M101 howitzer

The 105 mm M101A1 howitzer (previously designated M2A1) is an artillery piece developed and used by the United States. It was the standard U.S. light field howitzer in World War II and saw action in both the European and Pacific theaters. Entering production in 1941, it quickly gained a reputation for accuracy and a powerful punch. The M101A1 fires 105 mm high explosive (HE) semi-fixed ammunition and has a range of 12,330 yards (11,270 m), making it suitable for supporting infantry.

M101A1 105 mm Howitzer
U.S. Marines fire a M101A1 105 mm howitzer during a ceremony in 2005
Place of originUnited States
Service history
WarsWorld War II
Chinese Civil War
Korean War
First Indochina War
Vietnam War
Cambodian Civil War
Laotian Civil War
Insurgency in the Philippines
Iran–Iraq War
Lebanese Civil War
Salvadoran Civil War
Production history
ManufacturerRock Island Arsenal
No. built10,200
Mass4,980 lb (2,260 kg)
Length19 ft 6 in (5.94 m)
Barrel length7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) L/22
Width7 ft 3 in (2.21 m)
Height5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)

Caliber105 mm (4.1 in)
RecoilHydro-pneumatic, constant, 42 in (110 cm)
Carriagesplit trail
Elevation-5° to +66°
Muzzle velocity1,550 ft/s (472 m/s)
Maximum firing range7.00 mi (11,270 m)

All of these qualities of the weapon, along with its widespread production, led to its adoption by many countries after the war. Its ammunition type also became the standard for many foreign countries' later models.


During the Second World War, U.S. artillery regiments consisted of an HQ detachment, one 155 mm artillery battalion, and three 105 mm artillery battalions. Both the 155 mm and 105 mm battalions had twelve guns each, divided into three batteries of four guns. That gave each regiment a total of twelve 155 mm howitzers, and thirty-six 105 mm howitzers.[1]

The U.S. military artillery designation system was changed in 1962, redesignating the 105 mm M2A1 howitzer the M101A1. The gun continued to see service in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Though a similar model, the M102 howitzer, shared the same roles in battle, it never fully replaced the M101A1. Today, the M101A1 has been retired by the U.S. military, though it continues to see service with many other countries. By the end of the Second World War, 8,536 105 mm towed howitzers had been built and post-war production continued at Rock Island Arsenal until 1953, by which time 10,202 had been built.

The Canadian Army continued to use the M2A1 as the C2 Howitzer until 1997 when a modification was made to extend its service life; it is now designated the C3. The changes include a longer barrel, a muzzle brake, reinforced trails and the removal of shield flaps. It remains the standard light howitzer of Canadian Forces Reserve units. The C3 is used by Reserve units in Glacier National Park in British Columbia as a means of avalanche control. In addition, the M101 has found a second use in the U.S. as an avalanche control gun, supervised by the US Forest Service and the US Army TACOM's cooperative effort in the Avalanche Artillery Users of North America Committee (AAUNAC). The M101 is used by a number of ski areas and state departments of transportation for long-range control work. Under the designation of M2A2, the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, 428th Field Artillery Brigade performs salutes with 7 guns with World War Two Medal of Honor recipient names on their barrels.[2]

France and the State of Vietnam used M2A1 howitzers during the First Indochina War, as did the Viet Minh guerilla forces they fought against, who were supplied with at least 24 by the People's Republic of China, along with other captured American artillery pieces and mortars formerly operated by both Nationalist Chinese forces (the Kuomintang military) and US troops fighting in Korea. Today upgraded M2A1 howitzers (some of which have been mounted on trucks and employed as self-propelled artillery) are still being used by the People's Army of Vietnam (the VPA).[3]

The French Army used the M2 hotwitzer, designated HM2, in the Algerian War[4] and during the Opération Tacaud in Chad.[5] France later supplied a battery of HM2 to the Rwandan Armed Forces during the Rwandan Civil War that led into the Rwandan genocide.[6]

A number of M2/M101 howitzers were used by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and approximately 50 were inherited by Croatia, of which four are still in use for training with the Croatian Army.

