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artillery and artillery ammunition. The United
States was in the war just nineteen months. In
four years we should have, and would have, bet-
tered Great Britain's record for her first four
years of war.


Te Story gf Ordnance in the World War

tated to the Ordnance Department by the General Staff was equiv-
alent to the expenditure of a dollar for every five seconds of the
time from the birth of Christ to the date of the signing of the
Armistice. In seeking lurid comparisons to indicate the size of the
ammunition output, an Ordnance officer became disgusted with
computations based upon the distance to Mars and was last heard
of seeking for a planet which really could show some class in its
distance from Mother Earth.

But the actual size of the Ordnance program was no greater
barrier to success than its relative size. The fulfillment of even
these stupendous requirements would be comparatively easy once
the rate of production was attained, and the real trick of perform-
ance lay in bridging the gap between the almost insignificant
rate of production of pre-war times and the rate of production
required for armies of millions of men at war. It is generally rec-
ognized by military men that one of the reasons why the Navy got
into its stride quicker than the Army was that the Navy operated
in time of peace more nearly upon a war basis and the ratio of
expansion of the Navy was but a fraction of that of the Army.
With no Department of the War Department was expansion so
extreme as with the Ordnance Department, for not only did Ord-
nance have to perform the task of increasing its production from
the supply of an Army of 100,000 men to one of 5,000,000 men
(the size of the Army determined upon by the General Staff) but
it had also to provide for an increase of Ordnance per man since
the individual consumption of Ordnance materiel in war is thou-
sands of time greater than in peace, whereas a man cannot eat
much more in war than he does in peace. Therefore, had Ord-
nance been supplying the individual soldier with as much rifle
ammunition in peace as he required in war, its task would have
been to increase production 50,000 times in order to supply the
Army of 5,000,000 men contemplated. But each soldier using such
ammunition required over 1,000 per cent more in war than in peace.


^e Story"* gf Ordnance in the World War'

Hence the Ordnance task was to expand production 50,000 times
1,000 per cent.

Beyond this even the developments of the war burdened Ord-
nance with the provision of a vast number of new weapons and an
expansion in the use of others, for instance, the machine gun
which was increased from fifty guns to an infantry division to over
one thousand. The substitution of motor-drawn for horse-drawn
artillery likewise increased the demands upon the Ordnance
Department to a tremendous degree beyond the requirements of
the pre-war period. In no previous war was the provision of Ord-
inance materiel, of metal per man, comparable to the supply re-
quired in this war. It was a war of Ordnance. Of all the reasons
rumored for the sudden crumpling of the German strength one sub-
stantial thing upon which we can put our finger, was the certain
knowledge that Germany's efforts had exhausted her Ordnance
reserves. With America coming into the field with fresh men
backed with unlimited Ordnance supplies German man-power
could not stand the strain.


The story of artillery must be written with a prologue — the
story of the building of plants, the design, purchase, Construction
and installation of machine tools, and the development of operating
organizations to carry through the artillery program. With the
exception of two private manufacturing concerns, the Bethlehem
Steel Co. and the Midvale Steel Company, there was not a manu-
facturer in the United States who was equipped to build artillery
or who knew anything of the processes. For the most part, private
plants in existence were required for the production of other war
materials and so, for the manufacture of artillery, it was necessary
to build new plants. Even before that could be started, however,
the Ordnance Department found it necessary to locate a group of
manufacturers willing to attempt this work. As an illustration, to
build the recuperator system for a piece of artillery the Ordnance


*®e Story sf Ordnance in the World War

Department would select a successful manufacturer of sewing ma-
chines, automobiles, safes or elevators ; would provide him financial
support for the erection of a plant, start out with him in the digging
of a foundation for his plant, work with him while it was building,
assist him with the development of an operating organization, with
the purchase and installation of machine tools and finally start him
upon the actual work of manufacturing a recuperator.

