Keep ’em Rolling: But where to next?

 

FSMM volunteers have spent countless hours restoring many vehicles to world-class standards, including this 1942 M5A1. Each year, the staff demonstrated the working vehicles at a public open house providing thousands with the opportunity to see the historic behemoths in action. The FSMM’s restored vehicles will be disbursed to various U.S. Army museums.

As directed by the 2005 round of the the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, many significant historic vehicle (HMV) collections at U.S. Army facilities are being relocated. For example, the process is evident at Aberdeen Proving Grounds where a multitude of vehicles and artillery pieces have been removed from display and transported to Fort Lee, south of Richmond, Va., where plans are in place to display the vehicles in a massive, all-indoor museum. Similarly, the HMVs long on display at Fort Knox Armor Museum in Kentucky, have been removed and transported to Fort Benning, Ga. Museums and private foundations formed to support HMV collections across the nation face similar threats. The Fort Snelling Military Museum (FSMM) in Minneapolis, Minn., is one such museum.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has provided several reasons for the proposed FSMM closure, but essentially there are three main points:

 1. There is no full-time Department of Defense (DOD) employee to oversee the operations of the museum.

2.FortSnellingis closing and therefore the museum must be closed.

3. The artifacts are stored outside and are deteriorating.

In reality, the museum is currently supervised by a full-time DoD employee, though it is not his main function. He is a 30+ year member of the Army Reserve, and a specialist in Heavy Equipment Maintenance. His primary job is a leadership position in the local maintenance shop.

Displayed armor range from WWII M4 Sherman Medium Tanks to Cold War M60A3s.

Fort Snelling is not closing either. The Command group that once was there has re-located to Fort McCoy, Wis. That group (the 88th Regional Support Command) was replaced by the 372nd Engineer Brigade.

It is true, most of the vehicles are staged out of doors. As volunteers complete restoration of vehicles, however, they are housed in temporary structures.

More than 50 vehicles—both armored and softskin—are on exhibit at the museum, including this uncommon M59 APC and M84 Mortar Carrier.

The FSMM has been self-supporting since 2007. All of the costs of keeping the museum open and operational have been paid for by the volunteer organization through a variety of fund-raising methods. This has included paying for all of the parts and material needed to complete the restoration of a number of artifacts. The Army Reserve has provided the museum with a building to perform the restoration work in, along with the heat and electricity.

During the approximately 13 years that the museum has been in operation, the volunteers have donated roughly 100,000 hours of labor. Current estimates bring the cost of moving the artifacts to over $500,000 and this could easily double over time. Most of the vehicles will be moved to the Anniston Army storage depot in Alabama. The restored vehicles are to be dispersed to U.S. Army museums throughout the nation.

Among vehicles waiting restoration is this 1952 Class 750 Howe pumper. The unrestored vehicles will be shipped to the storage depot at Anniston Depot in Alabama where their fates will be determined.

For more information on the Fort Snelling Military Museum, its programs or efforts to avoid a potential closure, log onto www.fsmm.org or write, Fort Snelling Military Museum, 511 Constitution Avenue, Fort Snelling, MN 55111-4027 or call 612.713.3291.

Though much of the Fort Snelling Military Museum collection is stored outdoors, vehicles are housed in temporary shelters as they are restored.

 

Softskin vehicles range from M151 ¼-ton trucks to massive M911 C-HETS and include trucks like this M108 and M816 wreckers.

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