So, I was bouncing around yesterday trying to find something I felt like writing about. Two things came to mind.
I kinda wanted to write about large field artillery pieces, and I also wanted to touch on Coast Artillery some more. I’m intrigued by Coast Artillery from the turn of the century going forward (mostly because I grew up near Ft. Casey), whereas my co-author Craig focuses on Civil War Era seacoast artillery.
And in a happy coincidence, I found a nice intersection of the two.
Traditionally, US field artillery in the modern era has preferred to use the lightest possible gun as its main piece. Since World War II the main two tubes have been 105mm in light forces, and 155mm in heavy forces. But occasionally, you need something bigger. The largest tube we’ve deployed was the 240mm (9.44″) M1 Howitzer.
The M1 was used against very heavily fortified positions such as concrete and masonry fortifications and bunkers. It was also praised as an extremely accurate weapon. It was used in Italy, Western Europe, and even in the Philippines. A small number were also used in the Korean War with good effect.
But because it was produced in small numbers, I really hadn’t seen any pictures or video of it before. So I went looking. And lo and behold, it turns out, there are still some M1s in use.
Taiwan (the Republic of China) has long faced the problem of defending the Taiwan Strait from potential invasion from mainland China. Especially vulnerable are several small islands in the strait that are within easy range of small landing craft. Kinmen (Quemoy) and Matsu Islands have been the scene of several artillery duels and much sabre-rattling over they years. And even today, the ROC uses several slightly modified 240mm M1s in purpose built seacoast positions as coast artillery.
The M1 itself is a rather conventional split trail carriage mount. The ROC has modified the mount to fit on a rail that can be moved into concrete bunkers to avoid counter-battery fire.
There’s a long history of using traditional field artillery pieces in the coast artillery role. The primary difference in employment is the method of fire-control. Coast artillery has the benefit of firing from pre-surveyed positions, but has the challenge of trying to hit rapidly moving and maneuvering targets. Attack aviation has rendered seacoast artillery obsolete. Mostly. There are still a handful of places where well trained, well equipped coast artillery can have a valuable role to play.