First Gun Fired at Dahlgren in 1918 Returns Home

Story Number: NNS090723-05Release Date: 7/23/2009 1:59:00 PM
A  A  A   Email this story to a friend   Print this story
By John J. Joyce, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Public Affairs

DAHLGREN, Va. (NNS) -- A World War I era seven-inch 45 caliber tractor mounted gun fired on base more than 90 years ago was transported from the Quantico Marine Corps base back to its original home at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC)Dahlgren July 20.

"October 16, 1918, the date this gun was first fired at Dahlgren has been used as our birth date for many years," said NSWC Dahlgren Division Commander Capt. Sheila Patterson.

A detachment of Marines hoisted the colors to officially open the new proving ground on that day in 1918. The Naval Proving Grounds Lower Station was later named after Rear Adm. John Adolphus Dahlgren, who is considered the "Father of Modern Naval Ordnance".

"As we approach our one hundredth birthday in 2018 and prepare to celebrate that milestone, the return of this gun to Dahlgren is of particular significance," said Patterson. "We thank the National Museum of the Marine Corps for this 10-year loan."

U.S. Army Ordnance Department representatives watched as Marines fired the first shot at Lower Station, today's Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren, about 24,000 yards down the Potomac River on that day in October 1918. The 152-pound projectile was fired from the gun that was and still is on a special caterpillar-tractor mount designed for Marine Corps operations in the first world war.

The return of the gun is also significant as NSWC Dahlgren Division plans to celebrate the birthday of its namesake with the base and tenant commands.

"The two hundredth birthday of Rear Adm. John Dahlgren this November was the catalyst for moving the gun back to Dahlgren," said NSWC Dahlgren Division Operations Department Head Peter Kolakowski.

The gun and its mount, originally requested from the Navy by the artillery strapped U.S. Army was one of 20 that the Bureau of Ordnance (BUORD) had earmarked for the new 10th Marine Artillery Regiment, then in training at Quantico, Va., for service on the World War I Western Front.

BUORD described the weapon in 1920 as, "the heaviest and hardest hitting gun for which a mobile field mount of this kind had ever been requested by any nation or army."

The gun represented the ancestor of self-propelled artillery that was to play a major role in later wars.

NSF Dahlgren and NSWC Dahlgren are planning to display the gun during Rear Adm. John Dahlgren's 200th birthday commemoration slated for Nov. 13.

For more news from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, visit

Transportation personnel at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren prepare to off-load a World War I-era tractor-mounted artillery piece.
090720-N-6148D-001 DAHLGREN, Va. (July 20, 2009) Transportation personnel at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren prepare to off-load a World War I-era tractor-mounted artillery piece, the first gun originally test-fired to mark the establishment of Dahlgren as a naval proving ground on Oct. 16, 1918. The 7-inch, 45 caliber gun will be restored by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (U.S. Navy photo by Doug Davant/Released)
July 22, 2009
Navy Social Media
Sign up for email updates To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please click on the envelope icon in the page header above or click Subscribe to Navy News Service.