FORT SILL, Okla. -- A rare World War II vintage artillery piece is in the final stages of restoration by the Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill.

The German 150mm howitzer, known as the Hummel (or Bumble Bee) was acquired from the Armor Museum at Fort Benning, Ga. in April.

After extensive metal restoration the 26-ton weapon was repainted at the Directorate of Logistics metal and paint shop here. Gordon Blaker, FA Museum director and curator, said the museum is extremely proud and excited to have added such a rare field artillery piece to its collection.

The Hummel was a self-propelled howitzer built by the German Army to provide heavy artillery support for Panzer units. More than 650 Hummels were built beginning in 1942. The vehicle was built on a lengthened Panzer Mark IV chassis with the engine moved forward to allow for a lower fighting compartment in the rear. The "interim" Hummel was never replaced by a specifically designed self-propelled howitzer as originally planned.

Each heavy self-propelled artillery battery had six Hummels with one ammunition carrier, and was used by artillery battalions of the Panzer divisions. Because the Hummels only carried 18 rounds on board, the ammunition carrier vehicle always needed to be nearby. The ammunition carrier could supply the battery's six Hummels with ammunition.

Hummels first saw action at the Battle of Kursk in 1943. In early 1944 a new crew compartment was designed for the driver and radio operator that extended across the front. About the same time Adolph Hitler ordered the name Hummel be dropped because he thought that "Bumble Bee" was inappropriate for a fighting vehicle.

This late production model has been painted in the "ambush scheme" used on German fighting vehicles in 1944. Only five Hummels survive today; three are in German museums, one in a French museum, with the Fort Sill piece being the only one in the United States. The Hummel will be on display at the museum when a new annex is completed.