Artillery Ammo


We recently completed a dialogue about what make an Artillery piece a Howitzer or a Gun. That proved very interesting and now our Dan O'Brien (69-70) has raised a follow-up question regarding the different types of  Rounds fired by our Artillery.

Here is Dan's question:

"Now that we have smoked that subject, we move onto the HE rounds of each artillery piece.  One shoots TNT and the other shoots Composition B. It is printed on the projo's (see this photo).  How many other types of rounds are there for each barrel beside the WP (White Phosphorous, we called it Wilson Picket or Willy Peter. If we compare that to a WP grenade it reminds me of napalm in a powder form. Sticks to whatever it hits and burns through it.).

There was also a grenade round for the 8-inch that had 102 grenades that rolled out the back after the bottom lid was blown off during flight. Was there a flechette round also having razor like blades inside? We also were told that the 8-inch TNT round needed to spin before it would explode.  The Comp B of the 175 did not."

What we wanted to know is how many different types of rounds did we fire and the characteristics of those rounds.

These are the responses that I have received. As is often the case, some replies contradict others.

When viewing the responses below remember that they are mainly in the order in which I received them. Reading them this way you will see where some replies are in response to earlier comments.

See at the bottom for an update to this dialog from October 2021.

James Johnson (68-69) The 8-inch had a beehive round.
Bill Taggart (66-67) Thanks Jim, maybe that is what Dan referred to as a "Flechette" round in his question, do you think?
James Johnson (68-69) Could well be. Fired at short range, it was absolutely devastating to anything in front of it.
Mike O'Brien (70-71) Fired a lot of 8-inch over my years, never saw one. We did fire direct fire with the 8-inch using a HE round with a time fuse set to explode at short time 2-300 meters or so, closer if necessary. 

Some called this beehive senior. used in defense of battery against ground attack. See Killer Junior  and Killer Senior in a search.
Mike O'Brien (70-71)

Without doing research but from memory, the 8-inch had HE round, High Explosive with the explosive component being TNT.  The 8-inch also had a round called ICM, “Improved Conventional Munitions” which was in initially classified.  It did have the individual bomblets (180 ground bursting grenades) that were ejected from the base of the round above the target area.

The PD (Point Detonating) fuze, the MTSQ (Mechanical Time Super Quick) time fuse and the Proximity Fuze (used a radar like device to airburst at a set height above ground. All the fuzes needed both set back (the acceleration of the projectile and fuze being fired from the gun) and spin (induced in the projectile from the lands in the gun barrel) to release the safeties in the fuze so the round would explode a safe distance from the gun/howitzer barrel.

The 175mm Gun had only the HE projectile with Comp B because that explosive was a higher velocity explosive and the inside of the projectile was serrated with groves so when exploded the fragmentation was smaller and far more lethal. The 8-inch also used a CP fuze that was a Navy fuze and it stood for Concrete Piercing. It was point detonating and was used against bunkers and buildings. Those fuzes we got were dated 1945-47.

Forgot to add a comment about the flechette round.  The only such round for artillery was for the 105mm, generally called “Beehive” round. The flechettes were like nails with fins and used against troops generally in defense against a ground attack and used in direct fire.  The tanks (105 mm) also had such a round as did the helicopters firing the 2.75” rockets. Very nasty, I saw the effects myself and they was devastating.

Stephan Early (67-68) Don't forget the atomic round 8-inch nuke.
Ken Robinson
Honorary Member - Australian

Was part of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps which was their version of our Military Police.
Regarding the Howitzer discussion, here in Australia I served in our Citizen Military Forces, before joining our Regular Army. Our WW2 artillery had the 25 pounder which was a howitzer because of its variable charges, four in all, the charges were separated into bags starting with number 1. For two no 1 and a second bag was added and the increases went on depending on the fire mission, for firing on the back slope of a hill a small charge was used and fired like a mortar over the hill landing on the back slope, the charges were calculated on the range and trajectory, the projectile was rammed and the charge loaded in a brass case separately but your 105 had better range, But at Nui Dat I like your 175 and 8-inch I felt safe when you people were banging away. My best regards to all 1/83rd members.
Norm Gallagher (66-67) Interesting. I gather we're only interested in the round itself as powder bags and red devils weren’t mentioned. Working in FDC/Ops for my 3 years I can give you what I remember.

