BZ's Littlefield Tanks 2010

Photo Gallery

Having visited the Jacques Littlefield tank collection 3 years ago, I was itching to go back to see what the completed Panther tank looks like. I was able to get in touch with my prior tour guide Nick Moran, who set me up for a return visit!

Things are a bit different this time around though. Foremost is the passing of Jacques Littlefield from cancer early in 2009. Without the main benefactor, the fate of the tank collection is uncertain. The tanks are currently under the care of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, and they are looking to find a permanent home for them. Scuttlebutt is that though the vehicle collection would mostly stay intact, the long term home probably won't be in California. Sort of a bitter pill for many of the local volunteers and workers who have grown so fond of the tanks - but everyone wants what's best for Jacques'legacy.

In the meantime, if you're ever in the Silicon Valley area, you should contact the MVTF and arrange for a guided tour. It's now open to everyone, with a $20 tax deductible donation required. If you've never seen the tanks in person yet, better do it soon!
Nikon D200 w/ Tokina 11-18mm 2.8 lens, D90 w/ 18-105mm VR lens - Bernard Zee

This is a Vickers Mark VI tank. The Mk VI was a light British tank made before the start of WWII, and saw action in the early days of WWII.

This little tank had a 3 man crew and can reach 35mph.

Main armament consisted of one .303 machine gun, and one .50 cal Vickers machine gun.

There were 4 buildings like this all stuffed with tanks, guns, and armored vehicles. With a few hundred vehicles in the collection, I decided to concentrate my efforts on some of the other tanks which I did not get too many shots of from my last visit.

First and foremost - the magnificently restore Panzerkampfwagen V, otherwise known as the Panther tank!

Last time I was here, the Panther was in the restoration shop, with the turret off the hull, with tracks off.

The tank now is completely restored and in running condition. Sad to say, I didn't get to hear or see it run (except on You Tube)!

Jacques spared no expense in the 'proper' restoration of the tank. Everything was made to be as authentic and period correct as humanly possible. Whenever possible, the original manufacturers were contacted to re-make the replacement parts!

Doing it right cost around $3 million dollars though!

Oh, but what a beautiful piece of history.

There is no finer Panther tank speciment in the world - This tank is simply gorgeous!

Really, they should build a special raised, rotating pedastal shrine to display it properly. :-)
But alas, it is tucked in there among other equally historic, mint conditioned, and beautifully restored tanks.

The pristine wheels got a bit scratched up from the tanks' short test drives.

Since my main purpose there was to get a real good look at the Panther - I'm devoting an inordinate number of pictures to it! This is a view of the MG 34 machine gun on the glacis plate, fired by the radio operator.

The main gun of the Panther was a 7.5cm Rheinmetall-Borsig KwK 42 (L/70). The long barrel and large powder charge gave it a very high muzzle velocity. Due to the high velocity, the shell had more penetrating power than the vaunted 8.8cm Tiger tank gun!

The Panther was developed in response to the Russian T-34s encountered on the Eastern front. The design borrowed many good ideas from the T-34, but the combination of firepower, mobility, and protection made the Panther one of the best tank designs of WWII.

This is the turret mounted belt feed 7.92mm MG-34 machine gun. Those even look like live rounds!

From the rear deck, I could peer into the rear of the open turret. Just jaw droppingly pristine!

On top of the tank, looking towards the opposite row of tanks.

Peering down the commander's hatch, the breech of the main gun can be seen on the right.

A closer look at the cast armor commander's cupola.

Looking in from the front open hatch, this is the drivers' seat!

The Littlefield Panther has the anti-magnetic-mine Zimmerit coating applied.

Front view of the skirt plates.

It's all the little touches that make this tank so special. Even tanks in world class museums normally lack all the extra bits and pieces, and almost always show more wear and tear!

I believe the driver can have a direct view with the portal open. However, note that the view is still protected by thick bullet proof glass.

Bosch headlights!

That little rod sticking up on the front fender is like a curb feeler. Lets the driver know if the tank is going to fit or not!

It's like the Daleks. Dr. Who fans know I'm talking about!

Coax to the main gun is another MG-34 machine gun.

Hope you're not burnt out on Panther pics - the tank was every bit as awesome as I had imagined!

Under-armored, and under-gunned, Americans had to face the super German tanks with the Sherman.

Wasn't until the very end of the war that the Americans came up with the M26 Pershing, a tank design that matched up well against the German Panther and Tigers.

