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Iowa History Daily: March 17 - Meet "Mr. Tank", Brigadier General Joseph M. Colby

Iowa History Daily: On March 17, 1904, Brigadier General Joseph M. Colby, known as “The Father of the Sherman Tank” was born in Lake Mills. Credited with development of many of the light, medium, and heavy tanks used by Allied armies during World War II, Colby helped the Allies win World War II.

Colby attended the Virginia Military Institute before enrolling at the University of Iowa. After a brief stint in Iowa City, Colby ultimately graduated from the United State Military Academy at West Point in 1929 and went on to study at MIT. Originally a cavalry officer, Colby transferred to Ordnance in the mid-1930s and became an authority on tank automotive design and development.

In the run-up to WW2, Colby innovated many new features of modern weapons systems including the torque converter transmission for tanks and 75mm motor carriages, transverse transmissions and torsion bar suspensions for a number of different tanks and other weapons, and the concentric recoil mechanism for tank cannon. During the years 1941 and 1942, he took the first American tanks to North Africa for use by the British Army, and instructed the British in the use of these weapons.

Director of tank production at Detroit Arsenal during World War II earned him the well-deserved nickname of “Mr. Tank”. In 1957, Colby helped dedicate a Sherman Tank placed on the corner of the Winnebago County Courthouse square in Forest City. Again in 1962, Colby attended a ceremony in Lake Mills to dedicate a Sherman Tank placed in the city’s Arlington Park in his honor. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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