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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

US 14" Railway Gun


PhilB
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This picture is of a model of an American 14" railway gun, several of which were apparently sent to, and used, in France 1918. I haven`t come across them before. What happened to them? Or is it a send up? Phil B

post-2329-1173696138.jpg

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Phil,

No, it's not a send-up. They looked exactly like the model. Five of these monsters were sent to France via St Nazaire and saw action between 6 September 1918 and the Armistice. They were commanded by Rear Admiral Charles P Plunkett. The gun's official designation was the '14-inch 50-caliber Mark IV Navy rifle'.

One of the original guns was restored and installed at the US Navy Museum in 1988. In honour of the occasion, the Naval Historical Center, Washington DC, republished 'The United States Railway Batteries in France' by Lt Cdr Edward Breck, ed. Captain D W Knox, (1922), which tells their story. According to the introduction, they 'contributed materially to the victory of the allied forces'.

I have a pic of one of these guns in transit in France on its special train, and another of one in action near Soissons, but unfortunately my scanner is sick, so I can't copy them at the moment.

Mick

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Did they have a speciality role? What could they do, that smaller mobile guns couldn`t, that justified the expense and trouble? Phil B

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The five guns fired a total of 782 rounds, virtually all at strategically important rail centres and supply depots far behind the lines (ranging 20+ miles), beyond the effective range of other available guns. They worked in conjunction with radio-equipped spotter aircraft and were reportedly very accurate. In addition to seriously disrupting enemy supply and communications, it was claimed that they had a major impact on morale in the German rear areas, where war-weariness and the disinclination to get killed were already strongest.

It was originally intended that two of these guns should be sent to the Belgian coast to take out the long-range German naval batteries that the RN Siege Guns (my own particular interest) had been unable to destroy — largely because it was impossible to bombard them systematically without hitting Belgian civilians. In the event, the USN guns were sent elsewhere. No idea how they dealt with the problem of collateral damage in their eventual target areas.

Mick

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