Tag Archives: Military History

WWI 4.7-inch Gun Number 395 At The VFW Post 1137 in Watervliet, Michigan

One day when we were driving around, a WWI-era cannon caught my eye. It was positioned in front of VFW post 1137 in Watervliet, MI. Artillery of that era has a number of distinct markings – notably wooden wheels! So, I stopped and took photos – two times actually. One time in the Winter of 2019 and again in July of 2020.

Well, age and the elements are taking their toll but you can still see the 4.7″ M1906 and get a pretty good idea of what it looked like in its prime. Kudos to someone for making a stand to take the load off the old wooden wheels that could never handle it at this point.

Getting The Clues I Needed To Research The Cannon

In most artillery of this age, you can find what you need to start digging on the muzzle and the carriage. With this in mind, I made sure to get some photos as best I could of the info at those points.

The markings were hard to make out with the naked eye due to paint but with some digital photo editing, I could pull out the details. Northwestern Ordnance Co. 2665 Pounds. No. 395.
Getting in even closer and seriously tweaking the photo to enhance clarity, you can see that it says Northwestern Ordnance Co. 1918. The weight is definitely 2665. The initials in the lower right I am not sure of. I wonder if they were the inspector’s initials or some code. I can make out the letter H but not what is before it. You can see the bore area near muzzle still has its rifling.
It looks like there were three initials to the right of the gun’s number – “NO. 395”. The first two initials are too worn for me to make out but the last one looks like an “H”. I’m guessing but “R.B.H” maybe?
The emblem on the carriage was far easier to read and also our single best clue as to where to start digging. It was carriage number 702 for the Model 1906 4.7 inch gun. The carriage was made by Studebaker in 1918.

Doing The Research

From the carriage, I knew to start my Internet searching on M1906 4.7″ guns and Google immediately returned images, books and blog posts that confirmed that.

Here it back in the day! This is from the Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.

Wikipedia gave me some info but then thanks to the Internet Archive Project, I found two scanned copies of US Army books that had lots of old pictures, diagrams and really comprehensive information about the 4.7″ gun. There is so much detail in these books that I am just going to give a quick overview in this post and you can learn more from these books:

Source: Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.
Source: Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.
Source: Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.
Source: Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.
Source: Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.
Source: Handbook of Artillery: Including Mobile, Anti-Aircraft and Trench Materiel, May 1920.

More Details

The 4.7 inch (120mm) field gun was designed and issued by the US Ordinance department beginning in 1906 with the first units being delivered in 1911. It was manufactured by the Northwest Ordinance Co and carriages were made by three firms groups: Rock Island Arsenal, Walter Scott Co and Studebaker Co.

Apparently there were logistical problems with the unique ammunition it used resulting in limited numbers being built. Despite larger orders being placed, only 209 guns and 470 carriages were produced. 64 of the units were sent to France. 994,852 of the 4.7 inch shells it used were produced. Most of the units were used for training and the guns stayed in reserve storage until 1932. [Source – Wikipedia]. Note, that Wikipedia link is pretty cool for a quick high-level summary of the 4.7″ gun.

More Photos of Number 395

The photos below were taken on the two different visits mentioned above. If you click on one, you can see the full-size photo and navigate around as well.

Summary

I’ve heard from guys who grew up in this area and they tell me the gun moved around some over the years before landing at its current location in front of the VFW post. If anyone has more information, I’d sure be curious to hear it.

With that said, I now know a little bit more and hope you found this post interesting.


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17 cm mittlerer Minenwerfer Trench Mortar (17cm mMW a/A) Found in Dowagiac, MI, WWI Memorial

My wife and I were walking around downtown Dowagiac, MI, when I spotted a memorial with an odd little piece of artillery sticking out above a bush located by the intersection of South Front and Main Street.

I walked over and realized I had no idea what it was.  Given it was a WWI monument, it had that “WWI Look” and the wooden steel clad wheels – even I could figure out it was a WWI piece but what was it?  Somebody had spray painted part of it with some brass/bronze paint that was fading but it was actually in surprisingly good shape.

My first thought was that it was some kind of short barreled howitzer but didn’t turn up anything.  I then realized it might be some type of large mortar so I searched on WWI mortar photos.  Being a visual person, I can scan a ton of photos fast and I found it pretty quick.  It was an early generation Imperial German 17 cm mittlerer Minenwerfer (17 cm mMW a/A) made by Rheinmetall.

These large mortars were for destroying fortifications in trench warfare.  Interesting minenwerfer means “mine projector”.  About 2,360 of them were made between 1913 and 1918.  Only 150 were available at the start of WWI.

The minenwerfers played a critical role in destroying fortifications – notably those containing machine guns and artillery as well as clearing field obstacles such as barricades and barbed wire.

They were compact but at 525KG (about 1,157 pounds), they were difficult to maneuver in a rush.

As far as I can tell, the Dowagiac minenwerfer is a 17cm mMW a/A with the last meaning Alter Art which means it is the early model before they increased the barrel length in a newer model known as the 17cm mMW n/A – with the last part meaning Neur Art – or the “new alteration”

The next photo caught my eye due to the Rheinmetall logo that I also have on HK G3 magazines made my Rheinmentall.

The monument is for the men who lost their lives in WWI from Dowagiac and also Cass County.  Note the quote “It is an investment not a loss when a man gives his life for his country”.

I can’t help but wonder how the German mortar wound up in Dowagiac.  I didn’t see a plaque anywhere but hope to research it more some day.  I also hope they preserve it.  Unless I missed it, the mortar is standing on its own wooden wheels and it would be a shame if it fell.

In case you are interested, here are some great resources to learn more about the 17 cm mMW a/A:

The following page has GPS coordinates and names of the decesed:

Here’s a Google Satellite View of the WWI Memorial – it where I put the red circle:

Here’s the link to the Google Maps page – click here.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com.