105-mm Howitzer M2A1 - Carriage M2A2
When the USA entered World War I in 1917 the US Army was poorly equipped with artillery and once in France was issued mainly with French or British equipments. The Americans decided to egmp themselves properly with the French 75' and began production in the USA for their own use. Production was just getting under way when the war ended, leaving the US Army with a huge stockpile of 75s that was to last them until 1942. Thus when an investigating body met to report on the future equipments for the US Army the findings of their initial reports were not implemented.
The investigating body was the Westerveldt Board of 1919, and among its recommendations was the desirability of a 105-mm (4,13-in) howitzer. At the time little was done to put the suggestions into practice, so it was not until 1939 that the design of the proposed howitzer was completed. The weapon was placed into production the following year and thereafter the 105-mm Howitzer M2A1 poured off the American production lines in thousands.
The M2A1 was destined to become one of the most widely used of all American weapons in World War II. A measure of its success can be seen in the fact that it is still in widespread service in this decade, and even now some production batches are still run off.
The M2A1 was an orthodox piece of artillery with little of note in its overall design. The associated Carriage M2A2 was a split-trail design with the gun assembly mounted in such a way that the centre of balance was just forward of the breech. The weapon was never intended for animal traction and so was fitted with rubber-tyred wheels from the outset. Overall the weapon was heavy for its calibre, but this meant that strength was so 'built-in' that the howitzer never seemed to wear out. The barrel and carriage could take enormously hard use and still keep firing.
The M2A1 was used in all theatres where the US forces fought, from Europe to the Pacific. Throughout the war years the basic design was the subject of numerous trials and improvements, and the ammunition underwent the same development process. By the time the war ended the range of ammunition fired by the M2A1 ranged from the usual HE through to propaganda-leaflet shells, various smoke marker shells and tear gas shells. Not all of the 105-mm (4,13-in) howitzers were towed. Some were placed on various self-propelled carriages, one of the most widely used being the M7, known to the British gunners who used it for a while as the 'Priest'. Later, Sherman tank chassis were used to mount the howitzer, and there was at least one attempt to mount the M2A1 on a half-track. Thus the M2A1 was able to provide fire support for armoured formations as well as infantry formations, and was among the first such weapons to provide mobile fire support, even though many others had undergone trials for the task.
Post-war the M2A1 was given a later form of designation (it is now the M102) and it is still a front-line weapon with the US Army and of the armies of many other nations. It is still used as a yardstick by which other artillery designs are measured.
Specification Howitzer M2 Al
Calibre: 105 mm (4.134 in)
Length of piece: 2.574 m (101.35 in)
Weight: travelling and in action 1934 kg (4,260 lb)
Elevation: -5∞ to +65∞
Muzzle velocity: 472 m (1,550 ft) per second
Range: 11430m (12,500 yards)
Shell weight: 14.97 kg (33 lb)