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calendar   Wednesday - March 02, 2011

Found It

UPDATE, 3 years later: I have been contacted by a Frenchman, Marc P., who informs me that all the ammunition for this gun was French, and that the shell in common regular use was the #2 HE one. Wikipedia shows a slight difference between the French #2 HE shell and an American #2 HE shell, so their implication is that American made ammunition of at least one type did exist.

Marc also feels that ammunition would have been issued by plan and/or agreement. While I can’t disagree with that, I am confident that soldiers, Doughboys or Poilu, would have scrounged up whatever ammo they could find, regardless of any high level plans in Paris or DC. “Lend Lease” plus “nobody’s looking”.

Also, Marc informs me that the common name for the little gun was the “37”, even among French troops.

Ah, the mysteries of history.

*******************************************************************************************************************

Back when I was a small schoolboy, about the time that the dinosaurs were sucking down their last breaths, our school encouraged reading by selling us books on the cheap. Doubleday, Penguin, Pocket and several other publishers I’m sure, would get the schools to hand out order forms to us, with brief descriptions and pictures of the books for sale. Even for those days, the prices were amazing. 10¢, 15¢, 25¢ paperbacks, hardcover editions for $2 or something like that. The publishers sold the books in bulk, the school got a little slice for acting as middleman, and us kids pestered our parents for 2 to 5 bucks and were able to build our own libraries. This was long before that RIF program, back in the days when schools actually were underfunded and were always on an austerity budget. We had to make our own covers for our textbooks from grocery bags, and often had to glue the books we were issued back together so they’d last another season after we gave them back. Those were your textbooks thank you, and your folks (and your backside when dad got home!!) were responsible for keeping them in good condition.

These were the days before PC, when a boy’s interest in the military and it’s technology was not only allowed but encouraged. From all the books my brother and I owned, I can only remember one cover distinctly. It was titled something along the lines of The United States In World War One and told that story from a highly patriotic viewpoint. The red white and blue cover had this picture on it:


image



I never knew if those were soldiers or marines, or where the picture was from. I only knew that those were Our Boys, Over There, and that image has stuck with me my entire life. Once every second or third blue moon that image floats up in my memory, and, as I always do, I wonder what kind of little cannon those men were firing. I never knew. And I was one of the boys who devoured the entire C.B. Colby series - an author who wrote 93 books on hunting, camping, and militaria for children. Not only did our little school library have most of these books, which were little more than arms catalogs with pictures and descriptions, they kept them down on the lower shelves where small boys could easily reach them. Like I said, this was long before PC. But even the great CB never enlightened me on that one.

Today I found it. Our dauntless doughboys above are using the M1916 37 mm pack howitzer, a tiny little cannon borrowed from the French, who knew it by the simple name of Canon d’Infanterie de 37 modèle 1916TRP ( tir rapide, Puteaux ). Try getting that mouthful out when somebody is shooting at you.

image

It was a neat little gun designed for taking out machine gun nests and other small fortifications, and it worked rather well. Actually it worked much better once the Yanks got a hold of it and replaced the silly French solid iron bullet with a nice little exploding shell. Think of it as a 1 1/4 pounder. While the M1916 could fire off 20-30 shots a minute, it was range limited to about a mile because the gun didn’t have much elevation adjustment. But it wasn’t designed for that. It was designed to work like a giant rifle and save your squad. And it was designed to be used when you were face down in the mud. The whole gun is barely 2 feet tall and weighs only 240 pounds. 4 men can pick it up and run with it. With all the doo-dads attached, which include wheels, an iron flash hider, and a bit of armor shield, it’s still light enough so that one mule or horse can run all day while towing it along. All of this adds up to a pretty darn good idea, even if it was invented by the froggies. Take off the wheels and a front leg folds down, making a nice little tripod, which puts the gun even closer to the ground.

image

M1916 with all doo-dads attached

Note the top edge of the picture on the placard. It’s the photo from the top of this post, cropped.

The US Army kept this one for a number of years after the war, but like everything else the changing specifications eventually sent it to the great olive green scrap heap. It was always a low velocity gun, so it was not at all effective against any kind of armor. By WWII it had been replaced by the high velocity M3 anti-tank gun on the one hand, and on other hand, when things like Jeeps were invented, by the 75mm M1A1 pack Howitzer. The M3 had more than double the range of the M1916 and could kill light tanks, and the M1A1 had triple the range plus 10 times the boom power. But it wasn’t until the TOW style shoulder launched missiles of the 1980s that our soldiers would again have a small and accurate system that could deliver a significant explosive charge to targets a mile away, that they could pick up and carry.

sources:
an awesome page with great info and pictures
source of two great pictures
you can still buy ammo for it! Compare the size of the case against the one for the WWII M3
Wiki entry
check this one out: in 1931 the Army figured out how to shoot these things indoors, training on 30 foot ranges to save money!


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 03/02/2011 at 03:16 PM   
Filed Under: • Guns and Gun Control •  
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