Was Little Round Top Really Used for Target Practice By Tanks in World War 1?

Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Several years ago I came across an article on Camp Colt, a WW1 tank training facility (1918-1919) located at Gettysburg on 176 acres of the Codori farm, 10 acres of the Smith farm, and 6 acres in the Bryan House area. The article stated that the front slope of Little Round Top was used as target practice for the tanks, which seems nothing less than sacrilegious. Can anyone confirm this really happened? I know a lot of the rocks in the area were removed in the early days after the war to accommodate the tourist trade.
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
As I recall it was Big Round Top that was used . I can't find my references right now , but on Gettysburg Daily , Dec. 16th 2011 it says weapons ( possibly machine guns mounted on trucks ) were "fired on targets positioned in front of BRT." I also remember reading about artillery fire , but Eisenhower did not get any artillery (or tanks) for awhile so the MGs were mounted on trucks and used for training . The Renault tanks carried either an MG or a 37mm cannon . It's hard to believe they would actually fire artillery rounds there with visitors on the battlefield but maybe that area was cordoned off . I think if there was any damage to LRT it was inadvertent .
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
I found an article by Anika Jensen in the Gettysburg Compiler , March 30 , 2018 that says "3" naval guns used the round tops for target practice." No refences were given . I viewed several images supposedly of Renault tanks at Gettysburg and they were equipped with machine guns , not cannon. Apparently Eisenhower received 2 tanks , but one source said one .
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I found an article by Anika Jensen in the Gettysburg Compiler , March 30 , 2018 that says "3" naval guns used the round tops for target practice." No refences were given . I viewed several images supposedly of Renault tanks at Gettysburg and they were equipped with machine guns , not cannon. Apparently Eisenhower received 2 tanks , but one source said one .
Naval guns?! That sounds like a lot of firepower.
 

J. D. Stevens

Corporal
Joined
Dec 11, 2016
Location
Deep In The Heart of Texas
On a 2019 Gettysburg Tour, our stop at "The Angle" included a walk down to the fence along Emmitsburg Road where we were met by a local historian who gave an excellent talk about when the battlefield was a tank training school. The small two-man Renault tank was only armed with a 37mm gun. If using Little Round Top for target practice was sacrilegious, how about the swimming pool they built a few yards in front of the Rock Wall??

https://www.nps.gov/articles/the-armys-first-tank-school-camp-colt-at-gettysburg.htm

Unless my memory fails me, I believe we were told the pool was located in the area of this picture between the Emmitsburg Road and the wall.

2019 CW Activity_June HTBAR Tour_4th Day 49_Emmittsburg Rd_Fences.JPG
 

Kurt G

Sergeant Major
Joined
May 23, 2018
On a 2019 Gettysburg Tour, our stop at "The Angle" included a walk down to the fence along Emmitsburg Road where we were met by a local historian who gave an excellent talk about when the battlefield was a tank training school. The small two-man Renault tank was only armed with a 37mm gun. If using Little Round Top for target practice was sacrilegious, how about the swimming pool they built a few yards in front of the Rock Wall??

https://www.nps.gov/articles/the-armys-first-tank-school-camp-colt-at-gettysburg.htm

Unless my memory fails me, I believe we were told the pool was located in the area of this picture between the Emmitsburg Road and the wall.

View attachment 405367
The images of the Camp Colt Renault tanks show them to all be mounting the 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun .The guide was correct about some having cannon ( the 37mm Puteaux cannon that had a very short barrel ) but Eisenhower apparently didn't get those .Camp Colt was a large facility that changed the battlefield a lot . Thankfully it was restored after the camp closed . Many of the soldiers there died of influenza . I have a book somewhere that discusses the changes to the battlefield due to commercial development in the late 19th and early 20th century . It's a very interesting topic . Did he mention the German POW camp in Gettysburg during WW2 ?
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
On a 2019 Gettysburg Tour, our stop at "The Angle" included a walk down to the fence along Emmitsburg Road where we were met by a local historian who gave an excellent talk about when the battlefield was a tank training school. The small two-man Renault tank was only armed with a 37mm gun. If using Little Round Top for target practice was sacrilegious, how about the swimming pool they built a few yards in front of the Rock Wall??

https://www.nps.gov/articles/the-armys-first-tank-school-camp-colt-at-gettysburg.htm

Unless my memory fails me, I believe we were told the pool was located in the area of this picture between the Emmitsburg Road and the wall.

View attachment 405367
I'd never heard of the swimming pool. That's unbelievable - but battlefield preservation must have had a different meaning back then.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
The images of the Camp Colt Renault tanks show them to all be mounting the 8mm Hotchkiss machine gun .The guide was correct about some having cannon ( the 37mm Puteaux cannon that had a very short barrel ) but Eisenhower apparently didn't get those .Camp Colt was a large facility that changed the battlefield a lot . Thankfully it was restored after the camp closed . Many of the soldiers there died of influenza . I have a book somewhere that discusses the changes to the battlefield due to commercial development in the late 19th and early 20th century . It's a very interesting topic . Did he mention the German POW camp in Gettysburg during WW2 ?
I wonder what the restoration after the camp closed involved. Smoothing the roads and barracks' foundations out and sowing grass again? It would be interesting to see 1917-19 before and after pictures. And a German POW camp?? Not on the actual battlefield I hope.
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
Several years ago I came across an article on Camp Colt, a WW1 tank training facility (1918-1919) located at Gettysburg on 176 acres of the Codori farm, 10 acres of the Smith farm, and 6 acres in the Bryan House area. The article stated that the front slope of Little Round Top was used as target practice for the tanks, which seems nothing less than sacrilegious. Can anyone confirm this really happened? I know a lot of the rocks in the area were removed in the early days after the war to accommodate the tourist trade.
When I was an intern at Gettysburg (many years ago), the story was that the western face of Big Round Top was used as a backstop for a machine gun range, particularly the machine guns mounted on the few tanks that Eisenhower received.

Ryan
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
All this information has been very interesting and most appreciated! It serves to remind me, however, that there are reconstructed historical sites, and then there are the original sites, where you can walk on the same rocks or the same floorboards as the people who lived generations ago. I have to admit I prefer the latter.
I agree. A surprising number of historic sites are largely reconstructions or replacements in situ. I don't think it makes them any less worth preserving, but it's good to know what we're looking at.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
The area south of town was Camp Colt, the training center for the army´s heavy tank battalion, which was never deployed to Europe. The commander was Dwight David Eisenhower. This was his first experience with Gettysburg, and a primary reason why he bought a farm and settled there later. The biggest enemy they had to battle was the Spanish flu. Training areas were all over the battlefield. There´s an excellent treatment of this command in a book on the WW1 US tank Corps, ¨Treat ¨Em Rough.¨
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
Sacrilegious? Millions of people live on battlefields. People get on with life. Can you imagine if the Western Front of the Great War had been preserved? And even so large areas there are off limits, not for preservation but because millions of unexploded shells make the areas too dangerous for use. And almost the whole of European Russia and Ukraine is a giant battlefield of WW II where millions upon millions were killed.
 
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Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Sacrilegious? Millions of people live on battlefields. People get on with life. Can you imagine if the Western Front of the Great War had been preserved? And even so large areas there are off limits, not for preservation but because millions of unexploded shells make the areas too dangerous for use. And almost the whole of European Russia and Ukraine is a giant battlefield of WW II where millions upon millions were killed.
All fair points. After millennia of battles, humans are perhaps hard pressed to find any soil where a fight has not taken place. But the U.S. has had only one Civil War, and I think Lincoln summed up rather nicely why Gettysburg should be special to Americans.
 
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