A 60-ton, combat-ready tank that occupied a prominent location at the Everit Albert Herter V.F.W. Post 550 at the entrance to East Hampton Village was removed this week after a nearly 30-year residence.
“Not for nothing, people didn’t talk to us about the tank,” said Herbert K. (Smokey) Anderson, an officer of the day at the V.F.W. “When it first came, most of the calls we received were against it. Between then and now, us getting rid of it, there hasn’t been a word about it in between. Now I’m hearing that it was a landmark.”
The tank was brought to the post in 1996 after James Strong, a World War II veteran and post member, and Tony Cangiolosi, who was commander at the time, secured it on loan it from the federal government.
“You don’t own this, it’s a piece of military equipment,” said Mr. Anderson. Mr. Anderson became commander after Mr. Cangiolosi, his father in-law, in 1996, and remained so until 2001. He said that back then there were 300-plus members; now there are fewer than 200. “Many have retired and moved to Florida. We probably have about 30 active members left,” he said.
Mr. Anderson remembered the effort to get the tank back in the mid-1990s. “Every day I would call upstate to try and find out when the tank was coming,” he said. “One day, the guy on the other end of the phone said to me, ‘Buddy, I don’t know who the hell you guys know, but that damned tank will be there tomorrow.’ It was John Behan, a
Marine veteran, and member of the New York Assembly, who was instrumental in getting the tank to us.”
“It came down from Fort Drum,” said Brian Carabine, a quartermaster at the post. “We’ve had to maintain it. You have to send pictures every year. One of the things you do when you accept the tank is guarantee to maintain it. A lot of the rubber gaskets are starting to wear away. This tank is no longer in operation, and they’re not making spare parts. You can’t find them on Amazon. It was about time to do another painting, so we decided to let another outfit take it that has more resources and said they had a source for the spare parts.”
“It’s quite a bit of work when it comes right down to it,” said Mr. Anderson. “The last time we painted it was three years ago. Over the years, there were several posts that inquired about it. It wasn’t mandatory that we move it along, but we were being bombarded. It’s going upstate to an American Legion omewhere. I look at it this way, the American Legion that’s receiving it is going to show pride in the military up there now. We’ll miss it, for sure. There’s a certain amount of pride about what we were presenting. Nothing for nothing, you’ve got to share it.”
“We didn’t feel we could properly maintain it, and we didn’t want it to look like it was neglected, that’s the reason we let the loan go,” said Mr. Carabine.
“There’s only a certain few that they use for displays,” said Mr. Anderson. “Don’t forget, in my era, Vietnam, we dumped all the stuff. We put them on ships and dumped them in the sea when we left. The last crew, in Afghanistan, they just left them there.”
The M60A3 tank was actually operational and could have been deployed to the Shinnecock Canal to protect the East End, in the event of an attack, should that have proven necessary. According to Wikipedia, “The M60 tank series became America’s primary main battle tank during the Cold War,” with the first combat use during the 1973 Yom Kippur War in Israel.
“People are going to miss it in the sense that it was a landmark,” said Mr. Carabine. “Everybody thinks we’re in Wainscott, but we’re the last significant property in the Village. The only advantage of that is you get the Village beach sticker.”
Everit Albert Herter, for whom the V.F.W. post is named, served in World War I, where he was killed. Mr. Carabine said that long before Ron Perelman owned the Creeks across the street, the land belonged to Mr. Herter’s family, who had owned it since the 1890s. “He spent time on that property across the street.”
The departure of the tank is significant in that perhaps it speaks to a section of the community that is vanishing, too. What will go in its place?
“I was thinking of contacting Mayor [Jerry] Larsen to try and find out what happened to the Herrick Park bull,” joked Mr. Anderson. “But what happens next is up for discussion through the post.”