75 mm Pack Howitzer M1A1
In the aftermath of World War I the 1920 Westervelt Board recommended the design of a new 75 mm light howitzer for use in mountain warfare and as a general issue pack howitzer. This was one proposal that was actually perused, by 1927 the 75 mm Pack Howitzer M1 had been standardized; some later production modifications altered the M1 to the M1A1. The howitzer was mounted on a carriage of ingenious design that could be easily broken down into six loads, and the box trail was perforated to save weight.
The howitzer itself could be broken down for pack transport and was so arranged that the barrel sat in a trough and kept in place by a cover along the top; this gave the weapon a distinctive streamlined appearance. Traverse was managed by a mechanism mounted directly on the axle so the carriage only had to support the elevation mechanism.
The first M1A1s were mounted on the Carriage M1, which was designed to be pulled by animals. The Carriage M1 thus had wooden spoked wheels, ill suited to a mechanized army. The Carriage M8 was the solution, sporting steel wheels with air filled off-road tires. The Carriage M1 did not go out of style, during World War II many of the M1s were built, most were used by the Chinese against the Japanese invasions.
This little howitzer became one of the first Allied airborne artillery pieces. It was issued to nearly every Allied airborne formation, including the capable British forces.
On either carriage the little M1A1 was a popular and very useful weapon. It was one of the most modern weapons on the battlefield; in action it could provide fire support at ranges up to 9,760 yards. Despite its light weight some conversions to the self-propelled role were made, some even mounted on half-tracks, and proved very successful in that role. However, the role for which the M1A1 was designed, mountain warfare, saw few units applied to that purpose. There were few campaigns which required mountain tactics for the Allies, with the possible exception of Yugoslavia. There partisan troops were trained in the use of the M1A1 by British officers. The Yugoslavian troops seemed to make good use of their M1A1s during the latter stages of their war of self liberation.
It was as one of the first Allied airborne artillery pieces that the M1A1 will probably be remembered. It was used at Arnhem when some were landed from General Aircraft Hamilcar gliders, but the howitzer could also be broken down into nine loads for para-dropping.
Not all M1A1s had such an adventurous life. Many were used simply as infantry support weapons or as pack artillery in the dense jungles of the Far East. The M1A1 was light enough to take mart in the initial stages of amphibious assaults such that on Walcheren in 1944, when howitzers meant for mountain warfare were applied to the flooded flatlands of the Scheldt estuary.
- Caliber: 75 mm
- Lengths: piece- 52 in (1.321 m)
barrel- 47 in (1.194 m)
- Weight: 1,296 lb (587.9 kg)
- Elevation: -5 to +45 degrees
- Traverse: 6 degrees
- Muzzle Velocity: 1,250 ft (381 m) per second
- Maximum Range: 9,760 yd (8925 m)
- Projectile weight: 13.76 lb (6.241 kg)
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Sources: The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, and the collected mostly useless information of my watching too much History Channel and reading too many books