12-inch gun M1895

12-inch gun M1895

12-inch M1895 coastal defense gun being fired by lanyard
Type Coastal artillery
Place of origin United States
Service history
In service 1895–1945
Used by United States Army
Wars World War I, World War II
Production history
Designer Watervliet Arsenal
Designed 1888
Manufacturer Watervliet Arsenal, Bethlehem Steel, possibly others
Variants M1888, M1895, M1900
Weight 115,000 pounds (52,163 kilograms) (M1895)
Length 442.56 inches (11.241 meters)
Barrel length 35 calibers (442.56 inches; 11.241 meters)

Shell separate loading,
975 pounds (442 kg) AP,
1,070 pounds (490 kg) AP shot & shell[1]
Caliber 12 in (305 mm)
Breech Interrupted screw, De Bange type
Carriage M1891 gun lift, M1892 or M1897 barbette, M1896, M1897 or M1901 disappearing, M1917 long-range barbette from 1920[2]
Traverse disappearing: 170° (varied with emplacement),
long-range M1917 barbette: 360° (145° casemated),
railway: 10°
Maximum firing range disappearing: 18,400 yards (16,800 m),
long-range M1917 barbette: 30,100 yards (27,500 m),
railway: 30,100 yards (27,500 m)[3]
Feed system hand

The 12-inch coastal defense gun M1895 (305 mm) and its variants the M1888 and M1900 were large coastal artillery pieces installed to defend major American seaports between 1895 and 1945. For most of their history they were operated by the United States Army Coast Artillery Corps. Most were installed on disappearing carriages, with early installations on low-angle barbette mountings. From 1919, 19 long-range two-gun batteries were built using the M1895 on an M1917 long-range barbette carriage. Almost all of the weapons not in the Philippines were scrapped during and after World War II.


In 1885, William C. Endicott, President Grover Cleveland's secretary of war, was tasked with creating the Board of Fortifications to review seacoast defenses. The findings of the board illustrated a grim picture of existing defenses, and in its 1886 report recommended a massive $127 million construction program of breech-loading cannons, mortars, floating batteries, and submarine mines for some 29 locations on the US coastline. Most of the board's recommendations were implemented. Coast artillery fortifications built between 1885 and 1905 are often referred to as "Endicott Period" fortifications.

12-inch gun (left) on early low-angle barbette carriage circa 1895 with 10-inch and 8-inch guns; these preceded the disappearing carriage in US service.
An M1895 coastal defense 12-inch gun on an M1896 disappearing carriage.
A coastal defense 12-inch gun on an M1895 disappearing carriage, showing raised and lowered positions.

Watervliet Arsenal designed the gun and built the barrels. For several years, difficulties were encountered in building a disappearing carriage for the 12-inch gun. One alternative was the M1891 gun lift carriage, with the gun mounted on a large steam-powered elevator. Only one battery of this type was built, at Fort Hancock, New Jersey. When this proved to be too complex, guns were mounted on low-angle M1892 or M1897 barbette carriages. Eventually, the guns were mounted on M1896, M1897, or M1901 disappearing carriages designed by Bethlehem Steel; when the gun was fired, it dropped behind a concrete or earthen wall for protection from counter-battery fire. Bethlehem later built barrels as well.

After the Spanish–American War, the government wanted to protect American seaports in the event of war, and also protect newly gained territory, such as the Philippines and Cuba, from enemy attack. A new Board of Fortifications, under President Theodore Roosevelt's secretary of war, William Taft, was convened in 1905. Taft recommended technical changes, such as more searchlights, electrification, and, in some cases, less guns in particular fortifications. The seacoast forts were funded under the Spooner Act of 1902 and construction began within a few years and lasted into the 1920s. The defenses of the Philippines on islands in Manila Bay were built under this program.[4]

Railway mounting

After the American entry into World War I, the army recognized the need for large-caliber railway guns for use on the Western Front. Among the weapons available were 45 12-inch guns, to be removed from fixed defenses or taken from spares. At least 12 were mounted on railway carriages by mid-1919; it is unclear how many more were eventually mounted.[5] A detailed description of the railway mounting is given in Railway Artillery, Vol. I by Lt. Col. H. W. Miller.[6] Like almost all US-made railway guns of World War I (the notable exception being the US Navy's 14"/50 caliber railway guns), these never left the US.[7] Almost all were returned to coastal defenses after the war; however, one survived for experimental purposes at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division until it was transferred to the U.S. Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center at Fort Lee, Virginia in the 2000s.

