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main part is made up of a series of movements consisting of tre-
mendous artillery preparations followed by heavy infantry attacks.
The limiting factor in this form of strategy invariably proves to
be lack of facilities for following up the attack with adequate artil-
lery and supplies, so that the extent of the advance is limited.


We Story gf Ordnance in the World War

In previous wars, wheeled vehicles had been relied upon almost
entirely, and from the viewpoint of speed, simplicity and reliability
they are still satisfactory on good roads. But the warfare of the
present calls for the manoeuvering of the Army on territory which
renders this vehicle practically useless as a follow-up and it was
soon seen that it was entirely inadequate except for use behind the
lines on good roads. The tracklaying type, or caterpillar, was al-
ready in use, but this was too slow for ordinary use, so that the
need for a new development along this line was urgent.

The combination of the tracklaying with the wheeled type was
conceived as a solution to the problem, and the possibilities of this
were foreseen to be enormous.

Upon our entry into the War, we were faced with the problem
of developing and manufacturing many items of motor equipment
never before made in this country. In August, 1917, cables brought
information of the need for motorizing our field guns, from the
three-inch up to the eight-inch. In November the tank pro-
gram arrived from overseas. November brought news of the neces-
sity for the development of mobile repair shops, already conceived
in our Mexican Punitive Expedition. In October the requirements
were received for wheeled trucks and tractors for hauling loads on

The first difficulty presented in carrying out this enormous pro-
gram which involved the designing, the building of facilities and
securing of materials for, and the construction of, more than 120,000
motorized vehicles, was the procurement of a suitable personnel.
A corps of automotive experts were needed as officers for this sec-
tion, men of experience and creative ability along this line. Also,
a vast number of skilled mechanics were needed as enlisted men
to be trained in the operation and repair of this materiel. And
these had to be selected without too heavy a drain upon the plants
needed to manufacture it.

The next problem was the securing of hundreds of manufac-
turers. The materiel was of new types never before made in this



We Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

country and many of the automobile manufacturers were incapable
of making it.

The constant change of drawings necessitated by the difficulty
of obtaining complete specifications, by the need for adapting them
as much as possible to the facilities of the manufacturers to hasten
production, and by the demands of changing tactics at the front of-
fered another obstacle seriously delaying production.

One of the most important limiting factors in the time element
proved to be transportation. Inasmuch as many of the pieces con-
sisted of several hundred items purchased from innumerable
sources, the project became very complex and the transportation
of both raw materials and components very serious.

The value of the materiel ordered up to the signing of the
armistice amounted to nearly half a billion dollars. It included
35,363 trucks of the Supply, Winch, Ammunition, Artillery Repair,
Equipment, Light Repair, Machine Gun and Heavy Mobile Artil-
lery types; 2,257 Staff Observation and Reconnaissance Cars; 4,747
trailers of the l^-ton, 3" field-gun, 3" anti-aircraft, 4- ton and 10-ton
models; 24,973 tractors, including 2 1 /2-ton, 5-ton, 10-ton, 15-ton and
20-ton types; and 23,390 tanks of the 3-ton and 6-ton types to-
gether with 416 caterpillar mounts.

While the actual deliveries on Ordnance contracts up to the
time of signing the armistice of 21,699 heavy, and in many cases
special, motor vehicles was a remarkable accomplishment, the
work was, nevertheless, just getting into its stride. Facilities had
been built up, the tooling up had been completed, the personnel
was trained, and quantity production was well established with the
exception of those vehicles for which demands had been received at
late dates. In these cases production was ready to start. For
instance, the Ford company had just reached the point where pro-
duction of 3-ton tanks was ready to go ahead, reaching a produc-
tion of 100 a day January 1, 1919; and the 6-ton tank facilities,
divided among three companies, were beginning to turn out tanks
at the rate of 60 a week. The production had so far advanced that


W^ Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

even the rigid cancellation of orders at the time of the armistice
made it impossible, from an economical standpoint, to reduce the
number of vehicles completed below 46,000, of which 21,699, as
stated above, were actually delivered before the armistice was
signed, and of which 37,081 were delivered before January 31, 1919.

