LIMA — The 40-caliber cannon outside of Memorial Hall has been removed from its plinth to be prepared for its new home just a few blocks east outside of the VFW Post 1275 hall at the intersection of Main and Elm streets.
VFW post officials visited the Allen County Commissioners on Tuesday to explain the project and present the latest information they were able to gather about the over century-old 9-foot long gun.
Apparently, not a whole lot can be confirmed about the gun’s origin, but VFW historians spent the time piecing together the little information they had to create a backstory for the piece.
“It’s really a piece of history,” Post Commander Butch Brewer said. “But we can’t pin its travels down to here.”
Known as a Hotchkiss gun, Junior Vice Post Commander Dale Alkire placed the roughly 850-pound cannon on the former USS. Texas, a coastal battle cruiser that saw some action during the Spanish American War when it participated in a skirmish in the Havana harbor not long after her sister ship the USS Maine had suffered an interal explosion and sank.
“Remember the Maine!” later became one of the rallying cries of the war.
During the battle, four men would have operated the gun to churn out 20 shots a minute. Three men would have participated in loading the 6-pound shells, and the fourth would aim down its sights and pull the trigger.
Alkire said he isn’t 100 percent sure the cannon served on the ship, but because of a number of variables identified, such as the gun’s serial number and date of production, he said VFW officials could make at least an educated guess. Naval records that would have confirmed where the gun was used were destroyed during the National Personnel Records Center fire in 1973.
A second source of information post officials utilized to learn more about the gun was a plaque dedicating the gun to Vice Admiral Edmund Battelle Taylor. One of the major reasons post officials place the gun on the USS Texas is because of Taylor’s involvement with the second ship of that name.
Taylor, a graduate of Lima Central High School, became a highly-decorated naval officer for his involvement in a number of military actions during World War II and his subsequent military career before dying in 1973.
As for the gun itself, Brewer said he wanted to preserve its history for subsequent generations. It’s currently sitting in his garage.
The VFW has already powder-coated the cannon back to its original battleship grey. The next steps are to build a new base that can bear its weight and install a new plaque. They’re soliciting donations for the project now.
“We just wanted to save history,” Brewer said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.