‘King of Battle’ relics find new home

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The historic field artillery pieces have sat at Quarry & Lewis streets for many decades.

VFW to display WWII-era field artillery pieces sitting near Devou 

COVINGTON, Ky. - Like ghosts of yesteryear, a pair of World War II-era field artillery pieces are settling ever-so-slowly into the earth near one of the eastern entrances to Covington's Devou Park, their pitted and moss-covered barrels pointed southeast, stolid if incongruous sentinels positioned as if to guard the park against any invading army.
Not much is readily known about the history of the guns and what role their explosive 75mm projectiles played - if any - in the vicious fighting and the ultimate Ally victory.
But despite the passage of eight decades, the field pieces are no rusted relics - the rifling inside their bores is still sharp and defined, the gears and teeth that set elevation are intact, their recoil systems can be easily recognized, and their protective shields remain solid.
"They're in surprisingly good condition," Covington Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith said. "It's not difficult to imagine an artillery crew cranking them back into action."
At the Covington Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, Smith unveiled a proposal to move the guns to a new home, a place of honor that befits the status of artillery units as a key element in the nation's military might: outside the Ralph Fulton VFW Post 6423 in Elsmere.
After hearing Smith's presentation, the Commission added the proposal to its consent agenda for next Tuesday.
The catalyst for the proposal is that the Pohlmann-Linnemann VFW Post 1484, which oversaw the guns' current location at Lewis and Quarry streets, was demolished a few years ago. With that Post gone and given that Covington had rebuilt and rededicated its Armed Services Memorial in the heart of Devou Park in 2017, the City felt the best solution would be to find the guns a new home - one that gives "context" - at another VFW post.
The Elsmere post - with its strong ties to artillery units - desperately wanted the guns, but Smith said the City first checked with Covington's veterans organizations - American Legion Post 203 and Marshall-Schildmeyer VFW 6095 - to make sure they didn't want them.

Post 6423's commander, Ken Wininger, said veterans there were thrilled to be able to retrieve and display the guns.
Some 10 to 15 of its members served in artillery units, primarily with the Kentucky National Guard, and Wininger himself is still a 1st Sergeant attached to Bravo Battery of the Guard's 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery (B Battery 2/138th), the famous and feared "Longrifles."
Having served in the National Guard for 30 years with deployments in Afghanistan and other places, he's proud of the role that Artillery units have played in the nation's wars and said having the guns in Elsmere "builds a connection to the past and brings it all together - the link between the local posts and what we do and the history of our local units."

While the outside of the barrels is pitted, the rifling on the inside is still sharp and defined.

"Artillery is the 'King of Battle.' General Patton said it best: 'I do not have to tell you who won the war. You know the artillery did,' " Wininger said. "Artillery defines the American war effort. There is no defense (against it). All you can do is hide. It's the scariest thing on the battlefield."
He said the symbolic boost to Post 6423 in Elsmere would be timely and welcome given the ongoing struggle to keep veterans organizations healthy.
"You can compare the importance of Artillery to the battlefield to the importance of organizations like the VFW to veterans," he said. "We're not just a place to play bingo but a place that helps the community, provides services and support to struggling veterans, and that advocates on a national level for those who served."
Wininger said the artillery pieces would be moved as soon as he could work out the logistics. He has volunteers lined up to clean the guns and paint them before they're installed amid a grassy area in front of the Post's building on Dixie Highway, where the public can see and visit.

The crank that changes elevation.

He hopes to hold a re-dedication ceremony before the November election.
As for the bronze plaque that currently sits between the guns, Smith said the City will work with Covington's VFW 6095 to relocate the plaque to its 47th Street location. Officials there want the plaque because it's dedicated to the fallen members of the closed VFW Post 1484, which merged with the Latonia VFW.
Smith told the Commission that when he worked out the proposal with officials from Post 6423 in Elsmere to accept the guns, he made them promise - tongue in cheek - not to point the guns toward neighboring Erlanger.
They replied, equally tongue on cheek, "we promise not to fire them."
If anybody knows the history of the field artillery pieces at Lewis and Quarry streets, feel free to reach out to Covington Communications director Dan Hassert at dhassert@covingtonky.gov.

The City is working with officials from VFW 6095 to relocate the plaque.

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