Had production continued until Spring, the American Ex-
peditionary Forces would have had an array of motor equipment in
France which would have rendered possible the most sweeping
advance which could be made.

The most interesting project of the entire motor equipment
work is probably the Heavy Mobile Artillery Repair Shop. This
comprises a vast organization of repair shops, tool-rooms, lathes,
power generators, air-compressors, stock-rooms, drill-presses, bag-
gage trailers, welding-and-forge outfits, power saws, milling-ma-
chines, huge cranes, executive offices, rolling-kitchens, and all the
other various accessories of the complete repair and tool-shop, —
all on wheels on great five- and ten-ton trucks. Each repair shop
is composed of two identical units of 24 trucks each. Each is self-
contained, i. e., it carries its own personnel, consisting of 51 officers
and men, its own power, sleeping accomodations and provisions,
and is perfectly independent of the other half.

The range of work done in these shops is amazing. Theoret-
ically their scope is the repair of light and heavy artillery, small
arms, carriages, mounts, and vehicles. Actually, everything from
motor-trucks to victrolas, from bicycles to shower-baths, from roll-
ing-kitchens to typewriters, from stone-crushers to broken eye-
glasses is confidently brought to the shop for mending.

Nine of these shops are required per Army, eight for the eight
heavy artillery brigades and one for the tank corps.


Under the group heading of Trench Warfare are included some
150 weapons and devices peculiar to warfare of position. The total
amount of this materiel manufactured by the Ordnance Depart-


We Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

ment during the War would fill 4,327 freight cars, and it should be
remembered that for the most part it is compact and portable. The
hand grenades alone, whose manufacture involves 265 operations,
would require 1,156 freight cars. For the little parachutes used to
suspend signal lights 1,688,000 yards of silk were required. The
ammunition for the 3-inch and 6-inch trench mortars would occupy
981 freight cars. The chemical warfare apparatus manufactured
and under manufacture at the time of the Armistice would have
been adequate to project more poisonous gas than Germany and
our Allies combined could produce.

The hand grenade game began, of course, back in the 15th
century when the Chinese filled pottery jugs with most unpleasant
gases and threw them over walls at other Chinese. These primitive
weapons went by the picturesque and expressive name of "Stink-
pots." Early in the European War, the Allies began to revive this
weapon in the form of crudely improvised devices, such as gasoline
cans, but their possibilities were soon seen and developed to a high
stage of perfection represented in our present 7 types of hand-
grenades. These are known as the defensive, offensive (an Amer-
ican invention), phosphorus, incendiary, thermit and two types
of gas, each having its own particular use indicated by the name.

A total of 34,800,000 was made prior to the cessation of hostil-
ities, of which more than 27,000,000 were of the Defensive type,
most of the other types having just passed the experimental stage
and begun on quantity production.

It was in the manufacture of this item that women played the
greatest part in all munition manufacture. Of the 5,000 workers
engaged on it, nearly 90 per cent were women, and at no time was
there a strike or any labor disturbance.

The rifle grenade, used both as an offensive and a defensive
weapon, was adopted from the French "V.B." or Viven Bessiere.
Its advantage lay in the range, which was approximately 200 yards,
the effective range after the explosion being about 75 yards.
Twenty million of these were produced.


We Story* §f Ordnance in the World War

The Livens projector form of gas shell was developed to replace
the old gas drum which had to be placed out in No-Man's-Land at
night with considerable attendant risk, and which was entirely de-
pendent upon wind conditions. The Livens projector shoots its
shell directly at the enemy's trench over which it forms a thick
smoke cloud of high concentration. Two kinds of gases are used,
the famous lachrymatory, which is extremely painful and tempo-
rarily blinds the victim, and the fatal gas, which may result in a trip
to the hospital with a slow recovery.

Special troops, known as Gas and Flame Troops, whose sole
duty it is to conduct these attacks, make a tour of the trenches,
staging attacks in favorable sectors, i. e. where the enemy is known
to have concentrated its troops. The projectors which are placed
in groups of five batteries of 25 projectors each, are fired sim-
ultaneously by electric control.

Seventy-five thousand gas shells and 62,900 barrels and base
plates were completed by November 11, 1918.

