Bulgaria to Auction WWII Nazi Tanks

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by SoD Stitch, Mar 20, 2008.

  1. SoD Stitch

    SoD Stitch Banned

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    Quoted from National Public Radio:

    March 20, 2008 · In Bulgaria, the Ministry of Defense is preparing to auction off a piece of European military history, which has been lying forgotten and half-buried in the ground for decades.

    Collectors of vintage military vehicles are already lining up to bid on some of the more than 40 Nazi German tanks, which were once used to protect Bulgaria's southern border during the Cold War.

    In the rolling farmland of Bulgaria's southern border with Turkey, 60-year-old Piotr Dmitrov herds a flock of sheep past a hilltop where a half-dozen rusting tank cannons poke out from between the weeds.

    "The tanks have been there since I was a child," Dmitrov says. "The government used to make us practice shooting the guns, in case the Turks invaded.

    Dmitrov says the tanks have been there since he was a child and that they're from the Germans. He says the government used to make them practice shooting the guns, in case the Turks invaded.

    In the dark days of the Cold War, communist Bulgaria fortified this border with Turkey, which was a member of the rival NATO alliance, by embedding scores of Soviet and Nazi tanks in a network of concrete bunkers.

    The bunkers have been abandoned for years.

    Concrete steps into the bunker are littered with twigs and old leaves. A shaft of light streams down from the turret of a tank gun that was half buried in the ground — its cannon facing toward Turkey.

    In 2004, Bulgaria joined NATO. The old German panzers were left rusting and all but forgotten. Many of them fell prey to scrap metal hunters, who, in many cases, have left little but the chassis of a tank intact. But in the turret of one Panzer IV, you can still see the German label "Leuchtpistole," amid peeling paint and rust.

    This month, the Bulgarian government suddenly announced it was unearthing the vehicles and selling them in an auction.

    "We see much more interest in the tanks today after one of the most valuable vehicles was stolen. This tank had an inscription, proving it was a gift from Adolph Hitler to the queen of Bulgaria," says Blagoy Milenov, deputy director of Bulgaria's National Museum of Military History.

    Milenov says Hitler's tank mysteriously disappeared sometime last fall.

    In December, Bulgarian authorities arrested two German citizens and a Bulgarian army officer and accused them of stealing the tank and somehow smuggling it out of the country.

    "No, they have no proof, nothing," says Thomas Gmeiner, one of the German defendants in the case. He runs a private tank museum in Germany, which has a collection of more than 60 tanks, mostly from WWII.

    Gmeiner denies stealing the tank. Released on bail, he fought the charges against him for two months in Bulgaria. In February, however, Gmeiner abruptly fled the country.

    Speaking via telephone from Germany, he says he is a wanted man in Bulgaria.

    "Yes, it's very funny," he says, laughing, before explaining in broken English: "I see there is not any chance to come home soon. I have a business to run. I have a family and a home. And then I escape."

    This week, the Bulgarian government was supposed to hold an auction for some of the remaining Nazi tanks. But at the last minute, the auction was postponed.

    Milenov says the Bulgarians realized the starting prices of the vehicles were far too low.

    "Collectors are prepared to pay inappropriately large amounts of money for these valuable pieces of military heritage," says Milenov.

    Milenov calls the tanks a historical gold mine, but for some Bulgarians, they were more of a playground.

    At a sheep farm near the border, 25-year-old Ivan Zheliaskov says he grew up playing on the tanks near his childhood home.

    "For me, this is normal — when I see the tank," he says.

    Zheliaskov is now a border guard who protects the Bulgarian frontier from what he says is a very different threat from the one his predecessors faced. Migration experts say thousands of economic migrants from the Middle East and Africa try to smuggle themselves illegally into Bulgaria each year, in a desperate and dangerous quest to enter the much wealthier European Union.

    "Dangerous is the people from Iraq, from Iran [who] want [to come] here. Want to come many people. This is the problem," he says.

    Illegal immigration is a 21st century challenge for Bulgaria that even modern-day tanks cannot solve.
     
  2. mkloby

    mkloby Active Member

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    That seems a rather peculiar statement...
     
  3. DBII

    DBII Active Member

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    Nothing a bee hive round could not solve...opps, that was not PC. :oops:

    DBII
     
  4. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Tell China that.
     

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  5. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Sitting Bull: We know all about illegal immigration, don't we.
    Tonto: You bet your squaw we do.

    :)
     
  6. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I wonder what kind of Panzers they are? Damn I would love to try and get one.
     
  7. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
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    Chris: Dig out that stuff you got under the mattress and buy one !!! :evil4:

    Charles
     
  8. DBII

    DBII Active Member

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    I always loved the impact of that picture. Looks like there is going to be a mess in China again, more riots in the streets. We might need a thread for China. Anyone want to buy a used tank? Maybe we can trade an old car for it.

