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Vehicles Honor Military Service

Midwest Old Threshers Reunion displays pay tribute to American troops.

| April 2018

  • Signatures of veterans cover every square inch of the Farmall. The tractor was to be clear-coated before winter in an effort to preserve the signatures.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This Farmall Model M transcends the normal role of old iron in serving as a sort of mobile memorial to American military veterans. “They’re happy to see it,” says Dakota Buchanan, one of the restorers, “and be a part of it.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Cole Wilson, Dakota Buchanan and A.J. Killen (left to right) joined forces to restore a 1951 Farmall Model M as a memorial to American military veterans.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The names of Iowa soldiers still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Eric Hosette’s 1972 Case 570 military tug was in decent condition when he got it. “It just shows normal wear and tear,” he says. “I don’t think it’s ever been overhauled.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Original lettering on the Case 570 is barely visible.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • When purchased new by the state of Iowa, this 1928 Caterpillar 2-ton crawler was outfitted with special rubber tracks produced by Firestone. In the late 1970s, the crawler was restored by the 224th Engineer Battalion of the Iowa National Guard. It is now part of the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion’s permanent collection.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This Willys jeep was already restored when Paul Reese and a friend, Jimmy Spears, Martinsburg, Iowa, purchased it. The restorer applied 1955 decals, but the unit’s title says 1956, so that’s the year Paul goes with.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

More than 1,000 antique tractors were displayed at the 2017 Midwest Old Threshers Reunion. But only one served as a memorial to American military veterans. Had it been left original, the 1951 Farmall Model M would be lucky to get a second look. Fully restored to like-new condition, it might have caused a few onlookers to slow their pace.

But clad in a fresh coat of gleaming black paint and bearing the names of Iowa’s POW/MIA soldiers from the Vietnam era, the Model M commanded attention.

The tractor was a summer project for three Iowa teenagers. Classmates A.J. Killen, Dakota Buchanan and Cole Wilson, all 17 and all of Carlisle, Iowa, joined forces on what would be their first solo restoration.

When Mike Killen, A.J.’s dad, bought the tractor at an auction, he had a donor tractor in mind. The Farmall was not, perhaps, the best candidate for restoration. It showed more than a little wear, and its head gasket was blown. But then the kids got involved, and everything changed.

The boys spent a day putting on a new head. When they got it running again, on July 3, they celebrated by entering the Farmall in the local July 4 parade. “The tractor was red on the Fourth of July,” A.J. says. “We finished it just before the Warren County fair at the end of July.”

Honoring their service

The Farmall then began to take shape as a memorial to Iowa soldiers identified as POW/MIA from the Vietnam War. It was no random decision. Mike’s cousin, John D. Killen, was 19 in 1967 when he was reported missing during active duty in Vietnam. Mike conducted research and came up with a list of Iowa soldiers still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, and the decision was made to paint the list of 24 names – and that of John Killen – on the tractor.


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

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