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The History of the

Mobile Ordnance Repair Shops

During WWI


M.O.R.S. Mobile Ordnance Repair Shops and H.M.O.R.S. Heavy Mobile Ordnance Repair Shops

Out of the babble of tongues heard on the battlefields of the First World War was a language known and respected of all men, a language that needed no interpreter, a language in which friend and enemy alike help parlay day and night across "no man's land" it was the language of the guns.

History will record that it was in this language that America gave her answer to the Imperial German Government, and gave it in the form of 175,000 tons of hot steel and high explosives and 1 billion rounds of small arms ammunition. And there was never such a talking machine and as the American Army. "We shot away stuff so fast that our allies thought we were crazy," says a report of a campaign during the First World War. "The fighting energy of our troops at the front upset every calculation”, says in another military leader.

It fell to the Ordnance Department of the American Expeditionary Forces to keep this machine going. This meant the procurement, storage, distribution, maintenance and repair of 32,000 different classes of articles ranging all the way from the great lumbering Caterpillar tank to the well known mess kits, and including all offensive and defensive arms and ammunition, from the great guns and howitzers, hurling shells of nearly a ton in weight, down to the small but deadly trench or knuckle knife.
To sum up best the achievements of the Ordnance Department is to say that it has met the demands thus made upon it, though they were multiplied by hugely increase in schedules of troops sailing to France, by greatly accelerated programs of military offenses, and by expenditures of ammunition by the American forces enormously exceeding the estimates based upon French and British experiences.

Ordnance experts regard as the outstanding accomplishments of this department of the American Expeditionary Forces the motorization of our Artillery, the system of Mobile Repair Shops maintained with the Armies, and the arming of all airplanes for American squadrons.

The importance of keeping the guns at the front in first-class fighting trim can readily be realized. The motorized shops for that purpose that kept in the wake of the Armies and rendered first aid to all artillery and arms were a distinctive American contribution to the war. There were at the time of the Armistice a number of these Heavy Mobile Repair Shops and 25 Mobile Ordnance Repair Shops operating with the Armies. They could repair any kind of gun and get it back in commission unless it needed major repairs.

The 2nd Mobile Ordnance repair shop on the Soissons Front put into action against the retreating Germans 28 pieces of their own Artillery, ranging from 77 mm - 210 mm guns. The Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop attached to the 35th Division established the record of having no piece of artillery out of action over five minutes during the Argonne offensive.

These Repair Shops took care of all Ordnance material, and many other things besides, such as water carts, rolling kitchens, bicycles, typewriters, shower baths, watches, meat grinders, steam rollers, stone crushers, trench pumps and captured German material.

The most interesting project of the entire motor equipment work is probably the Heavy Mobile Artillery Repair Shop. This comprises a vast organization of Repair Shops, tool rooms, lathes, powered generators, air compressors, stock rooms, drill presses, welding equipment and all of the other various accessories of the complete repair and tool shop, all on wheels of great 5 and 10 ton trucks. Each repair shop is comprised of two identical units of 24 trucks each. Each is self-contained and it carries its own personnel, consisting of 51 officers and men, its own power, sleeping accommodations and provisions, and is perfectly independent of the other half.

The range of work done in the Shops is amazing. Theoretically there scope is the repair of light and heavy artillery, small arms, carriages, mounts and vehicles. Actually, everything from motor trucks to Victrolas, from bicycles and rolling kitchens to typewriters and broken eyeglasses is confidentially brought to the shop for mending.

Nine of the shops are required per Army, eight for the eight Heavy Artillery brigades and one for the tank corps. To their credit it should be said, in conclusion, that this program was carried through by a little band of 1,803 officers and 12,205 enlisted men, whose work was as hard as any in the Army and as hazardous, even if in the Services of Supply. The history of our Ordnance Department is the history of success in a race between handicap and American brains and energy, and therefore one in which we can all take pride.

Above is a Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop truck of the 57th Artillery. As you can see these trucks were special bodies fitted out with a mobile shop filled with lathes drill presses and other items that were needed. Note that these trucks had solid rubber wheels and the cab was not enclosed. These bodies covered with canvas were fitted onto a FWD Truck chassis. The sides of the bodies folded down to make a larger work area for the men. Both of these photos came from the papers of Captain Gebhart who commanded the Ordnance Detachment of the 57th Artillery.
This photo shows another view of a Mobile Ordnance Repair Shop Truck. This photo is from my personal collection and is not of the 57th Artillery. But it does show the type of equipment that these trucks carried. The soldier has in his hands a torch and directly behind him is a drill press to the right of that can be seen a lathe. Behind him and to the left can be seen an assortment of bar stock and other parts used for repairs.

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This page was first up-loaded on 8 March, 2003 And Last modified on: Saturday, June 23, 2007

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