These words are spoken by Ronald Rowland in a YouTube video taken in 2012 in Conneaut, Ohio, during a D-Day ceremony:
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen. If you would cover your ears we’re going to do a … fire in the hole!”
A loud boom can be heard about seven seconds later, followed immediately by a big puff of smoke.
A man in the crowd can be heard saying, “Geez. Are you OK?” Then a young boy’s voice says, “What happened to it?”
Just before the 36-ton weapon fired off a blank round, Rowland ducked inside the turret of the M4A3E8 World War II Sherman tank and gave the local sheriff the go-ahead to pull the trigger on the 76-caliber Howitzer and let ‘er rip.
“I’m wearing ear protection and a helmet, just like the soldiers did,” Rowland said. “All I can hear is a boom, probably a third of what you hear. I’m in the loader’s side of the turret, making sure the public knows about it and locking everything. Everything gets locked up until we do the celebration. We cut our powder down quite a bit because of how close the crowd was.”
Rowland, 64, a 1969 graduate of Eastwood High School who now lives in Wapakoneta, has done this dozens of times – 11 events or so a year for 10 years. Rowland was raised near Lemoyne at a home, long since torn down, located at the U.S. 20/420 interchange.
Rowland and the Sherman tank appeared at the Plane Fun Festival on June 13-15 at Toledo Executive Airport next to Lake High School.
The tank was originally built in 1944 and never saw combat, according to Rowland. It was acquired by the Allen County Historical Society in Lima in 1957 and was displayed outside the Allen County Museum until 1987, when volunteers from Lima's Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (maker of the modern M1 Abrams tank) and the Lima Ford Engine Plant completely restored the Sherman to mint running condition, including a completely reconditioned “spare” engine.