Interview With George E. Lough

From the interview with George E. Lough of Vancouver, WA conducted by Shelly Testerman Randall at the Fort Worden History Center on May 13, 2002.  Mr. Lough served in the U.S. Army ROTC and CMTC National Guard at Fort Worden previous to World War II.   His military career spanned more than 30 years, and he attained the rank of Lt. Col.  At the time of the interview he was 83 years old.  Here he explains how the disappearing gun at Battery Tolles was operated:

“This was a six-inch disappearing gun, and the projectile weighed about 90 pounds and then had separate powder charges.  These powder bags were made of raw silk, and they contained smokeless powder, nitrocellulose and there were two charges.  There was a main charge and then there was an increment charge, and depending on the range and so on, they would use both or just one.  The firing tables provided for that. The primer which set off the powder was inserted in the breach last.  It contained fulminate of mercury; and so then, when the gun was fired by a lanyard, a hammer would go against the primer and that would ignite the powder, which would then propel the projectile.  The projectile had a soft band around it called the rotating band, and that would engage the grooves, the rifling in the gun and make a seal, then the powder would have its maximum force. The disappearing gun, as the name implies, would disappear below the parapet and was held in place.  The gun would have a counterweight on there and the pit, so that when the gun went up into battery, the weight would go down into the pit.  Then when the gun was fired, the recoil would bring it back down again and a ratchet would hold it.   If you weren’t firing it and you wanted to put it in the battery, you could still trip it, but then you’d have to winch it back down again because you didn’t have any recoil.  It took quite a bit of force to ram that projectile in place and we used a crew of eight persons. After the gun was fired, then you had another device.  It was a long rod with kind of a moistened sponge on the end.  You had to sponge out the powder to make sure there wasn’t any residual burning material in there.  Otherwise, when you put in the next powder, you had a problem.  So that was it—you’d load the gun, fire it, and sponge it out and then go on from there.  That disappearing gun could be fired rather rapidly.  We had what was called time interval bells that rang.  There’d be a warning bell, then there would be three bells; and at the end of the third ringing of the bell, that’s when we pulled the lanyard and the gun was fired.”

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