September 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 pulled an abandoned tank from its archival
tomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia. The Soviet-built T34/76A
tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years. According to its
specifications, its a 27-tonne machine with a top speed of 53km/h.
February to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50
km-wide, Narva front in the northeastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men were
killed and 300,000 men were wounded there. During battles in the summer of
1944, the tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army.
(This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tanks
exterior.) On 19 September 1944, German troops began an organized retreat along
the Narva front. It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driven
into the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.
that time, a local boy walking by the lake Kurtna Matasjarv noticed tank tracks
leading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere. For two months he saw air
bubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there must
be an armored vehicle at the lakes bottom. A few years ago, he told the story
to the leader of the local war history club Otsing. Together with other club
members, Mr Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of the
lake about a year ago. At the depth of 7 metres they discovered the tank
resting under a 3-metre layer of peat.
from the club, under Mr Shedunovs leadership, decided to pull the tank out. In
September 2000 they turned to Mr Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of the Narva
open pit of the stock company AS Eesti Polevkivi, to rent the companys Komatsu
D375A-2 bulldozer. Currently used at the pit, the Komatsu dozer was
manufactured in 1995, and has 19,000 operating hours without major repairs.
pulling operation began at 09:00 and was concluded at 15:00, with several
technical breaks. The weight of the tank, combined with the travel incline,
made a pulling operation that required significant muscle. The D375A-2 handled
the operation with power and style. The weight of the fully armed tank was
around 30 tons, so the tractive force required to retrieve it was similar. A
main requirement for the 68-tonne dozer was to have enough weight to prevent
shoe-slip while moving up the hill.
the tank surfaced, it turned out to be a trophy tank that had been captured
by the German army in the course of the battle at Sinimaed (Blue Hills) about
six weeks before it was sunk in the lake. Altogether, 116 shells were found on
board. Remarkably, the tank was in good condition, with no rust, and all
systems (except the engine) in working condition.
is a very rare machine, especially considering that it fought both on the
Russian and the German sides. Plans are under way to fully restore the tank. It
will be displayed at a war history museum that will be founded at the Gorodenko
village on the left bank of the River Narva.
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