WOLCOTT, Conn. (AP) — The M-4 "Easy Eight" Sherman tank in front of American Legion Post 165 on Wolcott Road has been painted many colors.

When it first came off the factory lines around Christmas 1944, it was painted with Army-issue olive drab semigloss paint with white stars.

That was how it looked the whole time it was in service in Germany during World War II and later in Korea, although WWII tankers may have painted over the stars to make it a harder target for the enemy to find.

It remained that olive green in 1957, when another American Legion post in Wolcott paid to have it decommissioned and brought on a truck from the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania, a trip that took eight days and earned the driver 18 traffic tickets.

After that American Legion post closed, its members donated the tank to their neighbors, the Headquarters Restaurant. Based on the layers of paint that restorers scraped off this summer, the restaurant had used it as a marketing draw and at various times had painted it blue, red, gold and silver.

By the time the restaurant closed and the tank ended up at the American Legion Post on Wolcott Road in 1972, still technically property of the U.S. Army, it was a green-grey.

"It was no color the Army would ever use," said Bob Thompson, a new member of Post 165 from Bristol who wore a full replica WWII-era tank uniform to an event Sunday to rededicate the tank.

That's how it looked when Wolcott police officer Thomas Gorman decided to do something about it. Gorman grew up in Wolcott. As a kid, before the American Legion asked all posts to weld tanks of their property shut, he would climb inside the rusty interior of the Easy Eight. Sometimes he and his friends encountered bees.

As a Wolcott resident who often drives by the American Legion, the tank's color and condition bothered Gorman.

"If you're going to do something, it's got to be correct," he said. "I want any veteran to drive by and say, 'that's a right, correct tank,'" he said.

When Gorman met some members of the United States Army Brotherhood of Tankers - a national nonprofit organization of Army veterans dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the history of Army tanks - he pointed them toward American Legion Post 165.

The New England chapter of the Brotherhood keeps a list of tanks in the region and already knew about the green-grey tank on Wolcott Road. With approval from the post's leaders and a local Boy Scout troop signed on to help with landscaping, they got to work.

Fifteen members of the Brotherhood drove to Wolcott from Massachusetts and other parts of Connecticut for four weekends in a row this summer. They researched the right kind and color of the original paint that would have coated every nook and cranny of the tank when it went into service, used stencils to paint on new white stars and, at the request of the American Legion members, added the numbers of the Sherman "Easy Eight" tank featured in the 2014 WWII movie "Fury."

On Sunday two dozen people, including Wolcott's mayor, police chief and state legislators, gathered in the bright sunshine outside the American Legion to commemorate their work.

It's the first tank in Connecticut that the USABOT New England chapter has repainted to its original colors. The group of 35 members has collectively visited and restored nine tanks in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. They have their eyes on a few more in Connecticut.

For Jim Bagdon, a USABOT volunteer and Army veteran who operated tanks while he was stationed in Germany, restoring the WWII-era machinery is a way of honoring the "tankers" who came before him.

"The Greatest Generation were the ones using these things, and we have to remember them," he said. If not, he said, "they'll just end up big hunks of junk."

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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