I remember calling back to Addis to have somebody look up the specific gravity of bronze so that I could convert the volume of the metal and thus to determine it approximate weight. It was clearly above our aircraft's lifting capacity. Although we were disappointed about sling loading it back to Addis, we were very excited about finding it. You may recognize some of the people who had their photos taken with the mortar.
I told him that we had no aircraft in country that had that capability at that altitude. I doubted that it was really there, but when I talked to (Al Temple) a USAID pilot who had flown over that area, he said, "Oh, yes I've seen it." Then he proceeded to tell me exactly where he had seen it.
So our trip over there had a semi-official purpose. Anyway, we circled once and I told my crew chief what I imagined it might look like. I didn't see it on the first pass, but he commented that the only thing he saw was what looked like a 55 gal. drum sticking out of the ground. Well, that was it, of course. We landed and took measurements and got several photos.
(Excerpts from an email sent in by Phil Pitts)
(These photos were)...taken one Sunday afternoon when based at Dessie with a field camp. We made a trip by chopper to Mt. Magdalla where Emperor Theodore made his final stand against the British expedition to free their ambassador and other officials. This happened about the time of our Civil War. We had received a request from the Ethiopian government to retrieve the mortar resting there. When I asked the Ethiopian Air Force liaison officer who presented the request how much he estimated it would weigh, he guessed maybe 10,000 lbs.
That mortar was cast several miles away in a valley where there was suitable clay, by some German or Austrian metalsmiths in the employ of Theodore. One could see the trowel marks from the clay mold. It was imagined to be the latest in weapons of mass destruction, but, alas, on the first round fired, it cracked across the butt and was deemed unsafe for further use.
STORIES and MEMORIES