The facilities of government arsenals for the manufacture of
artillery were out of all proportion to the program dictated to the
Ordnance Department by the General Staff. They had manu-
factured as many 3-inch field guns in thirteen years as the Ord-
nance program for the war called for in one month. Obviously, the
task of the Ordnance Department under such conditions is not
comparable in any respect with that which confronted France,
Great Britain or Germany. Germany had Krupps. Prance had
tremendous arsenals. England had developed the manufacture of
naval guns for her own uses and for commercial purposes. How-
ever, from the standpoint of pre-war preparedness, or unprepared-
ness if you please, the position of England was perhaps more fairly
comparable to that of the United States than in the case of any
of the other great belligerent nations. It is interesting therefore
for Americans to consider the following statement from the British
Ministry of Munitions:

"It is very difficult to say how long it was before the British
Army was thoroughly equipped with artillery and ammunition.
The ultimate size of the Army aimed at was continually increased
during the first three years of the war, so that Ordnance require-
ments were continually increasing. It is probably true to say that
the equipment of the Army, as planned in the early summer of 1915,
was completed by September, 1916... As a result, however, of the
battle of Verdun and the early stages of the battle of the Somme,
a great change was made in the standard of equipment per division
of the Army, followed by further increases in September, 1916.


Ws Storjr gf Ordnance in the World War

The Army was not completely equipped on this new scale until
Spring 1918."

It took Great Britain nearly four years to completely equip her
army with artillery and artillery ammunition. The United States
was in the war just nineteen months. It must be borne in mind that
the United States began with the revised standards of artillery
equipment ; that is to say the United States undertook at the outset
a total program based upon standards which the British did not
adopt until after the battle of the Somme. Had the war lasted
longer, this would have been a tremendous advantage to the United
States, for it always makes for ultimate delay to enlarge and revise
a munitions program in the middle of the game. But to embark
upon the larger program at the outset, inevitably reduces produc-
tion in the early stages. As Major General Williams expresses it,
"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." Starting with the more ambitious
program, therefore, less production could reasonably be expected
of the United States than of Great Britain in the first two years of
war, because the United States would devote a relatively greater
part of its effort to plant construction and preliminary work. In
four years, however, we should have, and would have, bettered
Great Britain's record for her first four years of war.

To judge of what actually was accomplished therefore it is
necessary to measure progress made in the building of these plants
before we take up the count of artillery production in detail. Even
in judging of progress in this preliminary work, it is necessary to
strike out several months. The first war appropriation for artil-
lery construction was not passed by Congress until June and the
full allotment for this work was not available until October 6, 1917 ;
six months after our entrance into the war. Appropriations prior
to that date provided for about one sixth of the artillery required
for the first two million men.

To give an idea of the preliminary plant construction and equip-



^e Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

ment work two statements are here quoted which were issued by
the Ordnance Department in the summer of 1918, reporting pro-
gress along this line. The first of these statements, issued July 26,
1918, is as follows:

"The Army Ordnance Department announces the completion of
15 of the 16 gun plants for the forging and machining of cannon.
The sixteenth plant is 85 per cent complete.

"In the erection of these plants the Government has expended

"It was necessary to provide these plants as a preliminary to the
production of but one part of a complete gun which includes, be-
sides the body or barrel, a carriage and a complicated recuperator
and recoil system.

"All sixteen plants now are producing cannon or cannon forg-
ings for mobile artillery from 11/2 inches to ten inches.

"While none of the companies operating these plants had ever
been engaged in Ordnance manufacture, all have successfully met
the rigid requirements and are today producing material that is the
equivalent of the best products of the ordnance manufacturers of
France and Great Britain.

"The building of the sixteen plants started as soon as funds be-
came available — in July, 1917 — and progressed so rapidly that ma-
chinery was in operation and actual operations on cannon in pro-
gress in January, 1918. One plant, the site of which was a ravine in
August, 1917, had completed its first 6-inch howitzer in February,
1918 — seven months later.

