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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • NORTH TUSCANY COAST, 1948

Careful, Kitten: 1916

Careful, Kitten: 1916

1916. "Indian Head, Maryland. Navy proving ground. Residence of George Swann, damaged by 16-inch shell that hit another in sandbank, and was deflected over country at 3/4 angle. The shell, where it stopped in dooryard." Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative, Library of Congress. View full size.

 

Indian Head

As a native of Indian Head, the Naval Ordnance Station is still an integral part of life in Southern Maryland, about 25 miles from Washington, DC and sitting just across the river from Quantico. Many of our families' livelihoods depended upon the important defense work being done at the "Naval Propellant Plant," as it was called when I was growing up. Because of its location on the Potomac, a lot of testing was done in the water. Several times when I was a kid, some horrible accident would occur when explosive dust, accumulated over time or through carelessness, exploded. I remember our house shaking as if an earthquake had hit and then hearing the sirens on the base, knowing that there had been an explosion and praying my father had not been in it. He was a sheet and plate metal worker and retired from the base after 30 years of service and became a vocational education teacher in the Charles County school system. He lived to be 81 and he and my mother were two of the oldest residents when the town of Indian Head celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1990.

What a different world it was in 1916.

Love Government's response: Give us a bigger proving ground or just get used to stray naval shells flying every which way.

Green Acres

I half expected to see Lisa and Oliver Douglas standing on the porch as Mr. Haney drives up to sell them a new one.

These Things Happen...

As we used to say in artillery:

"Shot OVER."

"Shot OUT!"

Dahlgren

This kind of testing was moved to Dahlgren, VA in the 20s

The gov'ment

I wonder if the Navy paid for repairs.

Worthy of another look.

This incident has not just occurred. Temporary posts (sapling trunks, by the look of it!) have been erected to hold up the porch roof. Therefore I conclude that the round is a dummy, thus the lack of urgency in removing it and the fact that child and kitten are allowed in such close proximity.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

16 inch?

I certainly am not a naval historian by any means but the caption having 16 inch shell and 1916 made me do a quick internet search on US naval gun sizes and when these took place.

The first US battleship to mount 16 inch guns was the Colorado class BB, the Maryland, laid down in 1917 and commissioned in 1921. Previous classes (and there were many in the 1905-1917 timeframe) went from 12 inch to 14 inch.

Of course, 12, 14 or most likely incorrectly stated as 16 inch will not help the porch or Mr. Swann's condition!

[The shell was not fired from a battleship, and 16 inches seems to be correct. See below. Before a new gun is mounted on a ship, it has to be tested, which is what the Indian Head Proving Ground was for. - Dave]

Questions, questions...

How long was the shell sitting there? Was it a dummy round used for testing? How long did it take them to make some makeshift repairs, like moving the porch railing over, and removing much of the debris? What's up with the "scaffolding" on the side of the house? Where did the shell land, and which way did it come from? Is that where it ended up after it landed, or did someone move it there? Is that a piece of window on the porch roof? Is the kid watching ants?

Gee, Mr. Swann, Sorry About That

Presumably it had been determined by the time the photo was taken that the shell was harmless...still, if I'm Geo. Swann, I'm getting my daughter and kitten off the porch ASAP, and calling the Navy to make sure they come and get the thing. I wonder what was in those buckets on the table?

 
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