Building Italeri's 155mm M1 Howitzer
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Background on the 155mm Howitzer

Manhandling a 155 into place

"I don't have to tell you who won the war," said General George S. Patton. "You know our artillery did." Indeed, artillery was a vital component of U.S. military tactics during WWII, whether pounding down the enemy prior to an attack, or staving off enemy assaults. Artillery was crucial to the successful defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge (Brigadier General Anthony MacAuliffe was commander of the 101st Airborne's artillery). Each infantry division had four field artillery battalions. The battalion HQ was equipped with three batteries each possessing 4 155mm howitzers. The other three light artillery battalions had a combined strength of 54 105mm howitzers.

Development of the 155mm Howitzer M1 began in the late 1930s, when the U.S. Army determined it needed a new medium field artillery piece to replace the WWI vintage Howitzer M1917. The new howitzer proved to be "one of the best field artillery weapons of its class in WWII," according to Konrad F. Schreier, Jr. in Standard Guide to U.S. World War II Tanks and Artillery, a primary reference source for my project. The carriage and recoil of the 155 was also used for the 4.5 inch Gun M1, which was not very popular. The howitzer first saw action in North Africa in 1942.

Projectiles crated in a palletThe 155 used "separate loading" ammunition comprised of four components: a projectile, a separate bagged propellant charge, a fuse and a primer. The propelling charge contained individual bags of powder, which could be reduced to adjust for range of fire. Projectiles were shipped in crates or pallets; the charge was packaged individually in fibre or metal canisters. The projectiles, weighing 95 lbs. each, had rings in the tip to assist in shipping; these were removed and replaced with fuses when ready to fire. The primers were placed in the breech of the gun for firing. Schreier states the 155mm howitzer typically fired 80% or more HE (high explosive) shells during the war. The piece could also fire smoke or white phosphorus shells as well. The 155mm Gun M1, aka "Long Tom", and the M12 Gun Motor Carriages also used this ammunition.

Full elevationOver 4,000 of these guns were produced. A second version issued in 1944 and designated the M1A1, was made with strengthened steel and the brakes changed from electrical to air brakes. The howitzer had a range of 16,000 yards, more than 3,000 yards farther than the M1917. The standard prime mover for the 155 was the Diamond T truck, but the M5 High Speed Tractor was also used when available.

The 155mm soldiered on through WWII, Korea and Vietnam; a new carriage, the M1A2 with a screw jack, appeared after WWII. During the Cold War, nuclear projectiles were developed for the howitzer and it became a key part of the U.S. arsenal of deterrence in Europe. Many of the gun tubes were changed out in the mid 1980s, and most of the guns found today at VFW posts reflect these post-WWII alterations.

Background on the 155mm Howitzer
Overview of the Model and References
Building the Howitzer Assembly
Building the Carriage Assembly
Painting and Accessories
Pictures from the Technical Manual
155mm Ammunition
Pictures of Museum 155mm Howitzer

Diorama: "Mail Call for the Sons of Thor"



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter