Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fort Knox tank graveyard - Fort Knox military base, KY


Every Memorial Day the Fort Knox military base opens up their restricted areas for several hours to civilians to have access to the over one hundred cemeteries on the post.  While the primary purpose of our trip was to check out the cemeteries, we ran across quite a few of these abandoned tanks along the sides of the road while we were driving.

While most of the public is familiar with Fort Knox as the location where the U.S. Treasury has their bullion depositary guarded, it is also a military base that housed the Armor School up until 2010.  The road we were driving was right on the border of the area used for artillery and armor fire, which explains why the tanks were close by.  While many of the tanks we passed did have more extensive damage, indicating they may have been used as hard targets, these tanks didn't display any signs that they were on the firing line.  These tanks may have been used in recovery exercises, or their time may have never came to be used as targets.

The gallery below has been set up to look at each of the tanks individually so we can admire some of the details of their deterioration.


This tank is an M60.  It was the main battle tank of U.S. forces until it was replaced by the M1 Abrams.  Its barrel is packed with dried dirt.

The dirt covering the tank has given way to weeds, a sort of natural camoflage.

Climbing on top of the tank we can see a small tree has taken root inside growing up through the opened hatch here.  The smaller turret, visible behind the tree, would've held an M-85 50 caliber machine gun for use by the commander.

The floor boards are covered in dirt, and the tree appears to have grown under and around the front of the shell racks.  Each one of these tubes would have held a 105mm shell for the main gun, the tank holding a total of around 60 shells.

A view of the rear of the turret, the open hatch on the cupola being visible.  The thicker U-shaped piece of metal was a lifting hook, allowing for maintenance crews to lift the turret off the tank.

Looking into the hatch we can see what appears to be the only remaining seat in the tank, this one being for the tank commander.  The breech of the gun is visible in the bottom right of the photo.  Behind the tree trunk a periscope can be seen.

A final front view of this M-60.  It is buried quite deeply in the dirt.

To the right of the M-60 featured above is what appears to be an M-47 Patton, an earlier vehicle not commonly seen anymore.  This shot is actually from the rear of the tank, its turret being turned around a full 180 degrees.
A closer view of the Patton.  The engine deck or "hood" is missing, allowing us to examine the engine compartment.  The engine is water cooled, like most civilian cars, and the large fans visible below the gun barrel are for cooling the radiators.  The silver colored structure in the lower part of the picture is the actual driving and steering mechanism for the tank, called a controlled differential.  When driving the tank, power is directed to one track or the other, pivoting the tank from side to side.


This is second M-60, located behind the other two tanks pictured above.  Visible in the bottom right is the drive sprocket for the track.  The tank's track operates like a large bicycle chain, with this turning sprocket moving the track, shifting the tank forward or rearward. 

Like the Patton, this M-60's turret is facing to the rear.  The large rectangular box on the side of the tank is for storing tools and spare parts.

Notice what appears to be two .50 caliber hits here on the track's road wheels.  This is really the only munition damage we spotted on all three tanks, and it was probably an accident.

The faint remains of an ID are visible in the picture, above the large rusted area.  It is a white box, bordered in black with black letters.  The four bolts, making a rectangular pattern, were for attaching another storage box.
A fourth tank, visible on the side of the road.  It is an M-48 variant of some kind, with a larger than normal turret installed on it.  It appears to have taken some small arms fire on the far side of the turret.   

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting these pics- very cool

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  2. Any more pictures of that last tank? My fellow tankers are debating the possibility of at least the turret being a 60A2 type...

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    1. Definitely not an M-60A2. Tell your friends to have a close look of the front slope of the tank. M60s had straight angular front slopes while the M48s were rounded.

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    2. This photo is backwards/inverted. The turret is from a M60A2. The hull is from a M48 series.

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    3. There has been a lot of debate on this tank, so I'll be going again this year in hopes of getting more shots of it. I can say for certain though that the photo isn't reversed or inverted. Its off to the left side of the dirt road, which is visible in the bottom right of the photo. I think it just looks reversed because the cupola on top of the turret is also reversed.

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    4. SSG C (usa retired)January 8, 2014 at 7:57 PM

      Last tank looks like an M48A5. From what I remember when I was with the 1/72 Armor in Korea. Our 48A5's had a very large turret..

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    5. This is an M48 hull with an M60A2 turret. The turret is traversed to the rear of the hull and the cupola is traversed to the rear of the turret. Here is a picture of another M48 with an M60A2 turret. It may even be the same vehicle: http://www.armorfortheages.com/GGPM/Volunteers/RangeSearch/RangeSearchProjectPage.htm

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  3. The picture with the intact seat is actually the Tank Commanders seat, not the loaders.

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  4. Thanks for the comments guys. We are correcting the info about the TC seat, and it should show up shortly. Most of my first-hand armor experience involves old stuff (1940s), so I am rusty on anything more recent.

    Regarding the final tank: We were not able to get better pictures of it. It was on the live fire section of the range, and we weren't able to get out of the car for more photographs, nor were we supposed to stop. The guys out at Knox clear the roads, but that is all.

    I believe that it might be a "franken-tank." The range people out there assemble tanks to be used as hard targets, putting turrets and hulls of different tanks together just to be shot at. The hull is an M-48, but I wasn't able to get a good look at the turret to figure out what it was.

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    1. Hey Charles.. I am wondering if that Franken Tank is not a 48A4 or A5.. Though that turret sure as hell does not look like a M60 Turret from that angle so I think you very well may be right... wait a second.. M47?

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    2. Like I said, I'm not 100% sure. There are a lot of opinions expressed here, and hopefully one is right. I'll check it out again this memorial day for more insight.

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  5. its a fuckin crime to see these tanks left to rust out there

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  6. The last tank is definitely an M60A2 Starship. Unmistakable recognition features.

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  7. Hey Gang
    Pic#1-8 are M60A3, 9-10 are M47, the last one is Test Bed ADeuce Starship Turret on an M48 RISE Hull. Just my two cents.
    Delta5Cav

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  8. how much damage has the tree done?

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    1. Honestly, not too much. There is probably some bent sheetmetal, but that's really a minor thing. The real issue with these tanks is going to be rust. While the armor steel is pretty resistant to rust, the interior bits are going to begin crumbling away soon.

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  9. Replies
    1. I'm sure it could be fixed, but it probably won't be. M-60 tanks are pretty worthless to the army, as they are both outdated and numerous in number. Now, there are tanks at Knox that are valuable, and really need to be saved. Check out the links below. Be sure to click the links at the bottom to go to more pages.

      http://www.armorfortheages.com/GGPM/Volunteers/RangeSearch/RangeSearchProjectPage.htm

      http://www.armorfortheages.com/GGPM/Volunteers/RangeSearch/RangeSearch2ProjectPage.htm

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  10. These were awesome to see, I was at knox for awhile and never got the chance to explore, would have loved to

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  11. Great Photos! I was a tanker at Ft Knox 1985-86. This is a great find, never knew they were there. We would use old deuce and a 1/2's for hard targets.

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  12. I want to know where they are

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  13. Just an FYI, but the M48 and M60 series tank's engines were air cooled. Those big fans on the top of the engine drew air down through the grates in the top deck, through the finned cylinder banks, and up through the center of the engine. It was then routed rearward by the ceiling of the top deck to exit through the rear grille doors. An upgraded engine in this same configuration is still in use today in the M88 series family of recovery vehicles.

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