In the years following WWII, the US fear of the great red menace, the Soviet Union grew to near paranoia. The Defense Department was constantly running scenarios in which the Soviets would attack the US via numerous means, one of which would have been a land attack launched across the Bering Strait. In that the Pacific Northwest was in those days relatively “soft,” meaning unprotected, the DOD sought ways in which it could quickly “beef-up” its defenses.
As it considered resources at its disposal, it was obvious to most involved that the US had a major resource of heavy equipment already in position across the US, farm tractors. An idea that gained some “traction” was to enlist farmers, more specifically their tractors, to aid in a potential defense against ground attack. The tractors could be invaluable in hauling munitions, men and other supplies, for grading remote airstrips, and in some cases even fitted-out with guns.
DOD personnel fanned out across the country speaking to farmers, enlisting their tractors and establishing a data base. For purposes of secrecy, it was decided that there should be no outward indication on any tractor that would let on that this or that tractor was part of the new TDS “tractor defense shield.” But for government purposes it was decided that buried within the guts of each tractor there should be a designation indicating the tractor’s inclusion in the effort.
I had no idea that the TDS stretched as far east as North Carolina, but as I was tearing apart the distributor this week I came across the letters R.A.T. stamped into a crucial piece of the distributor. See photo below.
I shot this photo off to the Idiotic Brother to see if he could supply any background on the stamped letters. It was a few days later that he came back in an email with the whole story of the DOD’s enlistment of tractors into the TDS. He said that the letters RAT stood for Rapid Attack Tractor and that only a small percentage of the tractors involved in The Shield received such a designation.
This Pony’s involvement in the program could explain a couple of things I’ve always wondered about. Why was the Pony hidden away back in the woods (and finally forgotten), and why was it not fitted-out with any of the typical farm equipment? Well everything was starting to make a lot of sense to me, so I called the IB to chat about my little CWH, that’s Cold War Hero. When I inquired about how he had found out all this information, he said that he had done an internet search. Uh oh, to Jim this meant that he’d gone and looked for the internet, couldn’t find it, so relied on the stuff residing between his two ears. You may choose to believe this whole story, but I smell a RAT!
Again, I can report progress on the Pony this week. The little story above alludes to my digging into the distributor. I’ve done a lot of work on that and now will order a few replacement parts for it. I think you’ll love the before and after shots below of the distributor that has now been through what I call the “Boehmke.” The Boehmke involves a soaking in degreaser (lacquer thinner), lots of wire-brushing, sanding and in some cases finishing up with metal polish. Here you go.
I also made my first trip since last fall, out to Gene’s to work on the Pony. You may recall that last November, the 23rd to be exact, we had a nice warm day, and I was able to get the coat of primer on the engine compartment, this after hours of degreasing, wire brushing and scrubbing. Here’s a shot of the primer coat.
That’s “hot” isn’t it? Can you imagine the entire Pony looking like that? It’s going to be pretty hard to hide him in the woods looking like that. Wouldn’t you know it, we had thunderstorms here within hours of my applying the red paint. But Gene saved the day by putting the tarps back over the Pony before the rain hit.
I just have to relate one other small item. This is just another of those North Carolina stories where you could not make it up any better. The headline in our Carrboro Citizen (best newspaper in the Piedmont) read “Chapel Hill Man Steals, Crashes Ambulance.” Although that headline says a lot, what it doesn’t say is that the man who stole the ambulance was the one the paramedics had gone out to treat! Somehow, following treatment, he managed to jump behind the wheel, drive-off and after that hit several cars, including a Carrboro city fire truck. When they caught-up with him, they of course had to put him back in the ambulance and this time took him to the hospital. The usual tag line, “charges are pending.”
That’s it for today tractor lovers and as usual, thanks for reading.
PS: Credit to brother Jim for the nucleus of the RAT story.