"Construction of almost all the plants was delayed by weather
conditions, traffic delays, and the pressure on the machine tool in-
dustry, upon which heavy demands were being made by many
departments of the Government, including the Navy and the
Emergency Fleet Corporation. The Ordnance Department was
forced to wait its turn*

"Typical of weather conditions that delayed construction was
the forming of two feet of ice in the wooden forms into which


&e Story* gf Ordnance in the World War

cement was being poured for the foundation of a large press at
one plant. A circus tent was pitched over the operation and stoves
were installed to permit the work to proceed. A storm at night
lifted the tent into the Delaware River.

"Typical of traffic delays was the holding of five carloads of
steel for three weeks within fifteen miles of the site of the plant

"Of the sixteen plants, five have their machinery 100 per cent
installed and 100 per cent in operation. Five others are 90 per
cent or more complete as to installation of machinery. Only two
are as low as 65 per cent, and one of these is the $9,180,207 project
at the Watervliet Government Arsenal."

The second statement issued by Ordnance dealt with the
twenty-six additional gun carriage plants which had to be built as
a preliminary to the manufacture of artillery. It was issued on
August 23, 1918, and is as follows:

"The Army Ordnance Department announces the completion
of 19 of 26 plants for the production of gun carriages and recoil
mechanisms. Of the seven other plants, four are 98 per cent com-
plete, one is 95 per cent complete, one 90 per cent complete, and one
85 per cent complete.

"To provide plant facilities — buildings and machinery — for the
production on a large scale of carriages and recoil mechanisms for
artillery of all calibres, the Ordnance Department has expended
$24,837,336. Altogether the amount expended or obligated to date
to provide facilities for the production of guns (artillery, of
course), carriages and recoil mechanisms, totals $99,606,633. This
sum does not include provision made for the manufacture of artil-
lery limbers, caissons, and ammunition wagons.

"As was the case with the gun plants, a new industry had to be
created for the production of gun carriages. The problem of car-
riage production in America was even more difficult than that of
forging and machining cannon. For example, the carriage of the
240 mm. howitzer, the most complex of carriages, comprises about


*®e Story gf Ordnance in the World War

6,000 separate pieces, exclusive of rivets. The carriage for 155 mm.
guns or 155 mm. howitzers, comprises between 3,000 and 3,500
separate pieces, exclusive of rivets.

"All of the twenty six gun carriage plants are in operation, even
those that took over the production of French models. The build-
ing of French model carriages in this country necessitated special
arrangements with the French government, the procurement of
French drawings of all parts of the carriages, the translation into
English measurements of those drawings, the selection of plants to
manufacture the carriages, the building of new shops, the manu-
facture and installation of special machinery, even the building of
special machine tools with which to make the machine tool equip-
ment of the carriage plants, the standardization of manufacture to
such a degree that any part produced in any plant should be inter-
changeable with any similar part produced in any other plant, and
all parts produced in American plants should be interchangeable
with similar parts produced in French plants.

"Two companies are producing carriages for the 155 mm.
howitzer. One of these formerly made steel passenger cars and the
other safes. A company which formerly manufactured hoisting
and mining machinery is making carriages for the 155 mm. gun.
There are three types of the 75 mm. gun carriage in production at
four plants, of which one is a government arsenal, one produced
ordnance before the war, one manufactured automobiles, and an-
other one air brakes. Recoil mechanisms for the 155's are being
made by an elevator company and by an automobile manufacturer,
and those for the 75's are being made by a sewing machine com-
pany and a government arsenal."