The Pershing was a heavy tank with a powerful 90mm gun.

Good armor and firepower, but lacking in the mobility department, as the Pershing had too weak an engine for all that weight.

Here's a random look at the insides of a Russian T-34 tank.

The Soviets were always very innovative in terms of tank design, and the T-54 is a prime example. Introduced at the end of WWII, the T-54/55 series went on to become the most produced tank in history.

The tank was relatively lightweight, but carried a big 100mm rifled gun. Along with a powerful engine and robust suspension, the T-54 had excellent cross country mobility.

In the early days of WWII, United States sent over M3 General Lee medium tanks to the British.

The M3 had a 75mm gun in the hull, and a 37mm gun in the turret. The M3 Lees and Grants mounted the big gun in the hull because this was easier and faster to produce than a turret mount gun.

The M56 Scorpion has a 90mm gun but not much in the way of crew protection.

Everybody is pretty much out in the open!

Here's the scope for sighting the gun. M56s saw combat use in Vietnam where it was used mostly in a fire support role.

The T-72 main battle tank was the main nightmare for NATO planners during the cold war.

Very lightweight, low profile, but carrying a big 125mm gun, T-72s were expected to swarm the Fulda Gap in the event the cold war went hot.

Much of western tank, helicopter, plane, infantry, and logistics were designed to take on and defeat large numbers of these tanks.

Contrary to 'export model' T-72s, Soviet bloc tanks had very good armor, and when equipped with Kontakt-5 ERA, proved impenetrable to most US and German tank projectiles of that period.

A M7B2 Priest Self Propelled Howitzer in NICE condition. The M7 carried a 105mm howitzer, and was called Priest by the British Army due to the pulpit-like machine gun ring. In U.S. service, the M7 proved to be a great success, providing superb mobile artillery support.

Moving on to another building, we get to look at some munitions up close, including this RPG-7, which is still being used all over the world today.

One of the nicest looking M2 Half Tracks around!

This is the M2A1 model, which has the M49 machine gun ring mount over the right hand front seat.

The German equivalent is the SdKfz 251, also called 'Hanomags'.

BMW made motorcycles back in WWII as well, and this one is just as desirable as any modern bike!

This is the SdKfz 8 12 ton Prime Mover, and was mainly used as a tractor for heavy artillery pieces.

The Schwimmwagen Typ 166 has got to be the most 'streetable' vehicle there.

Actually, not only can it go down the road, it can swim across the river too! I especially like the 2 mounted machine guns, and trunk full of panzerfausts!

The StuG III Ausf G is another exquisitely restored tank in the Littlefield collection.

Mounting a very respectable 75mm StuK 40 L/48, the StuG III was relatively cheap to produce, and could take on all but the heaviest allied armor.

Low to the ground, but lacking a turret, the StuG III was best used in a defensive position.

Nicknamed 'Screaming Meemie', the 15-cm Nebelwerfer 42 rockets created a loud, shrill howling noise. Must have been quite terrifying to be on the receiving end. However, I'm sure the same can be said of any in-coming artillery!

The Long-Track Radar vehicle looks like a truck cab grafted onto a tracked chassis.

This is an Isreali M2 Half Track, bristling with machine guns. I want to use it as my bug-out vehicle!

Three 0.50 machine guns, and one .30 cal machine gun!

There's Nick pointing out something on the Jumbo Sherman.

M4A3E2 Jumbo Shermans had very thick armor, and a heavier T23-style turret. They were built to assault fortifications.

Only a limited run of 254 Jumbo Shermans were produced.

Here's another T-34 tank, showing off its Mickey Mouse 'ears'.

Some details on the side. Even the Russian tanks get the TLC treatment.

Crude looking, but very effective tank!

The T-34 came as a rude surprise to Germany when they first encountered them in battle. Heavy sloped armor, good Christie suspension, and a pretty big gun sent Germany back to the drawing boards for better tank designs.

Quick, what's this headlight assembly from?
Why, the M114 armored fighting vehicle of course! I'm sure you knew that!

Not all Sherman-based tanks were weak and canon fodder. In fact, the M10C 'Achilles' had an excellent record against enemy tanks.

Its success was due in large part to the excellent 17 pounder. This even though the turret was hand cranked and slow to rotate.

The M551 Sheridan was a light US tank, and happened to be the favorite of Jacques Littlefield. This tank carried Jacques to his final resting place on top of a nearby hill.

