Artillery unit rolled from VFW to Rollag to new riverside home
By Louis Hoglund
Repositioned, with barrel facing due west, the Pelican Rapids M114 Howitzer could launch a shell about 9 to 14 miles—which would put it at about the Rothsay turn-off on State Highway 108.
Not that there are any plans to open fire.
The familiar cannon, originally stationed at the highly visible VFW Post 5252 corner, was relocated Sept. 25 to the Veterans Memorial Park—just below the Pelican Rapids Public Library.
Transporting military hardware is not totally new to Dan Egge, of Pelican’s Egge Construction. His first experience was in August, when the Egges rolled in heavy equipment to remove the 1944-built artillery piece from the VFW.
Rollag Steam Threshers Reunion enthusiast and volunteer Keith Bengtson arranged to place the cannon on his trailer. He towed it to Rollag for the special “Salute to Veterans” farm show over Labor Day weekend.
Sept. 25 was the return trip. Contractor Blake Meland and his crew donated a new concrete pad to the project.
At nearly 13,000 pounds, Meland poured a special, heavy-grade concrete that would handle the weight.
Meland, plus crewmembers Mike Wegscheid, Tanner Nelson, and Gage Barnes, just happened to drive by Monday morning as Egge and Bengtson were preparing to unload the cannon. They stopped, and volunteered once again. Their unscheduled assistance was a real benefit, with some extra labor on the job.
This M114 model first entered Army service in 1941, as the U.S. ramped up manufacturing for World War II. A total of 4,800 were built, at a cost of about $30,000 each. The Pelican unit was manufactured in Ogden, California.
Each Howitzer had a crew of 14 men in World War II. Cannons of this vintage were used in the Korean war, and some in Vietnam as well.
The “barrel life” of these cannons is 10,000 rounds. The Pelican cannon had fired 3,285 rounds, before it was demilitarized in 1986.
The Howitzer was a hit at the Rollag farm show, said Bengtsen.
The entire four-day show was dedicated to military hardware and history. Surprisingly, noted Bengtson, the Pelican cannon was the only one of that era on display at Rollag.