Stephen F. Austin State University

The Old Sherman Tank (December 2015)


For many many years as we traveled La. Hwy. 6 east through the town of Many, La. we drove by a very historic piece of World War II history and a very historic piece of American military equipment. Located at the VFW Hall was a World War II Sherman tank. Over the years it had proudly sat where every traveler could see it. And many people would stop and climb up on it as they remembered being a crewmember on such a tank in World War II. And kids just loved to climb up and over the old tank. But over the years the old Sherman was pushed back into the back of the gravel parking lot where it sat out of sight from the public.

In August 2009 Mr. Fred Adolphus, curator of the Ft. Polk Museum, and Gregg Grant, curator of the Ft. Jesup State Park stopped and looked at the old Sherman. Here sat the old weather beaten, pale and flaking hulk of a World War II Sherman. But this was not just a run of the mill Sherman. This Sherman was an early war model that had miraculously survived all the boneyards, scrap yards, be-builds and firing range targets. This Sherman was of the type that would have been used at Camp Polk and in the Louisiana Maneuvers from 1942 to 1944. This Sherman had the small turret and the short low velocity 75mm main gun and it had the early model narrow tracks. A true rare tank! Could it be used to tell the story of the early armor at Camp Polk? Could it be obtained for the Ft. Polk Museum?

Mr. Adolphus checked through the Center of Military History to see if the old Sherman could be transferred from the Many VFW Post to the Ft. Polk Museum. He obtained an answer okaying this through CMH and TACOM (Tank Automotive Command) who owns all historical tanks. But first he had to contact the Many VFW Post.

Mr. Adolphus approached the commander and membership of the Ray Miller VFW Post 4858 and in March 2010 presented a plan to move the tank, refurbish it, and to display it at the Ft. Polk Museum so that the public could view it. After the post deliberated about the tank, on April 20, 2010 the post voted UNANIMOUSLY to give the tank to the museum. YES, it was GIVEN and NO as it was rumored, it was not stolen by the army from the VFW.

After several months of getting the correct paperwork to transfer ownership of the tank to the museum, the plan to move the tank came into effect. On September 12, 2012 the 46th Engineer Battalion and the 88th Brigade Support Battalion were in charge of the movement of the 33 ton tank from Many, La. to Ft. Polk. After the tank was loaded by an M-88 Hercules tracked recovery vehicle and the convoy began to move, units from the Many City Police Department and Florien Police Department aided the convoy as it began to roll along US Hwy. 171 to its new home at Ft. Polk.
After the tank arrived at Ft. Polk the museum staff began cleaning and refurbishing it. Gregg Grant began cleaning the tank and found it filled with beverage cups, cans, bottles, food wrappers, and other trash. After lots of grimy work the interior was clean. And the tank was repainted in World War II olive drab paint. While the tank was undergoing refurbishment, new concrete support pads were installed in front of the museum to place the old Sherman and 3 other different tanks for display.

As the heavy lift crane attempted to set the Sherman at its new location something was wrong. It was too heavy to pick up. As they lifted up the front of the tank, all of a sudden over 400 gallons of water poured out of a porthole in the rear of tank. Nearly 2 tons of water had accumulated in the tank over the years! But the old Sherman now had a new home.
This early Sherman has some very great history behind it. This tank actually was used in combat in Europe during World War II. It has theater modifications and additional armor on the sides and front and brackets for side fenders. It was sent back to the US for refitting during the war and the war ended before it was sent back to Europe. It remained stateside and survived. So many of these Sherman's were placed on firing ranges for targets or were destroyed as scrap so it was a huge stroke of luck this old war horse has been saved intact!

I have visited the old Sherman at its new home at the Ft. Polk Museum. I invite everyone to travel to Ft. Polk and visit this great museum located there. Mr. Adolphus and staff have a beautiful, well stocked museum and they enjoy you visiting with them and viewing the many displays .And I thank Mr. Adolphus for sharing the story of this valuable piece of history with me so that everyone now knows the history of the old Sherman. And while you are there, walk out and visit the old Sherman tank of Many, La. Look at this piece of history that has been saved and preserved. And also say thank you to the staff for saving a piece of our history. And say a big thank you to the men who served on these tanks during World War II and who kept the flame of freedom burning for all future generations of Americans!

Fort Polk Museum houses a vast inventory of items pertaining to the Louisiana Maneuvers, Tigerland, and Camp and Fort Polk. (Robertson Collection)

The old Sherman tank from Many, La. as it sits at its new home at Fort Polk Museum. (Robertson Collection)

Front view of the old Sherman at the Fort Polk Museum. (Robertson Collection)

Heavy crane lifting the Sherman tank onto its new concrete pad at the Fort Polk Museum. (Fort Polk Museum Collection)

Heavy crane sitting and positioning the Sherman tank on its concrete pad at the Fort Polk Museum. (Fort Polk Museum Collection)