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M1919 16-inch Naval Gun Coastal Artillery (1920)

Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Updated: 7/1/2014

Intended for use on US warships, the M1919 16-inch guns were used instead as coastal artillery due to the limitations brought about by the Washington Naval Treaty.

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For as long as there were military threats from the sea and cannons to defend the land, coastal artillery has been used in many different caliber sizes. Such shore-based artillery were used to shell attacking ships as well as invading amphibious forces. It was such that global military powers felt one piece of shore-based artillery was equal to three guns of the same caliber on ships at sea. The shore based platforms could be hidden behind earthworks or encased within thick walls, keeping them out of sight from the attacking forces and generating a certain level of surprise when utilized. Great Britain built a number of 17.72 inch (450mm) guns for fortifications at Malta and Gibraltar during World War 2. The Empire of Japan constructed the largest naval gun at 18.1 inches (459.74mm) and used these on the fabled Yamato-class battleships.

The United States - with two long-running shores to defend - were not lost on the concept of large coastal guns. The largest caliber guns to be made in the United States became the M1895 16 inch (410mm) naval gun constructed between 1892 to 1902 specifically for costal defense. Eight were ultimately built and deployed along both coasts of the United States as well as the Panama Canal. By 1943, all eight guns had been scrapped, their usefulness having run full circle. Nevertheless, the US Army still required additional artillery pieces to help protect major ports and cities along the American coast and ordered 27 new guns to be forged. Due to global military restrictions imposed by the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty after World War 1, the American Navy was required to cancel the South Dakota-class battleships and the Lexington-class battlecruisers. The new Model 1919 16 inch (406mm) /50 caliber Mark II and Mark III rifled gun barrels built for these two capital classes then became available and 20 of the guns were reassigned to the US Army for their costal defense needs.

The M1919 guns were massive in presence, measuring some 66.6 feet long and weighing up to 340,000 lbs (170 tons) each. The production process was to wrap steel wire around an inner tube of iron, the steel wire being square and 1 inch on each side. The square wire was kept taught as the iron tube turned in a constant motion. The wire added additional layers around the breech due to the explosion effects of the required powder when firing. When the correct number of layers of wire had been applied, steel hoops were fitted over the wire, then fired, causing the hoops to shrink and merge together into and onto the 1 inch wire (the length and weight of the gun barrel made normal forging impossible). The caliber of the barrel was determined by the ratio of the bore - or 16 inches to the length of the barrel. So one would multiply the caliber (50) times the diameter (16 inches) to equal 800 inches (66.6 feet). The inside of the barrels were right-hand rifled which forced the projectile to rotate clockwise. This "rifling" - called lands and grooves - generated more inherent distance and accuracy for the shell than any smoothbore cannon would have.


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Specifications for the
M1919 16-inch Naval Gun
Coastal Artillery


Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: State Factories - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1920
Production: 20


Focus Model: M1919 16-inch Naval Gun
Crew: 30


Overall Length: 66.67ft (20.32m)
Width: 19.98ft (6.09m)
Height: 12.99ft (3.96m)
Weight: 170.0 US Short Tons (154,221kg; 339,999lbs)


Powerplant: None. This is a stationary artillery piece.


Maximum Speed: 0mph (0 km/h)
Maximum Range: 25 miles (41 km)


NBC Protection: None
Nightvision: None


Armament:
1 x 16" (406mm) /50 caliber rifled gun barrel


Ammunition:
Dependent on ammunition supply available.


Variants:
M1919 - Base Series Designation


Operators:
United States