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a range of 13,000 meters in the howitzer and 17,500 in the gun.
One of the uses of this ammunition, with a special time-fuse, was as
an agent against captive balloons. In December 1917, Army Ord-
nance developed a new American 155 m/m shell which had no
counterpart in French ammunition. In June, 1918, gas shell for
both gun and Howitzer were developed and a little later, H. E.
shell. The difficulties resulting from lack of tools, labor and load-


We Story* if Ordnance in the World War

ing facilities limited the production of this shell to less than a
million rounds.

The 4.7-inch is of interest as being America's own development
and practically the only shell used in the War, which we were in
any way prepared to make. There were about 60 of these guns
actually in service at the time of our declaration of War and a total
of 165,237 rounds of shrapnel and 193,454 rounds of H, E. shell on
hand. Frankford Arsenal, however, was the only manufacturer.
By November 1918, five additional sources of supply with a daily
production of 12,800 rounds had been developed and a total of
nearly half a million shells produced. Further, gas and smoke shell
in this caliber had been designed and put into production, and
experimental work on incendiary, tracer, lachrymatory, and air-
burst shell was well along toward completion.

An intermediate class between the Field Artillery and the Sea-
coast Artillery is composed of Howitzer ammunition, including the
8-inch, 9.2-inch and 240 m/m H. E. and gas shell and the 8-inch
smoke shell. This is effective for use behind the third line trenches
for destroying enemy encumbrances such as barbed wire, concrete
emplacements, known among the Germans as "pill-boxes," am-
munition dumps, railway and supply depots and lines of com-
munication. It is shot at high angles and falls almost vertically in
places that would be overshot by shell from the guns. The gas
shell of this type is also far more effective than that of the smaller
calibers, owing to its greater range and quantity. The 8-inch
smoke shell serves the two-fold purpose of determining the aim of
the H. E. shell and of forming a smoke screen to conceal prepara-
tions of our troops for an attack or to cover a retreat. The 8-inch
shell was the first of the American artillery ammunition to get on
the line. The 240 m/m is a 353-pound projectile having a" range
of 10 miles. The monthly rate of fire per gun calls for 900 rounds
of the 8-inch, 600 rounds of 9.2-inch and 450 rounds of 240 m/m

The Seacoast Artillery ammunition includes H. E. shell for the


*®e Story gf Ordnance in the World War

5-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12-, and 14-inch Seacoast guns, 12-inch for mortars,
16-inch for howitzers and gas and smoke shell for the 5-, 6- and 8-
inch seacoast guns. This group of guns and Howitzers is com-
posed of heavy Seacoast Artillery mounted on mobile vehicles such
as railway mounts. It is used for attack upon heavy structures
such as depots, storehouses, dumps, railways, batteries and on
massed troops, the ammunition having been changed from the
armor-piercing type originally employed with this artillery against
armored battleships to H. E. shell of both the impact and the timed

As the use of this as mobile artillery had never before been
contemplated, the facilties in 1917 were practically negligible, with
the exception of a few small shops in operation on British con-
tracts. Enormous facilities were developed.

The 14-inch is probably the most interesting of this group as
indicative of the nature of high calibre ammunition. It is a 1,200-
pound projectile carrying a powder-charge of 490 pounds of H. E.
and having an extreme range of 26 miles. At the highest point in
the arc it describes, this shell is 11 miles above the earth. Upon
explosion, it digs a crater 30 feet in diameter and 25 feet in depth.
It is fatal within a radius of 150 yards, death being caused by con-
cussion alone, which is so great as to drive the eyeballs back in the
sockets, crushing them against the bony structure of the brain and
to produce hemorrhages at the ears, nose and mouth. Beyond the
150 yard area, the concussion may render the victim blind and in-
sane without causing death. But like every frightful weapon of
warfare, it gives its own warning. Its approach is heralded by an
unearthly screaming which may be heard for 15 seconds before it
strikes, so that there is a chance of diving into a shell-hole or dug-
out, or, in the absence of such shelter, of falling flat on the ground
where the concussion will not reach. The cost of a single one of
these shells is $600.