So here was the Ordnance Department in the summer of 1918
announcing the practical completion of a new $100,000,000 industry
as a preliminary to the manufacture of artillery. It was a new
industry throughout, new machine tools, new processes, new or
else foreign and unfamiliar designs, new operating organizations.
And it was built under the most difficult conditions, delays in


Some of the medicine for the Huns that Ordnance
had ready for shipment overseas when the armis-
tice was signed. A park of American-made 155-
m. m. howitzers at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Each of these guns, in one minute, can hurl five
95-pound projectiles a distance of well over seven
miles. The gun is automatically restorted to its
original position within 13 seconds after being
fired. It is this feature — the hydro-pneumatic
recoil system — which gives this rapidity of fire
and makes this so formidable a weapon. It is
also the recoil which proved so difficult to manu-
facture. The guns are at the Aberdeen Proving
Ground to be proof-fired. No weapon was re-
leased to American troops until it had been thus
tested. The first model or pilot-gun was sub-
mitted to very severe tests. Such a gun was in
fact shot to pieces to determine its length of life.
Subsequently each gun of that type was proof-
fired to make certain that it would properly
function at the front.


We Story sf Ordnance in the World War

traffic, almost unprecedented weather conditions, scarcity in raw
materials, machine tools and labor, factors largely or wholly out-
side the control of the Ordnance Department. No man may
rightly or intelligently comment upon the performance of the
Ordnance Department in the production of artillery unless he
knows this preliminary work through and through. It is only
by keeping a realization of it constantly in mind in reading the
pages that follow in this book, that the reader may understand
at all the significance of the facts and figures hereafter given in
connection with the artillery program.

Types of mobile field artillery placed under quantity production
during the war period ranged from the little 37-millimeter, or 1.5
inch, "infantry cannon," a French design, which two husky in-
fantrymen could lift from the ground, to the powerful French 240-
millimeter howitzer and the British 9.2-inch gun, which had ap-
proximately the same bore.

This little 1.5-inch weapon, designed by the French in 1885,
came into its own during the great war. It was chiefly employed
in assault on the German concrete pill boxes, machine-gun nests, or
other isolated strongholds. It proved itself a veritable tartar at
the work. Three or four well directed shots were generally suf-
ficient to effectually wipe them out. Loading a substantial charge
of TNT, it had an effective range of more than two miles, and
deadly accuracy in either direct or indirect fire was obtained
through its elaborate fire control equipment. When placed in
action the wheel gear was dropped and the gun set up on its front
leg and a rear split trail, forming a tripod. In quick advance action
the gun could be detached from its support mechanism, two in-
fantrymen carrying each of the two parts, while the other four men
of the crew of eight brought up the ammunition boxes, ordinarily
carried in a trailer. One of these weapons was issued to each bat-
talion, or three to a regiment.


^e Story* gf Ordnance in the World War

Beginning in October, 1917, the Ordnance Department placed
orders for a total of 2,597 of these guns, 826 having been completed
when the armistice was signed. Orders for 641 were placed with
the French. When hostilities ceased, American factories were
turning out ten a day, or more than sufficient to supply our divis-

Problems quite out of proportion to the dimensions of this little
weapon were encountered in placing it in production in American
factories, but these were successfully solved and the program was
well up to the mark when the fighting ceased.


Mounting in the scale of sizes, we come to the 75-millimeter
gun. This weapon played the most important role in the victory of
Allied arms; it practically dominated the battlefields of Europe.
The Ordnance Department from the beginning stressed its produc-
tion to the point where for every gun of another size produced we
turned out a 75. It thus constituted in itself one-half of our entire
artillery program.

In the production of this class of weapon the Ordnance Depart-
ment had to begin practically from the "take-off." We had no
model of our own in production that could be adhered to, our equip-
ment in this class of weapon when we entered the war consisting of
640 three-inch field guns of the old 1902 model. In the evolution of
Ordnance the limited elevation and traverse of this weapon had
rendered it obsolescent. The Ordnance Department faced the un-
deniable fact and did not yield to the poor argument that because
this model might be produced with greater facility than a new one
it should be given preference. The split-trail design of light field
gun had been demonstrated to be immeasurably superior. It per-
mitted far greater elevation of fire by letting the gun body swing
down between the divergent trails and also a wider traverse move-
ment of the gun than was possible with the single-trail carriage.
Fortunately, the Ordnance Department had itself in 1913 begun the


We Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

development of a split-trail carriage design. A model of this design
had been thoroughly tested and an order for 172 had been placed a
few months before we entered the war. But no facilities had been
established and the 1916 model of carriage, as it is known, had in no
sense come into production.

