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September 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 pulled an abandoned tank from its
archival tomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia. The
Soviet-built T34/76A tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake
for 56 years. According to its specifications, its a 27-tonne
machine with a top speed of 53km/h.
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 tanks exterior.) On 19 September
1944, German troops began an organized 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.
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 an armoured vehicle at the
lakes 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 metres they discovered the tank resting
under a 3-metre layer of peat.
from the club, under Mr Shedunovs 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.
Currently used at the pit, the Komatsu dozer was manufactured in
1995, and has 19,000 operating hours without major repairs.
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 tractive
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.
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 (except the engine)
in working condition.
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
This is the type of vehicle used in the recovery operation