Long-range mounting

M1895 12-inch gun on M1917 long-range high-angle barbette carriage, Corregidor, 2012
12-inch casemated gun, typical of batteries casemated in World War II.

Also during World War I, it was recognized that naval guns were rapidly improving and longer-range weapons were needed. Fourteen two-gun and two one-gun batteries were constructed with M1895 guns on the new M1917 long-range barbette carriage, which allowed an elevation of 35 degrees, compared to 15 degrees for the disappearing carriages. This increased the range from 18,400 yards (16,800 m) to 30,100 yards (27,500 m).[8] These batteries were mostly in the continental United States, with the two one-gun batteries on Corregidor in the Philippines.[9][10] The guns were originally in open mounts, but most were later casemated against air attack, probably around 1940 as World War II approached the United States. The batteries in the Philippines, however, were not casemated, as the 1923 Washington Naval Treaty prohibited further fortification of US and Japanese Pacific-area possessions.

World War II

Along with other coast artillery weapons, the 12-inch guns in the Philippines saw action in the Japanese invasion in World War II. Since they were positioned against a naval attack, they had mostly armor-piercing ammunition and were poorly sited to engage the Japanese (although they did have 360° fire due to lack of casemates), and the open mountings were vulnerable to air and high-angle artillery attack.

Victorious Japanese troops atop Battery Hearn on 6 May 1942

Three additional long-range casemated batteries were constructed during the war, at Fort Miles, Delaware, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and on Sullivan's Island near Fort Moultrie in the Harbor Defenses of Charleston, South Carolina. With the additional construction of 16-inch gun batteries at most harbor defenses, all guns on disappearing carriages were scrapped in 1943–44. The long-range batteries' guns were scrapped soon after the war ended.

M1895 12-inch coastal artillery batteries

Additional batteries, including 16 two-gun batteries with long-range M1917 carriages, were located around the United States and its possessions.[12][13][14]



Diagram of an M1895 12-inch gun on an M1897 disappearing carriage

The M1895MI weighed 52 tons and the M1901 carriage weighed 251 tons. The projectile weight for all M1895 guns was 1,046 pounds. Each shell used 318 pounds of powder, but this was varied depending on range. The projectile achieved a muzzle velocity of 2,250 feet per second. The M1901 disappearing carriage could elevate 15 degrees maximum; earlier models could not elevate that much until the rear mounting bracket was changed from a centerline to an upper position in the M1901. The M1901 could traverse 170 degrees, but some M1895MII emplacements could traverse 210 degrees. The M1895MII had a range of over 29,000 yards (26 kilometers).[15]

Surviving examples

No M1888 or M1900 weapons survive.[16]

See also


  1. Berhow, p. 61
  2. Berhow, pp. 130–155
  3. Berhow, p. 61
  4. Berhow, Mark A. and McGovern, Terrance C., American Defenses of Corregidor and Manila Bay 1898–1945, Osprey Publishing Ltd.; 1st edition, 2003; pages 7–8.
  5. Hogg, Ian V. (1998). Allied Artillery of World War I. Ramsbury, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press, Ltd. pp. 141–142. ISBN 1-86126-104-7.
  6. Miller, H. W., LTC, USA Railway Artillery, Vols. I and II, 1921, Vol. I, pp. 197–250
  7. US Army Railway Artillery in World War I
  8. Berhow, p. 61
  9. Coast Defense Study Group fort and battery list
  10. Berhow, pp. 224–226
  11. FortWiki on Battery Parrott, Ft. Monroe
  12. Search on FortWiki for M1895 12-inch gun
  13. Berhow, pp. 200–223
  14. Berhow, pp. 224–226
  15. Berhow, Mark A. and McGovern,Terrance C. American Defenses of Corregidor and Manila Bay 1898–1945, Osprey Publishing Ltd.; 1st edition, 2003; page 59.
  16. Berhow, pp. 229-230
  17. Gun is located at 38°46′34″N 75°05′14″W / 38.7761°N 75.0872°W

General references

External links

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