Tanks in Town – Commemorating the Liberation of Mons from the Nazis
Mons was occupied by Nazi Germany from May 1940 until September 2, 1944. The liberation did not involve a battle, but rather reconnaissance elements of the 3rd Armored Division drove into Mons and stopped for a bit before taking up pursuit of the retreating Nazi forces. The Army Major leading the American tankers signed the city’s registry with his name and tank number. After the War, the US Army gave that tank to the City of Mons, where it was parked on the main square. Forty years later, with the tank in disrepair, the city passed the tank to a WWII vehicles enthusiasts group, which began to commemorate the liberation by having several dozens of WWII-era jeeps, motorcycles, half-tracks and tanks “invade” the city of Mons every year on the weekend before Sep 2; thus was born the “Tanks in Town” tradition. They drive in on the same route 3rd Armored followed, parking for the evening on the main square.
Our whole family went down to see the drive in. The neatest part was seeing the bigger tanks drive up the narrow cobblestone streets without hitting something. It had rained much of the day before and most of the tanks were covered in thick mud where they had chewed up the ground at their muster point outside of town; some tanks--all covered in mud--were towed in on trailers, presumably having become disabled in the mud. The loud engines and gas and diesel fumes were enough to give Melissa and Kyra a headache. It’s really neat to see all these vehicles being preserved by families committed to preserving history and acting it out each year.