1. I always wondered if you could fire an oversized muzzle-loaded hollow-charge bomb off one, as the Germans did with their 3.7cm Pak 36 when Russian tanks became too much for its to deal with the “usual” way.

    I sort of suspect that with the M1916, the entire equipment would execute a not-too-graceful back somersault when you yanked the lanyard. No bets on where the bomb would end up.



  2. I would rather have the Maxim Pom-pom at this time! But in any case, is attacking the support artillery head on without any portable automatic fire-power tantamount to suicide?

    “Gunner! Target the guy who’s covered in ammo belts and grenades!!!!!”

  3. Anyone know what the long tube in the RHS background is? Possibly a ‘carry tube’ spooled through the bore so two artillerymen can quickly move this piece?

  4. +1 on the plinker.

    It is a different picture than the one of a crew in the middle of a devastated forest that has to be one of the most commonly seen WWI pictures.

  5. If they could have figured out how to get that belt to spool through the breech, they could have had a Mk. 19 (or an AGS 17). As for the plinker cannon, yeah, I always thought that would be a great little range toy. 🙂

  6. The 37mm was originally French, developed in 1912-13 and was intended for the infantry’s use against “points of resistance” such as bunkers and pillboxes. Yes, it came along before the Stokes mortar; “M1916” is just the U.S. designation for the year we officially adopted it.

    The reason for the Maxim Pom-Pom rounds was simply that they were in the inventory because the French, like just about everybody else, already used the Pom-Pom as a naval anti-torpedo boat gun and, a bit later, a low-level anti-aircraft gun.

    AFAIK, the first gun we’d define as an “auto-grenade launcher” was a Japanese 30mm cannon developed during WW2. It was a straight blowback, fired an interesting “caseless” round similar to that used today by this beast;


    And was intended as air-to-air armament for interceptors to knock down American B-29s with, in spite of its low muzzle velocity.

    Interestingly enough, while it was extensively examined by U.S. Ordnance personnel after the war (Chinn has a great writeup on it) the adaptability of its concept as an auto-GL just didn’t occur to anybody.

    Except maybe the Russians, that is.



  7. I notice that all three of the “gun crew” are Lieutenants, who appear to be under arms (with pistols) but no other visible web gear, unless you count nicely polished boots. So, a posed photo, but for who? Hero shot for the folks back home? Demo layout for visiting big shot? Too much cheap French wine? Inquiring minds want to know.

  8. Are there any of these in original firing condition? I couldn’t find any video online. I found a restored one that looked like it was redone to fire a much smaller round.

  9. i read a 1945 story of ground luftwaffe ground troops who used a MK108 30MM canon mounted on a pair of messerschmitt Me 163 wheels, against russian tank near their airbase.

    (sorry for my english)

    • In the Pacific, Japanese troops salvaged 20mm cannon from wrecked fighters on their airfields, mounted them on improvised wooden carriages with wagon-type wheels, and tried to use them against U.S. tanks and half-tracks.

      They would tear up a half-track from any angle, or even perforate the side or back armor of a Stuart light tank pretty thoroughly, but when used against a Sherman, if they were lucky the tank crew wouldn’t notice.

      If they were unlucky, the tank crew would notice, and proceed to explain to them why bothering a Sherman crew was a bad idea. Said “explanation” usually involving machine-gun fire, 75mm high-explosive shells, or if the Japanese gunners were really unlucky, finding out they’d just picked on a flamethrower tank.



      • Or, if the Japanese weren’t really stupid, they’d have a Type 88 heavy 75mm Anti-air gun blast the Sherman to Kingdom Come.

        • True, but those were scarce outside of the home islands. About the only other places you’d find them were major bases like Rabaul.

          The default AAA at forward bases, according to one of my profs and one of my uncles (both Marine vets of the Pacific campaign) was the 13mm HMG dual mount, which was based on a French Hotchkiss design for an aircraft mounted gun, according to Chinn. One of those would certainly make a mess out of a half-track, but they weren’t much of a threat to even a light tank except maybe with a “Golden BB” shot.

          One reason the M3 Lee stayed in service in the PTO long after it was considered obsolete in the ETO was that even with its wonky setup (hull-mounted 75mm in a sponson, turret-mounted 37mm), it was still a nastier tank than its most serious opponent, the Type 97 Chi-Ha. And there really weren’t that many other things in the Japanese ground force inventory that would be definable as a credible threat to it, due to its armor.

          The Japanese were a bit perturbed with the Germans re the intel they’d received on the Lee/Grant from its combat debut in the Western Desert. The Germans accurately defined it as a medium tank. To the Japanese, that meant something more like their Type 97, which was an analogue of our Stuart. They considered the Lee a heavy tank, on all counts, especially armor and gun. Ditto the Sherman when it showed up.

          What they called a “light tank” we defined as a “combat car” before the war. The British would call it a “machine gun carrier”.

          When your anti-tank defenses, pre-planned or field-expedient, are set up for “light” and “medium” opponents, the first thing you better hope for is that the enemy’s definition of those terms is the same as your own. Something the Japanese military learned the hard way.

          Which they have never forgotten. It’s no coincidence that their Type 61 was an analogue of M47 Patton, the Type 74 MBT looked a lot like the AMX-30, the Type 90 looks like a Leopard 2, and the Type 10 is a near-twin of LeClerc. Including their main guns; 90mm, 105mm, and 120mm smoothbore on the last two.

          The JGSDF apparently believes firmly in that old Scot saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.



