On the 14th September 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 digger pulled an abandoned World War Two Russian tank from its preservative tomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia.

The Soviet T34-76A tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years. The Tank had been captured and used by the Germans during battle and when the fuel began to run out, they dumped it by deliberately driving it into a lake where it sank and remained there until now...

Steel cables are attached to the tank....

The Komatsu bulldozer has the power and the supreme traction to pull the tank free.  We must not forget that the bulldozer is also pulling the tank out uphill, and requires more effort.

With a little horse power help, the T-34 is slowly liberated from her boggy tomb.  As the effort continues, the tank's German cross on the turret can be seen as the tank breaks free.  When an army captures and uses an enemy tank the captors paint their own symbols on the vehicle so that it is recognized by their own side and wont get shot at...

Almost half the tank is now out of the lake, the turret's cupola is wide open...The local community help to clear the many tree roots that impeded the progress...Now the tank is free of all the tree root's that were holding it back and the T-34 is dragged out with a little more ease...

The complete tank is now hauled out, and she's intact, no damage on her at all.  It is as if the tank has been stored in a time capsule.  She appears exactly as she last looked in WWII, albeit a little muddy...

Very muddy indeed but the tank is in 100% complete condition after 56 years in the lake.  It is amazing how the tank has been so well preserved in the bog...

Hosing down the tank reveals that the paint is still almost as new with little or no rust.  Even the painted on decals are still clearly visible and haven't deteriated over the years...

Although dirty, the tank's ammunition was still intact and live.  These munitions will be taken away and disposed of, usually the army blows them up as they are in an unstable condition.

Youtube video of the rescue.

The Story...as told by the rescue team.

" From February to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50 km-wide, Narva front in the north-eastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men were killed and 300,000 men were wounded there.

During battles in the summer of 1944, the tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army. This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tank's exterior.

On 19 September 1944, German troops began an organised retreat along the Narva front. It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driven into the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.

At that time, a local boy walking by the lake Kurtna Matasjarv noticed tank tracks leading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere. For two months he saw air bubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there must be a vehicle at the lake's bottom.

A few years ago, he told the story to the leader of the local war history club "Otsing". Together with other club members, Mr Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of the lake. At the depth of 7 meter's they discovered the tank resting under a 3 meter layer of peat.

Enthusiasts from the club, under Mr Shedunov's leadership, decided to pull the tank out. In September 2000 they turned to Mr Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of the Narva open pit of the stock company AS Eesti Polevkivi, to rent the company's Komatsu D375A-2 bulldozer.

The pulling operation began at 09:00 and was concluded at 15:00, with several technical breaks. The weight of the tank, combined with the travel incline, made a pulling operation that required significant muscle. The D375A-2 handled the operation with power and style.

The weight of the fully armed tank was around 30 tons, so the traction force required to retrieve it was similar. A main requirement for the 68-tonne dozer was to have enough weight to prevent shoe-slip while moving up the hill.

After the tank surfaced, it turned out to be a 'trophy' tank, that had been captured by the German army in the course of the battle at Sinimaed (Blue Hills) about six weeks before it was sunk in the lake.

Altogether, 116 shells were found on board. Remarkably, the tank was in good condition, with no rust, and all systems in working condition.  The engine fired up and ran after it was thoroughly cleaned out.

This is a very rare machine, especially considering that it fought both on the Russian and the German sides. Plans are under way to fully restore the tank. It will be displayed at a war history museum, that will be founded at the Gorodenko village on the left bank of the River Narva.

The Latest News About The T-34

The T34 was originally put on display in the 'as-found' condition (see below) but it was then decided to fully restore it to its former glory and work then commenced.

The diesel engine was started successfully and no parts were replaced to do so.  The bearings and the skate rollers were replaced as they were in part seized up.

The tank has been stripped down and the majority of parts are being restored. The turret was removed for ease of access into the hull of the tank.  Even though there is some slight outer corrosion, all the bits and pieces were intact.

All the basic innards have been stripped out and the floor pan with the thinnest armor plating is still 100% intact. Although a little grimy after its 56 years submerged in a swamp.  There is a lot of original paint still evident as well.

The whole inner structure looks in amazing condition considering where its been for most of its life...totally saturated in a swamp lake. Many of the T34's parts have been removed, restored and resprayed in grey primer ready for the Soviet olive army drab paint to go on.

Most of the bigger parts have also been dismantled, here we can see the road wheels, engine cowling and some other parts, sprayed in grey primer.

The main engine cowling although dirty is in remarkable condition if this photo is anything to go by. A touch of paint and it will look as good as new.

Repairs to the tank to get it back in full working and running order will soon be completed and it will be ready for trial runs.  It is planned  to carry tourists on it and to show it as a working exhibit of the museum and I think this is a wonderful idea as the tank will be living and breathing again for many to enjoy.

 Another T-34 Russian tank is rescued, click here




Page created January 24th 2007.  Updated 24th January 2007