M42 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun

 

The M42 "Duster" entered service in 1953 and saw extensive action during the Cold War period. An evolution of the earlier M19 Gun Motor Carriage, the M42 consisted of twin 40mm Bofors guns mounted atop the new M41 "Walker Bulldog" light tank chassis. The vehicle's primary armament, the 40mm cannons, fired a variety of ammunition ranging from high explosive shells to heavy slugs at a rate of 120 rounds per minute per barrel, or a total of 240 rounds per minute. The heavy recoil and report from the guns kicked up a great deal of dust, giving the M42 its nickname. The high rate of devastating fire was originally conceived to be useful as an anti-aircraft gun, but was proven ineffective at that role due to the rapid development of high-flying jet aircraft. Instead, the U.S. Army employed the Duster against ground targets where the direct-fire limitations of the weapon became a terrifying asset.

The M42 weighed 24 tons, was nineteen feet long, and was designed to carry a crew of six Soldiers, although a four man crew was typical in actual combat conditions. The powerful carriage was powered by a 500 horse power Air Cooled Continental AOS-895-3 or Fuel-Injected AOSI-895-5k 6-Cylinder Supercharged Gasoline engine that propelled it up to forty miles per hour. In 1956, the vehicle received an upgraded engine and was redesignated the M42A1. Because of its problems as an anti-aircraft platform, however, the U.S. Army halted production in 1959. The true usefulness as an anti-personnel weapon was realized in the jungles and mountains of Vietnam, and the Army recalled many M42s back into service, organizing them into air defense artillery battalions. In Vietnam, the Duster was used primarily for point security, convoy escort, and perimeter defense. The Duster excelled in its new capacity, shattering troop concentrations and stemming frontal enemy assaults. The Duster's speed, firepower, and armor protection served as a significant deterrent against enemy ambush. Although the M42 had demonstrated its effectiveness, the weapon was removed from U.S. service by 1988 in favor of more technologically advanced self-propelled missile systems.

 

Defender of Pusan, 8 Inch Howitzer, M1

 

During the dark days following the Chinese entrance into the Korean War, American troops retreated to Pusan on the southern shores of Korea. The U.S. Army held out against the North Koreans and Chinese to eventually push them back past the 38th parallel through tough fighting and the effective use of heavy artillery. The cornerstone of American heavy artillery was the M115 8 Inch Howitzer.

The M1 8 Inch (203mm) Howitzer entered production in 1943 and was first fielded in World War II by U.S. troops a year later. The 8 inch served as a long range heavy artillery support weapon and addressed the need for large caliber cannons by improving the earlier British 8 Inch Howitzer designs. After World War II, the U.S. Army made improvements to the weapons system and redesignated it the M118. The gun was mounted on an improved carriage, designated M2 Heavy Carriage Limber, and was hauled by the M1 Cannon Transport Wagon. The assembly allowed the extremely heavy gun to be easily moved to where it could be most effectively brought to bear on the enemy. The entire cannon assembly weighed in at almost sixteen tons, was forty feet long, and fired high explosive 203mm shells out to an effective range of almost seventeen kilometers. A full crew consisted of twenty five men including a Chief of Section, a Gunner, a mechanic, an Ammunition Corporal, two drivers for the transport, and eighteen cannoneers. Half of the cannoneers worked for the Ammunition Corporal to prepare the ammunition, while the Section Chief ran the entire operation. The Gunner was responsible, along with the rest of the cannoneers, for the complicated procedure of loading, aiming, and firing the piece. Besides being a conventional weapon, the piece was equipped by NATO forces to fire nuclear projectiles if needed. The 8 Inch Howitzer had a reputation among American artillerymen for being extremely accurate and deadly and served faithfully through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and into the 1990's.