I can’t say if HE rounds were TNT or comp B as the subject never came up and it was not something we could alter. From the picture provided it appears the 175 round (narrower round was comp b and the stocky 8-nch was TNT).  However, as the writer mentioned, there were HE rounds, WP as well as tactical nuclear rounds which we never saw (we fired a dummy nuclear round in training). There may have been smoke rounds but I may be thinking of smaller artillery/mortars, I don’t remember firing any.  I never heard of “grenade” or “flechette” rounds (or fired any) so I can’t comment on that. 

However, there were differences between rounds based on fuses used. Most of the time we used VT fuses (variable timed, proximity fuses) because of enhanced killing at 30 meters above ground. We also used PD or point detonating, aka crush fuses. The VT fuses required we get air clearance before we fired, for obvious reasons. The gun crews will tell you, fuses are set for each round, but aren’t armed until the round leaves the barrel when lands and grooves (riffling) in the barrels spins the safety out of the fuse.  Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anything important. Both the 8-inch and 175mm needed riffling to improve accuracy and avoid spraying civilians with 200 pound explosives. Picture from M777 (155mm).

George Benham (67-68) "B" Battery also used concrete piercing fuses on the thick wall of Hue. These fuses were WW2 leftovers, but still very effective.  
Chuck (Smoke) Mattson (70-71) Very  interesting. If I can recall all the various types of Ammo/Fuse combos.

H.E. High Explosive. Frequently came with just a nose plug to be removed by the Cannoneer  and replaced with a Fuze usually requested by the Forward Observer.

Quick/Point Detonating Delay Time Or V.T. Variable time (not the same Fuze).

In addition to H.E. was H.E.A.T. High Explosive Anti Tank. Seldom seen  in Nam.

W.P White Phosphorus, Illuminating, Leaflet, Chemical and C.O.F.R.A.M. or better known as improved conventional munitions. This  was a Base ejecting shell that all the bomblet/grenades would come down and cause much discomfort to the Enemy. All Artillery rounds spun in a right hand twist. This was caused by the rotating band engaging the riffling .The Powder Chamber was smooth which may have given the misconception that the Barrel was smooth.

Why Comp B Verses T.N.T, I honestly don't know but am inclined to believe it may have something to do with Muzzle Velocity. By the way All U.S. Artillery rounds (at the time of my Service were  armed by setback and centrifugal force. Hope I haven't confused  anyone.
Johnnie Pearson (68-69) If memory serves me, both the 175mm and 8-inch fired HE rounds. The 8-inch also fired what we called a "firecracker" round, which had the 102 (or maybe) 108 bomblets.

For fuzes, the 8-inch had PD (point detonating), which we called fuze "quick," time, and variable time (VT). 

- The PD fuze had a 'delay' switch that would delay the explosion 0.5 seconds
- We fired PD fuzes about 95% of the time
- The firecracker round used a time fuze
- We never fired VT in the rain, because rain would trigger it way before the target
- We once ran out of PD fuzes and fired time fuzes set far past the time of light so they would detonate on impact

Stan Markham (70-71) The  TM is here:

175 info is on page 2-113. The 175 round was provided with TNT (M437A1) and Comp B (M4347A2). The weight of the explosive was a bit different, but they both used a TNT based supp charge.

8-inch info runs from pgs 3-131 through 145.  Like the 175, the round used either TNT or Comp B. Got tired and didn't determine if there was one or two projo models or just one.

The 404 was the anti-personnel round no info on the "shrapnel" used in the grenades.

David Jackson (67-68) Different rounds. In 68 we had a round called the "firecracker" you used. VT fuse a computer it to explode 300 above the target. It had a little over 100 explosives that hit the ground and bounced up approximately 6 feet then blew. Was devastating !!
Ed Kloiber (68-69) Bill the round your talking about with the grenades in, we had at FB Bastogne. We never fired one because they had to be on a timer fuse and explode in the air, I don't remember the make up but the name is "Cofram". Which stood for Control Fragmentation Munitions.  E
Tony Georgakis (69-70)

Not versed on arty rounds, but fired many tank (105/120mm) rounds. I'm "guessing" your composition B was similar to our "HEP" rounds, "high explosive plastic" used for bunker busting and engineer demolition. Beyond that, we had "beehive" (flechette darts/nails), WP, HEAT (high explosive anti tank), Sabot (depleted uranium 12" dart), STAP (radar air burst). As to 8-inch and 175's ??? Saw lots loaded/fired, but not a clue about ammo types. Just thought HEP and Comp B might be the same type round.

