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WWII Russian Tank recovered from bottom of a lake after 56 years.

(1944)

Captured Russian Tank that German Soldiers used to fight the Russian Army was recovered from a lake in Estonia in 2000.

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The Story and Rescue Operation

Johvi, Estonia

The Soviet-built T34/76A tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years.

According to its specifications, it's a 27-ton machine with a top speed of 53km/h.

From February to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50 km-wide, Narva front in the north-eastern part of Estonia.

Over 100,000 men were killed and 300,000 men were wounded there.

During battles in the summer of 1944, the tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army. (This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tank's exterior.)

On 19 September 1944, German troops began an organized retreat along the Narva front.

It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driven into the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.

At that time, a local boy walking by the lake Kurtna Matasjarv noticed tank tracks leading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere.

For two months he saw air bubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there must be an armored vehicle at the bottom of the lake.

A few years ago, he told the story to the leader of the local war history club 'Otsing'. Together with other club members, Mr. Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of the lake about a year ago.

At the depth of 7 metres (about 25 ft.) they discovered the tank resting under a 3-metre layer of peat.

Enthusiasts from the club, under Mr Shedunov's leadership, decided to pull the tank out.

The 'rescue' operation began by opening the vegetation for access to the lake.

Added by ldrew

Attaching the Pulling Cables

Johvi, Estonia

Workers attach the pulling cables to the tank while residents from a nearby village watch.
Added by ldrew

Attaching Cables to a Komatsu D375A-2 Dozer

Johvi, Estonia

In September 2000 club members turned to Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of the Narva open pit of the company, "AS Eesti Polevkivi", to rent the company's Komatsu D375A-2 bulldozer.

The pulling operation began at 09:00 and was concluded at 15:00, with several technical breaks.

The weight of the tank, combined with the travel incline, made a pulling operation that required significant "muscle" and the D375A-2 handled the operation well.

The weight of the fully armed tank was around 30 tons, so the force required to retrieve had to exceed that number.  Additional weights had to be added to the dozer to provide enough traction to pull the tank free of the mud and peat.

Added by ldrew

First Light of Day After 56 Years

Johvi, Estonia

The top of the tank turret breaks through the surface of the lake for the first time in 56 years.
Added by ldrew

Freeing the Tank From the Mud and Tree Roots

Johvi, Estonia

Reluctant to give up their prize, the lake and surrounding vegetation clung tightly to the tank.
Added by ldrew

Free at Last! -- and in Mint Condition

Johvi, Estonia

Rolling free of the lake, workers were amazed at the condition of the tank.
Added by ldrew

Washing the Tank Provided A Surprise

Johvi, Estonia

When the mud was washed off the tank, everyone was surprised to see German markings on a Russian tank.
Added by ldrew

A World War II Tank in Mint Condition

Johvi, Estonia

The discoveries continued to get better by the minute. A close inspection revealed the that the tank was in MINT condition.

After the tank surfaced, it turned out to be a trophy tank, which had been captured by the German army in the course of the battle at Sinimaed (Blue Hills) about six weeks before it was sunk in the lake.

Altogether, 116 shells were found on board.

Added by ldrew

Start of the Return Trek

Johvi, Estonia

The Russian tank starts to retrace the path it took 56 years earlier.
Added by ldrew

The Summit Is In Sight

Johvi, Estonia

Eight hours after the 'rescue' began, the Russian tank was well on its way to the top of the ridge.

Remarkably, the tank was in Good Condition, with NO RUST and ALL SYSTEMS (except the engine) in working condition.

This is a very rare machine, especially considering that it fought both on the Russian and the German sides.

Plans are under way to fully restore the tank. It will be displayed at a war history museum, which will be founded at the Gorodenko village on the left bank of the River Narv.

 

Added by ldrew

Topic Details

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Tank in Lake:
Scuttled: 19 Sep 1944 1

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