Monday, March 18, 2024

American Legion Post 21, in Historic Rogersville, Tennessee (published 3-18-2024; article #460)


Have you ever been inside an M4A3 Sherman tank? This Appalachian Irishman has! I'll explain, in the childhood memories section, farther below.

You might as well come in and stay a while,” as Appalachian folks often say, when someone drops by. The last two articles focused on areas, within walking distance, on East Main Street, in historic Rogersville, Tennessee. The article, of 3/2/2024, was about Burton's Service Station. The 3/13/2024 article was about Brown's Corner. (Seeking help from others, I'm still trying to learn how the area got its name. Lord willing, I hope to publish an article, if I find out.) This article -- the 31st entry, under the topic section Appalachia - northeast Tennessee -- finishes a trifecta and focuses on a third location, on East Main Street, in my hometown.

The distance -- from the former Burton's Service Station (remodeled and under new ownership now) to the American Legion -- is about three-tenths of a mile, or about a six-minute walk. Let's take a virtual walk, going east, from Burton's Service Station to the American Legion. The roadside park (with the white oak tree and the monument) is along the way.

This article highlights the American Legion Post 21 and the M4A3 Sherman Tank. I'll share childhood memories, about the tank, and the restoration of the tank, in 2006.

American Legion Post 21

The majestic American Legion Post 21 has a commanding and dominant presence. The building rests atop the hill -- east of where the off-ramp, from Highway 11W (the bypass), meets East Main Street (old Highway 11W). Access is on American Legion Road.

From “Hawkins County War Memorial,” American Legion, 4/26/2018, we understand that the American Legion Post 21 was chartered in 1921. Two buildings, before the current location, had served the members. The current building was erected, in 1949, especially to honor World War II veterans.

The 2018 article, cited previously, emphasized the need to preserve the building. Post members had sponsored a "Save Our American Legion Post 21 Benefit" fund. The article includes an image of the cornerstone, which reads "Hawkins County War Memorial." Years ago, I saw and touched the cornerstone. I thanked God for the service of countless veterans. Their number includes many from Hawkins County, several of whom were and are my relatives.

All veterans, deceased and living, deserve the respect, admiration, and appreciation of all Americans. This article honors all veterans. Thank you for your service.

The M4A3 Sherman Tank

The M4A3 Sherman tank is visible, in the previous image, to the right (or south) of the American Legion Post 21. Sherman tanks and the soldiers, who manned them, were crucial to victory, during World War II. For further reading, please consider the following two articles:

“M4 Sherman: 'Blunder' or 'Wonder' Weapon? The American-built Sherman medium tank was admittedly inferior to its German opponents. Yet, how did it help win the war in Northwest Europe?” Warfare History Network, Early Fall 2012 (Volume 11, No. 7), by Blaine Taylor

“The Sherman M4A3 Medium Tank.” The Sherman Tank Site: the place for all things Sherman Tank (undated), by Jon T.

As the caption below the next image states, I'd taken the photograph, on 6/24/2006, a Saturday afternoon. Dad (Earl Ferrell, 9/17/1927 - 1/25/2008) was still living and doing fairly well. Other family members and I had visited Dad. I'd found out that an Eagle Scout project had restored the Sherman tank. I had stopped to take the photograph, on my way back home.

Photograph, by M. Fearghail, on Saturday afternoon, 6/24/2006. The American Legion building, in Rogersville, Tennessee, is behind and to the north (left), of the Sherman tank. The turret and gun barrel point to a corner of the building. The name on the tank is “Old Hickory.” The view looks east.

On 9/12/2006, I'd thought about writing a website article, titled “A Good Scout.” I never put down my thoughts into words, until now. An article, if it's worth writing, is better late than never -- even if it is over seventeen years late!

Childhood Memories

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a lifelong friend and his family lived in a house, in the subdivision that is just south of and behind the American Legion Post 21. My friend and I are the same age. We still keep in touch. His mother and my mother (Betty Lou Wood Ferrell, 11/24/1932 - 12/27/2000) were friends.

