BY WALT SCHAEFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
NORWOOD - A retired M60A3 tank - a weapon used in Vietnam, Somalia and Operation Desert Storm - looms today over the southwest corner of Victory Park.
It was driven into place this week - the week of Veterans Day celebrations. The park is a plot of green, surrounded by commercial bustle, in the heart of this city. It is a place dedicated to those who served in conflicts around the world.
"War is a brutal, deadly thing, and I think this tank is a way to remind us of that," said Mayor Joe Hochbein. "There will be a bronze plaque in front of it that says, 'Prepare for War; Strive for Peace.' "
The mayor had urged the members of American Legion Post 123 to procure the tank for display in the park.
The tank will be surrounded by a Pathway of Freedom, bricks bearing the names of veterans from all American conflicts and their branches of service.
The pathway will lead off of the main park-entrance walk, and a welcoming set of large slabs will list each American conflict from the Revolutionary War to Desert Storm, said Jerry Owens, 64, a Post 123 member who is coordinating the pathway project.
The mayor said the tank's service in Vietnam is important. "In my opinion, Vietnam War veterans have never received the thanks and recognition they deserve for serving our country. So, with it being from Vietnam, this tank not only honors all of our veterans, it expresses our appreciation to those who were in Vietnam."
TO BUY BRICKS
Bricks bearing the names of veterans from all American conflicts and their branches of service will make up a Pathway of Freedom in Victory Park. To purchase a brick:|
Information needed: For inscription provide veteran's name, branch of service, conflict (if applicable). Then, provide the name and address of the person buying the brick. Relatives or friends of deceased veterans may purchase bricks to honor their loved ones.
Mail: Send payment to Victory Park Veterans Fund, 2200 Adams Ave., Cincinnati 45212. Make checks payable to the fund.
Homeless veterans: Any homeless veteran may be honored with a free brick by calling George Swango, 631-3037.
George Swango, 69, a legion member and veteran of World War II and Korea, led the effort to bring the tank to Norwood from a U.S. Army depot in Greenville, Ky. He said the post has been working on the project since 1997.
There is stiff competition for such tanks. Ed Wollverton, spokesman for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command in Warren, Mich., said there are more than 1,000 requests on file from groups nationwide. Mr. Swango said: "We thought there was a need for something more in the park to memorialize our veterans . . . besides the wall and plaques that list those who died from Norwood since World War I. That (marble) wall has been restored.
"A lot of places have artillery pieces, so we thought we would get a little more creative and settled on a tank," said Mr. Swango, who approached post Commander Eddie Leidenheimer about the effort and the post's 470 members took on the quest.
Members of the Ohio National Guard demilitarized the tank as part of a training exercise. "They removed the armament and sighting equipment - work that would have cost us $3,000 to $5,000," Mr. Swango said. The guard still needs to remove the motor, transmission and fluids.
The city prepared the park with a concrete pad and fencing for the tank for $8,000, the mayor said. McCracken Trucking of Withamsville donated time and equipment to bring the 11.5-foot-wide tank to Norwood, Mr. Swango said. Its fully armed combat weight is 57.5 tons.
"We are still selling these tanks to other countries - our allies," Mr. Swango said.
M60A3 tanks, built for $1.64 million each, today sell for about $300,000 apiece. More modern tanks have replaced them in the U.S. military's combat arsenal.