There’s a real Panther in Central Massachusetts, and he’s got many friends!

On Veteran’s Day 2018, I decided that I must see the American Heritage Museum in Hudson, MA.  It has been known for aircraft, but recently acquired the Jacques M. Littlefield collection from California. They had a “soft opening” on their new tank and AFV collection, and it looked good on FaceBook.  They also offered vets a free admission, so I thought it would be a good experience.

I had no idea I was about to see the most unbelievable collection of functioning military vehicles in the US.

There was a short but very good video on Massachusetts and its role in the Revolutionary War.  Then, a door opens and you find yourself in a WWI trench and a multi-visual presentation ensues.

Next, a door opens, and it is early WWII.  A British Vickers Mark V is on display, along with a Mercedes staff car.  There will soon be a Panzer I as well.

Another door opened to a walkway around a giant hall – and my jaw dropped multiple times.

12 HALLWA OVERVIEW
One side of the massive exhibit hall is all WWII
36 MODERN GALLERY
The other side goes from Korea to the present

So I was not expecting that many rare tanks, to include a functional Panzer V Panther.  It had been recovered from a lake on the Eastern Front and fully restored.  I will share some more pictures below, but these do not do this collection justice.  It was amazing to see these so close up.  There were very few placards on the vehicles, but luckily I know a lot of them because of my historical and war gaming interests as well as my background in the Army.  If I misidentify any here, it’s on me.

A centerpiece of the collection is the Panther versus a Soviet T-34/85.  There is a screen that has a multi-visual presentation of the two opposing tank commanders, with sounds, effects, and more.  It concludes with the story of the recovered Panther.

All major European and North African campaigns were represented.  First, North Africa:

Then Italy:

There was yet another T-34 – an older one:

23 T34
T-34

There was a nice collection of UK tanks that I had never seen before:

There were of course many WWII American tanks and tank destroyers:

Interestingly, there was a Jagdpanzer 38 (Hetzer) that was key in the What a Tanker game that I played the night before – I had seen one before, but not so soon after I had used it in a game!

25 GERMAN HETZER
Jagdpanzer 38 (Hetzer) tank destroyer

There was also an ME-109!

27 ME109
ME-109

An impressive display of Flak 88 AA gun and accompanying equipment was nicely.  This could have been the gun that wounded my late Uncle Joseph Delaney in his B-17 in 1943.

29 88 FLAK
88 Flak Display

There were a couple of Russian vehicles – an ISU-122 and an SU-100 displayed.

My grandfather, Marcus C. Delaney, drove an M-24 Chaffee light tank in WWII.  The museum put their Chaffee in the Korean War section, as it did serve there as well.  I was feeling somber seeing my grandfather’s tank on Veteran’s Day, and I miss him.  He was a hero to me, and a big reason I went into West Point and the US Army.

30 KOREA
The Korean War display
31 M24 CHAFFEE
M24 Chaffee, my grandfather drove this model in WWII
31A M24 CHAFFEE
Trying to take a selfie while feeling somber is a tough thing.  I do miss my Papa (Marcus Delaney).

The next section was dedicated to the Vietnam War.

For the Cold War, there was an East German T-72.

Next, the “hot” war that occurred during my service, the Gulf War.  I did not go to the theater, and performed my duties stateside.  I often say that they had a war and did not invite me.

Finally, the War on Terror, which had a USMC M1A2 Abrams tank (though I am not exactly sure which variant it was).  It was hit by an IED in Fallujah in 2006.  There is a touching video presentation of the event and its impact on the crew and the tank commander’s widow.  RIP.

35 WAR ON TERROR 911 GIRDER
A girder from the Twin Towers
35A WAR ON TERROR ABRAMS
The USMC Abrams M1A2

The museum truly honors veterans, and I was humbled to walk through the many, many displays.  To have one in Massachusetts like this is a really special thing.  The museum will close from November 25th to April 15th, so there are a couple of weekends left to try to go before spring.

I will be coming back here for sure.  Thanks to the American Heritage Museum for such a great homage to our history and our veterans.

37 brochure37a brochure

Fort Devens Game Day Recap

On October 20th, there was a Devens game day at the former Ft. Devens in Massachusetts.  I was interested in attending for a couple of reasons.  First, I am trying to get to more gaming events in the area.  Second, I was stationed at Fort Devens while I was a member of the 39th Engineer Battalion (Combat) from 1989-1992, so I was intrigued to see the post again in its new configuration.  Fort Devens was closed as an active duty US Army post in the 1990’s, and Massachusetts has redeveloped the post by bringing in a lot of industry.  Still, some of the post is used by the reserves.  In fact my old battalion area seems to have been saved and redeveloped for the reserves.  That area is all fenced off now and I did not want to photograph the area and draw unwanted attention to doing so!  Other buildings and barracks areas are untouched since closure, with actual trees growing out of the edifices yielding an apocalyptic/Walking Dead look.  This blog post is a bit late, but I did get wrapped up in the baseball ALCS and the World Series, which were both won by the great Boston Red Sox!

The actual game sessions were held at the Fort Devens Museum.  There were three games there – a WWI game, a naval game, and a pulp game.  I did not get any pictures of the naval game but you can read about in an excellent post here.  I focused on playing a WWI game (given that it is close to the centenary of the end of that conflict).  The board is entirely scratch built, and I believe the rules were “Trench Warfare”, but I am not sure.  The game master, Bill, did an excellent job, and I wanted to share his board as it was excellent.  The event clearly tried to recruit younger gamers, which was admirable for growing our hobby.

1 WWI
Starting side for the Allies.  From far to near, the attackers were US Marines, British, and French.  It was a bit ahistorical but a fun game. 
2 WWI
While I commanded the French, I had two British tanks – a Mark IV and a Whippet.
3 WWI
Another view of the Allies starting positions.
4 WWI
A truly beautiful scratch built table.  Bill (the game master) is pictured here standing.  He did a nice job creating a trench works system with 2′ x 2′ modular sections.
5 WWI
Some of the German forces – they were to engage the USMC is a series of bloody hand-to-hand battles.
6 WWI
Advancing my poilus and tanks
7 WWI
An engaged group.  Bill kept the game moving (unlike the actual WWI)!
8 WWI
The Germans move up, and get hit by very lucky hits by my French 75mm artillery.
9 WWI
The hand-to-hand battle
10 WWI
Taking out the forward observation posts and then getting torched by a German flamethrower
11 WWI
German artillery disables my Mark IV

The game ended in a draw, but I enjoyed it a lot.

There was also a pulp game that I did not play in, but that looked interesting.

12 Pulp Alley
Pulp Alley Game
13 Pulp Alley
Druids and Nazis?  And Stonehenge?

Lastly, I looked around the museum and looked for anything related to my old unit.  The only thing I saw was a donation from a former lieutenant from the 1977 time frame.  I do think I could find a few things myself.  Interestingly, I am a local, and the 39th had members who for the most part live in other parts of the country.  I do commend the museum for trying to resurrect the posts history from WWI until closure.

15 39th pic
The only mention of the 39th

My thanks to the folks who set up this event and to the folks at the museum!