M3 howitzer

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105 mm Howitzer M3
M3 105mm Howitzer.jpg
A M3 howitzer outside the Army Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii.
TypeLight Howitzer
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1943–present
Used byUnited States
Production history
No. built2,580
Mass2,495 lb (1,130 kg)
Length12 ft 11 in (3.94 m)
Barrel lengthOverall: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) L/17.9
Bore: 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) L/16
Width5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Height4 ft 2 in (1.27 m)

Shell105 × 372 mm R
Shell weight36 lb 10 oz – 43 lb 3 oz (16.6–19.6 kg)
Caliber4.1 in (105 mm)
RecoilHydro-pneumatic, constant
CarriageSplit trail
Elevation−9° to 30°
Rate of fireBurst: 4 rpm
Sustained: 2 rpm
Muzzle velocity1,020 ft/s (311 m/s)
Maximum firing rangeHE: 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 the recoil system and carriage from the 75 mm pack howitzer. A prototype reached trials at Aberdeen Proving Ground in March 1942.[1]

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

Production started in February 1943 and continued until May 1944; an additional batch was produced from April to June 1945.[1]

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


Even though the M3 was not mentioned in the February 1944 T/O&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 (designated the M1A1 during World War II). 1/4 ton jeeps were used as prime movers. Later increased to four battalions, one, between 1943 and 1945, was converted to 105mm M3. The weapon was finally authorized as an option by the December 1944 TO&E, and by 1945 was employed by all airborne divisions in the European Theater.[1][3]

The initial production of the M3 was adequate to equip the cannon companies of the three hundred infantry regiments that had been forecast in the initial war plans. The M3 was the primary weapon of these companies, and appeared in the table of organization and equipment (T/O&E) from early 1944 (six, in three platoons of two)[4] Often the cannon companies were integrated into the division artillery. The infantry used 1½ ton cargo trucks as the prime mover.[1] In an assessment written after the war "The cannon company of 1943-45 failed to live up to the expectations of the force designers of 1942. The main problem was the substitution of towed low-velocity howitzers for the self-propelled versions as originally intended. This howitzer, the M3, had a shorter barrel than the regular 105-mm howitzer M2, possessed no ballistic shield, and had an effective range of only 7,250 yards (6.63 km) as compared to 12,500 yards (11.4 km) for the M2."[5]

A small number of M3s were supplied via lend lease channels to France (94), United Kingdom (2) and countries of Latin America (18).[6] They were used early in the Korean War as ROK divisional artillery.



M3 near Carentan, France, 11 July 1944.

Gun variants:

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

Carriage variants:

  • M3 - based on M3A1 carriage for the 75 mm field howitzer.[1]
  • M3A1 - had stronger trails, made from 18 inch (3.2 mm) plate instead of 332 inch (2.4 mm).[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 image
image icon 105 mm HMC T82. [1]
  • 105 mm Howitzer Motor Carriage T38 - based on the M3 halftrack, never built.[11]
  • 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.[12]


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.[13]

HEAT M67 Shell had non-adjustable propelling charge. For blank ammunition, a shorter Cartridge Case M15 with black powder charge was used.[13]

Available ammunition[13][14][15]
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[15]
Ammunition \ Distance, m 0 457 914 1,828
HEAT M67 Shell (meet angle 0°) 102
Concrete penetration, mm[15]
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.


  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. ^ "T/O&E 7-14 Infantry Cannon Company (26 February 1944)" (PDF). Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  5. ^ "THE CANNON COMPANY - A WORLD WAR II SOLUTION TO THE CLOSE SUPPORT PROBLEM OF THE 1990s A Monograph By Major John H. McDonald, Jr. Field Artillery" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 September 2021.
  6. ^ Zaloga - US Field Artillery of World War II, p 37.
  7. ^ a b c d e "M3 (105mm Howitzer M3) - 105mm Towed Artillery System - Page 2 of 2". www.militaryfactory.com. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015.
  8. ^ Pachada (19 March 2008). "Philippine army 105mm M3 howitzer".
  9. ^ Bak, Dongchan (March 2021). Korean War : Weapons of the United Nations (PDF) (in Korean). Republic of Korea: Ministry of Defense Institute for Military History. pp. 99–101. ISBN 979-11-5598-079-8.
  10. ^ Phạm Văn Sơn, ARVN military history, vol.4, 1972, p.364
  11. ^ Hunnicutt - Half-Track: A History of American Semi-Tracked Vehicles, p 121.
  12. ^ Hunnicutt - Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank, p 332-333, 504.
  13. ^ a b c Technical Manual TM 9-1901, Artillery Ammunition, p 167-178
  14. ^ Technical Manual TM 9-1904, Ammunition Inspection Guide, p 471-484.
  15. ^ a b c Hunnicutt - Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank, p 504.


  • 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.