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Posted on Sep 7, 2004 in Stuff We Like

T34 Tank Rides Enlighten Weekend Warriors

By David Tersteeg

About five minutes into the journey we were killed (for the first time) by an anti-tank gun.  Our commander spotted the gun and stepped on the gunners left shoulder to traverse the gun left,  BOOM, we died a second time.  Our gun continued traversing left and was finally on target (after taking four fatal hits) when we hit the trigger and smoke soared from our barrel (propane gas).  Feeling confident, our tank continued up-and-over a four foot rise when … BOOM…. We were killed again.  Similar to the first gun, we proceed to get hit 3 more times before we traversed, elevated and fired.

Hatches opened or buttoned up, well camouflaged anti-tank guns would have destroyed our tanks before we even saw them.  Even more devastating would have been a little observation plane floating above us, directing the lethal fire.  The three of us having visited Normandy (D-Day week 2000) and witnessing the “bocage” coupled with the T34 experience, told us that inside (or standing near) a Sherman was not the place to be in Normandy, France during WWII.


The T34s forward machine gunner (note the weapon was removed) would have had an 1/8” hole to acquire, site and aim at enemy positions; there’s no way that a button-up tank is taking on a company of infantry at close range.  As long as an infantryman was not directly in front of the tank at the same elevation, he was invisible.  So much for “Mad Dog’s” exploits at the train yard in Kelly’s Heroes.  While the T34 did have two small, round “plugs” that could be opened to spray the area with submachinegun fire, again the view was very restricted and even a half-witted, uncoordinated person could slink up to the tank and disable the track (iron bar into a drive wheel) or turn it into a pressure cooker with a little flammable liquid on the engine compartment.  Hats off to Steven Spielberg, with his illustration of the infantry taking down the tanks at the end of Saving Private Ryan.

Even with all hatches open (including the security hatch on the bottom), the tank was very, very hot and the humidity was rising.  All the smoke made it difficult to see and the noise made voice communication nearly impossible.  A buttoned-up tank in the summer, with the addition of hot (spent) shell casings would have made the inside of the tank feel like the blast furnace of a steel mill.

As our 30 minute journey back to WWII ended, the T34 blew an oil line, and the hot oil hitting the hot engine created a smoke cloud that was unplanned, but fitting to illustrate that we didn’t make it through the ‘war’.

After the obligatory disposable camera pictures, we unsuited, compared battle stories and proceeded to Bob’s shelter.

Bob also is a collector of antique weaponry.  For a fee of $.50 per round (the guys thought it was peanuts, the wives thought that we were insane), you may partake in firing from Bob’s collection.  We started with the Israeli Uzi, graduated to the B.A.R., MG42, MP40, Maxim WWI machine gun, Thompson & M16.  Yes, the firepower of the MG42 is AMAZING; even slowed down to 900 rounds per minute, you better shoot short bursts at $.50 per round.  It also makes you think about the poor souls that had to maneuver against the MG42…  The MP40 is very controllable, with little kick/jerk (again, ignore the actors in the movies).  The Thompson is a very good weapon, but by the third round, she wanted to become an AAA gun. 

The Maxim and B.A.R. were the hands-down favorites.  Watching the assembly/disassembly of the Maxim, dialing-in the weapon, depressing the thumb trigger and tapping left-and-right, is an experience right out of Sergeant York.  The robust design and manufacture reminded the older guys of farm machinery from the turn of the century.  While the B.A.R. has been made technically obsolete in combat, it is a wonderful weapon to fire.  The accuracy, range and rate of fire must be experienced to be believed.

Finally, I like to mention that I have neither financial interest in “tankride”, nor relations/friendships with any of the owners or co-workers.  I highly recommend that you peruse their website and then call 866-888-8265 to schedule some trigger time with Bob.

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1 Comment

  1. My domestic partner of 19yrs is very into german war and when I found your web-site I was so excited I have decided to give this to him as a is Christmas Gift. We live in Chicago so coming to Minnesota is not an issue would love to make the trip.

    look forward to hearing from you and or I will contact you after the holiday to see what dates are available.

    thanks so much
    Vicki Novak