105mm Howitzer Ammunition
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Boxes and Markings

The first 105mm howitzer packaging was two rounds in M39 fiber containers packed into a wooden box measuring 38-1/4 x 12-11/16 x 6-15/16 inches. Little is known about the original two-round box but what is known indicates that it was essentially the same as the later "long" end-opening version. Pictured at right, from Hunnicutt's Sherman, is the T32 prototype of the M7 howitzer undergoing testing at Fort Knox in February 1942. The initial two-round boxes, secured with three steel bands, can be seen. The diamond-shaped washers are evident on the end caps. The open ends face the vehicle, and the discarded end pieces are on the viewer's side of the boxes.

This initial long box was replaced by the three-round bundle in April 1941. "Short" two-round boxes (23-23/32 x 11-5/8 x 11-5/8 inches) were used on an expedient basis in the summer of 1943 but they were replaced by "long" two-round boxes (37-1/4 x 12-1/8 x 7 inches) in January 1944. Few details on the construction or configuration of the short box are available. At left is an October 1944 photo of the short boxes. The boxes look to be end-opening, but do not have tie rods. The removable ends have a different construction from the long boxes as well. The AIC (Ammunition Identification Code) on the left is R1QCC, meaning an M1 HE w/TSQ M54, packed one shell per container M129; and one cartridge case per container M130, two containers each for each round, four containers to the short box. The AIC in middle is a puzzle. It is R1Q _ _. However, the last letter does not appear to be one that indicates a short box (C or U), so it could be a packing that did not last long in the supply system.

The T18 canister round used some type of “short” two-round box, measuring 19-5/8 x 13 x 7-3/4 inches. From the dimensions it does not appear that the containers were stacked two-over-two.

Throughout the WWII period the long two-round boxes were the "end opening" type with one fixed end and one removable end. (See illustrations.) The loose end was held closed with a wing nut and diamond-shaped washer on a tie bolt that ran through the box. Both ends had cleats and rope handles. The top and bottom were flat, nailed shut, and reinforced with steel banding. A close examination of the illustration reveals that the removable end was slightly smaller than the box's cross-section while the fixed end was the same size. The removable piece also had a second board that nested within the four sides. This helped secure the end in place.

The black and white illustration below shows a long two-round box and the markings applied to it. Of note is the AIC. These five-character codes provided a quick and easy way to identify the details of a particular type of ammunition, including the weapon that used it, the projectile, the fuzing, and the packaging. In fact, the AIC was the primary method used to requisition ammunition until the introduction of Federal Stock Numbers in the 1950s. All of the M2, M2A1, and M4 105mm howitzer ammunition was coded R1Q _ _ or R1U _ _ . In the 1945 ammunition catalog there are 98 different codes for the various types of M2/M2A1/M4 105mm howitzer ammunition and packagings. The differences were often minute. For example, the M1 105mm howitzer HE shell was variously coded:

  • R1QBA when loaded with a M48 or M48A2 fuze (.05 sec delay) and packed 1/fiber container, 2 containers/box
  • R1QBS when loaded with a M48 fuze (.05 sec delay) and packed 1/fiber container, 2 containers/box
  • R1QDB when loaded with a M48A1 fuze (.15 sec delay) and packed 1/fiber container, 2 containers/box
  • R1QDT when using a steel case and loaded with a M48A1 fuze (.15 sec delay) and packed 1/fiber container, 2 containers/box

The AIC system was not adopted until January 1942 so they would not appear on ammunition packed before that date.

Also noteworthy is the caliber and type of weapon marking. For 105mm howitzers this changed over the course of the war. At the start it was 105MM HOW M2 & M2A1. When the M4 was standardized in September 1943, it became 105MM HOW M2, M2A1, & M4. By 1945 boxes were being produced with 105MM HOW M2A1 & M4 markings.

Boxes were originally unpainted with black stenciling. In March 1943 boxes were ordered to be painted or stained brown with yellow stenciling (regardless of ammunition type) but the requirement to color the boxes for artillery ammunition was dropped in September 1944.

Below is a photo seen in Steve Zaloga's U.S. Armored Artillery in World War II of the end-opening boxes in Belgium in December, 1944. A close look shows boxes with the ends removed, a stack of loose ends, M105 fiber tubes with black tape on one end as well as one with yellow tape on both ends, open boxes with the tie-rod sticking out, boxes reinforced with two bands rather than three and what looks to be an M39 container with one fixed cap.

Fiber Containers
Cloverleaf Bundles
Boxes and Markings
Metal Container
Common Rounds for Modelers
105mm Howitzer Ordnance: Comparison Review of 1/35 Scale Sets
105mm Howitzer Kits, Upgrades, and Accessories


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2008 Timothy S. Streeter