Sevellon Brown.

The story of ordnance in the World War online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibrarySevellon BrownThe story of ordnance in the World War → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Story of Ordnance in the
World IV ar



Copyright, 1920

by

Sevellon Brown

and

James William Bryan



THE STORY

OF

ORDNANCE

IN THE

WORLD WAR



By SEVELLON BROWN

Sometime Captain, Ordnance Dept., U. S. A.



With a Foreword in appreciation of the contribution

by American Industry and Science to

the winning of the World War

By
MAJOR GENERAL C. C. WILLIAMS

Chief of Ordnance, U. S. A.



JAMES WILLIAM BRYAN PRESS
Washington, D. C.



\>f



)



7*



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

Page

Major General Clarence C. Williams 12

Depicting An Infantry Advance 30

A Creation of Ordnance 40

A Park of 155 m. m. Howitzers 50

A 155 m. m. Howitzer in Action 60

Quantity Production in Caissons 62

Railway Guns in Action 72

Twelve-inch Gun Firing 82

Eight-inch Seacoast Gun 92

Artillery Ammunition Forgings 102

Types of Tanks 104

Grenades 114

Browning Machine Guns 124

Automatic Pistol 134

Views of 75 m. m. Shell. . 136

Artillery Repair with the A. E. F 146



CONTENTS.

Page

Foreword by Major General C. C. Williams 13

The Story of Ordnance 21

Artillery 43

Mobile Field Artillery 52

The Redoubtable 75 53

Our Own Product 56

The 155-Millimeter Howitzer 57

The 155-Millimeter Gun 65

The British Howitzer 68

The 240-m. m. Howitzer Project 69

Antiaircraft Guns 77

Mounting the Coast and Naval Guns 78

Railway Artillery Projects 78

Artillery Ammunition 87

Propellants and Explosives 94

Fire Control 98

Motor Equipment 106

Trench Warfare 109

The Story of the U. S. Rifle 116

The Story of the Machine Gun 120

Pistols and Revolvers 130

Small Arms Ammunition 132

Nitrates 140

Ordnance "Over There" 142

Roster and Addresses of Officers of Ordnance 153



425451




MAJOR GENERAL CLARENCE C.WILLIAMS, U. S. A.
Chief of Ordnance




Foreword

By

MAJOR GENERAL C. C. WILLIAMS, U. S. A.
CHIEF OF ORDNANCE

HE PROBLEM of Ordnance in the World
War was the problem of mobilization and co-
ordination of science and industry with the
military establishment. The scope of our
effort was as broad as American industry,
and it reached to the foundations of scientific
research and knowledge. Although the
Ordnance Department did not monopolize
either field, it is safe to say that no other component of the war
machine carried its responsibilities and effort as to design and
invention, or production, into so many channels, or projected them
upon so vast a scale.

Our undertaking was, indeed, at once so varied and so pro-
digious that few persons could possess the knowledge to pass
judgment upon it intelligently. I remember upon one occasion
listening to the complaint of a fellow officer anent the lack of sym-
pathy entertained by the public for the work of our corps. It was
during the days that the Browning gun was "on paper." Another
officer present picked up from my desk a paper-weight made of a
seventy-five millimeter shrapnel shell cross-sectioned. Turning
the smoothly machined exterior of the steel jacketed shell toward
him, he said, "General, this is what the public sees of our product.
But this is what that product really is." Quickly he turned toward
him the cross-section revealing the interior mechanism of the shell ;



[13]



W? Story* gf Ordnance in the "World War



seventy-three component parts made with all the precision and
delicacy of a watch.

But not only must we expect the public to fail in understanding
of the scope and difficulty of our work. Do we not know, our-
selves, from actual experience that extremely few officers of the
corps could embrace the entire field ; could give of their own knowl-
edge a worth while opinion of how well or how poorly we meas-
ured up to the whole job. Each man knew his own specialty ; knew
the progress of his branch, section, division, or plant, or the few
items of materiel included within his work. But only an extremely
few could view the entire field, from tanks and tractors through
field artillery and railway artillery, trench mortars, pyrotechnics,
small arms and grenades to clinometers, alidades, protractors, steel
helmets and harness. When your problem is the production of
200,000 separate components in more than 5,000 different plants,
with those parts or items ranging from feed bags and star shells to
complete trains of railway artillery, the judge who can competently
say what your progress has been must indeed have a profound
knowledge of the field.

