Authors: Brenthos and Mich_TATEJlb (EU server) Note: This is an article about a tank museum located in Israel, and thus, contains information regarding the Israeli armed forces and their history, as displayed there. The writers are Israeli, and, though doing their best to present the information in a historically objective manner, cannot change their life perspective. If such information may be offensive to you, please consider those facts before reading the article. If you still wish to read it, please bear in mind that sarcasm and black humor are mandatory characteristic of all Israelis. Being Israeli residents that also play World of Tanks, and have wide interest in military history in general, quickly enough led us to go to the nearest place where we could see as much tanks as we could. No, not Gaza Strip. We went to the tank museum in Latrun instead. We have been there before, but we wanted to know more, learn something new and interesting, so we contacted the museum to ask for a VIP tour. We told them we play a tank game on the computer, and got connected to the whole subject of tanks. After a few days, we received a call from Michael Mass, the vice-manager of the association that runs the museum. He was brief: “The answer is yes. You wrote a serious request, and I’ll be more than happy to fulfill your curiosity.” Here is the place to say, that the date was set in the beginning of June, and in no way is connected to the currently going fighting in Gaza and southern Israel. Though, we did have to run to the shelter once during our visit. Anyway, here is a “short” summary of the interesting information we have gathered there, expanded with some historically relevant information we were directed to, from Wikipedia in Hebrew. The Museum View of the Latrun police building and the memorial wall from one of the tanks on display. The Sherman on the tower that became the recognition sign of the museum can be seen on the right. View from the balcony on the roof of the police building. The Merkava display is on the right. Well, it is not even a museum officially. There is a non-profit organization under the name of “Yad Lashir’yon” (“Monument to Armor”), which is located in Latrun, at and around the old police station building, one of those built by the British mandate of Palestine around 1940. The building is a strategic point on the way to Jerusalem (when advancing from the Mediterranean shoreline). The reason for choosing this location as their home is simple – the first battles fought by one of the first Israeli armored brigade (no. 7) were to capture this building – in 1948, with the establishment of the state. The 7th brigade, with the aid of other forces, fought 4 times against Arab Legionnaires (Jordanian forces) between the 25 May and the 18 July 1948. Each battle ended in a defeat, and Israel lost 168 soldiers and few armored cars and halftracks. The Arabs lost 2-20 men (exact number is not known), and had up to 40 wounded. The building was finally captured only on the 6th of June 1967, this time – without any losses on the Israeli side. Today, the building itself is a national heritage memorial. Shell and bullet hit marks can be still clearly seen on the walls of the building. View to the police building from one of the Centurion tanks on display. “Your heroism is armor to us / our friendship is eternity to you”. The memorial wall of the armored corps – the last plate on the left is disturbingly fresh. There are only names on the wall – no ranks or age. Only two days after our visit, two more names were to be added to this wall. The window at Michael Mass’ office. The shelling damage is genuine. Today it houses the installations of Yad Lashir’yon. The place is the central memorial and heritage center for the IDF armored corps. Many military ceremonies, such as training courses graduations, aside with civilian educational events and national holiday celebrations take place there. The huge amount of Israeli flags in the pictures, is due to such a ceremony that was about to be held there in a few days. The organization has about 900 members, mostly ex-tankers who participate financially, but the place in Latrun is run only by 20 civilians and about 15 soldiers from the publicity unit, which is in charge of guided tours, educational content, visual documentation and security. The organization does not do restoration, and barely do preservation. Michael states that the last time they have even painted the tanks was about 17 years ago. And yet, he states that if he will hop in a T-55, put it in first gear and push it a little bit, it will start immediately. “This is the problem with the 55s” he says, and tells us a story about a soldier that got killed by a T-55 that started accidentally when rolling down a small hill, until smashing into the soldier and a parking Centurion. Michael Mass is a retired Lt. Colonel (reserve), served in the armored corps on technical positions, and dealt mostly with T-54/55 tanks both during his service, and while working after finishing with military service. As far as we understood, he is in charge of the vehicle collection in Latrun. “Collection” is the exact term he uses. When we referred to Latrun as a museum, he showed us pictures from his visit to Overloon, and said – “this is a museum, with expositions, mock-ups, restored equipment and all that stuff”. When you think of someone of his position, you must be visioning an over-patriotic Zionist, who devotes his life to the great good of the Jewish people. We were not exactly sure what kind of a man we would meet, but very quick we found out the simple truth – he is just another man that simply likes tanks. When one of us saw a cutaway of an APFSDS round on his table, and asked what was it made of (and note that this was the first sentence said after the ‘Hello, nice to meet you’), he started talking right away as if we knew each other for a long time. A table of an experienced Israeli tank tech: A Menorah, tank shells, a bottle of beer, and a picture of distinguished Israeli military men. But yet, there are some exhibits that allow us to call it a museum. For example, a Patton cut in half, to display the interior of Continue reading →

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