The Mount Olympus detachment of the Marine Corps League is working on a project to give themselves a new and interesting presence at parades in the future: a replica of an LVTH-6A1 amphibious armored fighting vehicle.
Inspired by a smaller wooden replica tank made and brought by a VFW group from out of the area a year ago, Mount Olympus members decided to not just make their own version of that, but to make something bigger and that could move under its own power.
Former detachment commandant Mark Schildknecht said the idea started to come together in December 2018, and they’ve been hard at work since then to make their idea into reality.
While the Mount Olympus detachment used to have access to a collector-owned M-37 weapons carrier from the Korean War, that vehicle is no longer available to use. Needing a replacement, members were inspired to build the replica of another Korean War-era vehicle.
The LVTH-6A1 is a variant on an amphibious landing vehicle used in the 1950s that instead of carrying Marines was designed to bring fire support ashore in the form of a turret-mounted, 105mm Howitzer cannon.
The detachment was able to acquire a 2001 Ford Explorer to use as the basis of their replica vehicle. Thanks to some help from the Sequim Jiffy Lube and Les Schwab, they were able to get the vehicle some much-needed maintenance and new, stronger wheels.
The Home Depot (Sequim) also donated a gift card to help defray the costs of the materials that will be involved, with plywood making up the hull of the vehicle.
The structure and framing connecting that plywood hull to the SUV underneath it all is a little bit more ingenious though; welded to the frame of the Explorer are cut-up sections of bed frames.
“It sounds strange, but they were the cheapest way for us to get the angled steel we needed,” Schildknecht said.
Current detachment commandant Guy Iredale — a former member of the Marine Corps’ “Evergreen” platoon made up entirely of Washington state residents — has been doing the welding work involved while the vehicle sits in a shop on the property of detachment member Eric Minor, who has been creatively helping with the turret assembly for the parade float.
While the Marine Corps League can’t use the cannon traditionally mounted on the LVTH-6A1, Minor did come up with a creative way to replicate it for their purposes: creating a confetti cannon powered by an air compressor to help bring a little bit of fun and color to their parades.
Several other members have been helping in varying capacity, and Schildknecht says their plan is to have the vehicle done in plenty of time for the Old-Fashioned Fourth of July parade in Forks this summer.
He and Iredale are hoping that it will help convince new members to join, with both men mentioning the detachment’s “dwindling” numbers.
“Most veterans these days get home from deployment and have to go to work full time and then some to support their families,” Schildknecht said.
“But we’re hoping to inspire some people to give back to the veterans’ community and join us.”
The detachment’s more official duties include providing honor guard services for fallen veterans, and performing the bell ringing ceremony at Port Angeles’ Veterans Memorial Park. They also assist with veterans’ stand down events.
The Mount Olympus detachment of the Marine Corps League meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Port Angeles Veterans Center, 216 S. Francis St.