by: Rick Taylor [ ]
In World War One, the United States was forced to purchase all of its artillery from France and Britain. Determined not to be forced into that position again, it convened a board of experts after the armistice to determine the Army’s strategy and requirements for modern, domestically produced artillery. One of the outcomes was a requirement for heavy howitzer of “a caliber of about 8" on a carriage permitting a vertical arc of fire of from 0 degrees to plus 65 degrees; a horizontal arc of fire of 365 degrees. It would be desirable to develop a carriage which can be used inter-changeably for the 155 mm gun and the 8" howitzer.” Design work began almost immediately and proceeded intermittently as funding permitted through the 1920’s and 1930’s. It was standardized in 1938 as the M1 8-Inch Howitzer. A minor change to the breech resulting in the M2. Production began in 1940. The tubes were manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal and Hughes Tool Company and the carriages by Pullman-Standard Car and Pettibone Mulliken. 1,006 were produced by June 1945.
The 8-inch howitzer M1 on carriage M1 was a heavy field weapon, utilizing a two-wheel, single-axle limber and an eight-wheel, two-axle bogie while traveling. The carriage was lowered to the ground for firing. When in traveling position, the trail ends of the carriage were attached to heavy carriage limber M2. When emplaced, removable spades were installed on the carriage and on the rear ends of the trails. The howitzer used a forged, auto-frettaged, built-up tube that was 202.5 inches (514 cm) in length and weighed 9,835 pounds (4,621 kg). The breech was an interrupted screw type with an Ashbury style single motion opening breech block mechanism. The 8-inch howitzer used the same M1 carriage as the M1A1 155mm “Long Tom” Gun. It used a hydro-pneumatic, variable length recoil system in the cradle under the tube and two pneumatic pull type equilibrators on either side of the tube and cradle. The split trail allowed it to elevate to 64 degrees and traverse to 60 degrees. It weighted 15.8 tons and was towed by a Mack NO 6x6 7.5-ton truck or an M4 or M5 High Speed Tractor. The M1 used separate loading ammunition with bagged powder charges. The 107-pound (48.8kg) charge propelled a 200-pound (91kg) high explosive projectile to a range of 18,510 yards (16.9km).
In World War Two, 59 heavy US Army artillery battalions were equipped with this weapon system. They served in the Italian, Northern European and Pacific theaters. Large numbers were supplied to Great Britain. The weapon was valued for its extreme accuracy and heavy punch. After the war, the weapons system was designated the M115 and saw service in Korea and Vietnam. It was supplied to many NATO partners and other US allies. It remained in service until the mid 1980s in Asia and the middle east.
AFV Club of Taiwan released the Korean War vintage M115 8-inch Howitzer in 1997 and rereleased it in 2000. This long-awaited offering back dates it to the World War 2 version and adds additional details. It replaces the later M5 limber with the original M2 heavy limber. The non-directional combat tires are replaced by WW2 vintage highway tread tires. The kit includes a new, more detailed breech and breech block, a new more detailed sight, vinyl airbrake lines, a removable taillight for towing, very nice metal equilibrators, and a selection of gun implements. The kit also addresses an accuracy issue.
The production kit is packaged in a standard two-part box. Inside are the instructions, copy of the box artwork, sprues sealed in individual plastic sleeves, vinyl tires, a metal barrel, and metal equilibrator tubes. No decals are included as US artillery pieces rarely had markings.
The instructions are a sixteen-page booklet printed in color on glossy paper. The first page gives a history and statistics in English, and Chinese. Next comes the color scheme. The instructions provide seventeen steps to assemble the howitzer and carriage. An additional four steps cover the assembly of the limber. The painting instructions show a standard US Army olive drab paint scheme. The last page provides a parts list. The instructions will have to be studied carefully as there are several differences in assembly based upon your choice to depict the howitzer in firing position or travelling position. My pre-release instructions contained a couple of typos and misspellings that will hopefully be addressed in the production run.
As we have come to expect from AFV Club, the molding is excellent. The three unchanged spruces from the original kit are good; but the new sprues really shine. They are delicate and include such fine details as foundry marks on the cast parts. The parts count is relatively high for a towed howitzer kit; but, many from the unchanged sprues will not be used as more detailed replacements are found on the new sprues. I was surprised that the kit did not include a small photo-etch fret for the brackets on the trails and the brass data plates.
The kit includes a new more detailed breech and breech block which includes the stepped interrupted threads inside the breech. This allows the modeler to depict the breech open. The M115 kit omitted the airbrake lines and fittings forcing detail-oriented modelers to scratch build these. This kit adds these missing details and molds them in vinyl. This will save the modeler many hours of work. I was delighted to find the brass and aluminum tubing for the equilibrators included in the kit. This again saves the time of scratch building these on the older kit. Although the original kit sights were better than average, AFV Club redesigned them to add even more detail. If you plan to depict the weapon in traveling mode, the kit includes a finely detailed and molded removable tail/stop light that was clamped onto the muzzle for road travel. The complaint with the AFV Club M115, M59 Long-Tom, and M40 kits is the dimensional accuracy of the barrel and breech assembly. AFV Club fixed the issue with this release. The turned metal barrel is longer and my measurements of it match the Technical Manual and drawing published by Kurt Laughlin. In addition, the new sprues contain the built-up portion of the tube and the breech ring for the 155mm. Hopefully this means that AFV Club intends to release a WW2 version of the 155mm Long Tom gun.
Sprue and part count break out:
A – 61 parts Trails and lower carriage (unchanged)
B – 83 parts Suspension system (unchanged)
C – 54 parts Upper carriage and cradle (unchanged)
D – 24 parts Limber (new)
E – 81 parts Breech, breech block, details (new)
F – 9 parts Vinyl airbrake lines and fittings (new)
H – 5 parts (x2) Wheels (new)
I – 10 parts Vinyl Tires (new)
L Turned aluminum barrel (new)
M (x2) Brass equilibrator covers (new)
N (x2) Aluminum equilibrators (new)
O (x2) Spring pins (new)
This kit provides an accurate and detailed model of this important WW2 artillery piece. Prior to this release, it required hard-to-find aftermarket resin add-ons and scratch building to back date the M115 to WW2. The kit builds into a fine replica out of the box. Adding the old Eduard aftermarket photo-etch kit for the M59 will enhance the brackets on the trails and add a few minor details. All in all, this is a great kit and is going directly to my bench. Thanks to AFV Club for supplying the review kit.