Armed with a 152mm gun which could fire both a shell or Shillalagh guided anti-tank missile, the gun proved troublesome in use. The caseless round required the gun tube and breech to be cleared by air vents before loading the next round. This slowed the maximum rate of fire of the tank to 2 rounds per minute (contrast to 6 rounds fired from a M48 90mm gun in the same time period).

The tanks saw extensive action in the Vietnam War. The light armor did not provide much protection against RPGs or mines. However, the tanks' light weight meant better mobility, and it did not get stuck as often as the heavier M48 tanks.

Outside the crowded halls were parked even more tanks. This is a Canadian Centurian.

The Centurian looks to be in pretty good shape, but some of the other tanks are in dire need of sandblasting and a fresh coat of paint.

Among the many rusting hulls is this AMX-13, which looks to be in very nice condition.

The Churchill AVRE was equipped with a large 165mm demolition gun, which was meant to be used against fortifications. The AVRE also had numberous other attachments, like a mine flail, rollers, etc. You won't see many Churchills in the U.S.!

This cute little track is a Samson ARV. British, naturally.

A high priority target for any NATO attack helicopter or ground attack aircraft would have been the ZSU-23-4 'Shilka'. It's also called 'Zeus', and 'sewing machine' (by Polish soldiers - partly due to the sound of the guns firing, but also because Shilka sounds like the Polish word 'to sew' :-)

A look a the driver's position on the Shilka.

The ZSU-23-4 utilized four water-cooled 23mm auto-canons, with a proven radar system. The combination on the GM-575 tracked chassis gave the vehicle good mobility with accurate and heavy firepower (the 4 guns had a combined firing rate of 4000 rounds per minute). Shilkas saw action during the Yom Kippur War, where many low flying Isreali jets avoiding SA-6 missiles were shot down instead by the ZSU. During the Afgan and Chechnyian war, the Soviets used the Shilka with great effect against enemy positions on mountainsides.

Not in the same league as the ZSU, the M16 MGMC (M45 Quad mounted 0.50 cal machine guns on a Half Track) is still pretty darn awesome.

That's because nobody wants to be staring down four 0.50 cal M2 machine guns!

M45 Quad mounted guns provided very effective anti-aircraft defense during WWII, as traverse and elevation were electrically driven.

Here's the dashboard of the M3 Half-Track.

The M3 being a longer body version of the M2. General complaints about half-tracks were that there was no overhead protection from airburst artillery, and the armor could not stop machine gun fire. An interesting feature is that the tracks were made out of one piece rubber.

A closer look at the machine guns on the Quad mount. While designed primarily for use against aircraft, the guns could traverse 360 degrees, with an elevation of -10 to +90 degrees. It was thus effectively used against gound targets too - especially enemy infantry!

A wider shot of the Half Track and Quad Mount.

Normally, guest may not touch, or climb on the tanks. However, certain exceptions for VIPs are made! This is a former tanker, and buddy of Nicks', climbing into the M60A2 Starship tank.

Outside the buildings, are even more armored vehicles lined up.

Vehicles ranged from sad shape, to looking pretty good - like this British Self propelled gun.

Believe it's a fairly rare Marmon-Herrington CTMS-1TBI light tank, meant for the Dutch East Indies, tested by the U.S. and found to be entirely unsatisfactory for use!

Nick wedging himself into a T-72.

Closeup of the 12.7mm NSVT machine gun.

Showing off the engine of a Stuart light tank.

A training turret of a Sherman tank shows what the inside looks like.

The coax and breech of the main gun can be seen in this side view.

Anyone who watched Saving Private Ryan would surely remember the Sd.Kfz. 2 Kleines Kettenkrad. The front wheel is almost just for show. The vehicle can turn using tracks alone.

The Hetzer was another low cost, but effective tank killer used by Germany.

Looking a bit like a BMP-1, this is the Soviet PT76. It's an Amphibious light tank which carries a 76.2mm rifled gun. The tank was used by the NVA during the Vietnam war, and has the distinction of being the first enemy tank destroyed by a guided missile (TOW) fired from a helicopter. The PT76 went on to see action by various other countries in the Indo-Pakistani war, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, Angolan Civil war, Yugoslav wars, and even in the Gulf war.

Carrying a huge mine plow in the front, this Chieftain tank was a world class MBT for its time. Heavily armoured, with a huge 120mm rifled gun, the Chieftain was a formidible tank. Interestingly enough, the only time the tank saw combat was during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, used by the Iranian forces. Like much of the advanced military hardware used by the Iranians, the tanks were acquired by the Shah prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution.