The use of drop bombs became very extensive as the air pro-
gram increased. The high capacity drop bombs of which 453,286
had been produced, were of 5 types, weighing from 25 to 500
pounds, and were used chiefly for demolition purposes against
strongly fortified^ positions, houses, railroad terminals and similar

The incendiary bombs, used for lighter structures and grain
fields, objects requiring a more slowly burning type, were aban-
doned after only about 58,000 had been completed for the Mark
II or intensive type. Approximately 86,000 of these were made in
this country.

The only bomb employed against personnel was the fragmenta-
tion bomb. Of this class, the Barlow heavy was the first type of
all bombs to be made in this country, its manufacture having
started in November 1917. But its mechanism proved too compli-
cated and after the production of 9,000 it was abandoned for the
Mark II A and II B and the modified 3-inch H. E. shell, which was


^e Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

found to be highly efficient when adjusted with the bomb mech-
anism. About 30,000 of these in storage were modified and used

Approximately 194,000 dummy bombs, used for training pur-
poses, were also made.

For the early pyrotechnics program the capacity of the three
largest fireworks manufacturers in the country, together with the
Lewis Nixon works at New Brunswick, N. J., was sufficient, but
with the new requirements schedules in June, 1918, tremendous ex-
pansion became necessary. This was after the cable order to
change to the French type of pyrotechnics had been received and
work had been suspended until new drawings could be made ready.

The new pyrotechnics program was very extensive, involving
about 65 new types and styles. Production up to the time of the
armistice was as follows: signal rockets, 450,000; position lights,
Mk. I, 743,000; position lights, Mk II, 807,032; rifle lights, 55,000;
signal lights, Mk. I, 110,000; V. B. cartridges, 500,000; signal
lights, Mk. II, 2,551,000; smoke torches 110,000; wing tip flares,
80,165; airplane flares, 4,900.

Signal pistols were made exclusively by the Remington Arms
UMC. Of the 10-gauge, 20,164 has been made before the change
to the French 25 m/m was made on August 5, 1918. Fifteen thou-
sand of these had been completed by December and the 35 m/m
was well under way.

The 3-inch trench mortar was used chiefly against personnel by
the infantry. It fired a shell of twelve pounds at the rate of from
35 to 40 per minute to a distance of 750 yards.

The 4-inch mortar is used for the most part by special gas
troops to gas the enemy front line and communicating trenches,
as well as for a smoke barrage for starting fires and lowering the
morale of the enemy troops by spreading molten iron on them.
Its shell is a 24-pounder with a 1,000-yard range.

The 6-inch mortar is a demolition agent and is extremely ef-
fective against machine-gun nests, barb-wire entanglements, forti-


Upper : Grenade throwers. There is a distinct
form developed in grenade throwers quite differ-
ent from that of the Big League pitcher, but this
picture shows that the training officer has allowed
the grenade thrower in the foreground to depend
upon his trusty Southpaw, doubtless as he did in
the Bush League back home. Lower : Types of
hand grenades. 1, Defensive; 2, Offensive;
3, Gas; and 4, Phosphorus. The ancestor of the
hand grenade is the Chinese stink pot of the 15th
century. A total of 34,800,000 grenades were pro-
duced in the nineteen months of the war. The
grenade represents the chief contribution to the
winning of the war of the women munition work-
ers. Of the 5,000 persons engaged in grenade
manufacture, ninety per cent were women, and at
no time was there a strike or any labor disturb-
ance, a record that is without parallel in the
annals of Ordnance in the World War.


^e Story" gf Ordnance in the World War

fications, etc. The shells, weighing 53 pounds, have been shot so
fast that 5 from the same gun have been counted in the air at once.
Its range is 1900 yards.

The 240 m/m is also a demolition mortar. Its projectile of 150
pounds, hurled a distance of 2,400 yards, digs a crater 17 feet in
diameter and 5% feet deep, in hard clay, upon explosion.

The 11 -inch is a massive structure intended for heavier demoli-
tion purposes of fortifications, etc. with a 194-pound projectile and
a range of 4,500 yards.


