“He was the one who had found it, so in his mind, he got to open the hatch first. Metal screeched against metal as the top came off and revealed the long-forgotten contents. Everyone crowded around and shook their heads in disbelief. Then, without warning, someone grabbed him and pulled him away.
Casper looked at the left path, then the right one was well-worn and popular with hikers. The other could barely be called a path at all, and that was the one he wanted. It was time to explore the Estonian swamp. The lush green pines pierced the sky, and soon Lake Curtin and Madisyarv appeared. As he wandered the squishy perimeter, he noticed strange markings in the patchy earth. They might have been covered with years of growth, but it clearly wasn’t like any shape he’d seen before during his many wanderings. He nudged it with his boot, then something else caught his eye – a rope was there.
A sunken boat! He scraped away the mud and tried to pull it, but it wouldn’t budge. It was already an odd situation, but now he had to tell someone. He ran home and dragged his confused parents out. It wasn’t long until others in the village got word, and a large crowd gathered. The men gathered around and tried to find any clue as to what was apparently submerged in the lake.
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One of them spotted the rope partially buried in the mud. He uncovered it with his hands until he was able to get a grip on it, and then he pulled with all his might. But whatever was at the other end wasn’t going to come up without a fight. They pulled and pulled, but to no avail. They didn’t have the right equipment or the manpower to unearth the mystery. It was time to call the authorities in.
Soon, the deep rumbling of a huge bulldozer echoed around the forest. The help they needed had finally come. They tied the rope to the gigantic machine as its driver prepared himself to move the vehicle forward. Several people also chipped in and held some parts of the rope to help with the haul, but even the extra horsepower wasn’t enough.
Whatever it was, it had to be massive. Everyone rushed home to grab their ropes and bring their vehicles in. It took eight hours of steel cables, shovels, machine power, and manpower. Even little Casper lent an enthusiastic hand like everyone else. He was desperate to see what his discovery really was and committed to however many hours it required.
Suddenly, they all felt something move as everyone collectively pulled. Minutes later, the tip of something rose to the water’s surface. People rushed to reclaim it from the mud using shovels to dig the dirt from around it to make it easier for the bulldozer to drag it out. At last, the mysterious thing finally revealed itself. The sun had started to dip below the tree line, and everyone let out a gasp as the beast slowly rolled out of the water like an algae-covered monster.
Some of the onlookers knew exactly what it was and dashed to scrape and hose off the hardened mud on its surface, revealing an enormous hatch. It had been hours since they’d partially hauled the massive metal thing out of the muddy water.
Even while their energy sapped away, the men wiped the sweat from their brows and continued to wipe away the layers of mud, revealing an eerily familiar white symbol. With their intrigue driving them on, they’d come this far, and now they readied themselves for the final haul.
With one last mighty pull, it was finally out. Everyone fell silent as they watched the metal behemoth roll out of the lake, squelching and fighting against the heavy mud and streaming torrents of water over the villagers. None of them could quite believe the piece of history they’d resurrected, but what was a World War II war machine doing in a lake in the Estonian swamp in the middle of nowhere?
Casper sprinted up to look inside. This was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and he wouldn’t miss it. Through the water, he saw something shiny. “Mom, are those big bullets?” Casper felt strong arms pulling him off and dragging him away. “Get away from that!” the mom yelled. There was still ammunition rolling around the cabin, and the tank was in amazing condition, so there was a chance the shells could still be dangerous.
It wasn’t long until they heard the wailing of sirens. A camouflaged truck and men in combat gear rushed out of the armored vehicles and tore the mud-caked tank. Someone must have called the authorities as soon as they saw what was inside. Everyone stood still and dead quiet, wondering if they were in trouble.
One officer came up to Casper. “You found it?” the large man asked. The boy gave a small, scared nod. The man smiled, “I’m impressed. Well done!” The soldier looked around at the villagers and said, “We need you to step back while we make sure it’s safe.”
Between the army and internet research, the answers to the mystery finally emerged. It took two weeks and every available hand to bring the tank completely out of the lake. The team managed to haul the gigantic machine far up the bank, enough so people could go around and take a closer look. Many took photos of and with the major historical find.
But how had a Russian-built tank with German markings ended up there? Experts confirmed that it was indeed a war machine, a Soviet-built T-34 76A to be precise. This seven metric ton vehicle was the prime element in the Soviet army in their battle against the Germans.
Aside from being underwater for an astounding 56 years, they discovered another amazing detail about the symbols and numbers painted on its side. This particular tank was thought to have been captured by the enemy and repainted with their own symbols. Even though it was a capable machine that could navigate all kinds of environments, the main theory is that the Germans dumped it so it wouldn’t be retaken.
The next astounding step took place in the Gorodenko Museum. Another curious detail about the tank was that it didn’t seem to have any damage at all. While some of the metal on the surface had eroded slightly from decades of being underwater, the Russian war machine appeared to still be in good condition. In fact, it was so intact and looked so very solid that they couldn’t help but hope that it still worked.
Experts revealed that the pristine condition the tank was found in was thanks to the low oxygen levels in the marshy bog area that became its watery grave. These conditions helped preserve the metal while minimizing any corrosion. Everything was still intact as if the metallic beast had been sunk a year ago. But was it still operational?
During the restoration, curators were amazed when they found that they were able to start the old diesel engine without needing any spare parts at all. They also recovered a total of 116 pieces of ammunition, and experts were even able to answer the burning question of why the tank was located in that particular area.
The eastern Estonia Narva front was the location of some intense battles. Around 100,000 soldiers perished, and more than 300,000 were wounded. The fighting forces migrated, and endless tanks and soldiers poured into the narrow swampy area. The finale of the battle took place on August 3rd. Huge quantities of Soviet armor and artillery attacked the German positions, but until August 10th, not much had changed.
It was in the summer of 1944 that German troops, during the Battle of the Blue Mountains, captured the Soviet trophy tank. What makes this find extremely rare is that the tank had to fight for both the Russian and German sides during World War II however, it was sent to its watery grave just six weeks later on September 19, 1944. The Germans began to retreat along the Narva front line and deliberately dumped the tank. The German army wasn’t willing to submit anything and destroyed what they couldn’t use.
The old T-34 is now on display for everyone to see at a war museum in the Gorodenko village, a priceless artifact that had been found by a curious little boy.”