HAMMOND | A 96-year-old tank commander who drove an M4 Sherman tank in World War II attended the Saturday's meeting of the Hammond Historical Society with one question: “Was my Sherman tank one of those manufactured in my hometown of Hammond?”
Mike Giba, now of Highland, was born in one of the Pullman houses in Hammond near Columbia Avenue. As a young man, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and ended up as a tank commander in charge of an M4 Sherman tank. “I often wondered if my tank came from Hammond,” he said before a crowd of 75 at the Society's April 11 meeting about WWII tank production in Hammond.
Hammond was one of 10 locations in the U.S. that built the M4 medium tank, and it was difficult to trace the source of manufacturing, said Richard Barnes, who presented a program on Hammond's tank manufacturing history.
Members of the audience recalled family members who were employed by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company at 165th and Columbia Avenue in Hammond during WWII. What they were doing and what they were making was top secret and they were asked not to discuss their work with others outside the plant, it was noted
As a result, no one talked about the secret production of nearly 3,000 M4 Sherman tanks, the numerous 81 mm mortars, the 105 mm Howitzer gun carriages, and the tens of thousands of 155 mm artillery shells produced at the Hammond arsenal.
Hammond’s ability to produce so many military armaments so quickly won it the title of the “most versatile military plant in the Middle West” by the U.S. War Department.
The patriotism of Hammond’s “civilian army” and their vows of silence prohibited them from speaking about their work with their family and friends. Even today, people tend not to talk about it, Barnes said.
“They were honoring their pledge,” Barnes added, “and they took it seriously.”