It was my fortunate experience to view the work of our corps
both in France and at home. For the first ten months of the war I
was with the American Expeditionary Force. For the rest of the
time it was my duty to keep in constant review the fruits of your
labor at home. Of such knowledge I say that you did exceedingly
well and that I am proud to have worked with you in this war.

I say this utterly without thought of any personal responsibility
for that success. The tribute is not to me. It is not alone to the
Army Ordnance Department of the regular establishment nor to
the Ordnance officers of the Temporary Army. It is to American in-
dustry and engineering, to American science, that the credit for this
achievement must be given. It was American industry and
science that were on trial. The ninety-seven officers of the Ord-
nance Department of the regular Army and the government
arsenals they administered could never have dominated this



[14]



*©e Story" sf Ordnance in the World War



work; have won the success or caused the failure of the 5,000 of-
ficers from civilian life and the 5,000 private industrial plants that
were incorporated in the organization for the period of the war.
The enlistment of industry, equally with the draft of man-power,
was a success. And for that I thank you, the administrative
directors and the engineering advisors of American industry who
came into the service of the Ordnance Department during the war.

It is probable that the Army Ordnance Department exercised
direction over a greater physical power than was ever concen-
trated upon a single purpose in the history of the world. The
happy attainment of our objectives in the war within nineteen
months gave insufficient time for the complete development of that
power. Proper strategy required the projection of the Ordnance
program upon a scale designed to secure an ultimate, overwhelm-
ing and continuous rate of production rather than a lesser rate of
production at an earlier date. Obviously a housewife could buy an
oven and bake six loaves of bread in less time than a bakery could
be built and provision made for the needs of an entire city. But
the rate of production from the housewife's oven would never feed
the city. The Ordnance objective was a rate of production ade-
quate for an Army of 5,000,000 men. That program was dictated
to the Ordnance Department by the General Staff in accordance
with its man-power program. To win that objective we had to
allot time for the building of plants capable of such rate of pro-
duction. We had to obtain designs and even, where necessary, dis-
card existing designs, to get manufacturing methods on a basis
permitting of such rate of production. We could not sacrifice pro-
duction in 1920 to force a quicker but lesser rate of production in
1918. We were building to make ultimate victory absolutely cer-
tain and there never was a moment when the Ordnance program
did not guarantee the ultimate defeat of Germany.

Under such a policy it was inevitable that the attainment of
victory within nineteen months would leave the Ordnance program
unfinished in certain respects. However, within that period we



[15]



^e Story if Ordnance in the World War



effected the complete mobilization and perfected the co-ordination
of science and industry with the war machine, we produced muni-
tions of certain classes in unprecedented quantities, we developed
and supplied materiel of such superior design as to receive the
praise of our allies and the acknowledgment of our foes and we
stood ready, during the month the armistice was signed, to turn on
the taps at full force that had been made ready to provide a flow of
munitions such as no nation had ever attempted. The fact that the
American munitions program alone was greater than that which
Germany could attempt after thirty years of preparation for war is
apparently little realized in this country. But I have no doubt that
it was realized in Germany and that such realization substantially
contributed to victory by its reaction upon the minds of the military
masters of the German empire.

I repeat, this achievement and this contribution to victory is
more largely to be laid to man-power and brain-power mobilized in
the service of the Ordnance Department than to any other single
source. Your reward for service to country might well be in your
realization that your ability was a part of the composite mind
which, at the moment of victory was bringing forth the strength
of thousands of industrial plants and the might of millions of
American workmen and workwomen, to transmit that incalculable
force three thousand miles oversees to Chateau Thierry and St.
Mihiel. Nor could the power of our country have been made effec-
tive except as this composite mind harnessed science and industry
in the service of the war machine.

