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Did you know the U.S. Army once included dragons? That’s right — their 240 mm Howitzer M1 was nick-named the “Black Dragon.” This particular weapon was employed in World War II and the Korean War, but retired from use in the 1950s when ammunition became harder to acquire.

For the non-weapon-initiated (like me) a howitzer is a type of artillery. It falls between canons, which pretty much fire straight ahead, and mortars, which fire at a higher angle. A howitzer can lob explosive shells high enough to pass over enemy defenses. One drawback of howitzers is that the gunners don’t have a direct line of sight with the intended target and must make calculations in order to strike the proper area. They make up for it with a considerable range, allowing key points such as bridges to be destroyed without practical risk to the gunners.

The Black Dragon was the biggest field artillery piece deployed by the U.S. in World War II. The only larger artillery were mounted on battleships or railroad cars. Howitzers were best used to penetrate heavily armored targets, such as solid concrete structures. In more modern parlance, they were “bunker busters.”

Today, only one army still deploys Black Dragons. This is the Republic of Taiwan, which maintains installations against possible attacks from the People’s Republic of China.


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