The mine plow design has not changed so much from then till now. The U.S. uses an almost identical looking design on the M1A1 Abrams.

The M103 heavy tank was used by the U.S. Army and Marines during the Cold War. With a huge 120mm rifled gun, the tank was meant to counter the heavy Soviet tanks like the Josef Stalin in the event of war. Thankfully, it was never used in battle. At 65 tons, it still used the same engine as the M60 tank - which meant it was really underpowered.

Having seen quite a number of tanks in various museums, I've come to appreciate how rare pristine rubber on tank treds are! Look at that... practically brand new!

The M18 Hellcat was a really nifty WWII American tank destroyer. It was the fastest tracked armored fighting vehicle of the war, and can sprint up to 60mph!

The M18 had a 76mm gun, which was reasonable if used with High Velocity Armor Piercing (HVAP) ammunition. Unfortunately, that round was not widely available. The Hellcat had light armor, and an open turret design. It relied upon its speed and maneuverability to outflank German tanks, where they had a better shot at destroying them.

Antoher angle on the M18 Hellcat, with a view of the other vehicles in this huge tank garage. The most notable use of the Hellcats' legendary high speed was during the Battle of the Bulge, where the M18 Hellcat tank destroyers of the 705th TD Battalion dashed ahead of enemy forces to seize Noville. In that blocking position, the Hellcats destroyed 24 German tanks including several Tigers, causing confusion and stalling the German attack.

The Panhard EBR is an odd looking vehicle. It's a French light armored car with the gun in an oscillating turret. Unique features include 2 sets of middle wheels which can be raised for better speed, and 2 separate driver positions - one facing forward, and one in the back; The better to run away and fight another day!

The M41 Walker Bulldog was an agile and well armed tank. Though considered a light tank, it was heavy enough to cause problems with air transport.

The M41 was widely used during the Vietnam war, with some 200 units operated by South Vietnamese forces. The tank was reliable, simple, had good handling, and had a decent enough 76mm main gun. In combat, it fared well against NVA T-54s and PT-76s.

Named after the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the IS-3M tank is a massive heavy tank with a squad profile and a pointed prow. IS-3M tanks were used by the Egyptian Army in the Six Day War. The heavy tank with its slow rate of fire, and poor engine performance was not well suited for desert warfare though.

Brutishly thick frontal armor on the IS-3M.

The Leopard 1 tank emphasized firepower and mobility, but had fairly light armor. Used by Germany and widely adopted by many other countries, the Leopard tank has been gradually phased out in most armies.

A nice feature on the Leopard is this hatch on the side, which makes it a fair bit easier for the crew to take on fresh ammunition for the main gun.

This is a Mack NO 7.5 ton Prime Mover. It's not a tank, but still looked pretty cool.

The last version of the Sherman, the M4A3E8 were named Easy Eights. This version fought in Korea and was well matched to the T-34/85 tanks it went up against.

The painted tiger face was a departure from normal army policy, but the exception was allowed since it was believed it gave a psychological edge over the supposedly superstitious enemy.

Closeup view of a M48A2 chassis based Bridge layer. It could deploy a 63 foot bridge to cross a river or gulley.

I believe this is a WWII Canadian Fox Armoured Car, based on the British Humber Armoured Car.

The M22 Locust was a WWII American airmobile light tank. Designed to be air transportable by a C-54 or fit inside a Hamilcar glider, the Locust did not actually peform very well in action. Besides taking too long to load and unload from the C-54, it was not very reliable nor durable. Also, the armor was really too thin to resist even heavy machine gun fire, and the 37mm gun was too small to be effective against enemy tanks. It was ever only used once by the British in Operation Varsity in 1945 - with fairly disappointing results.

Another not too well known piece is this Sexton Mk2 Self Propelled Howitzer. This SPH had a 25 Pounder gun and was built during WWII by Canada for the British Army using an American Sherman tank hull design. The Sextons were used for indirect supporting fire, and relied on forward observers to call the shots.

Tucked in the far corner of the last building is a M26 Tractor along with the M15 trailer was used as a tank recovery vehicle by the U.S. during WWII.

On the trailer is another Sherman tank waiting to be restored!

I'd like to thank Nick and the other guides there that day for showing me around and allowing me such great access! Their knowledge and passion for these tanks are just breathtaking. As I mentioned, the collection won't hang around here if you're in the Silicon Valley area, or plan to be anytime soon - look up and schedule your own tour!