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ďALLIGATOR ALICEĒ has returned to the Wright Museum for good after five months of being rebuilt and a short trip back to the shop to replace a gas tank. Here Wright Executive Director Norman Stevens assumes the commander position at the top of the tank as it takes a spin around the parking lot prior to returning to the museum garage on Nov. 13. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
December 01, 2011
WOLFEBORO — The Wright Museum's M4 Sherman tank is now fully operational, following a short trip back to the shop to get a gas tank replaced.

The tank, named "Alligator Alice" in honor of museum founder David Wright's grandmother, is one of the few Sherman tanks still operational today. The Sherman medium tank was the main battle tank in WWII and more than 49,000 were produced.

The Wright's Sherman had languished for years in the museum's garage until it was sent off last May 20 to Northeast Military Vehicle Services in Milford, Mass. for rebuilding. The rebuilt 35 ton tank, painted with the markings identifying it as a member of Company A, 743rd Tank Battalion assigned to the 30th Infantry Division in Europe, was returned to the Museum on Oct. 19.

The tank's Continental R-975 nine-cylinder radial engine did not run well after delivery. Suspicion fell on the gasoline tank, where gasoline had been sloshing around during the trip up to the museum, stirring up decades of residue. Northeast Military Vehicle Services personnel returned on Nov. 13 and tried flushing the gas tank and replacing the fuel filter, with limited success. In the end the only thing to do was to replace the original gas tank with a rebuilt one back in Milford and that did the trick.

"The tank runs fine now," says Executive Director Norman Stevens.

The museum also has an operational M26 Pershing heavy tank, which was introduced at the end of WWII and used extensively in the Korean War, and a semi-operational M3 Stuart light tank, which saw heavy fighting on Pacific islands during WWII.

Right now the main exhibit hall is being cleared in preparation for the annual Festival of Trees, which is scheduled to open with a Preview Gala on Thursday, Dec. 8. The Festival open officially on Saturday, Dec. 10 and runs through Sunday, Dec. 18. Once the Festival is over and the exhibit hall cleared, Stevens plans to set up an armor exhibit, which will showcase the rebuilt Sherman tank along with the Pershing and Stuart tanks and the museum's armored car.

The armor exhibit is only one of several new exhibits planned for the museum's reopening in spring 2012. The museum has had for some time several roughed-out office and work spaces on the second floor adjacent to the large meeting room, and these are now being finished. The main room will allow Collections Coordinator Michelle Landry to "stage" or set up exhibits in a secure space instead of trying to work in the museum's main exhibit spaces during off hours. This will help increase the rate at which new exhibits can be put together.

According to Stevens the first new exhibit to be completed will be on the Navy in WWII.

In addition to putting the tanks on display, Stevens says the museum hopes to bring them out periodically to show off their mobile capabilities around the museum's property, which includes wooded areas as well as the parking lots.

"These vehicles were meant to move," Steven says. "We'd like to be able to show visitors just what they are capable of doing."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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