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Grandson of Gen. Patton visits Vincennes for tank dedication

It took hundreds of parts and almost 3 years of work. The Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes is now home to one of the rarest pieces of military hardware in the country.

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon, it’s not a busy day there but it is a big on. An iconic name in war reunites with his family’s history.

“It has been a lifelong adventure,” says museum curator, Jim Osborne. “I started collecting when I was 7 years-old.”

Walk through the heavy green door off South 6th Street and you’ll see memorabilia dating back to the Revolution. It’s clear Jim’s collecting never stopped. 

He says it’s hard to pick a favorite piece, but he’s partial to the Dwight D. Eisenhower uniform. Still, there’s something about the war to end all wars Osborne is proud of.

It’s sitting on a trailer in the warehouse next door.

“We’ve been restoring it for two-and-a-half years,” Osborne says. Counting his, there are only 20 in existence.

With armor about a half-inch thick, the 6-ton M1917 is America’s first tank. To get one looking as good as his it needs a lot of work, including 64 new track pads.

Osborne says it took almost a year, but the tank got its tracks from the same company that made them 100 years ago.

It still needs an engine, but IMM will dedicate the tank Friday, with the kin of a man known for his thirst in battle. “Old Blood and Guts,” they called him. General George S. Patton.

On the top shelf of a Patton exhibit there is a black-and-white picture of the General, with two young boys sitting on his lap. That young boy is grown up now.

“I got the name George Patton, my brother got my dad’s name, John Knight, so I got the better deal!”

Grandson of the General, George Patton Waters.

He’s visiting Vincennes to see the same style of tank his grandad led in World War I. “It gives me goosebumps to think this is what America,” Waters says, pausing, “our people fought with.”

It took a while, but a real Patton is beside the beast again.

“This is reliving history, hopefully people will pick it up and realize the sacrifice, guys that drove that and walked behind it, what they made.”

Patton once said, wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.

Waters will be in Evansville on Friday to honor Hoosier World War I hero, Corporal James Bethel Gresham. He was one of the first American soldiers to die in the Great War.

Waters was impressed, to say the least. He’s glad to keep honoring the fallen, while standing next to the armor his family helped forge.

“I’ll never see anything like this again in my life again,” he says, “this is unbelievable.”

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(This story was originally published November 1, 2017)

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