Stumbling across a World War II tank in 2013 is unlikely, especially one that is fully operational.
But Saturday, a restored M3 Stuart tank that was used in the North African campaign will rumble down Washington’s Main Street during the Veterans Day Parade.
This particular tank – a 1942 M3A1 Stuart – is owned by the First Frontier Mechanized Cavalry, a group of historians who collect military vehicles.
Pat Nicholson, who lives in the South Hills and is commander of the cavalry group, said the M3A1 is lightweight and relatively small, but has a powerful sound due to its aircraft engine.
“It has a real sweet sound to it,” Nicholson said. “It actually sounds like an airplane taking off. It doesn’t sound like a junky old motor.”
Although it is an American tank, it was used by French troops who were aiding Gen. George S. Patton’s troops in the fight against the Germans and Italians in Tunisia more than 70 years ago, Nicholson said.
Naturally, the tank was pretty “beat up” after the war, and it recently underwent ground-up restorations and received a new coat of paint.
“Now she looks pretty good,” Nicholson said, adding that there are probably no more than 20 operational M3A1 Stuart tanks in the world. “It’s the first time Western Pennsylvania has seen a tank in 70 years.”
The tank will travel about two-thirds of the parade route, starting in front of Joe’s Bakery on North Main Street and rolling down Main Steet and Park Avenue to American Legion Post 175.
The tank cannot make any turns because it would tear up the road.
John King, adjutant of the American Legion post, said the decision to include the tank in Washington’s parade resulted from a “chance meeting” with some members of the calvary group at a flagpole dedication ceremony in McMurray over the summer. “I’m just tickled to see the thing,” King said of the tank.
The cavalry group will also bring WWII-era jeeps, trucks and a rare, armored scout car to the parade.
The parade begins 2 p.m. on Jefferson and Hall avenues near Washington High School and will follow West Chestnut Street to Main Street and Park Avenue. The tank will join the parade on Main.
Walnut Street, Hall Avenue, and Duncan and Allison avenues to Third Street will be closed from noon to 3:30 p.m. for the parade.