Early quantity production in this class of weapon was rec-
ognized as the paramount necessity. The French 75-millimeter
gun was recognized as the premier weapon of this class and every
effort was made at once to transplant its manufacture to this
country. But delay and uncertainty in getting production under
way were seen to be inevitable. It would have been imprudent, in-
deed, to hold up all other production until this could be done, yet the
Ordnance Department was criticized in many quarters for splitting
up its program in this class of weapon instead of concentrating
from the beginning on the French 75.

The Bethlehem Steel Company had been manufacturing car-
riages for the British 3.3-inch gun, capacity was there ready to be
utilized to the limit, and the Ordnance Department wisely de-
termined to use it. Orders for 1,427 of the British type of carriage
were placed in rapid succession with the Bethlehem company, be-
ginning in May, 1917. Simultaneously, additional orders were
placed for 755 of our own 1916 model. These orders constituted a
very wise alternative to the French 75 project. Shortly after they
were placed, the Ordnance Department reached the momentous de-
cision to make both types of carriage conform to the French 75-
millimeter size — slightly less than 3 inches. Here, indeed, was
a master stroke in our war-time ordnance preparation. Munitions
production was simplified enormously by calling for the manu-
facture of a uniform size shell for this class of gun, and above all it
gave us interchangeability of ammunition with the French on the

The problem of getting sufficient gun bodies produced for the
75-millimeter units was far less vexing. Orders were placed for
these concurrently with the carriage orders and their production


*®e Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

was well timed with the other program. Three types of gun bodies
were built, the American, British, and French type, but all of the
7 5 -millimeter bore.

Meanwhile all plans for getting the French 75 carriage under
production were being held up because of difficulty and delay in
getting the drawings. The first drawings were not received until
August, 1917, and complete data were not in hand until the follow-
ing April, more than a year after our entry into the war. Many of
the measurements the French themselves did not have upon paper.
In producing the superb recuperator mechanism of these carriages
they relied extensively upon hand fitting and deviated considerably
from blue print dimensions. Finally, all drawings as received had
to be translated into our units of measurement, which constituted
one of the greatest tasks involved in the French gun projects.

Construction of the recuperator systems on these guns pre-
sented the most formidable challenge to American industrial and
technical skill that it has perhaps ever been called upon to meet.
Such exquisitely fine workmanship was necessary in the production
of these recuperators that French ordnance experts were skeptical,
and justifiably so, that the American mechanic could be trained in
their production in time for their use in the war. Although the
superiority of the recuperator on this as well as on the larger
French guns was universally conceded, Germany had never been
able to make them, and England, with the assistance of French
ordnance experts freely offered at the beginning of the war, did
not attempt them.

By December, 1917, complete drawings for the carriage of the
French 75 had been received and an order for 3,049 of them was
placed with the Willys-Overland Motor Car Company. Not until
February, 1918, however, were all specifications for the recuperator
in hand. After a thorough canvass of all industrial establishments
that might be induced to undertake the manufacture of this
mechanism, the Singer Manufacturing Company, producers of sew-
ing machines, finally consented to do so, and in March, 1918, they


e &e Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

accepted an order for 2,500 recuperators. The following month
1,000 additional were ordered to be turned out at the Rock Island
Arsenal. When these recuperators began to come through, it
marked their first production in a factory outside of French ter-

When hostilities ceased American factories were turning out

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Online LibrarySevellon BrownThe story of ordnance in the World War → online text (page 3 of 22)