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Gunner Zen and a hmmmmm

Field artillerymen of Battery A, 2-218th Field Artillery, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard, fire a 105mm shell from a howitzer at Yakima Training Grounds, Wash., during the unit's annual training Aug. 9. Photo by Sgt. Chad Layton of Battery A, 2-218th Field Artillery, Oregon Army National Guard.

Field artillerymen of Battery A, 2-218th Field Artillery, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oregon Army National Guard, fire a 105mm shell from a howitzer at Yakima Training Grounds, Wash., during the unit's annual training Aug. 9. Photo by Sgt. Chad Layton of Battery A, 2-218th Field Artillery, Oregon Army National Guard.
 
Okay, I never served the light guns, except during FAOB,  the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course., but there are several aspects about this pic that are interesting.  But they might be normal instances with these guns.  Or not.

I'll let all you other Gunners go after it for a while before I put in my two cents.  Pretty picture, regardless!

31 Comments

It's odd that we see just one crewmember around the piece. Where's everyone else, like the gunner, assistant gunner, etc?

Also looks like there was some poor quality propellant, or perhaps a bunch of crap (dust or other particles) in the tube when it was fired, causing the pretty effect.
 
Looks like an M119A1/A2  105mm.
 
It looks like a bushfire starter.  I'm wondering what the thing in front of the trainee is and why he's off to the side leaning over.
   

Hee!  Bushfire starter is right!  He's leaning over because he's probably the guy who pulled the lanyard.  The absence of other crew members is interesting, too.  Which I'l discuss later.

I'm really hoping some guys who served  the 105's will pipe up.

Let's just say if I saw something like this happening with a 155mm or 203mm howitzer, I'd be giving the crew the hairy eyeball and paying a *lot* of attention to their crew drill and position discipline throughout the day.

But my reaction, while appropriate for the big guns, might be misplaced for the little ones.

   
The technical term for them is "Calhoun sparks"...
 
it would appear to be a Belgian Crap Sprayer, circa 1908, though it's tough to tell w/o a pink quilted blankie behind it for scale.
 
a.  Slightly off topic- in the YouTube video link it looks like they used pieces of string to form crosshairs on the muzzle.  Boresighting?  Done often?  What do they use in the breech as the "peep" when doing this?  Is this part of laying the gun in position or a periodic check on alignment of the tube and the sights?  (Us USN guys only did boresighting when aligning the barrels of a mount with each other, then with the mount sights, then the director sights and then the readar dish to the director sights.  Done at night with the moon as a target, hollering "mark" when the motion of the ship took the sights across the moon- "Cannon cockers barking at the moon.")

b.  On the photo-  105 How rounds usually include a packet of flash reducer "stuff" that should minimize this pyrotechnic display.  Did someone pull that for artistic reasons for the photo?

c.  Looks like an awful lot of small sparky particles.  Perhaps they are firing a blank, and the black powder would likely give off this sort of flash, unlike service rounds.

Cool photo anyway.
 
Boresighting - done anytime you mount the sights or move the gun - by move the gun I mean from position to postion. And periodically during firing. There is a metal plate that fits in the bore to provide the peep. You're getting close on my thoughts on the gun and sparks. A blank would provide a *lot* more powder and flash. I have my suspicions about what's going on, and that's why I'm hoping some light gunners will show up. The picture was published on the Army website, too.
 
Looks like someone found a new way to get rid of them pesky extra/leftover propellant bags that accumulate at every firing point.  155mm/8", not so much of a problem, but for 105mm it is always a given that you'll be burning excess propellant before the exercise is over.
 
Heh.  Mr. Hairy Barbarian, I recollect some *very* memorable powder burns of 155 powder increments after a day spent shooting over 150 rounds of Charge 5 White.
 
Laying 155 increments end-to-end (with overlap) over a 100-meter stretch of tank trail after a two-day shoot at Camp Fort Drum and touching them off when the wind is just right *does* produce a reasonable facsimile of a nuclear burst.
 
Heh.  Or Hell with a capital H.  I guess there's a TINS in there I should do.
 
John,
  We didn't do the string and borsighting disk thing unless we had a new pantel or our boresight check with the verification device (M137? - my brain has turned to jelly since I went aviation...) was out of spec...
 
I think the M137 is the pantel, and the M139 was the alignment device? Heh. We're durka-durka-ing the civilians...
 
old school turret mechanics would use the strings acrost with binos in the breech (after removing firing probe) on M60A1s whilst backed up onto the synch ramp...

my first turret mechanic did it, and i had it done every time after.

worked like a charm.
 

We used string held in place with a blousing-rubber back in the '60s. The only time I saw that much fire out of a 105 was when we wet the bore 'real good' with bore-cleaner 'just for fun'. That also was at Yakima, BTW. It was a pretty good flame, but nowhere near the sparks.

Cheers!

 
I guess there's a TINS in there I should do.

Probubbly. Until you do, I promise not to write about how a certain Major of my acquaintance got the nickname "Kah-BOOM" and why using a Zippo lighter to initiate a cranky nuke simulator  is a *bad* idea.

