Path of Honor Memorial receives gift of WWII tank from the National Museum of Military Vehicles

The sight of a World War II battle tank at the intersection of US Highway 287 and Ethete Road, just across from Hines General Store will catch the eye of locals and tourists alike.

On Tuesday an M24 – Chaffee light tank was delivered from the National Museum of Military Vehicles just east of Dubois to Ft. Washakie where it will be a prominent addition to the Path of Honor Wind River Reservation Veterans Memorial.  

The 20-ton Chaffee was a late arrival in World War II, before seeing service in Korea and Vietnam.

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John Wadda, a US Army veteran who served in Vietnam had the idea of bringing in a military vehicle to the memorial.

“John brought the idea to us that something like this would be a nice addition to the memorial,” Scott Ratliff, also a Vietnam veteran, said.

An M-24 Chaffee tank waited for traffic to clear before being unloaded at the Path of Honor Memorial at Ft. Washakie – {h/t Randy Tucker}

Ratliff and Craig Blumenshine approached National Museum of Military Vehicles owner Dan Starks with the idea of donating one of his tanks to the memorial, and Starks agreed.

“Dan had the idea of forming a partnership,” Ratliff said. “We’re both about honoring veterans. It brings home the importance of this that we all feel.”

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John Williams and Mike Lamb discussed the angle to move the tank into place – {h/t Randy Tucker}

Starks, Blumenshine, Ratliff, and Jon Cox, the artist who designed the four-piece Path of Honor sculpture all meet at the museum in Dubois to iron things out.

“We wanted to acknowledge the American Indian community. They serve in the military at a higher rate than any other group,” Starks said. “We’ve focused on connecting with the Path of Honor Memorial and our mission at the museum.”

Dan Starks guided MIke Lamb as John Williams lifted the pintle hitch connecting the M-24 tank to a Ford F-350 {h/t Randy Tucker}

Starks and his wife Cynthia decided to fund all the costs of adding a battle tank to the memorial. They donated $68,000 and arranged to deliver one of three M-24 Chaffee tanks they have at the museum.

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The tanks, vehicles, and other equipment on display at the Museum of Military Vehicles are protected inside a building with a carefully controlled climate, those conditions won’t exist at the corner of Highway 287 and Ethete Road.

“We painted the tank in the standard military olive drab color using an EMRON paint,” Museum of Military Vehicles specialist Mike Lamb said. “It’s weather resistant and should last a long time.”

The M-24 Chaffee being moved into position – {h/t Randy Tucker}

Lamb and John Williams of T-Y Excavation of Dubois brought the tank down from the “High Country” on a low-boy trailer.

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Moving a 20-ton, tracked vehicle might seem to be a challenge, but the duo easily unloaded the Chaffee from the trailer via a steel-triangle pintle hitch connecting the tank to Lamb’s Ford F-350 pickup truck. They hitched up the tank, Lamb pulled ahead, and the tank rolled smoothly off the trailer.

With traffic briefly blocked, Lamb backed the tank across the highway, around the Frank B. Wise Business Plaza sign, and onto a previously constructed concrete pad.

Lamb and Williams immobilized the tracks on the tank so it couldn’t be moved.

The final location of the Chaffee is clearly visible from all three directions at the intersection and will be a great attraction to the memorial, and the vehicle museum as well.

“It’s not about honoring, but helping to heal,” Ratliff said. “We tried to tie Native culture into the entire memorial.”

The National Museum of Military Vehicles already has a strong message concerning Native American servicemen and women. Their newly opened Poolaw Building, just east of the main museum, offers additional office space, a large auditorium, and food services to the site.

The building was named in honor of Pascal Poolaw, a member of the Kiowa Tribe, and the most honored Native American Veteran in American military history. Poolaw earned a Silver Star, the second highest award presented after the Medal of Honor in Belgium during World War II, two more Silver Stars for heroism in Korea, and a final one in Vietnam where he was killed in action at the age of 45.

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