FRANKFORT, Ky. –
A retired Kentucky National Guard member returned a decommissioned Howitzer to its former glory on Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, Ky., during the summer of 2021.
Retired Lt. Col. Dick Stoops worked tirelessly on the M114A2 Howitzer. Located in front of the Wellman Armory, he greased, painted, and repositioned the static display to reflect what it looked like on the battlefield.
“I was so disappointed in the rust spots on the cannon,” said Stoops. “I wrote a letter to the adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, and he coordinated a detail to turn the gun around and put it into a firing position.”
Stoops purchased a technical manual online and began his work. Once in position, it took Stoops nearly three weeks to elevate the gun tube into the position we see today.
Once in place, he continued to disassemble the gun as much as possible and greased all the moving parts. He finished by applying a new coat of paint to the entire gun.
Stoops’ interest in the Howitzer stems from his early service in the Active component and his time in the National Guard.
After a brief enlistment in field artillery, Stoops later commissioned and would serve as the commander of Alpha Battery, 2/11th Artillery. While deployed to Vietnam for seven months from 1969 to 1970, his battery supported multiple fire bases and moved to 11 different hilltops, all by air.
During his first air drop, he realized that coordinating guns was chaotic. To make it easier, he painted the hubs of each cannon differently so he could direct the landing of each Howitzer to their needed firing positions. By the end of his tour, Capt. Stoops’ battery was recognized as the best battery in the division.
Stoops left active duty in 1972 to join the Kentucky National Guard, where he would retire many years later as the Executive Officer of the 2/138th Field Artillery Brigade. He would always be a field artilleryman at heart.
While working on the gun at Boone Center, he researched the Howitzer to see if he could track down its history. Unfortunately, the search was not fruitful.
He learned the carrier portion was manufactured from the Lufkin Foundry and Machine Company in Lufkin, Texas, who made oil and refinery machinery previous to World War II. During the war, the War Department contracted the foundry to produce goods for troops.
In a June 1944 foundry newsletter, the Foundry Roundup, the factory states that the company made up to 80 percent of the carriages needed by the Army.
In addition, Stoops learned the recoil mechanism was manufactured by Robert Hoe and Company, which initially made printing presses. Like the Lufkin Foundry, the printing press company became a manufacturer for the War Department during World War II. When the war was over, the company went back to making printing presses.
“This is the power of industry,” said Stoops. “This power shows how civilian companies can come together to help win the war.”
Thanks to the hard work by Stoops, visitors at the Boone National Guard Center can now see the renewed howitzer with fresh landscaping and a new sign describing the gun.