Saturday, August 23, 2003

Search for the big gun pays off


Veteran saves 175 mm cannon

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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The 175 mm self-propelled howitzer was a mainstay of U.S. Army artillery from the Korean War to Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. But advancing technology rendered the big guns obsolete by the end of the Persian Gulf War and most ended up on the scrap heap.

Ralph Jones of Deerfield Township, who operated the gun in Vietnam while a member of the U.S. Army's "Proud Americans," 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, didn't want the howitzer to become a distant memory.

About six years ago, Jones began a quest to locate and preserve one of the guns "to honor the artillery men who operated the big gun."

[photo]
Jones

The culmination of Jones and his fellow Proud Americans efforts came in May 2001, in when a 175 mm gun was dedicated at the military museum at Fort Sill, Okla.

"Emotions started flowing," Jones said recently of the ceremony. "It's (175 mm howitzer) probably the only one in existence in the U.S. from the Vietnam War (era)."

Officials at the Fort Sill museum were happy to get the Vietnam-era howitzer.

"It's the only 175 mm tube we have at the museum," said Towana Spivey, the facility's director. "We have 350 artillery pieces in the museum."

Jones, 57, grew up in Montgomery and graduated from Sycamore High School in 1966. He served in Vietnam from February 1969 to April 1970.

He was a driver and assistant gunner for the gun, which was accurate up to 24 miles.

"We (once) shot a round that was tracked 30 miles," recalled Jones, whose unit during one battle fired rounds from "Sunday night to Wednesday morning - continuous firing with 15-minute breaks."

The search for a 175 mm tube took years, but he located one in 2001 at a museum in Aberdeen, Md.

"We have it to honor us and all the (artillery) guys," said Jones, a Sharonville postal employee. "They (the big guns) shouldn't rust away."

E-mail bweathers@enquirer.com




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