The ground of Europe literally has centuries of history buried deep in the dirt. Some of it was lost during battle, while other times it was a case of neglect. Then there are the cases where nature proved to be the greatest adversary of all.
That was the case with a World War II Buffalo LVT (Amphibious Vehicle, Tracked), which was uncovered last month after being lost for nearly three quarters of a century.
The particular LVT had been employed by the British Army after the World War II to provide flood defenses near the village of Crowland in the East Midlands of England near the North Sea. In 1947, a total of sixteen of the Buffalo tanks were deployed to Crowland to help combat record floods. The amphibious armored vehicles had been lined up to act as a dam to stop the flooding, but they proved no match for Mother Nature's wrath!
The twenty-six foot long LVT-4 amphibious tank was swept away and soon engulfed in a sea of mud.
A total of five of the Buffalo LVTs were lost during the operations, and while one was later recovered, two sank in fishing pits and two others sank into a hole. Now seventy four years later, a group of military enthusiasts succeeded in unearthing one of the two buried vehicles. It took the mostly amateur team five-days, but they managed to dig out the vehicle, which was intact albeit a little worse for the wear.
While not in operating condition yet, the LVT was well preserved likely due to the nature of the clay and peat soil that entombed it for the past several decades, the BBC reported. Recovery was just the first stage of the project, and now a fundraising effort has begun to help restore the vehicle to operational condition.
The Armored Vehicle That Could Swim
LVTs were developed by the United States military under the leadership of engineer Donald Roebling, who adapted a basic tank design for amphibious operations. Originally called the Alligator, the LVT-4 evolved from the design. Designated the LVT-4 Water Buffalo by the American military, under British service it was known as the Buffalo IV.
The LVTs had a payload capacity of 9,000 pounds and an operational range of 150 miles on the road and 75 miles in the water. It provided armored protection for the men inside and featured a rear ramp that allowed troops to make a swift exit when facing incoming fire.
While widely employed in the Pacific, the United States military also used the LVTs in Europe for beach landings and for river crossings. British and Canadian forces used some 600 Buffalo LVT-4s, armed with 20mm Polsten cannons and two Browning .30 caliber machine guns, during operations in Western Europe—notably crossing the Rhine at the end of the war. After the war, the Royal Marines also utilized the Buffalos in operations in Burma and Malaya, as well as in the ill-fated 1956 Suez Crisis.
It is believed that the recently recovered LVT-4 Buffalo was used by the British 21st Army Group during the Rhine crossings at the end of the Second World War.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.