Museum brings out big guns
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Jun 14, 2013, 14:55
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Claire Samuelson, who helped put together the Ordnance exhibit at the Quartermaster Museum, stands by a Leichtgeschutz 42, a 10.5 cm recoilless gun used by the Germans.
FORT LEE — With the Ordnance Museum still without a building at Fort Lee, the Quartermaster Museum has offered up part of its space to show off some weaponry.
The new exhibit, “Subject to Recall,” which opens Monday, includes items captured from enemy hands, primarily from the Germans during World War II. The exhibit is so named because the items were tagged “subject to recall for intelligence exploitation” when put into storage.
The Ordnance Museum artifacts were moved from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to Fort Lee as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act of 2005. But funding for the building has never materialized and is uncertain with federal budget woes.
The items on display are only a small portion of the Ordnance artifacts at Fort Lee. Numerous items are in storage on post with some are in tent-like structures.
In all, there are 13,000 small Ordnance artifacts and about 270 large artifacts.
Paul Morando with the Quartermaster Museum hoped the exhibit would draw people who were interested in weapons who might not otherwise come. “People who are into ordnance and small arms really can’t see that in the Quartermaster Museum. Now they can,” he said.
A Schwimmwagen, a floating car used by the Germans in World War II, is on display.
Claire Samuelson, who helped put together the exhibit, said it has taken about six months to get the exhibit complete when you include planning. “And we were fixing things this morning,” she said with a laugh Thursday afternoon during a sneak preview.
The exhibit will be on display through about March 2014.
Some of the larger items in the exhibit include:
• A Schwimmwagen, a floating car used by the Germans in World War II. There were 15,000 made between 1942 and 1944. The vehicle was designed by father and son Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche and made in factories that produce the Volkswagen Beetle before the war. The car could travel about 6 mph in the water and included paddles strapped to the side just in case the engine died or the propeller became stuck.
• A 7.5 cm Leichtgeschutz 40, a recoilless gun. The German army was the first to develop the concept which basically uses a rifled barrel to launch a rocket-fired projectile. It was small enough to be used by paratroopers but large enough that it could take out a tank. It could be broken down into several pieces so it could be carried. The model on display was acquired in North Africa after Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s retreat. The exhibit also includes an LG42, a larger 10.5 cm recoilless gun.
• A 5 cm BK 5 automatic aircraft cannon. The German air force believed a new jet fighter armed with the massive gun could take out a bomber in a single shot. The 14-foot gun could fire explosive rounds at the rate of 40-50 a minute. The guns were tested on the first operational jet fighter, the Me-262 Schwalbe, or Swallow, but the tests were not completed by the time the war ended. The BK5 at Fort Lee is one of only two in the United States.
• A 15 cm Nebel Werfer 41, or “Screaming Meemie,” one of the first rocket launchers used in World War II. It has six barrels that fire one after the other. The launchers were set up with several in a row and used to send a barrage of rockets. They were nicknamed “Screaming Meemies” because they let out what sounds like an elephant wail when fired.
“They were very intimidating because of the noise, not necessarily what they did,” Samuelson said.
JAMES PEACEAMKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT A display shows the progression in development of assault rifles over the years.
The exhibit also includes a variety of small arms, mines and grenades.