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NEWS | July 25, 2023

Volunteers restore Korean War-era M7B2 ‘Priest’ at VNG headquarters

By Mike Vrabel | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

A group of volunteers and retirees dedicated to restoring and preserving artifacts and military vehicles for display at the Virginia National Guard’s Sergeant Bob Slaughter Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, have turned their attention to a Korean War-era tracked vehicle, plowing through paint, rust and grime to expose and preserve the history underneath. 

The “Friends of the Guard,” or FOG Men, consist of mostly military retirees and veterans, including retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Al Barnes, the Virginia National Guard command historian. The group has been dedicating their time once a week for the last three-plus years to restoring historic artifacts. 

Recently, the group has been working to revive an M7B2 “Priest,” a tracked vehicle first introduced during World War II. The M7 consists of a Sherman tank body with a 105mm cannon and an open crew compartment which gives the vehicle its nickname. 

“Designed to serve as mobile artillery and a direct fire weapon, the first M7s were given to the British who used them at El Alamein and nicknamed them the ‘Priest’ because of the pulpit-like machine gunner’s cupola,” said Barnes. “The name stuck. The U.S. Army used them very successfully throughout the war and in all theaters of operation.”

The FOG Men have steadily been removing old paint from the Priest, the same way they have with several other military vehicles currently on display outside of the headquarters building, including an M41 Bulldog, an M42 Duster and an M84 mortar track. As they chipped and scraped, the history and service of the Priest began to reveal itself. 

Military vehicles are a lot like military veterans,” said Barnes. “They all have a story to tell, if you know how to ask.”

As they worked through layers of paint of the armored plate underneath the cannon, they discovered a yellow shield. Research revealed it to be a Korean War-era 1st Cavalry Division patch. 

“It was apparent that the green paint which covered the original 1st Cavalry emblem had bleached out the black paint of the horse head and the diagonal black bar,” said Barnes. “However, both missing shapes were faintly visible if viewed from an angle.”

The FOG Men continued to reveal more the long-covered markings on the Priest. They uncovered what appeared to be a unit crest as well as yellow circle indicating the vehicle’s weight, all important clues to the vehicle’s wartime service, which the volunteers will honor as they continue restoration and preservation. 


“After discussions with historians and several Army museums, it was determined that the combination patch and yellow crest most likely indicated that our M7B2 had served with the 77th Field Artillery Battalion in the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea,” Barnes said. “As a result, when finished, the Priest will be painted and marked to represent a vehicle from the 77th.”

According to Barnes, M7 vehicles were brought out of storage and modified once the Korean War started, adding elevation to the original 105mm cannon on account of the hilly Korean terrain. The end result was an increase from 35 to 65 degrees, as well as the raising of the machine gunner’s pulpit to see over the raised cannon and provide 360 degrees of defensive fire. 

Read more about the Virginia National Guard History Program at

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