With the moving of almost all armored vehicles from the Patton Museum to Fort Benning, Georgia, there was a large vacuum to fill. While those few vehicles left would have to suffice, there wasn't much to tell the history of Fort Knox and it was hoped that there would be historic and unique vehicles somewhere on Fort Knox's ranges.
Volunteer Don Moriarty had done research at the Patton Museum library before it was packed up and discovered some interesting information. From photos and inventory lists, two vehicles once in the museum collection, an SdKfz 251/D/9 halftrack and a StuG III G, were apparently removed in the late 1950s or early 60s since they were excess. Although there was no way to know, they were presumed to have been sent to the ranges. Also, from the original railroad manifest of vehicles delivered from Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG) to the Armored School Museum at Fort Knox, there was listed a BergePanther, a World War II German armored recovery vehicle (ARV). There were apparently two at APG at one time and according to the manifest, one was sent to Fort Knox. Don theorized that since this vehicle wasn't a combat vehicle, it may have also been sent to the range.
Don's research also turned up that the first M4A1 Sherman built in Lima, Ohio was sent to Fort Knox for trials and evaluations. Its paper trail ends at Fort Knox and it was supposed that it also may have been sent to the range after the war. There was also an M4A3E2 Jumbo Sherman, converted post-war to a flamethrower version, that was tested at Fort Knox and it is also unknown what happened to it. There were four 1931 Christie Combat Cars with the 1st Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox and, except for one that is in the APG collection, the location of the others was unknown. It was also expected that they may have been sent to the ranges long ago.
Finding any trace of these vehicles became the mission.
A chance meeting with Historic Preservation Specialist Matt Rector at the Patton Museum in 2012 eventually led to contact with range foreman Arlin A. Kramer, Jr. who was also interested in the history of the area. He assigned range tech Tony Allmon to be the escort for a small group of Patton Museum volunteers to search the ranges.
The Patton Museum volunteers wish to express their appreciation to those that have made these efforts possible: Historic Preservation Specialist Matthew Rector of the Cultural Resources Office, Arlin A. Kramer, Jr., Range Forman and Tony Allmon both from Range Control. We also would like to thank other numerous individuals that have supplied bits of information and leads on the locations of these valuable artifacts.
The first search held in conjunction with Range Control and the Patton Museum volunteers began on February 17, 2013. Volunteers Robert Decker, Don Moriarty and Garry Redmon met with Range Control employee Tony Allmon to start the search. One of the most important items inspected that day was the shot up remains of an M3A4 Lee medium tank. The M3A4 was unique in that, because of a shortage of engines, it was equipped with a Chrysler A-57 Multibank engine, made up of five, six cylinder car engines on a single crankshaft which required the hull to be lengthened 10 inches.
Along with the Lee, the remains of several 75mm and 105mm caissons were found in this area along with several M3 Lee turrets on another range.
On March 30, 2013, Patton Museum volunteers Robert Decker and Chun-lun Hsu along with their Range Control escort, Tony Allmon, began a second search on post for any interesting and historic objects long abandoned.
The primary mission that day was to inspect two M3A1 Stuarts that were already known to Tony Allmon. The Stuarts had been used as target tows when their use as training vehicles was no longer needed. One of the Stuarts was named "BOMBARDIER" and its registration number was still visible on the side. Armor historian Kurt Laughlin identified these Stuarts from their registration numbers as a group originally destined for Lend Lease. How and why the came to be at Fort Knox is unknown.
Both vehicles interiors had been stripped, but one interesting feature is that extra armor plate had been welded on in certain locations presumably to protect vital areas from projectiles and shrapnel.
On February 8, 2014, Patton Museum volunteers Robert Decker, Chun-lun Hsu and Garry Redmon along with Range Tech Tony Allmon conducted a third search of the Fort Knox ranges for any historic artifacts. This search proved to be another successful effort.
On this search the primary mission was to identify a piece of unknown wreckage that had been seen on the last search. After looking at photos taken of the wreckage, Tony was able to see similarities to an M1931 tank designed and built by J. Walter Christie. In the 1930s, Christie was an American inventor who came up with several different designs for armored vehicles. The M1931 proved relatively successful in trials, so the U.S. Army bought seven examples that differed in armament and designated them as the T3.
Three of the T3s were designated as medium tanks and given to the infantry at Fort Benning for trials. The other four were given to the 1st Cavalry Regiment then stationed at Fort Knox and designated as Combat Cars. Ultimately the Army was not satisfied with the design and didn't order anymore. Christie was able to gain the interest of Great Britain and the USSR who eventually used the Christie designs for the British cruiser tanks and the famous Russian T-34.
On March 15, 2014, Patton Museum volunteers Robert Decker, Chun-lun Hsu and Garry Redmon along with Range Tech Tony Allmon and with the permission of Range Control Foreman Arlin A. Kramer, Jr. conducted an excavation on the Christie T1 Combat Car wreckage discovered on a previous search. The primary mission was to dig around the area of the wreck in an attempt to free the turret and find any other parts of the Christie tank.