MMORPG.com: Who are you and what do you do?
Tracy Spaight: My name is Tracy Spaight. I am the Director of Special Projects at Wargaming.net. Special Projects has a somewhat unusual mandate. We work with museums around the world to recover, conserve, and exhibit WW2 vehicles. We also produce television / film properties in relation to Wargaming’s archaeological and historical projects. This will probably strike some of your readers as an odd thing for a video game company to do – but we’re not a typical video game company.
MMORPG.com: Wargaming has been involved in a number of recovery and historical preservation efforts. Please tell us how the decision to get involved in such work started.
Tracy Spaight: The vehicles in our games are drawn from real life. In developing World of Tanks, World of Warplanes and World of Warships, our team went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the historical accuracy of the WW2 vehicles featured in our games. We studied original photos, technical manuals, and blueprints to model the vehicles faithfully. The team visited museums like the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow and the Stalin Line Museum outside of Minsk to take measurements from surviving WW2 planes and tanks. We also toured historic battleships and aircraft carriers in the United States to capture their look and feel as accurately as possible. We take history seriously.
We are only able to do the work we do thanks to the outstanding work of military history museums around the world. It was thus a natural step for us to partner with museums to assist in the recovery, restoration, and exhibition of WW2 vehicles. We want to make sure that these vehicles are preserved for future generations.
Some of our museum projects include creating a CG film for the digital theater on USS Iowa, to show the ship’s role in supporting the landings at Okinawa in 1945. The theater opened in 2012. In 2013, we opened the Wargaming.net Education Centre at the Bovington Tank Museum and the Wargaming.net Dornier 17 Interpretation Zone at the RAF Museum at Cosford. Wargaming.net helped fund the conservation and exhibition of the Dornier 17 aircraft recovered from the bottom of the English Channel in June 2013. We also helped the RAF museum develop a mobile APP called Apparitions, which allows users to view virtual Dorniers all over the world.
In February 2014, we opened an exhibition at the RAF Museum at Hendon and in June 2014, our team worked with the Central Museum of Armored Vehicles of the Russian Defense Ministry to recover a Soviet KV1 Heavy Tank from the bottom of the Don River. There are only a few surviving KV1s in museums today. The tank will be conserved and exhibited at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow.
MMORPG.com: What is the motivation behind becoming involved in restoration efforts?
Tracy Spaight: We believe that we do well by doing good – and our players appreciate our work on historical projects. The Wargaming.net team includes former and active duty military personnel, military historians, old school wargamers, and plastic model makers. We care about history and want to see these vehicles preserved.
Moreover, many of us grew up listening to the stories of our grandparents who served in WW2. In the U.S., Tom Brokaw called them simply ‘The Greatest Generation.’ With each passing year, there are fewer and fewer of them left. They drove the tanks, flew the planes, and sailed the ships that brought victory. Their heroism and sacrifices ensured that we live in a better world. So by recovering and conserving these vehicles, we are honoring their memory and helping to tell the stories of WW2 for the next generation.
MMORPG.com: How are projects selected? Does Wargaming solicit referrals from museums or does it go out on its own looking for potential opportunities?
Tracy Spaight: Over the past few years, we have developed a network of museum curators, archivists, archaeologists, and historians who pass along interesting projects. But we don’t just sit around waiting for opportunities. We actively read aviation history blogs and archaeology journals, attend museum conferences, and talk with restoration experts about potential projects.
MMORPG.com: Recently, Wargaming announced the German Maus preservation project. Tell us a bit about the history of the Maus and more about the effort behind its restoration. Who is involved in its restoration and where will it be housed when it is complete?
Tracy Spaight: Wargaming is working with experts at the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow to restore the world’s only surviving Maus Tank. The Maus or Panzer VIII was designed by Ferdinand Porsche. This super tank weighed an astonishing 188 tons. The armor was so thick that it was all but impervious to anything else on the battlefield – provided the tank could get there! The tank’s enormous weight made it impossible to traverse bridges. It was not fast (about 8 mph) and had a limited range (39 miles off road).
The prototype Maus – without a turret or gun – was completed in December 1943. The second prototype, this time complete with a turret and armament, was delivered in the spring of 1944. Plans to produce 150 Maus tanks were canceled in the fall of 1944, since none of Hitler’s generals were enthused about its prospects. The prototypes spent the war at the army’s weapon testing facilities just outside of Berlin. They were both called up to aid in the defense of Berlin in 1945. The first prototype (designated 205/1), still without a turret, came along to support the completed Maus in case the later got stuck. The second prototype (designated 205/2) expired in front of the headquarters of the Oberkommando des Heeres (Supreme High Command of the German Army), where it was blown up with charges. 205/2 was extensively damaged so the Soviets took the turret from 205/2 and fitted it to the hull of 205/1. They brought the tank back to Moscow for study, and finally brought it to Kubinka, where it remains today.
Wargaming.net plans to work with restoration experts to rebuild the engine and tank treads so that the Maus Panzer VIII will run once more.
Here is a link to the video announcement: