On Tuesday 8 April, several news outlets in Chicago reported that the Transportation Security Administration seized two World War I-era artillery rounds from baggage that was aboard a flight from London.
Two artillery rounds seized by the TSA around 8 April 2014 in O’Hare Airport, Chicago.
It turns out that two teenage travelers got the rounds at a French WWI artillery range during a school field trip. Unfortunately, it does not say exactly where the teens found the rounds, or whether they bought the rounds or simply found them and walked away with them. Fox News reports that “TSA explosives experts believe they are French 77 mm shells.” This seems like a typographical error, as theChicago Sun-Times writes that a TSA spokesman described the rounds as 75mm in caliber. The most common French field gun of the Great War was the “French 75.” Furthermore, it was the German army, not the French, which used a 77mm cannon, called the 7.7cm Feldkanon (with models 96 & 16, denoting the years those versions came out). This is based on a brief amount of research I have done online, so Great War enthusiasts and experts, please correct me if I have it wrong.
“Our Glorious 75,” a WWI French postcard featuring the 75mm cannon. Note the rounds at the soldier’s feet.
Thankfully, no one was hurt or even in danger: it was determined that the rounds were inert and could not have caused any harm. The teenagers were not charged.
On Monday, 31 March, tensions heated up on the Korean peninsula when North Korea went forward with live-fire exercises near the Yellow Sea, the waters to the west of both North and South Korea. Deciding that it needed to provoke the world into paying attention to it, North Korea reached for its artillery arsenal and began slinging rounds into the water.
Baengnyeong Island and the western Korean Peninsula.
North Korea’s actions were interpreted as provocation when many of their rounds landed in South Korean waters near Baengnyeong Island, which is about 10 miles from the North Korean mainland. South Korea responded by rolling out its K9 self-propelled 155mm howitzers and responding in kind, hurling 300 rounds into the disputed waterway. The New York Times reports that the North Koreans fired multiple rocket launchers in addition to howitzers, but due to the secretive nature of the North Korean People’s Army, it does not specify the type. However, the NKPA is known to employ Soviet-made artillery such as 152mm D-20 towed howitzers, 130mm M-46s (re-worked to be self-propelled by mounting them on tank chassis), and BM-11 and BM-24 multiple rocket launchers.
The Koreas exchanged artillery fire in the same area in 2010, when North Korean fire killed four civilians. It is also the same area where the Republic of Korea Navy ship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. North Korea is widely regarded as using military pressure to force diplomatic negotiations, and in this case the armament-of-choice has been the King of Battle.