    DBII
     
  9. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    I think the China stuff is all happening over in Tibet, not in China itself. Tibet was grabbed by the chinese back in the 50/60s. Used to be independent.
     
  10. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Well....it all have to start somewhere, before it spreads....
     
  11. Kiwikid

    Kiwikid Member

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    It would be fantastic to see some PzKw Mk.IVs up and running. Time to make a WW2 movie I think. I would love to see someone recreate or ressurrect those eight wheel armoured cars.
     
  12. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    It would be great to see some of those machines restored, but they are in pretty bad shape.

    Here's a few photos of them:
     

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  13. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    They do look a bit ropey Dave, but I've seen worse that have been restored to pristine, working condition. Be nice to have those Stugs, PzKpfw IV's and others up and running.
     
  14. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Yep....pretty amazing what a good restoration project can do! A handfull of rusty bolts, a couple million quid, some knowledgable folks, and within a year or two, you've got a tank again! Or a jeep....or a plane....or an aircraft carrier....:lol:
     
  15. ToughOmbre

    ToughOmbre Active Member

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    Bet this guy would have bought them; a shame he's not with us anymore....

    Jacques Littlefield, Tank Collector, Dies

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Jacques Littlefield, an unassuming multimillionaire who amassed the country's largest private collection of tanks and other military armored vehicles, died Wednesday at his Portola Valley ranch. He was 59.

    Mr. Littlefield had battled colon cancer for a decade.

    "He was one of the nicest guys I ever met," said Charles Lemons, a longtime friend and a curator at the George Patton Museum in Fort Knox, Ky., where Mr. Littlefield served on the board. "With Jacques, what you saw was what you got. It's sad we lost him so early."

    Mr. Littlefield owned about 200 tanks, self-propelled guns, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraft vehicles and other heavy combat vehicles, ranging from an M1917 "Six-Ton Tractor" from World War I to a Russian T-72 used by Saddam Hussein's forces in the Iraq war.

    He painstakingly restored the vehicles and kept them in a football-field-size showroom on his ranch. In accordance with state and federal law, none of tanks had functioning firing apparatus, but he did occasionally drive them around his 470-acre property.

    A jewel in his collection is the German Panzer V Panther tank that the German army sank in a Polish river during World War II to keep it from the advancing Russians. The Panther sat submerged for decades, and Mr. Littlefield acquired it five years ago and began restoring it.

    "Restoration is very satisfying, especially with something like the Panther," Mr. Littlefield said in a 2007 interview with The Chronicle. "People say: 'You'll never get that thing running again.' Well, it was built once, and we can do it again."

    Mr. Littlefield was born in San Francisco and grew up in Burlingame. He attended the Cate School, a boarding school near Santa Barbara, and later received a bachelor's degree and a master's in business adminstration from Stanford. He worked for Hewlett Packard for five years as manufacturing engineer.

    In the mid-1970s, he quit working and devoted himself full time to managing his investments. He also started collecting large vehicles, such as fire trucks, trains and eventually tanks, continuing an interest he developed as a child.

    "When we were kids he was always making models and dioramas," said David Hannah, a friend of Mr. Littlefield's from the Cate School. "He was always very interested in how things worked."

    Mr. Littlefield's interest in tanks was largely technical, not based on their military or historical significance. His collection was not open to the public, but he gave private tours to about 4,000 historians, Boy Scouts, journalists and veterans a year.

    "There's nothing like it," said Hans Halberstadt of San Jose, an author of several military history books who frequently brought fellow historians to see Mr. Littlefield's collection. "He gathered these machines and made them available for study. And he was brilliant at understanding how they worked. I really respected him."

    By studying tanks, historians and engineers can learn how various designs worked under differing battle conditions and how each model balanced mobility, armor and fire power, Halberstadt said.

    Because of the breadth and pristine condition of his collection, Mr. Littlefield provided an invaluable resource for those who study war and technology, Halberstadt said.

    The collection is now under the control of Mr. Littlefield's foundation, the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, whose board will decide in coming months how to proceed.

    Mr. Littlefield served on numerous boards, including those at the Cate School, Coyote Point Museum, Hoover Institution, California Academy of Sciences and the Filoli estate. He was also a member of the Bohemian Club.

    He is survived by his wife, Sandy Montenegro Littlefield of Portola Valley, and his mother, Jeannik Littlefield of San Mateo. In addition, he leaves five children - David, Scott, Allison, Jacques Jr. and Jeannik - and a grandson.

    TO
     
  16. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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  17. Catch22

    Catch22 Well-Known Member

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    That's too bad, I think I saw him on an episode of Tank Overhaul.
     
  18. rudicantfail

    rudicantfail New Member

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    Hi Guys

    has anyone heard any updates on the sale of these WW2 tanks by the Bulgarians? It all seems to have gone quiet, and not a lot seems to have been sold! Hopefully they will not start turning these vehicles into scrap metal...........
     
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