The Story Behind The Tank Arnold Schwarzenegger Got For Free

There are things in life that just seem to fit together perfectly. Macaroni and cheese. Thunder and lightning. Arnold Schwarzenegger and tanks.

Long before he was the "Governator" of California, prior to the "Austrian Oak" becoming the world-famous action star he is today, and even before he was winning Mr. Olympia bodybuilding titles, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger was in the Austrian Army learning to drive tanks.

His fascination with the big armored combat vehicle started when he was a child growing up in Thal, Austria. During an interview with Graham Bensinger in 2016, he recalled that the British occupied the region near his home after WWII and routinely drove by his house in big trucks and tanks. Soldiers would jump out and scan the area with their binoculars making sure the coast was clear, then move along.

As the occupying force, these soldiers were trained to reach out to the Austrian community and treat them well so they wouldn't be considered enemies. Schwarzenegger said the British soldiers were always good to the kids. They gave them candy and put them up on top of the tanks so they could play around.

When he joined the Austrian Army at 18, Schwarzenegger naturally wanted to become a tanker. The one he trained in was theĀ 1951 M-47 Patton with an 810-horsepower Chrysler V12 twin-turbo gas engine. According to Arnold, the 50-ton beast is 28 feet long and 11 feet high, and it was initially built for use in the Korean War before it was given to the Austrian Army.

Arnie loves to crush things in his tank!

He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1965 and became who he is today. But, he never forgot that first tank.

In 1991 the "Terminator" star contacted the Austrian government to see if he could get his old track-wheeled training buddy back. They were old, obsolete, and outdated ... so why not? How could the Austrian government refuse their country's biggest star? He, of course, had to get permission from the United States government as well, but because he was the Chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports at the time and had political connections, it was a breeze. Schwarzenegger paid $20,000 to ship it to the United States (no doubt pocket change for him), but other than that, the tank was absolutely free.

So what did he do when he got it home? He crushed things, of course!

His did it to raise money for charity and funds for after-school programs, specifically disadvantaged or at-risk students in the Southern California area. In an interview with Jay Leno, Schwarzenegger said, "I bring kids out here from the after-school programs. When they stay in school, their reward is to come out here and drive tanks with me."

Using a tank as an incentive seems to have worked, as Schwarzenegger has raised millions of dollars over the years for his After School All Stars program.