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Japanese howitzer probably arrived in late '40s

I suspect you have been asked this question before, but if your response has been published, I have missed it. There is a 3-inch caliber Japanese howitzer in the park downtown along Main Street. What do we know about this piece of artillery and how did it come to be placed in the park?

I've often glanced at it and wondered about its history and how it came to be there. Now I'm doing something about it and asking you.

— Gary C., via email

Gary, you're in luck. We were asked this question in 2004 but had no answer. All we knew then was that it was Japanese and was a replacement for a German gun on display after the First World War.

In 2008, Ben Truwe, who runs the website "Southern Oregon History, Revised," did some research and uncovered a bit more about the gun.

First, let's talk about that German gun. The city purchased a 77-millimeter German artillery gun in May of 1928 for $59. The gun was a war trophy captured during World War I and was decommissioned for use as a war relic. Upon its arrival in Medford, the gun was placed in the city park. In September of 1942, the gun was donated by the city to Camp White for a scrap metal drive benefiting the war effort.

The park was left without a cannon throughout the Second World War, and no records exist about the Japanese gun until it is mentioned in a column in the April 23, 1950, issue of the Medford News. No more mention was made in the news about the gun until 1969, when it was taken out of the park to be cleaned.

Truwe believes that the answer to the gun lies in an article found in the Nov. 18, 1948 newsletter for the League of Oregon Cities. The article announces that guns and tanks from the second World War are available for war memorials or monuments through the Army's Chief of Ordinance. At that time, Medford Mayor Clarence A. Meeker was the LOC's vice president, and Truwe theorizes that Meeker either had the city write a check from petty cash or paid for the cannon himself (the article lists a 155-mm howitzer as costing $35 to prepare and ship from Tacoma, Wash.).

The new gun was placed in the park with no ceremony.

"Like the original World War I gun, it wasn't a war memorial, it was just a war relic — simply a piece of park furniture," Truwe says on his website. "Worse, the Japanese gun was a replacement piece of furniture — nothing much worth mentioning, especially in a country so sick of war that its four-year occupation of Germany rarely made the local newspapers, its seven-year occupation of Japan almost never."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.