Neal Schwartz (68-69)

Wow, I’m astounded at all the research and participation from our brother cannon cockers.  It made for interesting reading, a lot of things I completely forgot about.  I can say that I haven’t utilized much of that information in my last 49 years and 8 months.  The Firecracker Round contained the small floating grenades, and the round with the flechette's and was called the Beehive Round. Firecracker was 8-inch and Beehive was 105mm and 155mm (?). It might actually help, when confirmed, to list them with all the variances, such as:

- Firecracker (grenades) 8-inch artillery

- Beehive (flechettes) 105mm & 155mm Artillery

Dan O'Brien (69-70)

Many responses on the rounds fired from both pieces.  One trooper asked about discussing powder which should also be included in the dialogue as well as fuses, breechblocks, primers [100 in a box with average of three being duds]  Trunnions and what happens to them when direct firing charge 7's, Crispy Critter round using a wet powder and a dry one behind it while shoveling sand and loading spent brass, bottles, C-rat cans to be used as direct fire shrapnel. Putting 3 razorblades between the fuze and projo when screwing in the fuse to give it that screaming effect when arriving at its destination.

Firing in the rainy weather and the percussion taking the air out of your lungs.  We learn to hold or breath when hearing the word FIRE.

The opening of the breechblock after each round with a smell and cloud of smoke increment that we who are loaders of projo's and powder can never forget.

Dragging joes through the mud with a 3/8th breaker bar in the hook to the ammo bunker from an M-548 cargo carrier.

Using cigarette butt filters for earplugs.

The commands given over the 312 crank field phone to each of the gun crews in the hot loop.

The FDC and the use of the FEDEC /FREDDY with a slide rule as a backup.  Also comparing notes to the FDC in BN who also had to figure out grids that the battery was given.

Command given REAR OF THE PIECE, FALL IN or MARCH ORDER AT 0200 HOURS.  A forward observers job.

Maybe some of these topics for future discussion down the road.  Good to see the Aussies in the mix as well.

Jim Harris(69) As I was in Survey, and not on a gun crew, I do remember that one particular day at Bastogne that we were eating dinner (lunch to most)  which was c-rations, and someone broke open a powder bag and used a single powder grain to heat the c's. And I remember the single grain of powder being about an inch long and wide as my thumb. It burned about 30 seconds or so and did a fantastic job for a hot meal. I was amazed at the size as rifle powder is about like coarse dust. And again trying to remember here, we were at Bastogne policing 8 inch and 175 rds that were blown as much as a quarter of a mile from the bunker. Was at the time Fred Paddleford was wounded and later died of his wounds.
Dan O'Brien (69-70) I got to thinking that the subject matter of joes and fuses leaves out a lot of other MOS's and jobs that I know very little about so I can learn about FDC and commo and the maintenance of the tracks by input from anyone who wants to chime in. That way we aren't restricting anyone who took an oath to do a job that made all of us a support team for the grunts in the field. And some of us were forced to do grunt work at Blaze for a few months including cooks, commo and supply. Just another day at the office.
Harry Bouquet (70-71) “Beehive” round containing flechettes that resembled tiny darts fired at sappers coming thru razor wire and “firecracker” fired at high angle into valley below fire base to neutralize rocket launched into Hue. Firecracker contained “bouncing Betty” grenades very pretty at night. Both from 8 inch. Never fired beehive but plenty of firecracker.
Rex Hon (66-67) I remember in school we learned the Fuze ignites all different types of shells.   There are Contact Fuzes,, Delay Fuzes,  (go into ground for bunkers and tunnels) and the Variability Time Fuses (for Illumination and the air burst) set by the Fuze man.

As a safety feature all Fuzes must spin for a certain distance (one or two hundred meters) to arm the Fuze.  Without the rotation arming safety feature on the Fuze a dropped shell or mishandling the shell could set the round off.  Except the Beehive round Fuse which arms itself a very short distance from the barrel.  

The Fuse is screwed into the shell at time of firing the round. Shells never travel Fused.

