A tank on the village green in New Milford? Why is that?

Many people I take out looking for homes in New Milford, CT do ask me why we have a tank on our beautiful village green. If you really want to know the truth, I wasn’t sure. I had heard that years ago the tank was in a parade, broke down and ended up staying here.

That’s one version of the tank on the green in New Milford story.

Like most stories that change over time, that particular version of the story may not be quite accurate. There is a modicum of truth to it, the tank was in a parade here. But after that, it would seem there is quite a difference of opinion about why and how the tank arrived on our village green in New Milford! I think it depends on which camp you are in as to the real truth of the story. Although I did like that story, I mean, it was rather funny if you ask me.

Over the years some have had issue with the tank on the green. There have been movements to have it removed, without any success we can tell as it still sits there. It does make a great climbing apparatus for the kids, they all seem to gravitate to it and instinctively climb all over it. I know my girls did when they were young, my grandsons are completely taken with it and run right up it, standing proudly on the top, king of the hill. As much as it is often completely obliterated with children climbing all over it, that is not why it is here, that much I know.

The accounts vary, the question does pop up in the local newspapers once in a while. I was given a folder of papers on it from Mary Miller, a retired real estate agent I worked side by side with for many years. Mary and her late husband Dale H. Miller, a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army, were involved in much of what went on here in town. Dale did quite a bit of research on the subject, there is much information in the folder.

According to Dale, the tank is a Stewart. It is rather odd that is appears here as a tribute to World War II Veterans. Dale wrote “For the M3 Light Tank was never fated to take part int he final Allied triumphs of World War II. It was born in the last days before the war, even as the world went mad.”

Dale goes on to tell the history and the workings of the Stewart Tank, very interesting indeed. However a story published on February 21, 1982 in the Danbury News Times tells two tales of this strange tank on our green.

A gentleman who ran the now defunct Bleachery at the end of West Street in New Milford by the name of Charles Robertson Jr, and a few other Veterans of World War II somehow got the tank through the army. It didn’t run, but being very ingenious and typical grown boys, they got it back in shape and drove it in the July 4th Parade in New Milford, I believe in 1949. (They also drove it around and played with it after fixing it, even came close to getting it stuck in the Housatonic River! Boys and their toys, it never changes!) They say they had plans all along to put it on the green, there was even a cement pad erected where it still sits now. This account of the story was verified by the other men involved, who are all gone now.

However…. another man, Mr. Howard Peck, who was the town clerk at the time told a bit of a different story. He said the tank was in the parade, but it got stuck after passing the town hall. And there it stayed until a few days later when the town agreed to put a slab on the green and drag the tank on to it.

There is no plaque telling its history or story, through the years it has been considered an eyesore by some, a monument to those who have served and are serving our country by others, and to the children of the town? Well, it is the best thing since sliced bread. It has no moving parts, you can’t get into it anymore, it just stands there, calling to children of all ages, “climb me”!

So that is how our tank got on the village green in New Milford, CT. According to Russell Bennett, a one time commander of our VFW Post “The tank stands as a monument to service men who have served and are serving everywhere.” I like his explanation, planned or unplanned, it serves the purpose well. To top it off, it sure is a great place to take my grandsons for a bit of fun downtown!

Perhaps Dale Miller summed it up best, without caring why or how it got to the green. I thank Mary Miller for allowing me to use his letter, his thoughts at the end of his letter speak volumes to our tank on the village green in New Milford.

“It is extremely doubtful that anyone ever accused an M3 Light Tank of being decorative. Certainly, it completely lacks the enduring qualities and architectural grace of the granite monuments which men are wont to erect. And as a town ponders the possible future odysseys of a tank, it is inevitable that it comes to represent many things to different people. To some, it is nothing more than a grim and unwelcome reminder of war, that most horrible of mankind’s activities. To others, it is an effective, if  makeshift, monument to those who, only a generation ago, paid with their lives to preserve a modicum of freedom and hope in the world. Is it only a meaningless eyesore, or could it be a nagging jog to the conscience that the history it represents must somehow not be repeated?

One of a few, perhaps even the last, survivor of a kind, the old tank rests quietly on the green.

A symbol……… of what?”

Dale H. Miller, written 26th of November, 1972.

(Dale H. Miller served our country well, in both Viet Nam and Korea. He was also a beloved husband and father, a good friend to many and a valued member of the community. Now I will be thinking of Dale every time I see the tank!)

Originally posted at What’s With the Tank on the Green in New Milford, CT?

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