8-in Howitzer M1
After the United States entered World War I in 1917, among the various types of heavy artillery its army received once US troops arrived in France was the British 8-in Howitzer Mks VII and VIII, which were incidentally being produced in the United States to a British order, The Americans took to this howitzer with a will, for they soon discovered that it was a very accurate weapon and in the years after 1918 set about producing their own version. This was under the aegis of an advisory body known as the Westervelt Board, which also recommended the introduction of the 155-mm Gun M1. The board also recommended that the 155mm (6.1-in) gun and the 203-mm (8-in) howitzer should share the .same carriage and thus the new howitzer used the same M1 carriage as the 155-mm Gun M1.
Despite the recommendations of the Westervelt Board, however, the development of the new howitzer was slow and erratic, and at times ceased altogether for years on end. Thus it was not until 1940 that the howitzer was standardized as the 8-in Howitzer M1. The M1 owed much to its British origins but was longer, and as it used the M1 carriage it was even more accurate than its predecessor. However, it should not be thought that because the 8-in Howitzer M1 and the 155-mm Gun M1 shared the same carriage the two barrels were interchangeable. They were not, for to exchange the two barrels involved a great deal of workshop time and a great deal of trouble.
Once the Howitzer M1 had been introduced into service it soon became a very popular and powerful weapon. Because of its accuracy it could be used to bring down heavy fire on spot targets quite close to friendly troops and was frequently used thus in the elimination of enemy strongpoints and bunkers. The shell fired by the M1 was initially a 90.7-kg (200-lb) high explosive shell also used by 203-mm (8-in) coast guns, but this was later replaced by a special high explosive shell known as the M106 which had the same weight as the earlier shell but which could be fired to a range of 16596m (18,150 yards). The M106 is still in service with the 8-in Howitzer M1, which in a post-war designation reshuffle was redesignated M115.
Like the 155-mm Gun M1 the 203mm howitzer also went self-propelled, although the first version did not appear until 1946. This was the M46 which used a much-modified M25 tank chassis as the carrier. Subsequent development along these lines has now led to the M1 10 series which originally used the 203-mm howitzer in a form virtually unchanged from its towed version but which has now been developed to the M110A2 which uses a much lengthened 203-mm howitzer barrel.
The towed 8-in Howitzer M1 15 is still in widespread service all over the world, and there are few signs that it is likely to be replaced in the near future. Thus the 203-mm howitzer can lay claim to being one of the longest-lived of all modern heavy artillery pieces: it can trace back its origins to World War I and is still in service.
Specification 8-in Howitzer M1
Calibre: 203 mm (8 in)
Length of piece: 5.324 m (17 ft 5,59 in)
Weight: travelling 14515 kg (32,000 lb) and in action 13471 kg (29,698 lb)
Elevation: -2° to +65°
Muzzle velocity: 594 m (1,950 ft) per second
Maximum range: 16596 m (18,150 yards) Shell weight: 90.7 kg (200 lb)