I forgot the Proximity Fuse which had a radar feature which made the shell explode at a certain height.   

Ken Robinson
Honorary Member - Australian

Was part of the Royal Australian Army Provost Corps which was their version of our Military Police.
Depending on the fire mission, the charges were
 - number 1 which was one bag for short range
 - number 2 was 2 bags for longer range
 - number 3 was 3 bags used in long range missions.
Johnnie Pearson (68-69) A couple of points of clarification:

B Battery FDC used a FADAC to get deflection and quadrant. As chief computer, I used a Graphical Firing Table (GFT) to calculate elevation to which I added site to get quadrant. To the chart deflection, I'd add a "deflection correction" to get the firing deflection. I compared my calculation to FADAC data. If they were within plus or minus 3 mils, we fired my data ('cause nobody trusted FADAC). We sent our deflection and quadrant to BN FDC for a data check.

In my experience, the command REAR OF THE PIECE FALL IN usually meant someone fired out.

I believe we were one of the first, if not the first, 8-inch battery to fire firecracker rounds. We were in the Hue area right after Tet '68 when an LT came into the FDC from somewhere and explained how we were to calculate the firing data (at the time I was a brand new shinny PFC who'd been in country about a month). He would not explain what it was because it was "classified."

Firecracker was fired only on troops in the open because they could get caught up in trees or other foliage, and the last thing anyone wanted was friendly troops accidentally seeing one off. Can't remember exactly how, but we let the infantry know where we fired them.

Regarding Stephan Early (67-68) comment: 'Don't forget the atomic round 8-inch nuke." - Luckily, I only calculated nuke rounds during battalion tests.

Johnnie Pearson (68-69) "There was no 8-inch flechette round.  We also were told that the 8 inch TNT round needed to spin before it would explode. The Comp B of the 175 did not." I heard the same thing.

I do know the 175 round would explode if overheated; the 8-inch round would not. In '68, a rocket hit the POL dump and ammo dump at Camp Evans. The POL dump looked like a nuclear explosion; the ammo dump had explosions for three days. The 175 rounds, and everything but the 8-inch rounds exploded. The 8-inch casing were burnt, but they did not explode.

John Zagami (69-70) Dan mentioned razor type items in the 8” which I know the 105s had 8000 leaflets in it 4000 face further in the first half & 4000 face to the rear 3 pointed pins.

When the infantry were returning back to base & the VC were following they would call for the firing batteries to fire straight out front & at the last minute would call the squad to hit the deck firing right over their heads The round had to go a certain distance then explode opening up nailing everything. I have seen this in action.

I also believe the 175 had to go a certain distance before the fuse would activate the round I used a M-14 fuse setter to have our rounds explode at certain times all calculated by FDCC.

Dan O'Brien (69-70) Here is a good picture of the brass band at the lower end on the 8 inch round.  SSG Gary Scoggins is at Currhee.  The plastic bands are stacked on the pole to keep from tripping over them.  They were discarded and we never found a use for them.

Plastic band covers the brass band on the projo. We snap them off before loading them on the tray.  With all the mud in country, the only part of the joe that needs to be clean is the brass ring to get that puppy turning.   The plastic rings are set on the upright pole

October 2021 Addition

I received this message from someone who apparently saw the dialog above.

"I served in 4th Infantry Division basecamp FDC (Camp Enari) and Section Chief #4, D Battery, 5th/16th Arty (8” SP(. I also trained in class #2, 1968 NCOCC Artillery with training in all Howitzers in the US arsenal. Great site, and welcome back brother.

 I see mentioned a couple of times about ammo. There were on HE and Firecracker. There were never any Beehive rounds for any howitzers other than the 105mm.

We fired 7 Firecracker rounds on May 11, 1969 (Mother's Day) at FB Oasis…high angle with a 75 yard spread left to right each round. We also had to assist Ordinance clean up the expended bomblets the next two days off the helo air strip that was covered with the 1” thick rubber mats. We got to see up close what the shrapnel damage was (wires like grenades). The infantry told us they counted 12 NVA KIA by Firecracker. We also found the backplates. Best guess was Ordinance only picked up maybe a dozen unexpended bomblets out of 714.

No Beehive

Thanks, Bill Short"

His comment which I highlighted seems to contradict info on this page so I asked our group to comment and below are the replies I received.