It has been suggested that one of the difficulties under which
the Ordnance Department labored was that Ordnance design and
manufacture was so unfamiliar a realm to those civilians, upon
whom reliance had to be placed to a great extent for the fulfillment
of the task, that it was necessary to teach and improvise technique
before a wheel could be started turning. Yet at the very outset of
the Story of Ordnance in the Great War, is found a situation in
which it was the familiarity of the layman with the problem of the
Ordnance Department that proved a source of embarrassment.
The story of the U. S. rifle is unique in this respect. Millions of
Americans possessed some familiarity with a rifle. Thousands of
them were ready with solutions of the problem of equipping our
armies with them. When the Ordnance Department came out
with its remedy, it had to withstand the most bitter criticism.

In the production of the rifle the Ordnance Department took its
stand upon the same ground that it did with regard to machine
guns, artillery and all other weapons, namely, that the goal to
reach was a rate of production of rifles adequate to continuously
supply the armies to be put into the field, and to obtain the highest
quality commensurate with this production. Prior to the war, the
United States Army was manufacturing a rifle of excellent quality,
the U. S. Rifle, Calibre .30, Model of 1903. This rifle was manu-
factured at the Springfield Armory, Springfield, Mass., and at the


t^e Story" if Ordnance in the World War

Rock Island Arsenal, Rock Island, 111. But it was realized that the
highest rate of production that could possibly be attained in the
manufacture of this, the Springfield rifle, at these two arsenals
would be far too small to meet the requirements of the army which
the United States proposed to put into the field. Outside sources
of supply had to be provided. The Ordnance Department was
criticised for failure to adopt this excellent Springfield rifle, but
finally convinced its critics that the sources of supply for it were
utterly inadequate.

Then the Ordnance Department turned to those private plants
which were engaged in the manufacture of rifles for our Allies. For
these plants to have manufactured the Springfield, it would have
been necessary to reequip them. That was out of the question.
But the rifle which they were making for the Allies, was deemed
unsatisfactory by the Ordnance Department. It was the British
.303 rifle, chambered for a rim cartridge, liable to jam and misfire,
a weapon which the British were about to discard just before the
war and which they would have discarded, in favor of a rifle using
a high powered rimless cartridge, had it not been that they lacked
time to make any change at all. The Ordnance Department de-
cided against the manufacture of the British .303 rifle. Again there
was criticism, this time because the Ordnance Department was
insisting upon quality, and, as its critics considered, sacrificing
immediate quantity production.

Perhaps it was a bold step that the Ordnance Department took;
to decide upon a design of rifle to be produced in these private
plants which would, and did, prevent a single rifle from being de-
livered by them until August 18th, more than four months after
our entrance into the war. But the Department was playing for
two things, ultimate rate of production and adequate quality. It
refused to rely upon the Springfield rifle because of limited quantity
and rejected the .303 because of inferior quality. The responsibility
of the Ordnance Department is twofold, to get enough weapons
into the hands of soldiers on the battlefield and to get the sort of


We Story if Ordnance in the World War

weapons upon which they can rely. A burst rifle barrel, a jam-
med cartridge means the life of a soldier for which Ordnance is
responsible. Line officers will tell you that they would rather have
ten men killed by the enemy's fire than one man by the failure of his
own weapons, because the latter disaster breaks the confidence of
men in their weapons, is destructive of morale, and counts far more
against you in battle than greater loss at the hands of the enemy.

The Ordnance Department was simply following the policy of
taking its criticism from the American public at the outset, instead
of waiting to receive it from the American soldier when the battle
was on. Consequently the Department's small arms expert, Brig-
adier General John T. Thompson, simply endured his critics and
played for final results. He insisted upon the manufacture of the
U. S. Rifle Model of 1917, an adaptation of the .303, chambered to
take a high powered rimless cartridge, with the barrel strength-
ened, a changed bolt, ejector and stock and with relatively great
interchangeability of parts. This produced a weapon particularly
suited for the use of troops quickly converted from civilian life.
The Springfield is possibly a better weapon for expert riflemen but
in the opinion of a large number of the officers in charge of training
the National Army of the United States, the U. S. Rifle, Model of
1917, could not have been surpassed for this purpose. Troops not
experienced in rifle fire made records with it which astonished
experts. In insisting upon these changes General Thompson
not only gave the American soldier a better weapon than he
would have received otherwise, but he actually ultimately in-
creased the rate of production by insisting upon interchange-
ability of parts. Thus where a man could assemble, at the
utmost, 50 rifles of the British .303 design, the average as-
sembled with the Model 1917 was 200 per day and the record as-
sembly was 281. Moreover the three great plants engaged in the
manufacture of these rifles found it possible to cooperate as never
before, because if one of them lacked a certain part this could be


*®e Story* if Ordnance in the World War

supplied from another plant. The interchangeability of parts aver-
aged about 93 per cent.