The 16-inch is used in bombarding heavy fortifications. Its


An 8-inch Seacoast gun on a barbette type rail-
way mount which permits of fire in any direction.
Ninety-six such guns were removed from the
seacoast fortifications and mounted on these spe-
cially designed railway mounts by Ordnance.
Three plants were devoted to the manufacture of
these mounts, two of them finding it necessary to
enlarge their facilities and machine tool equip-
ment to undertake the work. The first of these
mounts was completed in May, 1918, and by the
end of that year twenty-four complete units, with
ammunition cars for standard guage track, shell
cars for narrow gauge track, transportation cars,
tools, spare parts, etc.. had been turned out.
Three of the units were shipped overseas before
the armistice was signed. The contracting plants
had developed a capacity of 15 mounts per month.
This rate of production is a more certain standard
of measurement for American strength than
production as of any given date. The problem
was to continuously sustain the armies.


We Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

projectile, with a weight double that of the 14-inch, has only about
half the range.

In conclusion then, we had done far better with the artillery
ammunition than the Allied experts or the Germans had ever
dreamed it possible that we might do, and facilities had reached a
point of development which would have meant utter annihilation
for Germany in the Spring of 1919, had the War continued.


There is no chance for bluff with Ordnance materiel. It is
made for men and issued to men who have no other insurance of
victory, no other safeguard against death. The dependence placed
upon it is too great to allow it to long enjoy a false reputation.
When soldiers in battle express confidence in Ordnance materiel,
they are backing their opinions with their lives and their judge-
ments must weigh with the rest of us accordingly.

When troops advance under an artillery barrage, a portion of
the men are killed by the fire of their own artillery. This cannot
be prevented. The protection given by the barrage against the
enemy's fire far more than compensates this loss. In taking a few
lives, the barrage saves many more. But the danger to their own
men, causes commanding officers to exercise the greatest caution in
the direction of an artillery barrage.

Studying this problem, British General Headquarters issued an
order that only American powder should be used in Britsh guns
for artillery barrages, because of the greater uniformity and con-
sequent less danger to the troops advancing under protection of the
barrage. What higher tribute could be paid the quality of this
product of American Ordnance. Mention is made of this testi-
monial before beginning the story of propellants and explosives be-
cause so many persons appear to think that the problem in the
manufacture of powder and explosives is almost entirely one of
quantity production and not of quality.

The Allies, or rather their demands during three years of war,


We Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

developed somewhat the manufacture of propellants and explosives
in the United States before our entrance into the war. We have
seen, in the case of small arms and in a few other instances, that this
was of advantage to the Ordnance Department. But not so in the
case of propellants and explosives. Rather did it add to the dif-
ficulties of the situation. In April, 1917, American explosives man-
ufacturers were crowded with orders from the Allies. They were
producing greater quantities than they thought could be produced.
Plants had been enlarged and new ones built. The technical ability
of the operating organizations of explosives manufacturers had
been spread very thinly over a much inflated war industry. Yet
none of these manufacturing resources was available for the use
of the United States Army. In the case of small arms, the Amer-
ican manufacturers were just completing their European orders,
with no new orders in sight, as we entered the war. But with ex-
plosives, the needs of the Allies were continuing and were increas-
ing, not diminishing.

To prevent that which we were so often told the enemy hoped
to achieve, namely the disruption of the Allies supply system by
having the United States Army commandeer sources of supply in
the United States vital to the Allies, it was necessary for the Ord-
nance Department to go outside and provide new sources of supply.
In all some 53 plants at an estimated cost of $360,000,000 were
begun by the Ordnance Department to supply explosives. A large
part of this construction was completed and was in a suprisingly
efficient state of operation by November 11, 1918.

