PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It was an unusual delivery to the Heinz History Center — a 37-ton Sherman tank now parked outside the museum as part of the center’s “World War II — We Can Do It” exhibit.
“I’m going to let it run for 30 seconds, and then I’ll start,” instructed tank owner John Tippins, who has loaned the tank to the History Center.
Tippins, a local amateur military historian, maneuvered the tank into location.
“It’s a brute,” he said afterwards. “I don’t think I’m as fit as the young fellas driving these years ago.”
It was a tight fit inside for a crew of five back in the day, and movies like “Fury” highlight the courage it took to operate these vehicles in battle.
At one time thousands of these tanks were on the go in Europe, and the Allies had many more than the Germans.
It’s hard for this generation of Americans to appreciate how important this Sherman tank was in winning World War II.
And here’s another important fact: key components of the tank were made right here in Pittsburgh.
“The turret of this tank was probably made in Lawrenceville at Union Castings,” Heinz History Center CEO Andy Masich told KDKA’s Jon Delano.
“Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania made more steel than all the Axis powers put together, and a lot of that steel went into tanks, more than 60-thousand Sherman tanks like this.”
Part of a tour group visiting the exhibit, 88-year-old World War II Navy veteran Wally Mason of Meadville convoyed tanks and soldiers across the Atlantic to Europe.
“They were the center of the convoy. There were destroyer and destroyer escorts around them to protect it as much as they could from submarines and air attack,” noted Mason.
Army Communications Specialist Thomas Barratt of Meadville landed in Europe during the last days of the war.
“You couldn’t have ground warfare — successful ground warfare — without tanks,” said Barratt. “They were absolutely imperative.”
Now visitors can safely see one up close.
“I sure am glad no one is shooting at me,” adds Tippins.