Henry J. Sobieski
240mm howitzer high-angle firing
"Kiss of Death" firing from behind Chorwon, 1953
Lt. Henry J. Sobieski, Exec, Baker Battery 1953
By June of ‘53, I was an executive
officer of Baker Battery, and 1st Lt. ‘Dutch’ Rehm was
CO, and the 240mm howitzer was fully operational and shooting fire
missions almost day and night. We had been moved from Chorwon to Kumhwa,
the far right of the base of the ‘Iron Triangle’. It was called the
‘Iron Triangle’ because of the railroad line shaped in the form of a
triangle that connected Chorwon and Kumhwa at the base and in our lines
with Pyonggang in their lines. We were supporting elements of the U.S. 3rd
Infantry Division. Our Observation Post was called ‘Blaster’ and the
enemy held Papasan Hill and Mortar Ridge. Both were almost directly in
front of the O.P. To the far left was Outpost Harry.
can’t recall the specific day it happened because we were constantly
shooting fire missions in support of the 3rd Infantry. But
word came down from Battalion Fire Direction Center that something was
happening on Outpost Harry and it wasn’t good. They wanted our left
big gun to fire at the enemy in that area immediately. Battalion issued
fire commands and I started to yell them to the gun crew. It went
something like this ‘Fire Mission! Number two adjust! Shell H.E!
Charge Two! Fuse Quick! Deflection 2040! Elevation 450! Report when
ready to fire!’ As we proceeded with the fire commands, the panoramic
telescope operator yelled, ‘Sir, the deflection is beyond our traverse
limit, we can't shoot!’ Simply put, Outpost Harry was beyond the
extreme left fire position of the 240, actually it was beyond the
traverse limit which was four hundred mills left of center.
I got on the phone and reported this to Battalion FDC. They weren’t happy, to say the least. They needed a lot of fire support on ‘Harry’ especially from our 240mm. The 240 was the equivalent to a land based battleship. It was the biggest artillery piece in Korea and fired a three hundred and sixty pound shell, the heaviest. There were twelve 240s in all of Korea and the 213th had six of em’. Battalion ordered me to move the #2 240 so that it could fire on Outpost Harry. They didn't care how I did it but get it done. By this time it was about 8pm. We didn’t have much room to work with even after a bulldozer had previously leveled this niche in the ground behind a hill. The 240mm howitzer weighed thirty-three tons and came in two pieces, the tube weighing about seventeen tons and the cradle in which it sat weighed about sixteen tons. We would put the 240 into fire position by crane, but first a clamshell was attached to the crane and a recoil pit was dug for the barrel and two deep pits for each trail from which were hung four seven hundred and fifty pound recoil spades. There were two per each trail, to cushion the shock and tendency of the gun to move backward every time it was fired.
Instead of dismantling the
whole gun and digging new recoil pits in a confined space, I decided to
manually dig new recoil pits and winch the 240 to the right so that it
could fire support missions for Outpost Harry. This became brutal
backbreaking work for all of us. But, after 2am, things began to jell.
The pits were dug, the seven hundred and fifty pound recoil spades were
removed, a M-6 tractor pulled up to the right of the gun, a cable was
attached to the gun and we successfully winched her into position. After
the recoil spades were reattached, we layed the gun so that we could
fire four hundred mills to the right and left of ‘Harry’. At about
5am I called Battalion FDC and reported that #2 gun was layed and ready
to fire. Without pause, the officer at Battalion FDC said ‘Number Two
Fire Mission!’ and I shouted the fire commands to the gun crew and we
began shooting. We fired continuously for several days. It wasn’t till
sometime later that I learned an OCS classmate of mine, Lt Russ Wagner
was the Forward Observer on Harry and had been wounded in action.
©Copyright 2004, Henry J. Sobieski. All rights reserved