 
It's certainly not normal for a 105 firing at night, the fireball is more round and with blues, yellows more like a gas flame is best way to describe it, although most of my career we used guns with no muzzle brake.

Beautiful YFC, ah the smell of sage brush and a nose full of talc dust. A much better place to train than in Ft Lewis.
 
Large charge in short barrel, is all. If you wanna keep the pressure up all the way up behind the projectile, yer gonna have some loudness and flashiness at the muzzle. There's efficient use of powder, and there's getting the most out of the piece. I mind some of those short-barrelled .357 revolvers some people carry, which are reputedly quite blinding to fire at night.
 
All your howitzers belongs to us!
 
That's not a blank round, that's for sure. I played FDC for a performance of the 1812 Overture at night and 105mm blanks have a lot more flash, without all those sparks, and some really cool-looking combustion gases dribbling out afterwards. As an FO, though, I didn't spend hardly any time down on the gunline at night so I'm not sure about what they might have put into the barrel to make those sparks. I'm not inclined to think that they used powder increments as I'd think that they'd burn out before leaving the barrel.

As for crewmen, where the hell is everybody? Doesn't seem to be anyone at the gunner's position and the one visible guy probably pulled the lanyard. But doesn't it seem like he's standing outside the trails? Why? Was everybody else afraid of this particular "experiment"?
 
As a former BC in the 82 Abn Div Arty, I am somewhat familiar with light artillery.  I have never seen anything like this.  It is not a fireball; it is a sparkler.  Doesn't the AG "pull the tail" from his side (right side in pic)?  I cannot imagine what is going on here, with only one gun bunny on the wrong side.

It is true, once upon a time, that strings were aligned with the boresighting scribe marks at the muzzle and that a boresighting disk was placed into the breech to boresight the weapon after every move.  Have we all forgotten the test targets with butterflies?  The modern devices (high tech standard angle (tape and a nail)) are great.

Burning powder?  I have commanded 105 (M101A1 and M102), M109, and M 110.  I was XO on M107 and M110.  105s do not produce a lot of left-over powder.  Try burning left-over 175 bags with the black powder "red devils."  Remember that the complete prop charge was 55 lbs of mulit-perf powder.  Great stuff.
 
Not a canon-cocker, but have many memories of Yakima, none of them good.  The fields actually looked better after the A-10 strafing (first time I ever saw one of those in action).
 

feh.  Give me a tank gun any day...  Lot's bigger bloom, less time between shot and splash, and a much more visceral enjoyment of the, as Marvin woudl say "earth-shattering ka-boom!"

I like tanks, I have lots of pics of them shooting, from where I was standing off to the side front or in teh tower just off the side.

I know, I know... Arty-gun go boom, make big whump-whump, give tingle in funny spots, but not same for tanker-guy.  Heh.

BTW, in Ambrose's book Citizen Soldier (sequal to D-Day), IIRC, there is one short tale about a crew of a self-propelled (either 155 or 8 inch, not sure) that was roaming around free looking for stuff to shoot, and given some german-mannned bunkers to kill, aimed by looking down the barrel and plunking away....  Talk about bore sighting....

V/R

 

BTW, I never did powder bags and such, but we burned up a sheisse-load of cheese wedges from the 4.2 mortars the couple of times I got to do that.  And the old mortar tube wax/burlap outer wrappers made great candles when twisted and lit.  I spent many a night on an ammo point at Hood smokin and joking by the light of a 4.2 tube candle...

And as for A10s, the first time I saw those was at Range 79 at Graf in '78 or '79.   As far as we were concerned those were God's answer to Soviet armor, and we just knew the odds had been tipped in our favor.  None of us had ever seen them before that, and between them and the TOW-firing cobras we got quite a show that day!  Still one of my more cool memories....

 

 
Loved Yakama,

Tanks for the memories
Your breach blocks so black
And oodles of track
And here at Yakama
it's so good to be back
Oh, tanks for the memories...

My last trip through there was with Capt. Zanini, now General (of some flavor) retired.  We lost three tanks in one day and night during gunnery quals.  We all learned that the main gun doesn't do well after scooping up who knows how much road dirt while following the marked route through a gully and that you really do need to follow the search light beam to the target and not to the illuminating tank!!

 
ah...   the lost art of searchlight gunnery...

i was out at NTC as a tank company XO, doing the night defensive live fire, and the third round i fired knocked over my left/right limit pickets.  Observer/Controller (aarrghhh!) drove up and told me to cease fire, due to safety...   my challenge back was that (since i wouldn't be launching any rounds), could i instead use searchlight to designate??  he said yes, and i spent the rest of the night lighting things up. (actually worked out much better that way for controlling platoon massed fires)
 
Fortunatly no one got hurt, although in one of the day firing tanks they had to move the breech end of the gun to get the gunner out.  The gunner of the search light tank originally thought his light burst only to see the cracked turret wall and smoking paint next to him!!
 
Definitively a lot of fun, and not autorized. I have tried night shooting with BP, and even that was as not as visually pleasing. My guess is a lot of spare powder bags, and al tolerant battery comamnder.