Back in 1944, a young boy in Estonia noticed a peculiar set of tracks near Lake Kurtna Matasjary. They looked like tank tracks leading directly into the lake, but there were no tracks leading back out. Over the next two months, he also noticed air bubbles coming from the lake as if something was slowly sinking. The boy was naturally quite curious, but he didn't have the means to investigate, so he put it out of his head.
Nearly 50 years later, the boy (now a grown man) recounted what he saw to a local war history club called "Osting." The club was fascinated by the old man's story and in September of 2000, they set about a full investigation into what was at the bottom of the lake. What they found was absolutely stunning.
Back in 1944, a young boy in Estonia noticed a peculiar set of tracks leading to a lake. They looked like tank tracks leading straight into a lake, but no tracks came out.
50 years later, the boy was an old man who recounted the tale to a historical society. In September of 2000, an entire team of people got together to find out what was at the bottom of the lake.
The old man recalled seeing bubbles in the lake for a few months after he discovered the tracks when he was a boy. Whatever it was down there, it was huge, very heavy, and had sunk to a depth of roughly 23 feet (7 meters).
The local historical club, called "Osting," called in heavy machinery to aid their efforts. The excitement over what they might discover was palpable.
After quite some time struggling to free the relic from its watery grave, here is the first glimpse. Can you guess what it might be?
Just as the boy suspected, it was indeed a military tank. But, they now had an even more interesting question to answer - how did it come to be at the bottom of a lake?
Northeastern Estonia was one of the battlegrounds of WWII, with roughly 100,000 casualties and another 300,000 wounded. The fighting was fierce, and sometime during the course of those bloody battles, the German army managed to capture this Soviet tank.
As the Allies started to gain ground, however, the German soldiers were eventually forced to retreat around the lake. Experts believe that the tank was probably abandoned in the lake on purpose, possibly to avoid having it end up back in the hands of their enemies.
It took a massive team of volunteers and heavy equipment nearly six hours to dredge the 30-ton tank out of the lake. It was definitely worth it.
Tanks such as this one are known as "trophy tanks." They were captured, used for a time, and then discarded. That means this tank actually fought on both the Soviet and German sides of the war. Looks like we've got a double agent!
The tank was recovered with 116 shells still onboard. Even more surprisingly, all systems except for the engine were still in working condition! The thick layer of peat and acidic environment of the lake created a protective cocoon of sorts around the tank, protecting it from corrosion for 56 years. It's almost like it wanted to be found.
The restoration of the tank is still under way (they managed to start the diesel engine after some repairs). There are currently plans underway are to eventually display it in a war museum that will be founded in nearby Gorodenko.
Just think: this was a discovery 50 years in the making. That boy never forgot about what he saw all those years ago. Who could have guessed that an operational, 56-year-old tank that served on both sides of World War II was waiting just below the surface?
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