The design of Ordnance is a highly specialized science and its
production a highly specialized industry. As a science it possesses
a history of research and experimentation that reaches back hun-
dreds of years beyond the earliest dates recorded in other fields of
scientific knowledge applied in modern industry. The mastery of
Ordnance design requires a command of that mass of scientific
fact. It requires the devotion of a life-time of study and research
to the science and it is utterly impossible to improvise a master in



[16]



^e Story gf Ordnance in the World War



Ordnance design, no matter how well equipped with general scien-
tific or engineering knowledge your candidate may be. In the
United States knowledge of the science of Ordnance was confined
to a very few men, hardly more than a score were available for the
design of Ordnance who could qualify as experts in the broad field
it was necessary to cover.

The art and industry of Ordnance production was equally
restricted in the United States before its entrance into the war.
The production of Ordnance materiel, with the exception of small
arms, was practically limited to the six government arsenals
and two private plants. How restricted a field of production this
was is shown by the fact that at the time of the signing of the
armistice there were 5,000 plants throughout the United States
working on direct contracts for the production of Ordnance mate-
riel. The restriction was the greater also because conditions and
methods in the government arsenals differed so greatly from those
obtaining with private enterprise.

The problem of the Ordnance Department was to nationalize
this specialized science and industry, to apply it in a field where it
could absorb and employ the knowledge and talent of scientists,
engineers and industrial experts from all sections of the country
and from many different channels of industry. That was the first
and most difficult step. That accomplished and the directing organ-
ization established, it was possible to concentrate the incalculable
power of industrial America upon the production of munitions for
the winning of the war.

How was this accomplished? By the devotion to duty of the
six thousand commissioned officers who served during the war in
the Ordnance Department. As I have said it is impossible to
improvise an Ordnance expert. Engineers who had won fame
and success in private enterprise and were masters in their
field came into the Ordnance Department, frequently with a rank
far below their deserts, and willingly confined their effort to some
task proportionate to but a fraction of the problem they had mas-



[17]



W? Story* gf Ordnance in the World War



tered in their own field. Without hope of proper reward they
labored to make whatever contribution they could to their
country's cause. Thus we secured our improvised "experts" in Ord-
nance design, by squeezing within a narrow compass in the field
of our specialty the broad and commanding knowledge of these
scientists and engineers from other fields.

From the industrial field we received a generous contribution of
the best ability of the country. Men came to unfamiliar tasks, to
buy and procure unfamiliar materials in markets where no supply
existed. Without a lamp or a ring they had to produce Aladdin's
genii to bring forth these hundred thousand separate items of fight-
ing materiel. They had to provide plants, to teach methods which
they, themselves, often had to learn anew. The personnel had to
be improvised to care for the inspection of this prodigious volume
of varied material, to prove it with firing tests at Aberdeen and
elsewhere, to develop it from the first model through to the point
of successful quantity production. The intricate problem of
supply to armies in the field had to be worked out, largely by a
personnel new to the task.

When I survey the extent of that labor you performed in your
country's interest, I deplore the inadequacy of any tribute it is
within my power to pay your service.

This volume is a souvenir of your service, a remembrance of
the past, yet in writing the foreword of it I want also to speak of
the future. Your labor was no less for the security of your country
in the emergency now passing than for its safety in the future. For
if we happily have ended wars by the winning of this one, your con-
tribution to that victory has given your country security; and, if
war hereafter should prove unavoidable for our country, then the
lesson you have learned, the knowledge you have acquired in your
labor, should safeguard the nation against the danger of ever again
entering upon a great war without knowing how to shift indus-
trial power quickly to war channels. With the ability to effect that
transition quickly, with adequate provision for it made in advance



[18]



*®e Story~ gf Ordnance in the World War



of the emergency, I should never fear for the safety of our country.
But lack of preparedness in that respect will ever be our country's
greatest weakness and gravest danger so long as the possibility of
war exists. Avoidance of that danger lies largely in the possibility
of continuing a proper contact between that branch of the military
establishment charged with the provision of munitions and the
industrial world. If that contact is to be maintained it must be
largely through your interest.

