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Breakthrough in Hunt for “Tank Park” History

The city had been seeking the public’s help for missing information about the tank in Mezes Park.

City officials are no longer clueless in the hunt to solve the mysterious history of a World War II tank that’s been a fixture at a Redwood City park for so long the park is commonly called “tank park.”

A major breakthrough was scored by research volunteers in the history room of the city library, city spokesman Malcolm Smith told Patch on Tuesday. The most important bit of information they supplied is the tank’s serial number.

“They did some serious research and came up with the serial number for the tank, plus some other good information,” Smith said. “So we are making very good progress.”

The volunteers, who, in addition to doing research publish The Journal of Local History, also learned that after the war the M5 Stuart light tank was stored in an ordnance depot near Herlong in Lassen County. It arrived in Redwood City in 1947, not a year earlier as thought.

The serial number was provided by the USA Historical AFV Register, which keeps track of historical armored fighting vehicles (AFV), according to researchers.

The 16-ton tank has been standing guard at Mezes Park at the corner of Warren and Standish streets for over 50 years. The park is named for Simon Mezes who donated the land for the park, as well as for a courthouse.

Smith, who recently asked for the public’s help in his search for information about the tank, said that later this year the city will make improvements at Mezes Park, including new restrooms, some re-grading, new picnic tables, and improved walkways.

“We’re excited about the impending improvements to the park, and to putting together an informational panel for the tank that helps carry forward the commemoration for which it was intended,” Smith said.

The tank was brought to Redwood City from the depot aboard a San Mateo County Fire Department truck and trailer. It was presented to the city by the American Legion as a war monument.

Smith said he will also seek the aid of the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation, a Portola Valley institute that is home to a large number of military vehicles.

Now armed with the serial number, the city will have an easier time in its quest to determine the exact history of the Redwood City M5 tank.

There were several models of the light tank, including the M1, M2 and M3 series. In 1942 the Cadillac Division of General Motors started to produce the M5, which was armed with a 37mm cannon as well as two machine guns. It was powered by twin 16 cylinder engines and could hit 36 miles an hour with some drivers reporting that it could go over 45.

The M5 was outgunned in Europe but was used extensively against the Japanese. The earlier M3 was used during the battle of Bataan shortly after Pearl Harbor. A Stuart tank, named for Civil War cavalry general Jeb Stuart, is a memorial at a cemetery in Salinas. A National Guard unit from that city suffered heavy casualties on Bataan and many of the men who survived later died in Japanese prison camps.

The M5 tank is “now quite rare, with only a dozen still existing,” according to the American Armoured Foundation.

The information provided by the library archives’ group “will really help us to get more details about “our tank,” Smith said, but added he still wants to hear from anyone who knows anything about the M5.

“Really, any information would be helpful,” he said. “Pictures of you and your friends, as kids, playing on it?”

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Cliff Keith February 22, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Thank you so much for this post and all the information you were able to provide. The Redwood City Library System is really a resource, which is not fully utilized. I think it would be cool if the M5 Stuart tank had the original military markings painted on it. I like your article.
Patricia Peterson February 23, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Thanks for the information on the "Tank Park". I lived near there for a while when I was growing up and brought my children there when they were young. Patricia Peterson Realtor/Coldwell Banker San Carlos
Mike Bursak February 24, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Our correct name is the Archives Committee of the Redwood City Public Library. We are an NGO which operates the Local History Room and Redwood City Archives located on the mezzanine level in the downtown branch of the Redwood City library.
Joe Barrington February 25, 2013 at 12:42 AM
I grew up in San Carlos in the 60s and 70s. My sister brought me and my brother to this park many times. We crawled all over this beast. It appears that it has been well kept. Oddly, my oldest brother and his son have developed a keen interest in collectible military vehicles. He would love to own an M5. Joe Barrington Rocklin, CA

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