M2 Howitzers are still in limited service in the Australian Army Reserve, but are being replaced with 81-millimetre (3.2 in) mortars with an emphasis on the retention of indirect fire support skills.[7] In regular service they were replaced by the 105 mm L119 Hamel gun and the 155-millimetre (6.1 in) M198 howitzers.

Two M2 howitzers (1942) are still employed in providing the gun salute at Kristiansten Fortress, in Trondheim, Norway. M101/M2 is one of three approved salute guns in the Norwegian armed forces, and have been reduced to a caliber of 75 millimetres (3.0 in) for this purpose. They are used for gun salute also at Rena and Setermoen.

Five M101A1 howitzers are owned by the Virginia Military Institute and are used for parades, evening retreat and other ceremonies.


Gun variants:

  • M1920 – prototype.[8]
  • M1925E – prototype.[8]
  • T2 prototype, standardized as M1.[8]
  • M2 (1934) – minor changes to the chamber to allow use of fixed ammunition.[8]
  • M2A1 (1940) – modified breech ring.[9]
  • M3 – lightweight howitzer, with barrel shortened by 27 inches.
  • T8 prototype (standardized as 105 mm M4 Howitzer in September, 1943) – vehicle-mounted variant with modified breech and with cylindrical recoil surface.[10]:210
  • M101 – post-war designation of M2A1 on carriage M2A1
  • M101A1 – post-war designation of M2A1 on carriage M2A2
  • M2A1 modernized variant by Yugoimport SDPR with max range of 18.1kmm and 8rds per minute[11]
  • C3 – Canadian C1 (M2A1) with lengthened, 33-caliber barrel

Carriage variants:

  • M1920E – prototype, split trail.[8]
  • M1921E – prototype, box trail.[8]
  • M1925E – prototype, box trail.[8]
  • T2, standardized as M1 – split trail, wooden wheels.[8]
  • M1A1 – M1 carriages rebuilt with new wheels, brakes and other parts.[9]
  • T3 – prototype.[8]
  • T4 – prototype.[8]
  • T5, standardized as M2 (1940) – split trail, steel wheels with pneumatic tires.[8]
  • M2A1 – electric brakes removed.[12]
  • M2A2 – modified shield.[12]
  • XM124 & XM124E1 Light Auxiliary Propelled Howitzer – prototype (1962–1965) – produced by Sundstrand Aviation Corporation, who added an auxiliary drive system for local maneuverability (See also similar XM123 Medium Auxiliary Propelled 155 mm Howitzer with similar configuration). The base XM124 provided two 20 horsepower, air-cooled engines, while the XM124E1 provided a single 20 horsepower engine and electric steering.
  • M2A2 Terra Star Auxiliary Propelled Howitzer – prototype (1969–1977) – Lockheed Aircraft Service Company added an auxiliary drive system and a tri-star wheel system to the carriage of an M2A2 105 mm Light Howitzer to provide local maneuverability. The last surviving example is at the Rock Island Arsenal Museum.

Self-propelled mounts


The gun fired semi-fixed ammunition, with 105 mm Cartridge Case M14. The propelling charge consisted of a base charge and six increments, forming seven charges from 1 (the smallest) to 7 (the largest). Use of M1 HE rounds prepared for the 105 mm howitzer M3 (same projectile and cartridge, but different propelling charge) was authorized.[17]

HEAT M67 Shell was originally designed as fixed round, with Cartridge Case M14 type II. It was later changed to semi-fixed type with the standard cartridge, but with non-adjustable propelling charge. For blank ammunition, a shorter Cartridge Case M15 with black powder charge was used.[17]

