Prague and Lima have been marking the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations this week through a number of events, including a ceremony in Lima preceding the return of an historic Czechoslovak-built tank to the Czech Republic. The LTP 38, as it is known, was built for Peru in the 1930s, designed specifically for high terrain. Originally, there were 24 of the armoured fighting vehicles.
"The Czech Republic had sought the donation of one of these tanks that still existed in Peru. Finally, on Monday, the tank was donated in a ceremony by our Minister of Defence. The move came just as we are celebrating 90 years of diplomatic relations with first Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic, and that’s a good sign."
An agreement on the gift was signed two years earlier between the Military History Institute and the town of Mollendo, which owned the tank, in return for funding: a 50,000 US dollar donation for the building of a new library. The Czech Republic, on the other hand, will receive a military vehicle with a fascinating history.
The LTP 38s were delivered in 1938 and 1939 and were used to suppress a coup in Peru later in the year; they were also used in armed conflict between Peru and Ecuador in 1941. Before that, ahead of the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia in 1939, they stood ready for the defence of the republic but instead the troops were ordered to stand down. Under the name Panzerkampfwagen 38 (t), the same model was also used during the Second World War by Nazi Germany and fellow Axis forces.
In a past interview on the occasion of the signing of the original deal with Mollendo, the head of the Military History Institute Aleš Knížek said the tanks were exceptionally-well designed by ČKD, together with Škoda Plzeň (which provided the weapons system), and that the firm had beat out numerous competitors. The tanks were built specifically to operate as high up as 4,500 metres above sea level; a third of them still exist.
“I know of eight existing LTP tanks in Peru that I saw with my own eyes. Most of them are on pedestals and only two are complete, that means they have the engine and the transmission system intact. One is even still roadworthy and is used in traditional military parades in Lima. The Military Academy also has a large metal fresco honouring battles of the Peruvian army and that includes a depiction of the Czechoslovak-built tank.”
Military history buffs have plenty to look forward to: upon arrival in Prague, the Czech Republic’s newest acquisition will reportedly be exhibited for a year at the Military History Institute in Prague, after which it will be transferred to the institute’s museum in Lešany, where it will undergo restoration work. It will then be made part of the permanent exhibit.