M3 howitzer

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105 mm Howitzer M3
M3 105mm Howitzer.jpg
A M3 howitzer outside the Army Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Type Light Howitzer
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1943–Present
Used by United States
Wars Second World War
Production history
Designed 1941
Produced 1943-45
Number built 2,580
Specifications
Weight 2,495 lb (1,130 kg)
Length 12 ft 11 in (3.94 m)
Barrel length Bore: 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) L/16
Overall: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) L/17.9
Width 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Height 4 ft 2 in (1.27 m)

Shell 105x372R
Caliber 105 mm
Breech Horizontal block
Recoil Hydropneumatic, constant
Carriage split trail
Elevation -9° to 30°
Traverse 45°
Rate of fire Burst: 4 rpm
Sustained: 2 rpm
Muzzle velocity 1,020 ft/s (311 m/s)
Maximum firing range HE: 8,300 yd (7,600 m)

The 105 mm Howitzer M3 was a U.S. light howitzer designed for use by airborne troops. The gun utilized the barrel of the 105 mm Howitzer M2, shortened and fitted to a slightly modified split trail carriage of the 75 mm pack howitzer.

The howitzer was used by the U.S. Army during World War II. It was issued to airborne units and the cannon companies of infantry regiments.

Development and production[edit]

The process of building airborne forces in 1941 led to a requirement for an air portable 105 mm howitzer. The weapon, initially designated T7, featured a barrel from the 105mm Howitzer M2, shortened by 27 inches (690 mm) and combined with a recoil system and carriage of the 75 mm field howitzer. A prototype reached trials at Aberdeen Proving Ground in March 1942.[1]

The howitzer was designed to fire the same ammunition as the longer M2. However, it turned out that shorter barrel resulted in incomplete burning of the propelling charge. The problem could be solved by use of faster burning powder. Otherwise the design was considered acceptable and was standardized as 105 mm Howitzer M3 on Carriage M3. The carriage was soon succeeded by the M3A1, which had trails made from thicker plate. Even stronger tubular trails were designed, but never reached production.[1]

The production started in February 1943 and continued until May 1944; an additional bunch was produced in April–June 1945.[1]

Production of М3, pcs.[2]
Year 1943 1944 1945 Total
Produced, pcs. 1,965 410 205 2,580

Service[edit]

Even though the M3 was not mentioned in the February 1944 Tables of Organization and Equipment (TO&E), shortly before the Normandy Airdrops some airborne divisions received a 105 mm glider field artillery battalion equipped with them as a supplement to their existing three 75 mm howitzer battalions. 1/4 ton jeeps were used as prime movers. The weapon was finally authorized as an option by the December 1944 TO&E and, by 1945, employed by all airborne divisions in the European Theater.[1][3]

The M3 was also issued to the cannon companies of infantry regiments (six, in three platoons of two). Infantry typically used 1½ ton trucks as the prime mover.[1]

A small number of M3s were supplied via lend lease channels to France (94), United Kingdom (2) and countries of Latin America (18).[4]

Variants[edit]

M3 near Carentan, France, 11 July 1944.

Gun variants:

  • T7, standardized as M3.[1]
  • T10 - variant with elevation improved to 65 degrees.[1]

Carriage variants:

  • M3 - based on M3A1 carriage for the 75 mm field howitzer.[1]
  • M3A1 - had stronger trails, made from 1/8 inch plate instead of 3/32 inch.[1]
  • M3A2 - was fitted with shield.[1]

Self-propelled mounts[edit]

There were two proposals for a self-propelled artillery piece armed with the M3. Neither reached mass production.

External images
105 mm HMC T82. [1]
  • 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage T38 - based on the M3 halftrack, never built.[5]
  • 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage T82 (M3 in mount M3A1) - based on the Light Tank M5A1 chassis. Two pilots were built. The project was cancelled in June 1945 due to lack of requirement.[6]

Ammunition[edit]

The gun fired semi-fixed ammunition, similar to the ammunition of the M2; it used the same projectiles and the same 105 mm Cartridge Case M14, but with different propelling charge. The latter used faster burning powder to avoid incomplete burning; it consisted of a base charge and four increments, forming five charges from 1 (the smallest) to 5 (the largest). In an emergency, gunners were authorized to fire M1 HE rounds prepared for the Howitzer M2, but only with charges from 1 to 3. M1 HE rounds for the M3 could be fired from an M2 with any charge.[7]

HEAT M67 Shell had non-adjustable propelling charge. For blank ammunition, a shorter Cartridge Case M15 with black powder charge was used.[7]

Available ammunition[7][8][9]
Type Model Weight (round/projectile) Filler Muzzle velocity Range
HE HE M1 Shell 18.35 kg (40 lb) / 14.97 kg (33 lb) 50/50 TNT or amatol, 2.18 kg (4 lb 13 oz) 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,585 m (8,300 yd)
HEAT-T HEAT M67 Shell 16.62 kg (37 lb) / 13.25 kg (29 lb) 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,760 m (8,500 yd)
Smoke WP M60 Shell 18.97 kg (42 lb) / 15.56 kg (34 lb) White Phosphorus, 1.84 kg (4.1 lb) 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,585 m (8,300 yd)
Smoke FS M60 Shell 19.65 kg (43 lb) / Sulfur trioxide in Chlorosulfonic acid, 2.09 kg (4 lb 10 oz)
Smoke HC BE M84 Shell 18.29 kg (40 lb) / 14.91 kg (33 lb) Zinc chloride 311 m/s (1,020 ft/s) 7,585 m (8,300 yd)
Drill Drill Cartridge M14 - -
Blank - -
 
Armor penetration, mm[9]
Ammunition \ Distance, m 0 457 914 1,828
HEAT M67 Shell (meet angle 0°) 102
Concrete penetration, mm[9]
HE M1 Shell (meet angle 0°) 305 274 244 213
Different methods of measurement were used in different countries / periods. Therefore, direct comparison is often impossible.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Zaloga - US Field Artillery of World War II, p 13-14.
  2. ^ Zaloga - US Field Artillery of World War II, p 9.
  3. ^ Zaloga - US Airborne Divisions in the ETO 1944-45, p 37.
  4. ^ Zaloga - US Field Artillery of World War II, p 37.
  5. ^ Hunnicutt - Half-Track: A History of American Semi-Tracked Vehicles, p 121.
  6. ^ Hunnicutt - Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank, p 332-333, 504.
  7. ^ a b c Technical Manual TM 9-1901, Artillery Ammunition, p 167-178
  8. ^ Technical Manual TM 9-1904, Ammunition Inspection Guide, p 471-484.
  9. ^ a b c Hunnicutt - Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank, p 504.

References[edit]

  • Hunnicutt, R. P. (1992). Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-462-2. 
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. (2001). Half-Track: A History of American Semi-Tracked Vehicles. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-742-7. 
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2007). US Field Artillery of World War II. New Vanguard 131. illustrated by Brian Delf. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-061-1. 
  • Zaloga, Steven J. (2007). US Airborne Divisions in the ETO 1944-45. Battle Orders 25. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781846031182. 
  • Technical Manual TM 9-1326, 105 mm Howitzer M3 and Howitzer Carriages M3 and M3A1. War Department, 1944. 
  • Technical Manual TM 9-1901, Artillery Ammunition. War Department, 1944. 
  • Technical Manual TM 9-1904, Ammunition Inspection Guide. War Department, 1944.