The habitat restoration volunteers with the Ancient Oaks Foundation often come upon man-made items when they meet at various area oak woodlands to clear them of invasives. Tires, deteriorated oil drums, rusty broken-down swings sets, and even the occasional crack pipe have been unearthed during the groups 10-year-long effort to restore the health of these rare habitats. But one item really piqued their interest. In the winter of 2016, while clearing buckthorn from the middle of the Oak Ridge Marsh Nature Park, 500 Lions Drive in Lake Zurich, they came upon a partially buried metal pipe. Thinking it was just another construction cast-off, they pulled it out and discovered that it had some protrusions on it, almost like a gun trigger. AOF President Judi Thode took it home, cleaned it off, and after a bit of research thought that it might be a weapon of some kind. She put it in her garage, and there it remained.
A few weeks ago, Judi saw it again during some garage cleanup She decided to take it to the Ela Historical Society at 95 E. Main St. in Lake Zurich, where Ray Sykes and his crew of local historians looked it over. After some discussion and an internet search, they have determined that this is a WWII Panzerschrecker – a German rocket launcher!
The mystery deepens! How did this weapon get into a Midwest oak woodland? Did a WWII vet bring it home as a souvenir? Perhaps there was some kind of army or scout encampment nearby and this was accidentally left behind. The Historical Society has no record of such an encampment. If anyone has any information about this item or how it might have landed in the Nature Park, please contact the Ancient Oaks Foundation or the Ela Historical Society to share your insights.