75mm of Freedom: M116 Pack Howitzer Maintains Its Thunder
By Ben Philippi
The 75mm M116 Pack Howitzer was designed in the United States in the 1920s. It met a need for a compact artillery piece that could be moved across difficult terrain, replacing the 1900s-era Vickers Mountain Gun previously used for that purpose.
‘BREAK-DOWN’ ARTILLERY GUN
Having a total weight of just 1,340-pounds when combat-ready, it was light enough to be towed by a truck or jeep, however, that is not its best attribute. Typically referred to as the “Pack Seventy-Five” the gun was designed so that it could be broken down into several pieces to be carried by pack animals such as mules. Pieces weighed between 160- and 235-pounds each.
The M116 required a crew of six and could fire a shell up to 9,500 yards– a little over 5 miles. It had a muzzle velocity of 1,250 feet-per-second, which sounds low but keep in mind this was for a 14.7-pound shell. The rate of fire was 3-to-6 rounds per minute, depending on the hustle of the gun crew.
The gun saw combat in World War II with the U.S. Army, primarily by airborne units, with paratroopers using them either landed in the knocked-down form delivered via silk or as fully-assembled guns landed by gliders.