Available ammunition[15]:236[17][18]
Type Model Weight, kg (round/projectile) Filler Muzzle velocity, m/s Range, m
HE HE M1 Shell 19.08 / 14.97 TNT or 50/50 amatol, 2.18 kg 472 11,160
HE-AT HE-AT M67 Shell 16.71 / 13.25 Pentolite, 1.33 kg 381 7,854
Smoke HC BE M84 Shell 19.02 / 14.91 Zinc chloride (HC) 472 11,160
Smoke, colored BE M84 Shell 17.86–18.04 / Smoke mixture
Smoke WP M60 Shell 19.85 / 15.56 White Phosphorus (WP), 1.84 kg 472 11,110
Smoke FS M60 Shell 20.09 / Sulfur trioxide in Chlorosulfonic acid, 2.09 kg
Chemical H M60 Shell 19.43 / Mustard gas, 1.44 kg
Practice Empty M1 Shell 472 11,160
Drill Drill Cartridge M14 - -
Blank - -
Armor penetration, mm[15]:236[19][20]
Ammunition \ Distance, m 0 457 914 1,828
HEAT M67 Shell (meet angle 0°) 102-183
Concrete penetration, mm[15]:236
HE M1 Shell (meet angle 0°) 457 427 396 335
Different methods of measurement were used in different countries / periods. Therefore, direct comparison is often impossible.


See also


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  2. "428th Field Artillery Brigade | Fort Sill | Oklahoma | Fires Center of Excellence". sill-www.army.mil. Archived from the original on 2018-07-05. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  3. Military Balance 2016, p. 297.
  4. Jung, Norbert (2009). "L'artillerie dans la lutte contre-insurrectionnelle en Algérie (1954–1962)". Stratégique (in French). 1 (93-94–95-96): 409–424. Archived from the original on 2015-12-09. Retrieved 2019-03-14.
  5. Merchet, Jean-Dominique (22 July 2008). "Quand tire l'artillerie" [When artillery fires]. secretdefense.blogs.liberation.fr (in French). Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  6. Isnard, Jacques (17 February 1993). "Rwanda: selon les services de renseignementfrançais, Les rebelles bénéficieraient du soutien de l'armée ougandaise" (PDF). Le Monde (in French). p. 5.
  7. Toohill, MAJ Ian (August 2009). "Mortars for Reserve Gunners" (PDF). The Bayonet. 2nd Division, Army Reserves Public Affairs. p. 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
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  9. Technical Manual TM 9-2005 volume 3, Infantry and Cavalry Accompanying Weapons.
  10. Hunnicutt – Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank
  11. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2018-04-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. Technical Manual TM 9-1325, 105 mm Howitzers M2 and M2A1; Carriages M2A1 and M2A2; and Combat Vehicle Mounts M3 and M4.
  13. Hunnicutt – Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series
  14. Hunnicutt – Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank
  15. Hunnicutt – Half-Track: A History of American Semi-Tracked Vehicles
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  18. Technical Manual TM 9-1904, Ammunition Inspection Guide, p 471-484.
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  • Hogg, Ian V. (1998). Allied Artillery of World War Two. Crowood Press, Ramsbury. ISBN 1-86126-165-9.
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. (1971). Pershing: A History of the Medium Tank T20 Series. Feist Publications.
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. (1992). Stuart: A History of the American Light Tank. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-462-2.
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. (1994). Sherman: A History of the American Medium Tank. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-080-5.
  • Hunnicutt, R. P. (2001). Half-Track: A History of American Semi-Tracked Vehicles. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-742-7.
  • Technical Manual TM 9-1325, 105 mm Howitzers M2 and M2A1; Carriages M2A1 and M2A2; and Combat Vehicle Mounts M3 and M4. War Department, 1944.
  • Technical Manual TM 9-1901, Artillery Ammunition. War Department, 1944.
  • Technical Manual TM 9-1904, Ammunition Inspection Guide. War Department, 1944.
  • Technical Manual TM 9-2005 volume 3, Infantry and Cavalry Accompanying Weapons. War Department, 1942.
  • International Institute for Strategic Studies (February 2016). The Military Balance 2016. 116. Routlegde. ISBN 978-1-85743-835-2.
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