Fort Sill's Paint Shop put the finishing touches Tuesday to a rare and important relic of field artillery participation during World War II.
Field Artillery Museum Director Gordon Blaker calls it "the best of the German self-propelled howitzers of World War II." This is the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
Its formal designation was the German SdKfz 165, but the troops referred to the 150mm howitzer as the Hummel (Bumble Bee).
"Hitler didn't like the name and forbade its use, but that didn't make any difference," Blaker said.
It was built as an interim vehicle to provide heavy artillery support to Panzer units. The vehicle consisted of a lengthened Panzer Mark IV tank chassis with the engine moved forward to allow for a lower fighting compartment at the rear.
The "interim" Hummel was never succeeded by a specially designed self-propelled howitzer as originally intended. Over 650 Hummels were built beginning in 1942. In early 1944, a new crew compartment for the driver and radio operator was designed. It extended all the way across the front, replacing the left-hand driver's compartment.
The Hummel was used by the self-propelled batteries of the artillery battalions of the Panzer divisions. It first saw action at the Battle of Kursk in 1943. The Hummel, which only carried 18 rounds on board, always needed an ammunition vehicle nearby.
The late-production Hummel that's now here arrived at the Patton Museum at Fort Knox, Ky., in 1946 right after the war, Blaker said. Gen. George S. Patton made it a point of sending back various captured enemy pieces.
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) brought about the consolidation of the Schools of Armor and Infantry as the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga. The Hummel made the move to Fort Benning, but Blaker said Fort Sill was able to acquire it "because it was artillery not armor and because it was very rare and special."