T34 trophy tank from Estonia swamps (8 photos+2 videos)
In 1999, a Soviet tank dating back to World War II was found in a swamp in northeast Estonia. The tank was raised to the surface from the bottom of the lake after spending 62 years covered in peat. It turns out that the tank had been taken over by the Germans, hence German markings on its body.
How and when did the tank fall into the hands of German soldiers?
From February to September 1944, heavy fighting took place on the narrow (50 km wide) Narva front in the north-eastern part of Estonia. About 100,000 people were killed and 300,000 were injured. It was in summer of 1944 that the tank was captured by the German army. (It was for this reason that the tank had German markings). On September 19, 1944, the Germans began to retreat along the Narva front line. Historians suspect that the Germans deliberately dumped the tank into the lake upon retreat.
How was this combat vehicle discovered?
This is such a fascinating story! The tank was actually discovered immediately after the battle by local boy called Kurtna Matasjarv. He’d been passing along the shore of the lake when he noticed tank tracks leading to the lake but not coming out the other side. Then he noticed air bubbles popping up. For 2 months afterward, he would see air bubbles popping up as he passed the lake. He assumed that there was an armored vehicle at the bottom but didn’t tell anyone. It wasn’t until 1998 that he finally told the story to the head of the Otsing Military History Club. In 1999, historian Igor Shedunov, along with his teammates, organized a diving expedition and found the Soviet war machine 7 meters down, buried until 3 meters of peat.
In September 2000, the club contacted Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of AS Eesti Polevkivi in Narva, to rent their Komatsu D375A-2 bulldozer for the removal of the tank.
The extraction lasted from 9 o’clock until 15 o’clock. The 30 ton weight of the tank, combined with the angle of the shore, required considerable effort to remove.
A rare find
Historians discovered that this tank was captured German troops during the Battle of the Blue Mountains (Sinimaed) 6 weeks before sinking. A total of 116 shells were found onboard the tank. The tank was in good condition, without rust, and all systems (except the engine) working well. This is very rare, given that she had to fight for both the Russian and German sides.
You can also see the process of raising this combat vehicle from the bottom of the lake in these unique frames: