September 14, 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 pulled an abandoned tank from its archival tomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia. The Soviet-built T34/76A tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years. According to its specifications, it’s a 27-tonne machine with a top speed of 53km/h.
From February to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50 km-wide, Narva front in the northeastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men were killed and 300,000 men were wounded there. During battles in the summer of 1944, the tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army. (This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tank’s exterior.) On 19 September 1944, German troops began an organised retreat along the Narva front. It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driven into the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.
At that time, a local boy walking by the lake Kurtna Matasjarv noticed tank tracks leading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere. For two months he saw air bubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there must be an armoured vehicle at the lake’s bottom. A few years ago, he told the story to the leader of the local war history club “Otsing”. Together with other club members, Mr Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of the lake about a year ago. At the depth of 7 metres they discovered the tank resting under a 3-metre layer of peat.
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