The first task of the Ordnance Department was to increase the
supply of raw materials entering into the manufacture of ex-
plosives — sulphuric and nitric acid, phenol, caustic soda, and toluol,
the basic raw material from which TNT is made. In the case of
toluol, the Ordnance program required an expansion of production
to 30,000,000 gallons per year by 1919. In 1914 production of toluol
in the United States was under 700,000 gallons per year. To ac-
complish this, contracts were made and gas stripping plants were


"ffie Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

installed in the gas plants of cities extending from Boston to New
Orleans and to Seattle, so that the gas burned by consumers in
cities all over the country was made to yield its tax to Ordnance
and to victory. Operating personnel had to be established and
trained for these gas stripping plants. It was an undertaking of
considerable size. The first plant was placed in operation in April,
1918, and by October, 1919, this improvised source of supply was
developed to over 500,000 gallons of crude toluol a month. It
would have reached 700,000 gallons in November, thus providing
as much as the entire country produced in 1914. At a cost of $30,-
000,000, more than 1,100 by-product recovery coke ovens for the
production of toluol were constructed which would have provided,
in 1919, some half a million gallons of toluol, and 320 other ovens,
of about equal capacity, would have been completed later in 1919
and early in 1920. Two plants for the manufacture of toluol by
special processes were begun at Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The latter plant, built for a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons a year was
90 per cent completed and was in part operation when the armistice
was signed. Despite the demand for TNT, sufficient toluol was
produced throughout the war to prevent failures or delays in de-
livery of high explosives.

The shell filler adopted for high explosive shells was amatol, a
mixture of ammonium nitrate and TNT, a product developed
in England during the war. In addition to the extension of private
resources for the production of ammonium nitrate, the Ordnance
Department undertook the construction of two atmospheric nitro-
gen plants at Sheffield, Alabama, and a third plant, which was built
by the Atlas Powder Co. as government contractors, for the pro-
duction of ammonium nitrate by the Brunner-Mond process.
Technical men were sent to England to study this process and con-
struction of the third plant was started on March 8, 1918, at Perry-
ville, Md. Fireproof construction was required throughout at this
plant. Production of ammonium nitrate was begun by the mid-
dle of July and before the armistice was signed production had


We Story" §f Ordnance in the World War

reached 500,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate a day; five-sixths
of the estimated total capacity of the plant. The character of the
construction work required, the fact that the plant had to be
specially designed by American engineers, and that the process of
manufacture was new and involved highly technical work, make
this achievement a truly remarkable accomplishment to the credit
of American industry in the war. Although the British plant,
based upon this process, was in operation before ground was broken
for the building of the Perryville plant, the daily production of the
American plant was in excess of the British plant when hostilities
were ended.

For the manufacture of TNT, the Hercules Powder Co. built
and put into operation, within five months, a plant at Hercules,
California, with a capacity of 3,500,000 lb. a month. Within the
same length of time, the duPont Powder Co. built and put into
operation at Barksdale, Wisconsin, a plant with a capacity of
2,000,000 lb. a month. These, with several smaller plants, kept
the supply of TNT ahead of the war demands.

Large quantities of other high explosives, fulminate of mer-
cury, tetryl, nitro starch and ammonium picrate, were developed.
Three plants were started for the supply of increased quantities of
picric acid to the French.

Demands of the Allies for propellants, smokless powder for
cannon and small arms, black powder, etc., had increased produc-
tion in the United States from 1,500,000 pounds per month, in 1914,
to some 9,000,000 pounds per month at the time the United States
entered the war. Yet the Ordnance program called for an addi-
tional 75,000,000 pounds per month, none of which could be ob-
tained from the sources of supply developed for the Allies.

The Ordnance Department undertook the construction of two
of the largest powder plants in the world. The largest of these was
built on the site of Andrew Jackson's home near Nashville, Tenn.,
and is called the Old Hickory plant. It covered an area of 5,000
acres and its construction required, as an incidental item, the build-


*®e Story" if Ordnance in the World War

ing of a village housing some 20,000 people, complete with schools,
churches, and other civic improvements. Its estimated cost was
$90,000,000. The contract for the construction of the plant was
signed in January, 1918, ground was broken in March, and the first
of its nine powder lines was placed in operation on July 1st, forty-
five days ahead of contract requirements. At the time of the sign-
ing of the armistice, this plant was 90 per cent completed and had
reached a production of 400,000 pounds of smokeless powder per
day, also in excess of contract requirements. The total estimated
capacity of this plant was 900,000 pounds of smokeless powder per
day, but had the performance registered prior to the signing of the
armistice been continued, this would certainly have reached 1,000,-
000 pounds per day.

