The Tank That Climbed a Mountain

In April 1919, a US-built M1917 light tank, climbed Pikes Peak in Colorado. At the time the road up to Pikes Peak was said to be the ‘World’s Highest Motor Drive’. In terms of publicity having the tank make it up the mountain would have been quite a feat. 

The purpose of the stunt was to encourage American’s to purchase ‘Victory Liberty’ War Bonds in an effort to pay of the US’ national debt accrued by the war. This was the fifth, and final, round of Liberty Bond sales, began in mid-April 1919, and aimed to sell $4.5 billion of government bonds.

We can see that on the front of the tank the words ‘Pike’s Peak or bust’ have been painted in white – this is a reference to a phrase coined by prospector’s during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of the 1860s. The woman seen in the photograph above, smashing a bottle of local mineral spring
water over the bow of the tank, is Mrs W.H.R. Stote, the chairwoman of Colorado
Springs’ Victory Liberty loan committee.

A Pathe Newsreel featuring some footage of the tank’s ascent (source)

The tank was driven by

Corporal Howard Brewer and tended by a crew of mechanics and support vehicles. The road which climbed the 14,115 feet tall mountain was unsurfaced and had only been completed in 1916. The tank’s ascent began on April 14 and incredibly over the next two days the tank climbed to 11,440 feet, 13 miles along the road and through several deep snow drifts before a track plate snapped. After repairs the tank and support convoy pressed on – but the tank never made it to the summit. Not because of mechanical failure but unbelievably because it was needed to appear in other Colorado towns as part of the victory loan drive. 

While the tank may not have reached the very top of the mountain, it undoubtedly broke the elevation record for tanks and set an impressive new bench mark possibly as high as 12,000 feet.


Images: 1 2 3

100 years ago, a tank took on Pikes Peak, The Colorado Springs Gazette, M.L. Cavanaugh, (source)

More contemporary photographs from the ascent – source


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