At the time of his death from cancer in 2009, Littlefield was building his tank corps so quickly that it appeared he might be preparing to invade Palo Alto. Huge trucks hauled German Panzers, American-made Sherman tanks and the odd nuclear missile launcher to his hilltop ranch at a rate of one a week, forcing him to scatter some battle wagons around the 450 acre estate like armor-plated lawn jockeys. Most are operational, but some haven't moved in more than a decade.
These are big boy toys, so size matters. The heaviest and widest tank in the collection is the British Conqueror, a mighty beast at 72 tons. Adolf Hitler touched off World War II by invading Poland with an armada of lightweight Panzers -- also well represented in the collection -- but der Fuhrer always seemed to be overcompensating for something. As the war widened, he pushed the size of some Nazi tanks to 120 tons. "It was a really stupid idea," Boller says, because the Allies soon were meeting every German supertank with lightning quick columns of rolling thunder.
Some 75 to 80 vehicles from Littlefield's vast motor pool will make up the core collection at the new museum. The jewel of the camo-colored crown, which is headed for the museum after Littlefield spent seven years restoring it, is a Panzer V that is believed to have been in retreat from the Russian front when it attempted to cross a frozen river that turned out to be less frozen than the Germans thought. It sank to the bottom of the river, where it remained for 50 years, until it was meticulously restored, down to its cloth-coated wiring. Littlefield only lived long enough to see it fired up one time. Says Boller, "It was his pride and joy."