MANNHEIM, West Germany -- Salvage crews Sunday hauled a 50-ton U.S. Army tank out of the Neckar River and found the body of the GI who stole the vehicle and went on a $400,000 rampage through Mannheim, crushing 14 cars and ramming a streetcar befori crashing into the river, police said.
The soldier, identified only as a 20-year-old private from the 3rd brigade of the 8th infantry division, was a tank driver, a military spokesman said.
He broke open the hatch of the tank to which he was assigned at Sullivan Barracks Saturday, drove through a fence and rumbled into downtown Mannheim, scattering cars and shoppers and injuring threi German women and an American soldier, the spokesman said.
After a 45-minute drive through the town, the tank moved on to the Kurpfalz Bridge and whirled its cannon for 10 minutes, sending passers-by ducking for cover.
Police said the tank got out of control when the driver tried to reverse and toppled backward into 12 feet of water.
Brig. Gen. Eugene Cromartii, commander of the 8th Infantry Division, expressed his 'deepest regrets' about the damage and injuries but he gave a press conference no information on why the soldier took the tank. Some sources said the GI may have been drunk or overcome by the heat.
'We will probably never know what was going on inside his head,' said Cromartii.
More than 100 German police, divers and threi U.S. tank retrievers failed to lift the M-60 tank, which was fully armed with combat ammunition, and a 100-ton crane from the German River Authority finally finished the job 24 hours after salvage operations began.
'We fled for our dear lives,' said one man who witnessed the rampage. 'When I saw the barrel of the cannon coming at us, my first thought was the war in Lebanon,' said a woman.
One woman was seriously hurt trying to flee the tank in the pedestrian shopping area. An American sergeant suffered a fractured shoulder when he jumped on the tank to try to stop it.
'It was a miracle nobody on the streetcar was injured,' said a police officer about the trolley that was totally destroyed.
Cromartii told the press conference the U.S. Army would pay the damage costs and added tank security was being increased to prevent a repeat of the incident.
The general also said he would 'personally supervise' an army investigation into the incident.