'We were all kind of stunned': Historic military vehicle stolen from national forest

An undated photo of a historic half-track military vehicle within Dixie National Forest. U.S. Forest Service officials say the vehicle was stolen Friday or Saturday.

An undated photo of a historic half-track military vehicle within Dixie National Forest. U.S. Forest Service officials say the vehicle was stolen Friday or Saturday. (U.S. Forest Service)

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BOULDER, Garfield County — Forest rangers aren't exactly sure when an 81- to 85-year-old half-track military vehicle ended up being stashed in the Dixie National Forest, or who put it there — and, now, it's disappearance is a new mystery for the U.S. Forest Service.

The federal agency is asking for help locating the historic half-track after it was illegally "removed" from the Boulder Mountain Row Lakes area of the forest Friday or Saturday.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Naomi Gordon told KSL.com that a Forest Service officer noticed the vehicle was missing while patrolling Saturday. There were some vehicle tracks left behind, but she said officers weren't able to figure out what type of vehicle left the marks.

"We were all kind of stunned because how do you move one of those things? ... It's monster huge," she said. "We cannot figure out how somebody moved it."

The half-track was one of a little more than 15,000 the White Motor Company manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense between 1939 and 1943, as the country entered World War II. Each was designed with enough space for a driver, a gunner and a front-seat passenger, as well as six additional passengers.

Forest rangers don't know exactly how it ended up in the Boulder Mountain Row Lakes area or how it was used likely after the war, but it may have been placed there five or six decades ago.

The Insider, a local newspaper in the region, reported in 2017 the vehicle was purchased and brought to the region to help with logging efforts in Boulder Mountain during the 1950s. One of the men explained to the outlet the vehicle was left there in 1954 after it suffered engine failure as the team tried to move it off the mountain through heavy snow. It had been there ever since.

Either way, what is clear is it had been there for long enough that it had become Forest Service property and an archaeological piece of the land. Therefore it was protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.

It also became a popular spot for family pictures over the years.

Gordon said the Forest Service was also in the process of getting the site added to the National Register of Historic Places partially because of the vehicle's history. It was currently going through the U.S. Forest Service's "archaeological process" and the site was determined to be eligible for the register.

That's why she says the theft is much more devastating for the agency.

"I don't think people realize how valuable archaeological sites are on forests in general," she said. "This is important to us."

Anyone who has information about the missing military vehicle is encouraged to call Robert Smith, the agency's lead investigator, at 775-420-1479; or email him at robert.smith5@usda.gov.


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Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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