          • To be fair, the Type 97 was heavier than most late 1930s light tanks: for example the M2A4, which were present at Philippines in 1941, was three tonnes lighter than the Type 97. The German Panzer IIF, which was a contemporary of the M2A4, was five tonnes lighter than the Type 97. The Japanese had combat experience against the Soviet T-26, which was also only about 10 tonnes even in late variants. The Type 97 Chi-Ha was designed in 1937 and had a weight of about 14.5 tonnes, so calling it a medium tank was not out of the norm for the period. The early variants of the German Panzer III weighed about the same.

            The main problem for the Japanese tank forces was that the Type 97 had very little development potential. The Shinhoto Chi-Ha, which appeared in 1942, had a better 47mm high velocity gun, but the armor remained the same. The Japanese did design a few improved designs (the Type 1 and Type 3 medium tanks), but since industrial priority was given to shipbuilding, they were produced only in fairly small numbers and never deployed outside the home islands.

          • Ah, this is the second half of the historical equation, the first half having been clearly expressed by our friend Eon.

      • That was during the mid-war years ( ca. 1943 ), when it was found that the PT boats needed more firepower when engaging armored Japanese barges running re-supply operations at night to bases in New Caledonia and the Solomons. The PT squadrons were pretty much at the bottom of the priority list at the end of a very long logistical chain, so they made do with what was available, eg., the salvaged 37mm Oldsmobile cannon you mentioned.

        When the supply situation in the South-West Pacific eased a little later in the war, these were replaced by the much more effective Bofors 40mm L/60 cannon.

        Speaking of small craft warfare, “Night Action” by Captain Peter Dickens, DSO, MBE, DSC ( Naval Institute Press, 1974 / Bantam Books, 1981 ; ISBN 0-553-26625-X ) is a good, detailed personal account of the long years of coastal warfare in the English Channel and North Sea between the MTB’s, MGB’s and ML’s of the Royal Navy and their opposite numbers in the Kriegsmarine ( R-Boats, S-Boats, VP Boats, Torpedoboote, Minensuchboote, Flottenbegleiter, etc. ). The language is occasionally prosaic, which is not surprising given that the author was the grandson of Charles Dickens, but underneath lies a wealth of interesting hard historical data. Dickens is also very fair-minded, and does not hesitate to give all due credit and respect to his one-time opponents. One striking aspect of the book is how humanistic he is in describing both the British and German sailors who fought and died in this now largely forgotten campaign.

  10. The original cloth belts for the 37mm Pom-Pom rounds would have made handy bandoliers for the crew serving that M1916 cannon.

    • My great-uncle (Captain, U.S. Army Transportation Corps, 1915-19) once told me that the infantry would “acquire” those belts when they could. Some work with a harness-repair kit (heavy shears, waxed thread, big needles, etc.), the addition of a buckle and short piece of strap to the ends to make a “loop” out of it, and they became hand grenade bandoliers for trench raids.

      It was a lot easier to grab a “pineapple” out of a bandolier slung diagonally across your torso like a Civil War soldiers “blanket roll”, than it was to fumble in a grenade pouch for it. In the dark. In the rain. When a German was trying to shoot you from around a corner in a zig-zag in the trench.



      • One of the handiest bits of web gear ever – they remained much-sought-after long after the weapon they were designed for left the inventory – is the BAR magazine belt. Mine (found in a country-road surplus store) disappeared years ago but if you couldn’t fit everything you needed in those ten huge pouches you had too much stuff!

        Although a retired-Navy friend who was in minesweepers though the Reagan years swears that BARs were still in service on reserve mine counter-measure ships well into the 80s, and a chief I was in submarines with told me that both BARs and M1A1 Thompsons were still in the small-arms lockers on boats until shortly before I showed up in the mid-70s.

        • The tenor of your statement (if I understood that correctly) was wondering that so obsolete a piece of ordnance as BAR was still in use in Reagan era (albeit in reserve units). My question is (no irony involved): when did exactly the US Army change (perhaps Navy reserve units are another story, at any time)its squad weapon?
          Greetings to all participants,

          • Friends who were Infantry in the early 60s tell me that the .30-06 family (Garand, BAR, 1919 Browning) were still front-line issue in Germany until 1960 or thereabouts. Fred says that he went through a familiarization course with the M-14 around that time but was never issued one; not sure exactly when the M-60 replaced the BAR and 1919 but it was around that same time… from what I’ve been able to tell if the M-14 was ever Army issue it wasn’t for long; most of the guys I know from the Kennedy/ Johnson era either carried M1s or M16s. The Marines in Nam used M14s until ’66 or thereabouts. We still had M14s on submarines in the late 70s (makes sense, since their main use was shark watch on “steel beach” swim parties on the rare occasions we were surfaced, and a 7.62 will punch through more water than a 5.56.) But “obsolete” weapons have a way of showing back up… BARs for minesweeper/ EOD work and I’ve heard that it was not uncommon for M3A1 grease guns to show up in the hands of old Armor sergeants as late as Desert Storm.

      • Thanks for sharing that interesting bit of information. I think the the waxed thread and heavy needles you mentioned may have been waxed sailmaker’s twine and sailmaker’s needles respectively, which are still the best tools for making up heavy canvas, Dacron or any other thick, heavy-duty woven materials by hand.

        • Oddly, a three-pack of sailmaker needles from my friendly downtown fabric store and a roll of dental floss are right up there with duct tape and an open-with-one-hand pocketknife on my list of things to not leave the house without. It’s amazing the things you run into making your rounds that need a few Frankenstein stitches.

  11. As Eon had reminded, the predecessor to this gun was 1916 37mm Tir-Rapide-Puteaux.
    Apparently, most courageous application was its mounting on French fighter plane SPAD XII. For this purpose, the reducer gear was added between motor and propeller hub (engine was of V configuration) and gun was shooting thru the hub. The initiator of this feat was Charles Guynemer, noted ace who, as many others did not make it thru the war. His speciality was taking down observation balloons.

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