Why there’s an Army tank in Gower Park and why it may not be there for much longer

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The decommissioned M60A3 tank in Gower Park has been stationed between the tennis and basketball courts at Gower Park since the 1990s. Will Crooks/Greenville Journal

A U.S. Army tank has been stationed between the tennis courts and the basketball courts at Greenville’s Gower Park since the 1990s, but it may not be there for much longer.

The tank, which is a decommissioned M60A3, made its way to Greenville after a planning commission member saw an article in Governing magazine about surplus Army tanks being used for artificial reefs and suggested the city explore acquiring a tank for display in one of the city parks.

Then-City Manager Aubrey Watts Jr. wrote to the South Carolina Army Reserves National Guard and the city was approved to receive a tank as long as it agreed to pay $3,893 to decommission it and maintain it “so that its appearance and use will not discredit the donor.” The city agreed also that the tank would not be restored to running condition or driven under any circumstance.

Paul Ellis, who was the city’s parks and recreation director at the time of the donation, said the city decided to put the tank in Gower Park because there was level land on which a concrete pad could be poured. The city did not want to put the tank in Cleveland Park because that park had already had a military presence with the Rudolf Anderson Jr. memorial and F-86 Sabre jet.

Now, the Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. American Legion Post 214 wants to take ownership of the tank and relocate it to its Cecil D. Buchanan Military History Museum on Wade Hampton Boulevard.

“The M60 [is a] symbol of strength of the U.S. We want to put it where it will be seen by more people,” said Peter Butchart, director of the museum.

“It will be honored instead of just being a jungle gym,” Councilman Russell Stall said.

The Cecil D. Buchanan Military History Museum was originally founded by Buchanan at the American Legion Post 3 in Greenville and was subsequently moved to Post 214 in Taylors in 2017. The museum houses military artifacts from the American Revolutionary War through the Gulf Wars.

Greenville City Manager John Castile said the city will explore what it would take to transfer the tank to the American Legion, but said because the tank has been a part of Gower for a long time, the city would have discussions with the neighborhood before any decision is made.

The M60 Patton series was named after Gen. George S. Patton and made by Chrysler at the Detroit arsenal from 1960 to 1963. The tank used a four-man crew and had a range of 350 miles. It has a combat weight of 102,000 pounds.

The first M60s served in Europe to offset the Russian t-54 tanks during the Cold War. It also served in Vietnam and Desert Storm. A total of 2,205 were built.

By the 1990s, the M60 Patton battle tanks were primarily found in U.S. Reserve and National Guard units.

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