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Last Army Main Battle Tanks Depart Germany

The shrill start-up to steady turbine hum of the M1 Abrams tanks has fallen silent in Germany.

On March 18, 22 Abrams main battle tanks were loaded at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s (TSC) railhead in Kaiserslautern, bound for the shipping port of Bremerhaven, Germany. From there, they embarked for Charleston, S.C., aboard The Honor of Arc, an American roll-on, roll-off vessel.

The U.S. Army’s 69-year history of basing the M1s in the country ended with their departure. The main battle tanks had been a primary feature of armored combat units throughout the Cold War.

“It is an honor to be one of the soldiers escorting the last battle tanks out of Germany,” said Sgt. Jeremy Jordan of the 529th Military Police Company. “As these tanks sail back to the U.S., we are closing a chapter in history.”

The parting coincides with the inactivation of two of the Army’s Germany-based heavy brigades. Last year, the 170th Infantry out of Baumholder disbanded and the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade at Grafenwoehr is in the process of doing the same.

The tanks belonged to the 172nd, along with a mix that were leftover from other units, according to the 21st TSC.

“It is an honor to be one of the soldiers escorting the last battle tanks out of Germany,” said Sgt. Jeremy Jordan of the 529th Military Police Company. “As these tanks sail back to the U.S., we are closing a chapter in history.”

M1 Abrams

The last Abrams main battle tank moves up the ramp to the U.S. vessel The Honor of the Arc at the port, March 23. The last tank to be loaded onto the vessel was the Casa Loca (the Crazy House). U.S. Army photo by Gerald Bryza

“There have been tanks in Germany since 1944, and now there are none,” said Andrew Morris, U.S. Army Europe historian.

Since World War II, tanker units were a heavy presence in Germany. At its peak, the country was home to 20 NATO armored divisions, or about 6,000 tanks, according to the 21st TSC.

“There is no [U.S.] tank on German soil. It’s a historic moment,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Marotto, 21st TSC spokesman.

“There is no [U.S.] tank on German soil. It’s a historic moment.”

The last tank to be loaded onto the vessel was the “Casa Loca” – “The Crazy House.” As the war machine climbed the ramp onto the vessel, it signified the end of an era in Germany, according to Morris.

The Abrams, manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, employs a Honeywell AGT 1500 gas turbine engine. It has a governed top speed of 45 mph, features a 105 mm or 120 mm main gun, and is served by a four-person crew.

The tank is named after former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Creighton W. Abrams, an armor pioneer who also served in the Vietnam War from 1968-1972.

M1 Abrams

U.S. Army soldiers of A Company, 3rd Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, Task Force 1-2, 172nd Infantry Brigade, conduct a live-fire training exercise with M1 Abrams tanks at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Oct. 13, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger

Disposition of the German-based Abrams after arrival into the United States is unknown at this time.

    li class="comment even thread-even depth-1" id="comment-168388">

    I was a tanker in Germany in 1968-69….We had the M-60 MBT in Gelnhausen (Coleman Kasern) Great beer!