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News :: Marine's donation helped put Army Howitzer at Veterans Park
· 12:42pm March 13th, 2013
If, on your next visit to Veterans Park, you appreciate the fact that the Army Howitzer makes it more difficult to notice the anchor that pays tribute to the U.S. Navy, you have a Marine to thank for it.
Larry Michael of Vinton retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after serving 22 and a half years, including a tour of duty as a fire support coordinator in Vietnam. When he heard about efforts to bring the Howitzer to Vinton, Michael promptly offered to pay all of the related expenses. He funded transporting the artillery piece from Alabama to Iowa, and also paid the cost of repainting it.
"I wanted to be as sure as possible that the U.S. Marine Corps had something to do with it," Michael told Vinton Today, a few days after the arrival of the Howitzer.
The Marine said he hopes that people who see the Howitzer will understand better the role of artillery in winning wars and saving American soldiers.
"I hope they understand that artillery is the Army and Marine's main weapon that helps our infantry," said Michael, explaining that artillery fired in coordinated fashion from land, air and sea helped eliminate enemy personnel and weapons.
"Artillery helps infantry in every stage of combat," says Michael. "All the infantryman needs to know is how to close in and destroy the enemy. If the artillery can drop more shells more quickly it will help our troops. Our enemy is usually very poor at fire support, while we have studied and nurtured it for years. We know how to put air support, naval gunfire and field artillery on one target at the same time."
Michael also expressed the friendly rivalry between branches of the U.S. military that often lasts long after soldiers, sailors and Marines have become veterans.
"It felt very good that I don't have to look at those anchors any more," said Michael, referring to the Navy monument placed by the family of the late Vince Blank, a Navy veteran and former Iowa Legion State Commander and Vinton Mayor.
During more than two decades in the Marines, Michael said he fired virtually every kind of artillery piece in the U.S. arsenal.
The Army version of the 105mm Howitzer now on display is a lighter model than that used by the Marines, explains Michael.
"The Army's 105 was made for the Airborne units. It could be hauled in by helicopter, or dropped by parachute," says Michael.
The Howitzer is capable of firing ten 80-pound shells per minute for the first three minutes. But after the first three minutes, the intense heat requires a slow down of the pace to three shells per minute, explains Michael.
The 105MM Howitzer fired shells well over a foot long and 105 MM (about 4.5 inches) in diameter. The shells weighed approximately 80 pounds each. Some shells were designed to explode upon impact, to provide the maximum blast force to remove enemy positions or weapons. Others were set on timed fuses to explode above the enemy and target personnel. The largest artillery weapons, said Michael, fired 8-inch shells that had nuclear capabilities.
Michael served as an operations officer in the 2nd Battalion, the 11th Marines' Fifth Marine Regiment.
"There were six guns in each battery and three gun batteries under each regiment," he recalls. "We had 18 artillery pieces at our immediate disposal, ready to be fired within seconds to provide fire support."
In Vietnam, Michael served as the Fire Support Coordinator, which described as "the safety officer" -- the person in charge of knowing where all personnel and tanks were located so artillery would not attack U.S. personnel. Although the term had was not at that time commonly used, it was Michael's job to prevent what Americans now call "friendly fire."
Michael entered the Marines as a 2nd Lt., a platoon leader. After Vietnam, he returned to field artillery and later retired as a Major.
Seeing the Howitzer in Vinton brought back memories for Michael: The smell of the cordite -- the gunpowder used to fire the rockets. The noise -- including the sonic boom of the shell leaving the barrel faster than the speed of sound.
"That's why a lot of us artillery guys have hearing problems now," said Michael.
Thanks from VPRD
Vinton Parks and Recreation Director Duane Randall saw Michael that Wednesday morning that the Howitzer arrived.
"It was a special moment for him," said Randall, who also thanked Michael for his generous contribution towards the project. In addition to adding to the park's display, said Randall, it will also help inspire memories for many other veterans.
Randall and Vinton veterans Roger Uthoff and Wilber Corcran had been working on the project for the past four years. Uthoff said that one issue for the delay was the fact that America still had troops and weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military was delaying the release of weapons, just in case they would be needed.
The Howitzer is still the property of the U.S. Army, and is on "conditional loan" to the American Legion, which is responsible for making sure it is displayed properly. The last stop before Vinton was the National Guard facility in Cedar Rapids, where the Howitzer underwent "limited demilitarization" designed to ensure that it could not be used as a weapon.
According to a U.S. Army web site, the Howitzer could fire a 4.1 inch-wide explosive shell of more than one foot in lenght up to 7.1 miles at a rate of 10 per minute for the first three minutes, or three per minute during sustained fire. The shells could be loaded with a variety of explosives to target tanks or other military targets. See a more complete description of the Howitzer below:Towed Howitzer (105e mm) M102 Mission
Provide destructive, suppressive and protective indirect and direct field artillery fires in support of combined arms operations.Entered Army Service
1964Description and Specifications
The M102 105mm towed howitzer is a lightweight towed weapon that provides direct support fires to light, airborne and air assault forces. It can be towed by a 2-ton truck or HMMWV, dropped by parachute or transported with its basic load of ammunition by UH60 or larger helicopter and C130 aircraft. It is nearly three-quarters of a ton lighter than the World War II-era M101A1 105mm towed howitzer that it replaced. When emplaced, the howitzer’s high volume of fire compensates in large measure for the lower explosive weight of the projectile compared to the 155mm howitzers. It has a very low silhouette when firing and a roller tire attached to the trail assembly of the M102 permits the weapon to be rotated 360 degrees around a firing platform, which provides the pivot for the weapon. The weapon can be elevated from -5 degrees to a maximum of 75 degrees. The M102 has been replaced in the active Army by the M119A1 105mm towed howitzer. The M102 is still found in several Army National Guard units and the Air Force uses the same cannon and recoil system in the AC130 gunship.Length: 17.1 ft Width: 6.4 ft Height: 5.2 ft Weight: 3,004 lbs Crew: 8 Range: 11,500 m standard; 15,100 m rocket-assisted Max. Rate of Fire: 10 rounds per minute for first 3 minutes Sustained Rate of Fire: 3 rounds per minute Ammunition: The M102 fires all standard NATO 105mm ammunition, but not the newer extended range ammo Manufacturer
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