"The Song of the Seventy-Five"
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Facts About "Our Seventy-Five" The "75" is the most wonderful piece of artillery that the world has ever know. It was perfected in 1897 by Col. Deport, Col. Rimailho and Gen. St. Claire-Deville. The Germans stole the designs, but failed to get the real secret, that of recoil mechanism, which was known to six men only. consequently the German "77" was much inferior to the French "75." By agreement with the French, the United States adopted the "75" in 1917, so as to standardize equipment and supplies for the Armies at the Front. The Gun weighs only 2,200 pounds and caisson fully equipped with 96 rounds of shell about the same amount. the recoil mechanism absorbs all shocks, so that the gun does not have to be repointed after each shot. It is moved quickly by horses, men or motors. The gun crew consists of 6 men, 1 at caisson, 1 passing shells, 1 fuse setter, 2 gun layers and 1 firer. The maximum rate of fire is about 24 rounds per minute. Shells for the "75" have a range up to 6.8 miles. A gun, perfectly concealed in a deep woods behind a mountain, can pour a perfect rain of shattering steel to accurately hit buildings in a town miles away on the other side. At a range of 3 miles the shells will burst with wonderful rapidity within six yards of the center of a small target. For barrage work the "75" stood out preeminently. Firing at the rate of 6 to 8 rounds per minute, the shells would burst from 150 to 200 yards ahead of the troops whose advance it was desired to cover. Any inaccuracy meant hitting our own men, so that the firing had to be corrected for atmospheric pressure, temperature of powder, velocity and direction of wind and weight of shell. Sometimes the total corrections would amount to over 500 yards. Here is an example of the way the "75" was always "on the job." On June 12th in the Champagne country, the Germans started a severe artillery and infantry attack on a critical American position. A signal rocket was sent up and before its light had died, the "75's" had put over a barrage that absolutely squelched the German fire and saved the line. Before the war a gun was supposed to last not over 6,000 rounds. However, the "75" stood up to as many as 15,000 rounds and in exceptional cases 20,000. There was a special "75" shell, painted a distinctive color, for each different requirement: High explosive shell for smashing work, exploding by percussion, with a destructive radius of 25 yards. Shrapnel shell for use against troops in the open, exploding accurately in the air by time fuse and sending a hail of lead bullets over a wide area of ground. Toxic shell, exploding by percussion, to spread an atmosphere of irritating or deadly gas over the enemy lines. Smoke shells, to burst on striking and form a persistent cloud of smoke to aid in range finding or to make a smoke barrage to conceal troop advances. Illuminating shells to make a strong glare for showing up enemy movements. Incendiary shells for the destruction of camps and munition dumps, motor parks and towns. Anti-aircraft tracer shell, leaving a trail of fire and finally bursting by time fuse, for use against aeroplanes and Zeppelins. The high explosive shell was the most widely used and important of all. Its body is made of high grade heat-treated steel. The steel is first cast in ingots, then rolled into rounds, then cut up into billets, then forged into cylinders weighing about 20 pounds which are finally machined down to a weight of 9.50 pounds. This machining work requires about thirty different operations ad has to be done with the greatest possible accuracy to insure a constancy of range and explosive capacity and an accurate fit in the gun. For instance, the allowable variation in the diameter of the shell near the top is only plus or minus five one-thousandths of an inch. (A sheet of letter paper is about three one-thousandths of an inch thick.) The copper driving or rotating band, which is inlaid by hydraulic pressure into a knurled groove cut around the steel body of the shell, has to be machined to within three one-thousandths of an inch of the diameter, 3.008". This band is made of soft copper so that it will conform exactly to the rifling in the barrel of the gun, and so serve both as a lubricant for the steel and as a seal to prevent the explosive gases from being waster by escaping around the shell. The top end of the shell is shaped into a beautiful ogive curve to aid in its flight through the air. The base of the shell is grooved to receive a lead disc covered by a brass disc, crimped tightly in place. Theses are used to close up any minute porous spots in the base of the shell which might cause a premature explosion, the one thing which the Artilleryman dreads. When loaded with T.N.T. and equipped with detonator the shell weights 12.18 pounds. The "75" is used as fixed ammunition, that is, each shell has attached to it a brass cartridge case containing the propellant charge of smokeless powder. Gun and ammunition can be moved forward with great rapidity so as to always be ready at the front either to blast the way for an advance or to ward off an enemy attack. The first American shot of the War was a "75" fired on October 13, 1917, in Lorraine by Battery C of the Sixth Field Artillery. Up to the last second before 11 A.M. on the morning of November 11, 1918, the shriek and crash of the "75" barrage was terrific. Then came silence and a peaceful quiet settled over No Man's Land that had not been known in France for four years. The French speak of "Our Seventy-Fives" as "the good artisans of Victory." On June 28th, 1919, a battery of "75's" was drawn up before Les Invalides and fired the grand salute to announce to the world the signing of the Peace Treaty. (Copyright 1919 By Snead & Co.)