Sometimes, during visits with my friend, we would walk the fairly short distance to the American Legion, to explore the Sherman tank. We climbed onto the tank and up to the turret. We eased down the turret hatch, into the crew compartment. Being of grade school age and body size, with youthful flexibility, we soon realized that moving around, in the crew compartment, was not easy!

A five-man crew operated Sherman tanks. The crew included the commander, the gunner, the loader, the driver, and the assistant driver/hull gunner. The crew compartment has two levels. The upper level was for the commander, the gunner, and the loader. The commander sat or stood behind the gun barrel and the gunner. The gunner sat immediately behind the gun barrel. The loader sat to the left of the gunner. The lower level was for the driver, who had the left seat, and the assistant driver/hull gunner, who had the right seat. An excellent video description is seen on “Inside the 'Easy 8' Sherman Tank - Examining the Roles of a Tank Crew,” National Museum of Military Vehicles (YouTube), 2/4/2024. The nineteen-minute episode includes timestamps. The video, from inside the crew compartment, starts at the five-minute, thirty-second mark. It's worth watching.

My friend and I imagined that we, with three invisible crew members, fought tank battles against the Germans! The thick glass -- encased in metal on the outside top of the turret -- was cracked in several places, certainly from enemy fire. The tank exterior had several dings, dents, and marks, surely from enemy fire. That tank had seen its share of combat in World War II.

On several occasions, my friend and I paused our imaginary battles and wondered if any soldiers had died in that tank. Our imaginary battles became somber thoughts, at least for a while.

One visit to the Sherman tank included a real battle! My friend and I had lowered ourselves into the crew compartment. We encountered an angry swarm of waspers! They had nested inside the tank. Bounding out and off the tank quickly, we were not stung too many times! The waspers won that battle. Eventually, we returned, didn't find any waspers, and continued our imaginary battles. The good guys always won those battles.

My friend and his family moved to a nearby town, at the beginning of our freshman year in high school. We still got together and kept in touch, but our visits to the Sherman tank had ended.

The Tank Restored, in 2006

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Sherman tank was holding up well enough, despite the weathering, rust, and slight deterioration. As I've already stated, I'd taken the previous photograph, on 6/24/2006. I'd learned that an Eagle Scout project had restored the Sherman tank. Dad kept issues of The Rogersville Review, for us to read, when we visited. We enjoyed reading the newspapers. For several years, I have had an online and paper delivery subscription, to The Rogersville Review. My wife and I like to keep up with the news from my hometown. Mrs. Appalachian Irishman has family ties to Rogersville. Online editions of the newspaper are available by subscription only.

If you disable private browsing, however, you may be able to read, without the cost of a subscription, “Tank restored thanks to teen,” The Rogersville Review, by Bill Grubb, 6/14/2006. The article was published ten days before I'd photographed the tank.

In summary, the 6/14/2006 article indicates that the M4A3 Sherman tank had been “standing guard,” beside the American Legion Post 21, for fifty-four years. It began its guard duty in 1952. The tank had been on a two-year “leave of absence,” while an Eagle Scout (named in the article) restored the tank, for his Eagle Scout project. The restoration project also honored “a member of the Tennessee National Guard,” who was killed during service in Iraq.


Since we parked our vehicles at the old Burton's Service Station, we might as well walk back there. Before leaving the American Legion and the Sherman tank, we pause, at the "Hawkins County War Memorial" cornerstone, touch it, and lift up silent prayers to God, for the sacrifices of all the soldiers, who have served or are serving this nation.

The roadside park (with the white oak tree and the monument) is along the way. We stop, to relax a while, at the picnic table, under the shade of that oak tree.

Don't you wish that Burton's Service Station was still open? I'd like to walk in and buy a glass-bottled Coke and a snack.

I've enjoyed our virtual walk. On the next visit to my hometown, will I walk from the old Burton's Store to the American Legion? We will see. You may see me, resting near that old oak tree. I'll wave, if you honk at me!

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