Silicon Valley tank collection to go on public display in Massachusetts museum

Jacques Littlefield, a private collector, displays his collection of historical war tanks. He died last 2009. By that time, he has collected over 200 tanks, one of the largest collection of military vehicles.

The family of a collector of war items plans to donate a collection of tanks, missile launchers and armored vehicles to a foundation based in Massachusetts in honor of Veteran’s Day. The family from Silicon Valley hopes that the foundation proposing the museum will do the honor of preserving the revered collection.

The collection of tanks are reported to amount to $30 million. The tanks have been refurbished and kept in seven sheds in the collector’s family estate in Silicon Valley. Visitors are allowed to view the priced war items on highly-privileged pre-arranged private tours in the football field-sized showroom of the collector.

Last July 4, the family officially arranged for the collections to be turned over to The Collings Foundation. The Collings Foundation is dedicated to the preservation of historical war aircraft and vehicles. The parties agreed that the 240 pieces of war items including the tanks are to be added to a proposed museum at Stow, Massachusetts.

Rob Collings, director of the foundation, announced their plan to auction 160 of the tanks in August 14. The foundation aims to raise $1o million to build the museum where the remaining 80 historical military vehicles will be preserved and displayed for public viewing.

The foundation hopes to build the museum to encourage and motivate tourists as well as locals to take a peek at U.S. history through the historical tanks.

“They’ll start in the World War I trenches and go forward through time,” Collings said.

Jacques Littlefield, a manufacturing engineer, was responsible for collecting the historical military vehicles. A graduate of Stanford University, Littlefield went on from working at Hewlett Packard in the 1970s to becoming a private collector of various types of large vehicles until he eventually started with military vehicles.

Littlefield’s interest in collecting military vehicles were mostly for the technical aspect of the war machines. He proceeded to assemble his collection of tanks in 1983. He then became unstoppable at restoring the military vehicles until his death in 2009 after a long personal battle with colon cancer.

The Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Littlefield’s foundation, claims that by the mid-90s, Littlefield was able to collect almost all of the tanks from the most “significant land battles of the last half-century”. The non-profit foundation is currently assigned to take charge of Littlefield’s line of tanks.

The Seattle Times reports that Littlefield’s collection consist of tanks and armored vehicles from the U.S., Germany, France, Russia, Israel, England, Czechoslovakia and Switzerland. 

Littlefield took great effort to painstakingly refurbish and restore most of the tanks despite their old condition. The priceless pieces of his collection include a World War I M1917 light tank, the oldest armored tank in his assembly. Other notable pieces are the Russian T-72 known to be used by Saddam Hussein’s forces and the German Panzer V Panther of the World War II.

If pushed through, the museum would be the first of its kind since there is no federal historic museum of military vehicles in the U.S. as of the moment. Currently, there are only private collections.

The president of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, Bill Boller said that the family of the collector decided to turn over the collection to the Collings Foundation to offer the general public the opportunity to view the pieces of history embodied by the military vehicles.

“Unfortunately this is not the best place in the world, location and accessibility, for the general public, authors, historians, the defense industry, all the people that want to take advantage of this wonderful collection,” Boller said.

The museum hopefully will give the people the opportunity to appreciate the experiences of the soldiers through the stories behind the tanks during the war.

“They are a pragmatic reality,” Boller further said. “If you ultimately value the freedoms we have in the U.S., you understand and appreciate the necessity and you have tremendous admiration and respect for those who put themselves in a position to go ahead and do it.”

Tanks and vehicles have been commercially characterized in many video games that are popular among the younger audience. Viewing the tanks in actuality will offer a whole new and authentic experience that will draw youth as well as people from all walks of life.

The tanks, by themselves, are but pieces of history. Yet, they embody what the brave men and women fought for during the war.


Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE