A proposed plan to move the Purple Heart battle tank from its present location at DeSoto Park to the site of the Garland County Veterans Memorial and Military Park seems to have everyone's approval, but moving a 40-ton tank is easier said than done.
"Everyone is on board with it," Steve Smith, a longtime Veteran's Memorial Committee member, said Friday, noting the committee voted unanimously to move it and began the planning process last year. He said city officials also approved the plan, which would include relocating the dedication marker in front of the tank.
"We haven't run into a single roadblock yet except the logistics of the move," he said.
The M-60 battle tank was acquired by the Military Order of the Purple Heart and dedicated as a memorial at DeSoto Park, located on Highway 7 near Gulpha Gorge Road, on Veterans Day 1992.
"Visibility is the main thing," Smith, who served on a battle tank in Vietnam as part of the "Blackhorse" 11th Armed Cavalry, said during a tour of the tank's current site. "No one really sees it out here."
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Hugh Mills, a Hot Springs native now living in Kansas City, Mo., who is helping plan the move, said, "It's totally out of character where it is, parked back in a corner. You don't even know it's there. It ought to be displayed as a symbol for veterans who served on these in the war. It deserves a better place than it's got."
Mills, who commanded a company of M-60 tanks with the 64th Armored Division in Germany in 1970, noted the tank would have originally weighed about 52 tons including its motor and drive train, which were removed, and including fuel, ammunition and equipment. "So that's a good thing in a way, it's a lot lighter."
"There's no reason it shouldn't move," Mills said. "It's dead weight. You just got to have something sufficient to move it. The key is if the rear sprockets will turn, but it looks like they will. You can just hook up a tow bar and pull it."
Smith said the cupola at the top is welded shut "so we'll have to cut that open so we can get down in there." He said he already has some locals who volunteered to grease the gears and tracks and other preparations for the move.
Mills said the tank still has the original tow cables mounted in back which "probably haven't been used."
"We just need a large wrecker, a heavy equipment mover," Smith said. "We're hoping to get some help from the community. Hoping someone will step forward. We're open to any ideas people might have on doing this."
The committee originally tried to make arrangements for moving the tank through the military liaison in the governor's office but learned there was no funding for moving nonessential military equipment.
Smith said the initial hope was to have the tank moved prior to Veterans Day this year. With a $600 contribution from state Sen. Bill Sample, R-District 14, the committee purchased the materials to put in cement runners at the planned site beside the veterans memorial.
'That's why we went ahead and did the pour," he said. "We thought we were closer to moving than we really were. But we couldn't move it without the pour being done first and it has to dry for a week to cure it."
Smith noted the runners are 22 feet long, 3 feet wide and 10 inches deep and will hold the tank's tracks once it's moved there. He said there will be gravel in between the runners.
He said they plan to "fix it up, clean it up and repaint it" after the tank is moved and "it should look like new."Local on 11/05/2017
Print Headline: Plan to move Purple Heart tank remains in the works