During World War II, when Bulgaria joined the Axis powers in fighting the Soviet Union, they were given some 97 German Panzer IV tanks, about 100 Sturmgeschuetz III assault guns, and Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers.
After the war, around 100 of these had been buried on the Bulgarian southeastern border with Turkey as defensive positions as a Cold War deterrent to NATO’s southern flank. In 1974 the Bulgarian Army added a second defensive and over 100 Soviet T-34 tanks were buried.
When the Cold War ended, and the Warsaw Pact disappeared in 1991, the Army eventually forgot the tanks and their bunkers which were left abandoned and unguarded.
However, looters had not forgotten, and they eventually moved in and stripped the hulks of guns, hatches and sometimes whole turrets for scrap. Other parts have been sold to private collectors of German Tanks from all over the world.
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When in late 2007 a Jagdpanzer IV disappeared from the Lesovo region, the tanks suddenly came back into the limelight. The Bulgarian Army started to recover the tanks, many of which were now extremely rare and command prices in the millions of dollars by collectors.
The recovered tanks, most of those completely stripped have been put in army storage, but museum director Milenov said they had been promised they could choose which tanks to take for the military history museum.”
One of the recovered tanks was a Jagdpanzer IV L/48, of which only 6 are left in the world.
This video shows the result of the recovery operation, stunning pictures of tank wrecks that have since been under restoration.