When viewing the responses below remember that they are mainly in the order in which I received them and some are contradictory as is not unusual.

Malcolm Decker (69-70)

No beehive for 8 inch.

Tom McNeight (69-70)

Never heard of a beehive round for any howitzer other than the 105mm.  However, they were developed for recoilless rifles and tank guns.

Mike O'Brien (70-71)

I served in 6 different 8” units during my career, no Beehive (flechette rounds) for the 8inch/203mm.  We did have Firecracker (ICM-Improved Conventional Munition)as mentioned and we could and did fire HE direct fire with Very short time fuze setting.  Not too great because the shell base plate fired rearward, but if it was “in the wire” defense, that was possible.  We only did it once in RVN in practice never in contact.

Ken Mitchell (70-71)

Yes, Bill Short is correct.  But in Vietnam we made our own Beehive rounds.  Charlie Battery, 2 section, we filled a bag full of #ten penny nails to be used in case of close contact with a number seven powder charge.

Steve Prest (68-69)

We definitely had BH rounds in the 8 inch.  I was in HQ, FDC when C Bat was being overrun. Don’t remember the exact date but do remember that the guy we had was from PA and he was our expert on that type of firing. Interrupted a quiet gathering to answer the FM call.

Dan O'Brien (69-70)

Grenade round was 102 grenades packed in the shell which at a certain time over the target, the back of the round popped off and the grenades rolled out. There was no 8 inch beehive round. There also was a Willy Pete or Wilson Pickett 'White Phosphorous round besides HE and firecracker. The firecracker may have had the grenades inside.  Never fired a firecracker.  Only HE, WP's and grenade. The count of 714 from Bill Short would be the 102 grenade round times seven.

Lionel Reckley (69-70) I was at Firebase Oasis with the 7/15 FA in my second tour. We fired 8 in’s while I was there. I was also with the 5/16 FA. I don’t recall anything about beehive rounds other than I knew that they were fired from the 105 howitzers.
Johnnie Pearson (68-69)

This is a true statement,  There were never any Beehive rounds for any howitzers other than the 105mm. B Battery also fired firecracker rounds in 1968.  I can't remember from which firebase.

Rex Hon (66-67)

Here is a simple description of the Beehive round and the weapons that fired the Beehive round...

Bill Burke (70-7`)

I read Bill Short’s email and looked at our ammo page.  He is correct, only 105mm had Beehive rounds.

The only three projectiles that I know of for the 8” in the Vietnam era were HE, nuclear, and ICM (Improved Conventional Munitions). HE we know about. We had “Firecraker” rounds, slang for the ICM (Improved Conventional Munitions), and as far as the 1/83rd is concerned, I never heard of them being used, although there is mention of it in a comment from a 68-69 member, used around Hue, so maybe we did.  Of course the 8” had a nuclear projectile, but there’s no need to talk about here.

Barney Downey (70-71)

I think he’s correct on the terminology, the 8” round that packed grenades was called “firecracker”. It seems to me that the “beehive” was also terminology I heard in Arty. training at Ft. Sill, which was primarily on towed 105’s, although we shot 155 SP’s as well and they may have shot beehives, too, don’t remember.

In addition to the HE round, there was also a concrete bunker-busting round, that the 8” shot and it had another name and I think the projectile was gray coloration instead of green,  the name escapes me at the time. I was on a 175 Gun crew on Bastogne, so all we had to deal with was HE round and either  PD or timed fuse,  except when on H&I’s and we had a fire mission for an 8”, then we went over to that piece and delivered the goods.

Rich Peabody (69-70) I was with the 1st of the 83rd from September 1969 until November 1970. 3 months on the guns, then Camp Eagle as a mechanic. When I was short, I drew “dump duty”…..One day we loaded the 5 ton with a bunch of M-14’s….there was no accounting for them. I took them to the dump and made damned sure EVERY ONE was destroyed by the bulldozer there.

I also took 8” beehive rounds (a six pack) and SERIN (another 6 pack) to the same dump. A discussion with a guy I respect a LOT, a CBW full bird, and he said “there were no serin rounds in Vietnam”. I saw them….and the beehives. Lots of stuff has been denied.

Roger Koopman (68-69) Memory of use of Firecracker at Vietnam FSB Arrow defending A Btry late spring of 1969.


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