By Ms. Brittany Bartholomew (AMC)July 18, 2012
MILAN, Tenn. -- At 9:43 a.m. on June 28, 2012, a select crew of American Ordnance production workers loaded, assembled, and packed the last M888, a 60 millimeter mortar round, to be produced at Milan Army Ammunition Plant.
The 60mm mortar round was first produced for use in World War II. For many years, this particular ammunition held a high priority with MLAAP and with the Army.
"It goes all the way back to 1946," said Fred Allred, retired industrial engineering director for the ammunition plant. At 89, Allred still remembers the specific lines and locations of every round produced during his tenure.
"We produced a number of 60mm training rounds on Line C," Allred continued. "That ran for about two years before [the round] was discontinued."
Recalling the exact campaign and production line, Allred explained, "We took up [the 60mm] again for the Korean War. We set up a line on A-Line on an emergency basis."
"During that time, we converted target practice rounds to high explosive rounds, because we couldn't get materiel [to make new rounds]," remembered Allred. "We had no fuzes, no projectiles, no fins, no propellant."
He spoke in a manner of familiar nostalgia, as if he had told this story a hundred times.
"They kicked a colonel out of the service because of that," Allred recalled, referring to the lack of materiel to produce new rounds.
Allred told of exhausting 17-hour days, with production working three shifts to carefully disassemble the practice rounds of 60mm mortars to reassemble the parts into new, high explosive rounds for direct shipment to the war.
The 60mm mortar also played its part during Vietnam and Desert Storm.
"It was one of our major items for a good number of years," Allred concluded. "They didn't have the artillery overseas to back up the ground troops. If it hadn't been for mortars, [the enemy] would have killed all of [our Soldiers]."
Even today, Soldiers from all branches of the armed services know the value of the M888.
"The Marines use them and like them," says Tom Nowell, quality assurance supervisor for the MLAAP government staff. "They are easily transported, and they are more effective at longer ranges."
The 60mm mortar has a long, important history at MLAAP, a plant that has produced mortars of various sizes continuously since Vietnam. As production of the M888 comes to a close at this location, the most important feature of this ammunition round is the dedication and care with which MLAAP employees produced it through the years.
"For more than 60 years, Milan Army Ammunition Plant has produced high quality 60mm mortars for the Warfighter," Lt. Col. Norbert Fochs, commander for MLAAP, commented. "Even until the very last round, our employees produced the ammunition safely and with excellent quality. They have shown a level of professionalism admired throughout the Army."
Milan Army Ammunition Plant is a government-owned, contractor-operated facility located in Milan, Tenn. The plant is currently transitioning from a munitions load, assemble, and pack facility to a commercialized industrial site known as the Milan Commercial Complex.
MLAAP is a subordinate installation of the Joint Munitions Command. If a Soldier, sailor, airman or Marine shoots it, Joint Munitions Command provides it.