The second powder plant was built by the Thompson-Starrett
Company at Nitro, near Charleston, West Virginia. This plant
was begun in February, 1918, and the production of powder begun
about the middle of September. At the time of the signing of the
armistice, its output was averaging 125,000 pounds a day. The
plant was operated by the Hercules Powder Co. under government

The provision of explosives and propellants was sufficient to
meet the demands of the Ordnance program at all times without
interference in any way with the supplies sent to the Allies. Had
the war continued, the American supply in 1919 would have
amounted to over one billion pounds of smokeless powder, of which
two-thirds would have been available for the American Expedition-
ary Forces and the remainder for the Allies, and over one and a
quarter billion pounds of high explosives of which three-fourths
would have been available for the United States Army and the re-
mainder for the Allies.


The equipment known as "Sights and Fire Control" comprises
those instruments and devices used to control and direct the firing


^e Story" sf Ordnance in the World War

of all military offensive weapons and to observe the effect of this
fire in order to place it on the target.

Belonging to this equipment are all classes of sights, elevation
quadrants, clinometers, etc., which are attached to the gun or its
carriage and are used to lay the gun in direction and in elevation;
also various instruments, such as range finders, azimuth instru-
ments, aiming circles, prismatic compasses and many others, which
are used by the gun crew for determining the range of the target
and its position and relation to the combatant forces.

Present day warfare, with the armies in trenches, has called for
many new kinds of fire control instruments, for the reason that the
target is usually not visible from the position occupied by the gun
battery, and "indirect" fire is resorted to. This means that the ter-
rain must be carefully mapped and that there must be provided an
elaborate set of special instruments, including the intricate "Pan-
oramic Sight," many of which are not needed when the target is vis-
ible, as in the case of naval or coast defense warfare. This method
of indirect fire has extended to all firing units, railway artillery,
trench mortar batteries and even to machine guns, so that it is now
necessary to equip each of the above with a complete set of indirect
fire control equipment. This has meant a multiplicity of new
instruments, none of which was in existence before the war.

Another group of instruments, included in the fire control
equipment, comprises devices such as range and deflection boards,
deviation boards, range tables, wind indicators used as aids in the
intricate problem of computing the flight of the projectile for any
given conditions of range, altitude, air pressure, temperature, etc.

Still another group contains devices used in estimating the alti-
tude, speed and future location of hostile aircraft, so that effective
offensive fire may be maintained. This class of equipment is en-
tirely new, exceptionally intricate and ever changing in design.

Fuse setters must be supplied to Field Artillery batteries so that
the fuses may be timed to cause the shell to burst at the point in its
flight, when the greatest effect may be produced.


^e Story* gf Ordnance in the World War

Many other auxiliary devices are called for, for example, light-
ing arrangements, and self luminous aiming posts and marks, so
that accuracy of fire may be maintained even at night.

The increasing significance and now recognized importance of
well placed shots, as compared with mere volume of fire, have de-
manded that all the above mentioned sights and other instruments
be marvels of accuracy and precision, and at the same time be able
to withstand the concussion and shock incident to artillery fire.
The accuracy required in some of these instruments will be ap-
preciated when it is considered that at long ranges, such as are com-
mon to-day, a very slight error in the sight will cause a miss and
the total loss of the shot.