Therefore, I ask you, when you return to civil life, strive to
retain a consciousness of this problem we have faced together dur-
ing the war. You have come to realize that as scientists, engineers,
directing forces in the field of industry, yours is the command of
a source of power that is vital to your country in time of war.
Stand ready to return to your posts and so keep fresh your interest
in the military establishment, especially as regards its contact with
industry, that you will always be an influence to keep your country
prepared for the transition whenever it becomes necessary.




[19]



The Story of Ordnance




HEN JAMES WATT, pondering upon the
power that lifted the lid from his mother's
tea kettle, first formulated those principles
which today underlie the construction of
steam engines, the science of Ordnance was

hoary with age. Its roots ramble back to
the days of catapults, bows and arbalests.
The wisdom of ancient China advanced it
♦to a stage we can only conjecture, for it
antedates authentic historical record. When was the birth of the
science of Ordnance is lost to the knowledge of man.

Ordnance has remained an isolated science throughout the ages.
Its child, ballistics, the science of the motion of projectiles, has
little if anything in common with the sciences applied in modern
industry. The calculation of stresses with artillery and the for-
mulae of explosives and propellants bear little kinship to knowl-
edge in other branches of physics and chemistry. In its industrial
processes Ordnance travels far from the beaten path. For example,
since steel is used in the manufacture of cannon, as it is in bridges
and skyscrapers, and the United States is a great producer of steel,
it was expected by many, that it would during the war, become a
great producer of cannon with little difficulty. But the steel of
cannon is subject to pressures incomparably greater than those
encountered in the ordinary uses of steel. So to forge cannon steel
the vast equipment of industry must be put aside and a special



[21]



Ws Story gf Ordnance in the World War



press provided that does not hammer, but, with vastly greater
pressure squeezes and anneals the huge ingots. Special processes
are employed for the cooling and tempering of the steel. The
cannon is built up, tube upon tube. One steel jacket is shrunk
upon another. It is wire wound so tightly that its normal state
is abnormal contraction. Thus is the steel made to withstand
extreme pressures. But the beaten path of industrial process is
left almost at the outset in this strange manner of fitting steel for
use in cannon. The standard tools and equipment of industry are
almost useless here. The task is unlike any taught by the industry
of peace.

When resort to force is made the reliance of national existence,
the science of Ordnance is a priceless jewel. But it is without value
save to wage war. The proficiency of any nation in this strange
science therefore is proportionate to its devotion to the art of war.
To become experts in Ordnance men must give their lives to master-
ing the principles of a science uncovered by thousands of years of
experimentation and when mastered they can find no other use
for this knowledge than in the service of their country for the sole
purpose of making war, except in the very limited field of muni-
tions production for commercial purposes. The most superficial
consideration of the history of the United States since the days
of the War of the Rebellion must convince one that its political
atmosphere offered little to encourage development in the science
of Ordnance or the dissemination of knowledge anent Ordnance to
any considerable number of American citizens. The fact is. not a
handful of them were instructed in it. Practically nothing what-
ever was done to so connect Ordnance with the industries of peace
that the national industrial strength could be absorbed for the
production of ordnance materiel in time of war.

On April 1st, 1917, fifteen Ordnance officers sat at desks in four
rooms of the War Department. Outside of Washington were
eighty-two other Ordnance officers, for the most part divided



[22]



We Story" gf Ordnance in the World War



among the eleven government arsenals that produced all the muni-
tions for the United States Army. This staff of men possessed
practically all the knowledge of the science of Ordnance that was
at the command of the War Department. They were not the heads
of the organization. They were the whole organization.

On April 7th, 1917, Congress declared war against the Imperial
German Government. This staff of ninety-seven officers running
the eleven Government arsenals, became an organization of 5,800
commissioned officers directing the production of munitions in
5,000 main plants on a scale that called for the completion within
two years and three months, of an Ordnance program involving
the expenditure of thirteen billions of dollars or one half the
amount spent by the United States Government for every purpose
whatsoever from the date of its foundation until April 6th, 1917,
including the total costs of the Revolution, the War of 1812, the
War of the Rebellion, the Spanish War and all others. And all
this within the high-walled science that scarce rubbed elbows with
the industrial world. Had ninety percent of this organization been
called upon to master the Chinese language in the nineteen months
we were at war with Germany, the task would have been easier
than the one set them.

