PLAINS TWP. — It took four years, a trip to Alabama and substantial restoration work courtesy of high school auto repair students, but Plains Township boasts a new centerpiece to an evolving veterans memorial park: An M59 Armored Personnel Carrier perched upon a concrete pad ringed by small American flags.
“We applied through a Department of Defense program four years ago,” Township Commissioner Jerry Yozwiak said Friday. “We would have taken any unit, it just so happened they gave us this M59 about nine months ago.”
The APC, one of about 6,300 manufactured between 1954 and the 1960s, is technically still the property of the U.S. government, Yozwiak noted. To get the vehicle, the township had to show it had a site and plan for displaying it.
Oh, and they had to go to Alabama to pick it up. Delivery was not an option.
The township bought the triangular piece of property near the intersection of Maffett and River streets, razed a run-down house and poured a concrete pad. Yozwiak said Latona Towing agreed to go to Alabama to retrieve the vehicle, and Lane’s Cranes chipped in when it needed to be hoisted.
The APC was initially housed in a township building where Wilkes-Barre Area Career and Technical Center students restored it, sandblasting the surface before painting and stenciling it.
“They really did a bang up job,” Yozwiak said, including fabricating a mock-up of the missing machine gunning mounted on top.
Originally about 19 tons, this particular M59 is a tad lighter because it lacks the twin engines that used to make the vehicle go. The transmission also is missing, Yozwiak said.
The township wants the space to serve as a veterans memorial park, and plans a Memorial Day service at 7:30 a.m. Monday. Yozwiak said the park idea “is an ongoing project,” with no specific plans right now.
All told, he estimated the cost of bringing the vehicle here and setting it up at about $5,000, which he said is pretty inexpensive considered the transportation and restoration.
“I’m a veteran and (Commissioner) Rob Sax is a veteran,” Yozwiak said, noting he served in the Air Force and Sax in the U.S. Navy. “So it hits home a little bit.”