Written by Mark Sheiman Friday, 19 November 2010 00:00
On Thursday, Nov. 12 a crowd of hundreds gathered at Republic Airport in Farmingdale as a 66-year-old iconic symbol of World War II barreled down the runway.
The only Sherman tank on Long Island, from World War II, came to a halt in the front of the Veterans Day celebrants, a demonstration of sorts before it was to be put on display at the American Air Power Museum. The crowd gave a roar of applause.
“I swear this tank looks bigger today than it did 66 years ago,” said Hy Horowitz, a driver/gunner of Sherman tanks in the 7th Armored Division in World War II.
Horowitz remembers the Shermans as dependable but an expedient weapon of war without the armor to withstand German anti tank fire.
“Many good men were lost in those tanks because we came late to tank fighting. It wasn’t until the last months of fighting in Europe that we had tanks that could go head to head with the Germans. The difference is we manufactured as many as 40,000 Shermans and they never produced more than 2,000 Tiger tanks,” he said. “Still, hearing the sounds of that Sherman come around the corner at the museum will trigger incredible memories.”
Horowitz then explained how the Sherman tank was under-gunned, under-armored, cold in the winter, hot in the summer and no match for the better-equipped German Panzer tanks of the era. Horowitz said, “But we had lots of ‘em.”
Guenter Bier, of Hicksville, was a German citizen in Germany when the infamous Sherman tank drove down his street on April 18, 1945, liberating him and his mother from the Nazi party.
Bier recalled the closing days of World War II when he heard the departing sounds of German tanks retreating from his village and the profoundly different sound of the Shermans arriving behind the infantry of the U.S. First Army.
“The Panzers were monsters and kept us awake all night as they fled east. My mother had planned to roll out a white flag as soon as we saw the first American despite the fact that a neighbor who was a member of the Nazi party threatened to shoot anyone who would do so. The arrival of the Shermans told us everything we wanted to know – the war was over.”
He told a story about the time a Sherman tank parked in front of his house as the first American soldier he had seen hopped down from the tank and asked if he had any water to spare.
“The last time I saw a Sherman tank this close it meant peace,” said Bier.
Bier remembers bringing the American soldier to the water spigot so he could fill his canteen. The soldier thanked him.
Many distinguished officials, including Senator Charles Fuschillo, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, and Town Supervisor Steve Bellone, were in attendance to witness the Sherman tank become part of the museum’s exhibits.
Senator Fuschillo spoke briefly as a supporter of the American Air Power Museum.
“The Sherman tank standing behind us is a reminder of how we fought for democracy,” said Fuschillo. He added that the day was monumental because this is the first Sherman tank on Long Island in over 20 years.
Lawrence Kadish, owner of the tank, acquired it from the Netherlands. It is one of more than 40,000 ever made, and one of the remaining in operation. The tank will be on display at the American Air Power Museum at 1230 New Highway in Farmingdale.