified retirement at the Massachusetts National Guard DS / GS Maintenance Facility.

The vehicles that stand a good chance of having survived the long years in Germany with the 2/11 and may still be sitting on an active Army hardstand, may surprise you. All hail the AVLB, dinosaur survivor through the ages. Division 86 and following force structure changes called for an ever increasing number of mobile bridge launchers. Anniston Army Depot, the great chop shop of the South, ran a conversion program based on M60A3 hulls. The original three carriers of the Eaglehorse may have also passed through for depot level rebuild.

  Over the side in New Jersey for a platoon of M60A1s.
--NJ Div Fish, Game and Wildliff

Tank trivia: ever wonder where dozens of the M60A2 hulls ended up when that program ended? All hail the AVLB! When seen from the rear, a former A2 in use as a bridge carrier still retains a modified hull, rounded and bulging rear grill doors and an odd bulge in the rear hull floor, modifications once done to accommodate the massive compressed air bottle, part of the closed breech scavenging system for the cannon. As the last of the Sheridans pass from the Army inventory this year, these lowly A2 based carriers become the answer to tank trivia for a round of beers at the club, "... what are the oldest track vehicles in active inventory?"  The Wolverine bridge carrier program, based on the M1 platform appears dead. All hail the M60 hull AVLB, survivor through the ages. These carriers may out last us all.

  Cleveland Exposition Center, once the GM - Cadillac Tank Plant. From M551 Sheridan and the M109 cannon fleets to the world's largest indoor Ferris Wheel. Let's go to the car show!!
  He spoke, they clapped, he left. President Bush at the Lima Tank Plant.
--White House Press Site

If we are asking where they went, we should also consider where they came from. The tank manufacturing base has significantly changed. Delaware Tank Plant, long out of the defense industry is back to producing mini vans for Chrysler. They played a large role in the early years of tank production and built their share of M48s and M60s. We believe they may have had a role in the M60A2 final assembly as well.

The Detroit Tank Plant, once the Willow Run for US armored fighting vehicles, dates back to WWII and once set production level records for tanks produced per hour!! The massive complex in Warren, just north of Detroit is still the home for the TACOM campus; the vast majority of the production space that started with M4 Shermans and ended with M1s is in the process of private sector colonization. The plant was run by Chrysler under various partnerships with the Army, then operations were sold to General Dynamics. Chances are very good that your M48 - M60 was built here. Big news ... a firm to produce seats for the Ford F150 pick up has procured space at the former plant and will soon get production under way. The fate of the rest of the complex is confusing. One real estate news letter brags all available space now leased, another source quotes 1 million square feet still vacant. That’s the way things are in Detroit, wild claims everywhere and the truth out there somewhere.

  Welcome to the future ... the Stryker platform on which over eight variants will be produced for the US Army at London Ontario.
--US Army

Heading southeast to Cleveland, the next tank plant, tucked adjacent to the airport (and if you ever flew into Cleveland, you saw it, the flight path offered a great view) has been thoroughly re - worked into a convention and exposition site. This is where the Cadillac division of GM ran their tank plant, among the many vehicles that came through, the M41 and the M109 cannon. They built every M551 Sheridan. Retired assembly line guys probably sit around and recall good manufacturing jobs with great wages ... the exposition space now boasts the world's largest indoor Ferris Wheel, one million square feet of empty space with full convention amenities. Let's have a Strohs, let's go to the car show!

  Ridden hard and out to pasture, part of the scrap line at the MA NG DS / GS facility. For the vehicle in top image, it is a long ... long way from Kuwait to the NTC to Ayer Massachusetts. Once a sufficiently large pool of scrap vehicles has been created, the lot is auctioned off.
More Out to Pasture . . .

Next stop, Lima Ohio. The Soviet defense industry once removed entire cities from their maps in the interest of security. We note that Lima appears to be disappearing from many maps as well. No one will discuss the plant and there are no photos available. It is a GOCO, government owned - contractor operated defense plant, General Dynamics Land Warfare Systems is the lead contractor. This plant also dates back to WWII but now, thoroughly modernized, it is the center for M1 upgrade and reassembly. Everything comes in wrapped in tarps or on covered rail cars and goes out the same way. When President Bush staged a recent photo opportunity in the Mid West that required tanks and flags, it was held there. Surrounded by union workers (( only recently back from a job action )) he spoke, they clapped, he left.

  File image of the M249 Heavy Tractor, part of the tandem set used to move the Atomic Cannons around Germany and the USA. With batteries and a few hours of start up maintenance, the ones I found at the Polk range lot could have been driven away.
  They will out last all of us.
--Doug Greville

The M1A2 SEP upgrade program for the main battle tank in the US fleet is one of the significant activities at the Lima Ohio tank plant although they have cut the work force by 3/4s. As with the M113s, the tanks are disassembled at Annsiton and then upgraded and reassembled in Ohio. I understand a couple are finished each week. This rebuild and upgrade brings portions of the M1 fleet to the highest state of modern armor technology.

In Iraq, M1s and M2s programmed to last six years before recall to depot will hit that key mileage milestone after about one year of deployment. Looks like good job stability at Lima for some time to come.

We note that in Canada, they have decided to not continue the turret and fire control upgrade program for their aging fleet of Leo 1s but will step away from tanks in favor of the Styrker system. The Canadian tanks will be mothballed but up in London Ontario, no one is crying. Its good jobs at good wages paid in Canadian dollars. At the big plant, the flat bed trucks and rail cars arrive just in time each work day. We exported the jobs and now we export the sub assemblies. The significant new contract at Lima involves fabrication of portions of the Stryker crew compartment as the Army embraces the faster - lighter wheeled combat vehicle. The component parts are built, boxed and shipped ... to Canada for final assembly. Perhaps someone looks after the build sheets. 

  Two views of the Detroit Tank Plant in Warren Michigan. The factory complex stretches on for acres in all directions. Next product, truck seats for Ford.

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