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Great Guns

February 2024
1min read

I especially enjoyed “The Last Powder Monkey” in the July/August issue. What a wonderful boyhood Roy Smith had! Navy juniors tended to live in exotic climes, but few had adventures like that!

Two minor quibbles. The picture of USS Noa “in Shanghai Harbor” can’t show Shanghai; Shanghai doesn’t have a harbor. One moored either at the Bund (destroyers only) or to anchored buoys in the middle of Whangpoo River. (It was difficult to turn cruisers in the Whangpoo, and impossible for battleships. One cast off the bow moorings and let the current swing the ship around the stern buoy before casting off!) In the picture Noa is anchored close to a shore with a water tank but with no sign of a metropolitan area.

The other quibble is the author’s reference to a .50-caliber Lewis gun. No such animal; all Lewises were .30 caliber (British .303). It was a superb mechanism, but .5Os would have shaken it apart (even the .30 rattled it very badly at first, until Lewis redesigned some of the parts).

Lt. Col. Isaac N. Lewis (U.S.M.A. 1884) developed the weapon in 1911 and offered it to the War Department, which was backing a monstrosity known as the Hotchkiss. American troops adopted them after Pershing goosed the War Department. We used Lewis guns into World War II, and the British used them (plus a Vickers modification) right through the war. As did the Japanese.

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