During all this time, the Ordnance Department was under con-
stant criticism for its failure to supply rifles, any old sort of rifles.
Stories of broomstick parades at the encampments were circulated.
Congressional investigations were carried on. The final result was
that by November 9, 1918, two days before the signing of the
armistice with Germany, the Ordnance Department had accepted a
total of 2,498,998 U. S. Rifles Model of 1917 and 1903. During that
same period of nineteen months England produced 1,070,000 rifles
and France 1,400,000. Yet both England and France had the ad-
vantage of having been at the game for three years, whereas the
United States "wasted" four good months getting ready before a
single Model of 1917 Rifle was delivered. During July, August and
September of 1918, the rate of production of rifles by England was
112,821 and of France 40,500, while the rate with the United States
was 233,562. In the early part of November 1918, the rate of pro-
duction of rifles in the United States was approximately 10,000 per
day, more than enough to have taken care of the armies we pro-
posed to put into the field and to have guarded against loss and
wastage. In other words the rifle problem was successfully and
completely solved. The grand total of rifles of the United States
on hand at the time of the signing of the armistice was 3,575,356 or
enough, on the basis of fifty per cent of man power being armed
with rifles, to supply an army of 7,000,000 men, disregarding re-
serve and maintenance rifles.

Not only was this accomplished in the face of bitter criticism
but while chaotic conditions were prevailing with regard to labor
and raw materials. Yet the approximate cost to the United States
government of the United States Rifle Model of 1917 was $25.99
as compared with approximately $42.00 paid by the British gov-
ernment for the British-Enfield, calibre .303, from the same plants.
The American rifle was an improved weapon at $17.00 less cost,
which could be manufactured in larger quantities.


We Story gf Ordnance in the World War

While the larger part of the small arms program was devoted
to the manufacture of the Model of 1917 in private plants, the record
of Springfield Armory and Rock Island Arsenal with the produc-
tion of the Springfield rifle (U. S. Model 1903) during the war was
excellent. Tooled up for the production of 1,200 rifles per day in
two shifts of ten hours each, Springfield actually reached a pro-
duction of 1,500 rifles a day, and Rock Island Arsenal, tooled up to
equip 625 rifles a day, produced in spare parts the equal of 1,100
rifles a day. It is a rare thing for actual production to climb above
an estimate of capacity in this way.

But the Ordnance Department did not end its responsibility
with the production of rifles. It organized a corps of rifle experts
to visit every cantonment in the country to explain the rifle to the
men. In this way it obtained the very best and most intelligent
use of its product. Also it watched, and corrected wherever pos-
sible or necessary, every weakness and fault developed in the actual
use of the weapon. As an instance, in five cases where barrels of
rifles burst, a test of each of them was made and the facts in
each case were given as wide publicity as could be obtained. Thus
did Ordnance attempt to stand back of its product after it was
placed in the hands of the soldier.

To borrow a picture from Major Van Deventer : the Yanks go
over the top, fifty per cent of them depending for life and victory
upon their rifles. The weapons function properly. The cartridges
do not jam. The barrels do not burst. The sights are easy to use
for the accurate fire demanded of American soldiers. The parts
can be replaced. Their high powered ammunition gives them
range. The American soldier is thereby made what he is worth as
a man, plus his value with the best of the tools of war in his hand.
That is Ordnance.

The destructive power of the machine gun and automatic rifle
is not made evident in the firing of a single gun. It is when a long


We Story - * if Ordnance in the World War

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Online LibrarySevellon BrownThe story of ordnance in the World War → online text (page 7 of 22)