1943 M2-M3 Pack 75mm Howitzer
The 75mm Pack Howitzer M1 (redesignated the M116 in 1962) was an artillery piece used by the United States. It was designed in the 1920s to meet a need for a howitzer that could be moved across difficult terrain. The gun and carriage was designed so that it could be broken down into several pieces to be carried by pack animals. The gun saw combat in World War II with the United States Army (primarily used by airborne units), with US Marine Corps, and was also supplied to foreign forces.
In addition to the pack / air portable configuration, the gun was mounted on a conventional carriage to serve as a field artillery piece. The M2 and M3 are derived vehicle mounted howitzers used in the 75mm HMC M8 and some LVT models. In addition, the M1 in its original version was mated to a number of other self-propelled carriages, though only one of those – 75mm HMC T30 – reached mass production.
Development & Production
The 75 mm pack howitzer was designed in the United States in the 1920s to meet a need for an artillery piece that could be moved across difficult terrain. In August 1927, the weapon was standardized as Howitzer, Pack, 75mm M1 on Carriage M1. Due to meager funding, production rates were low; by 1940, only 91 pieces were manufactured. It was not until September 1940 that the howitzer was put into mass production. By then, the M1 had been succeeded by the slightly modified M1A1. Production continued until December 1944.
The only significant changes during the mass production period were carriage improvements. The original carriage M1 was of box trail type, with wooden wheels. The requirement for a lightweight howitzer for airborne troops led to the introduction of the M8 carriage, similar except for new wheels with pneumatic tires.
Another requirement, from the cavalry branch of the US Army, resulted in a completely different family of "field howitzer" split trail carriages M3A1 / M3A2 / M3A3. However, only limited numbers of the M1 field howitzer variant were built, due to cavalry's switch to self-propelled guns.
History of our Example
The museum's M2,M3 Pack Howitzer "Big Mae" was built in 1943. We do not have any history or documentation on where this cannon ended up during and after the war. This cannon eventually found its way to Stratford (demilled and unable to fire) and was on display in front of the Town Hall for some. Later it was moved to local VFW Post 9460, but was eventually removed from public display. The cannon was then put into storage at the back of the Stratford Public Works department yard. Having heard of the cannon's plight, then acting leader of 9460 Dick Kennedy, along with VFM member Bob Bracci went and inspected the cannon. They deemed that this piece of military history deserved a better home then being stuck "in the weeds".
In 2015 the cannon was transferred to the museum where it was assessed and received a rudimentary overhaul. The Pack 75 was scrapped and sanded for rust, and then repainted OD, retaining the original markings that been applied sometime in the past thirty years. Museum staff also found the tires still able to hold air, and was deemed to be roadworthy. With the Soltis Collection's 1942 MB Jeep being based at the museum, it was only a natural fit to then tow the historic WWII era cannon behind a WWII era Jeep. "Big Mae" can be seen behind "For Pete's Sake!" throughout the summer season for parades, shows, and special functions.
The goal of the museum is to eventually dismantle the cannon completely and restore it properly after other projects are completed.
How the Cannon was found in the back of the Stratford Public Works yard.
Detail on data stamp of the cannon.
Rust & Corrosion was rampant everywhere.
View inside of the barrel.
"Big Mae" being towed by "For Pete's Sake!