While I will grant you it has been some time since Tankfest NorthWest 2016 (it took place on May 30th), I feel it was well worth the wait to write my article, in order to accumulate some of the pictures that were taken during the event.
And boy do we have a treat in store for you! Amongst the treats are some photos shot using surplus Soviet black and white film, which had some pretty neat effects, as well as numerous color images.
Fair warning to those with slow computers, phones, or connections: Lots of high resolution images will be in this post.
Tankfest NorthWest 2016 was, in essence, a great experience for me and it seems like it was a success for the Flying Heritage Collection ( Link to FHC’s Site ), which hosts the annual event in Everett, Washington. According to one of the organizers I spoke to during the event, they anticipated roughly 6000 people to attend, nearly double the number from last year. For a Memorial Day, I do not think you could have asked for better weather. The sun was bright, but the weather was somewhere in the low-to-mid 70’s (Fahrenheit).
We arrived around 9:45, to find the line was already quite substantial, stretching for maybe a quarter of a mile around the block. The lines moved fairly quickly, but my excitement mounted as I reviewed the pamphlet for the event, as I had no real idea what to expect aside from them firing the FlaK 37 8.8cm gun and that Nicholas Moran (The Chieftain) was going to be giving a presentation on American Tank Destroyer doctrine in World War II. Ushered through the gates by the friendly event staff while in a semi-ecstatic daze, I drifted around the venue to take in the sights and sounds of the event. My first object of adoration was the Jagdpanzer 38(t) aka ‘Hetzer’ that was on display.
From there I drifted down the line, surprised to see a German Sd.Kfz.8 Half-track as well. These things were huge, and did a lot of heavy lifting for maintenance and supply, primarily towing artillery, moving crew and ammo, and even being used to help recover vehicles at times. This one is in running condition and the vehicle pretty neat looking in a utilitarian sort of way.
From there, I wandered over to the M3 Stuart and the M4A1 Sherman they had on display (both in running condition). People were scrambling about, making sure the vehicles were ready to for their runs around the tank track.
After these vehicles, I took a look at the M3 Half-tracks they had on display before wandering off to look at the reenactors and other displays, in the period of time before the Opening Ceremony. The all came from the Pacific Northwest group called ‘Army Group 1944’ (Website!). They were all very professional and friendly and were happy to pose for pictures and answer questions.
Here’s some of those Soviet surplus black and white film images I was talking about. I really like the grainy quality and how it handles the contrast, makes things look very authentic.
It was around this point that they started the festivities. The opening ceremony begins with the National Anthem, then they proceed with firing off, with great fanfare, the 8.8cm FlaK 37. I sadly do not have any photographs of this, but I did find a video on YouTube from last years flak firing. However, the video doesn’t really convey just how loud they are nor the physical impact one feels when one is fired.
It’s a two stage thing… you hear and see the gun fire, and then, barely a split second later, you feel it kick you in the chest. It was all rather exhilarating and I highly recommend you go and see it if you’ve never had the opportunity.
So, with that done, they proceeded to show off their various vehicles during their parade of tanks. I may not be able to identify some of these (sadly).
Obviously, there’s a Willy’s Jeep, followed by some sort of transport truck, a staff car, then two M3 Half-Tracks, and then their M4A1 Sherman. They had other vehicles and tanks do the rounds, but sadly those pictures didn’t quite turn out well enough.
With the M4A1 and the M3 Stuart, both stopped during their rounds to fire off their main armament a few times, both of which were pretty cool to observe. I only have clear shots of the M4A1 when it did this, unfortunately.
After this demonstration, I went back to wandering around the museum, admiring various neat things. For instance, the Flying Heritage Collection has a captured V-2 Rocket, a Messerschmitt 163 B ‘Komet’, and the Scaled Composites Model 318 ‘White Knight’ that was part of the Spaceship One project and X Prize.
I also came across this M55 while wandering about.
Around this point, I knew that The Chieftain’s lecture was going to be starting soon, so I headed over in that direction and got to see his lecture. I was fairly disappointed by the lack of attention this got, with no video crew to tape the lecture, which was quite good. I don’t know if anyone had taped it unofficially, but I haven’t found anything on YouTube yet. At any rate, being an amateur historian, it was great to have an opportunity to personally attend a lecture on one of my favorite subjects, that being tanks. I could not try to replicate the lecture, but I hope he has a copy somewhere. After the speech, he signed autographs and chatted with fans. I got in line, but aside from my notebook, I had nothing for him to sign besides my copy of Infantry Attacks by Erwin Rommel (which I had brought with me on the train for reading material). So I had him sign that, to which he had a chuckle. I also got to ask him a few, brief questions:
- Has no books out currently, though he implied he’s been trying to get one or more published.
- Most people don’t realize that he hasn’t been able to do more research on tanks lately, due to a perceived lack of interest in his work at the National Archives.
- Research is time consuming, because many of the archives are not really organized or collated, so it can become expensive to spend time doing that, especially when he doesn’t get a lot of views or support from fans.
- He told us the next video of ‘The Chieftan’s Hatch’ was going to be about the Littlefield Collection’s Panther (which is somewhat old news now).
Overall, it was great to meet him in person. He was very friendly and I hope that next year I get the opportunity to meet with him again and ask more questions.
My only sticking point is that I had my World of Tanks name added (one of the perks of going up and meeting him in person) to a list of people to get a wee-bit of gold, but I never got mine… bummer.
Overall, the entire event was an absolute blast and I look forward to going again next year. I was surprised by the general lack of Wargaming’s presence, aside from The Chieftain being present and the presence of some computers set up to play World of Tanks. I would have thought they might leap at the opportunity to help promote their product more with one of their demographic groups, but there was more of a presence made by the WoT clan I’m part of, Pacific Northwest (PNW), than Wargaming itself. Given that the event had nearly double the people there this year as last, and more people who came to see The Chieftain’s presentation, they really missed out on an opportunity to connect with gamers and potential new players alike. Hopefully, they won’t make the same mistake again and we’ll see next year’s Tankfest NorthWest be even more successful.
If you ever have the chance, I recommend you go and get to experience it for yourself. While it may not have the pedigree and prestige associated with Tankfest in the UK, it’s a great way for us Yanks across the pond to get a taste of tank awesomeness for ourselves.
At this point, I’d like to thank Sarah Hickson de Salazar for providing all the wonderful color images in this article, and I’d also like to thank my brother, David, for using and sharing his precious Soviet surplus film to take photos at Tankfest NorthWest. They get all the credit for how nice the images turned out.