Let us consider what was their specific responsibility, that is to
say the materiel they were to design, produce and distribute. An
appreciation of this cannot be better given the laymen than in the
words of John H. VanDeventer who wrote in Colliers' Weekly:

"What is Ordnance ? A storming battalion was going over the
top. The men had steel helmets, hand grenades, bayonets and
service rifles. Their rifle cartridges were held in clips and carried
in ammunition belts. The officers, automatic pistols in hand went
forward fearlessly. Phosphorous grenades were being thrown into
suspected dugouts, forcing their choking occupants, hands up, into
the open. Some of the boys were 'digging in' with intrenching tools
A trench periscope was stuck in the side of a shell crater, enabling
its' occupants safely to observe the movements of the enemy. All
of these implements were furnished by Ordnance.



[23]



e &e Story" gf Ordnance in the World War



"Machine guns searched out the enemy, firing nickle- jacketed
bullets at the rate of 600 a minute. Each gun, light enough to be
carried by one man, developed more power than a racing auto-
mobile. Up came the ammunition boxes containing the cartridge
belts. One battery of machine guns was carrying on 'indirect fire/
By means of panoramic sights, clinometers, transits, angle-of -sight
instruments, alidades, squares, protractors and special rulers the
gunners aimed these weapons at their unseen target. Back of the
machine-gun operators were the carts and voiturettes, ready to re-
ceive the guns, tripods water boxes and empty ammunition boxes
and hurry them away to another location. All of this material
came from Ordnance.

"Miniature cannon, the 37 millimeter 'machine gun extermina-
tors' were wheeled into position where their one pound projectiles,
resembling overgrown rifle cartridges, destroyed the enemy's ma-
chine-gun nests. These guns, their ammunition, and their auxilliary
equipment, the whole involving over 2,500 separate components,
were from Ordnance.

"A barrage was being thrown from our light field guns of 75
millimeter calibre. Tons of shell were required for this barrage
and every fifteen pounds, representing a single round, was a com-
plicated mechanism provided by Ordnance, comprising seventy-
three separate and distinct component parts and embodying the
highest developments of science and skill. Back of these light
field guns were the miscellaneous vehicles; tractors, ammunition
wagons, caissons, limbers, supply trucks — 264 of them to the artil-
lery regiment. All of them were from Ordnance, as were the feed
bags, horse covers, bridle sets, brushes, saddletrees, straps, harness
sets, etc., that outfitted such horses as were used.

"Out of the smoke lumbered the tanks — crawling forts, built
and armed by Ordnance. Overhead our fighting planes started
out. The machine guns that armed them, the mounts on which
these guns were placed, the synchronizing mechanism that enabled
them to shoot through the propellor path without hitting a blade,



[24]



t &e Story* gf Ordnance in the World War*



the electric warmer that kept the oil in the guns from freezing, the
counting device that told how many shots were left in the belt, the
special incendiary armor-piercing bullets and their special dis-
integrating cartridge belts — all of them came from Ordnance.

"Infantrymen were throwing rifle grenades. Fitted to the
muzzles of their rifles were miniature mortars which held the gre-
nades so accurately that the rifle bullet which passed through the
central hole in the grenade and which ignited its primer continued
onward with hardly lessened velocity toward the enemy, followed
by the grenade itself. A battery of trench mortars were hurling
somersaulting shells filled with deadly TNT, each fitted with a
fuse that would detonate by impact no matter in what position it
struck. Flying overhead were the heavier trench mortar bombs,
each of them carrying ninety pounds of high explosive. Little and
big, these bombs and the mortars that projected them came from
Ordnance. Batteries of 155-millimeters (6 inch) howitzers, out-
ranging the enemy's light field guns were pouring forth their fire
of destruction. Some of them mounted directly upon motorized
Ordnance tractors, and climbed in and out of seemingly impossible
ditches, stopped, fired their shot and again proceeded. Portable


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibrarySevellon BrownThe story of ordnance in the World War → online text (page 1 of 22)