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Army Museum Adds German Artillery to Collection

FORT SILL, Okla. -- The premier heavy howitzer used by the German Army in World War I is now part of the collection at the Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill.   The Mörser 16 is a 21-centimeter or 8.3-inch caliber, 14,700-pound howitzer that fired a massive 245-pound shell. It was introduced in 1916.   "It's a very nice addition to our collection," said Gordon Blaker, artillery museum director and curator. "It was one of the guns on my want list."   The museum did not have an example of a German heavy artillery gun from the first world war before the Mörser 16 arrived.   This type of 210mm heavy howitzer was originally introduced in 1910 as the Mörser 10 according to the information plaque at the gun exhibit. It was one of the standard weapons of the foot artillery regiments the heavy artillery units in the German army.

Gun origins

Experience in the first two years of the war showed that while effective, the howitzer needed a longer range so the Mörser 16 was introduced. It had a longer barrel which gave it a slightly longer range. Another improvement over the 10 was a splinter shield to protect its eight-man guncrew from enemy shrapnel. By the end of the war, German 21cm howitzers had fired more than 7 million shells. The Mörser 16 continued service with the German army into World War II.   The gun was transported by a team of 12 to 14 horses, Blaker said. "A lot of times on guns this big they would take the tubes (barrels) off and move them separately just because they were so massive."

Movie-goers may recognize the Mörser 16 from "War Horse," where it was featured prominently.   Fort Sill's Mörser 16 was manufactured in 1912 and had the new, longer barrel installed in 1917. It was captured by the 1st Army troops in the Argonne Forest region of France in 1918. In the United States, the gun was put on outdoor display at Fort Jay, N.J., then moved to Fort Meade, Md. in 1983.

No gun, will travel The artillery museum obtained the Mörser 16 from Fort Meade, where two of them were in a storage facility. Fort Meade Museum officials were willing to donate both guns to the artillery museum, but Blaker only needed one.   Which gun did Blaker choose? The one that was easiest to move.   The gun was so heavy the only way it could be moved was with a forklift, however, the only forklift big enough to lift the gun was too massive to fit inside the Meade facility, Blaker.

Zane Mohler, museum exhibit specialist, went to Fort Meade to figure out how to get the gun to Fort Sill, Blaker said. Mohler came back here and built two heavy-duty dollies which were then shipped to Fort Meade.

Back at Meade Sept. 6, Mohler jacked up the Mörser 16 onto the dollies and had the gun pulled out of the facility. A crane operator then loaded the seven-ton gun onto a flatbed truck and it departed for Fort Sill that day, Blaker said.   Restoration "The gun was in rough shape," Blaker said. Whole areas of its hollow metal wheels were completly missing. The gun trail's two compartments also had been filled with more than 400 pounds of concrete.   "I spent two full days jack hammering the concrete out," Blaker said.

Craftsmen at the Fort Sill Directorate of Logistics worked on the gun for more than four months, Blaker said. First, they sandblasted the gun, then it went into the metal shop.   "One or two workers cut out the rusted parts and replaced them," he said, "that went on for some time."   With its freshly painted flat, gray-green original colors, the Mörser 16 was put on display April 2 inside the museum in the artillery timeline.

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