Certain items of our present fire control equipment were in pro-
duction in this country prior to April, 1917, but only in very small
quantities. They were as a rule made in tool rooms by expert ma-
chinists, who had plenty of time in which to do the work. The
problem of manufacturing instruments in the quantities demanded
by our artillery program in a short period of time was absolutely
different. It meant quantity production, with shop machines and
low grade labor, instead of single instruments in the tool room or
instrument shop by the highest grade of labor. It meant working
to an accuracy 1/10000 part of an inch on a heavy machine under
rush orders, when the- workmen had been accustomed to hun-
dredths or thousands of an inch, and then only on light work. The
amount of labor involved is shown in the case of the Schneider
Quadrant Sight, for some of the heavy artillery, where the raw ma-
terial costs about $25.00, but the finished sight is worth $600.00.
There were more than seven thousand of these to be made, which
meant something like a year's work for one thousand men.

In the case of those instruments which contained optical parts,
the situation was even more difficult. Optical design was not
understood by many men and optical workers were very few in
number. At the begining of the war there was only one manu-
facturer in this country prepared to make military optical instru-


One hundred thousand rough forgings for 9.2-
inch shells. The artillery ammunition program
called for more than 153,135,000 rounds to be pro-
duced within eighteen months from July 1, 1918,
for the production of which fifty-three great
plants were built. To glimpse the characteristics
of a single shell of this program — the 14-inch —
its cost of manufacture was $600; weight 1,200
pounds ; powder charge 490 pounds of high explo-
sive; extreme range twenty-six miles. At the
highest point in the arc this shell describes in
flight it is 11 miles above the earth. Upon explo-
sion, it digs a crater 30 feet in diameter and 25
feet in depth, and is fatal within a radius of 150
yards, death being caused by concussion alone.
Ordnance did far better with artillery ammuni-
tion than the Allied experts, or the Germans,
dreamed it possible to do, and the facilities had
reached a point of development by November,
1918, which would have meant utter annihilation
for Germany in the Spring of 1919.


Upper : The 3-ton Tank. The Ordnance program
called for 23,390 tanks of various types. The
Ford Company, following development of the
design, had placed the manufacture of this 3-ton
tank upon a quantity basis and was prepared to
turn them out at the rate of 100 per day, begin-
ning January 1, 1919. Only fifteen were actually
completed when the armistice was signed, but 500
were in process of manufacture and would have
been turned, out by January 1. This is a two-
man tank, mounting one machine gun and with a
speed of eight miles an hour. They would have
been manufactured at the rate of 60 tanks weekly
in American plants beginning in January, 1919.
Lower : An interior view of the 35-ton tank, Mark
VIII, carrying a crew of 11 men and mounting
two six-pounders and seven machine guns. The
picture gives an idea of the intricate design of
the tank. About fifty per cent of the American
portion of production on this 35-ton tank was
completed by November, 1918.


We Story" §f Ordnance in the World War

ments in quantity, and he was already overloaded with orders. It
was therefore necessary to equip factories to show manufacturers
how to train workmen in schools, such as those which have been
established at Rochester, Philadelphia and Pasadena, before any
satisfactory production could be secured. It was, of course, neces-
sary to utilize the services of every available agency in the work,
and the services also of agencies that, under the circumstances,
would never have been considered as available. For example, a
manufacturer of lighting apparatus for automobiles was developed
into the chief source of supply for the complicated sight for a field
gun; a concern whose regular product was thermometers before
the war, was developed into a manufacturer of intricate sights.

A further complication in the manufacture of military optical
instruments was the lack of suitable glass. Before the war we had
imported practically all of the optical glass used in this country,
and it was necessary after we entered the war to develop formulas
and processes for making optical glass, to set up manufacturing
plants, and to produce the glass ourselves. Several different kinds
of glass were needed and the production of these seriously delayed
completion of certain instruments. Great progress was made,
along this line, however, and apparently insuperable obstacles over-
come, but the supply was never quite sufficient to meet the needs.
The development work done will, however, render us independent
of any foreign source of supply of optical glass in future.

It has been said, "An Army is as good as its transportation and
it is not too much to say that its existence or the nation's existence
in time of war is staked on the efficiency of its military transporta-
tion. Particularly is this true in modern warfare which for the

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Online LibrarySevellon BrownThe story of ordnance in the World War → online text (page 6 of 22)