Big Guns

Every time we re-visit someplace, we try to see something different. This past January, while in Yuma, Arizona, we decided to take a day off from running the fitness trail and drive up to the Yuma Proving Grounds, which is about twenty miles north of town.

The directions say, “Turn at the big guns.”

Next step: stop at the visitor processing center for vetting before entrance onto the proving grounds. The Army officer and staffers in the office were fascinated with Bob’s late-1960s Air Force experience and we were given our visitors’ passes after a short wait.

The Yuma Proving Grounds has been a main testing location for military equipment and munitions since the 1940s, and although there’s no way to watch current testing (for security, safety, and a billion other reasons, including the fact that those tests occur far from the visitors’ areas), there is an amazing museum that swallowed up more time than we expected because of the variety and detail of the exhibits.

So many things caught my eye as we walked from room to room it’s hard to narrow it down, but this model of a bridge they tested (the Colorado River is nearby) caught my eye:

As Jeep owners, we appreciated seeing this display…

…and the photographs of trucks bigger than Jeeps doing the same kinds of vehicular tricks Jeeps are designed for:

The museum also gave me a chance to reconnect with my old typewriter days — this model was like the one my Mom had that I used growing up, and brought back the days of ink ribbons, the little ding at the end of each line, lining up carbon paper to make a copy, and the horror of making a mistake (which meant starting over, or using covering liquid or a little type-over paper).

And what about this early printer? Yep! I had to check the sign to be sure. “This film processing machine was used to produce the images needed to illustrate test results for presentations. This helped in the analysis and presentation of test data.” We have it so easy now!

This re-created Commander’s office reminded me of how far we’ve come in banning tobacco smoke from interior spaces (see the cigar in the ash tray?). Ashtrays, thank goodness, are becoming a thing of the past!

Yep, they tested all kinds of things here… like these snowshoes. Or maybe they’re sandshoes?

And the munitions! I posed next to these to show their size, but this isn’t even the big stuff for the big guns.

A placard next to these photos says, “American artillery is known as the ‘King of Battle’.” I didn’t know that, did you? But they sure do look like they deliver a royal punch:

Back at the visitor processing center (it’s not really a visitors center in the way most of us think of them) we stopped again to take a closer look at the outdoor display of towed and self-propelled artillery (you’ll learn the difference, too, with a walk around the equipment).

Some of the displayed equipment are test units; others saw true battle. We appreciate the men who operated this machinery…

…and pause at least a minute every day to send a silent “Thank you” to all the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country.

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About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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6 Responses to Big Guns

  1. Reblogged this on e. michael helms and commented:
    Ah, nothing like reminiscing!

  2. If I’m not mistaken, those “big guns” are 175mm howitzers, usually mounted on their own moveable tank-like tracks. During TET 1968 (Year of the Monkey), in February our company (Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines (Reg.), were moved to a knoll just below Camp Carroll, not far from the DMZ. Our job was to keep the NVA from overrunning Camp Carroll and taking out the 175mm batteries which were firing much-needed air support for Khe Sanh during the big siege there. We were in almost constant contact, and lost a lot of Marines during our month below Camp Carroll. Those big guns were thunderous; their roaring echoed off the mountain ridges and through the valleys where we were dug in. I’ve always been thankful we were not on the receiving end! 🙂 –HAPPY TRAILS!
    –Mike

    • Ellen says:

      Thanks for providing some additional background on these Big Guns, Mike! I’m glad they were on our side, too — and that we had men like you and your Marine brothers out there willing to risk it all. We all owe you and fellow veterans our deepest gratitude!

  3. What a great find! The proving grounds sounds like a good place to visit. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ellen says:

      It really was fascinating, Janet! US citizens with proper ID can get onto the base where the museum is; others can still see the tanks and some of the big guns at the entrance station.

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