MMHX sets up display at Masonic Lodge

  • This Soviet-designed ZPU-4 14.5 mm antiaircraft weapon was among the items on display by the Massachusetts Military History Exposition last Thursday at the North Quabbin Lodge of Freemasons. The MMHX is seeking donations to fully restore the weapon, which will be put on public display at a local American Legion. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • An Athol Daily News headline from 1943 boasts of L.S. Starrett earning an Army-Navy "E" for excellence in war production during World War II. The paper is accompanied by photos from the award ceremony in April 1943. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • A 1944 "general purpose" — or Jeep — manufactured by Willies, which was to become American Motors, was on display last Thursday at the Massachusetts Military History Exposition at the North Quabbin Lodge of Freemasons in Athol. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • A youngster checks out an example of the type of Humvee used by American troops during Operation Desert Storm and the more recent war in Iraq, last Thursday at the Massachusetts Military History Exposition at the North Quabbin Lodge of Freemasons in Athol. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • Reproduction of a King howitzer (front), designed by Daniel King and manufactured circa 1760, and a model 1841 three-pounder, built to two-thirds scale, were on display at the North Quabbin Lodge of Freemasons last Thursday, June 10. The cannon was built by Royalston resident Jeff Cooke. Staff photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/15/2021 4:20:23 PM
Modified: 6/15/2021 4:20:28 PM

ATHOL — Anyone who simply drove by the parking lot of the North Quabbin Lodge of Freemasons early Thursday evening, June 10, without stopping missed a chance to examine several original vehicles and ordnance employed by America’s armed forces over the years, along with some accurate reproductions. The display was organized by the Massachusetts Military History Exhibition (MMHX), headquartered in Athol.

In addition to the Jeeps, cannon and firearms on display was a booth featuring information regarding the activity of L.S. Starrett Company during World War II. Among the many items available for viewing was the Army-Navy “E” flag awarded to the company in April 1943. The flag was awarded to businesses nationwide to recognize excellence in war production.

Officials from the Army, Army Air Corps, and Navy, along with company officials, joined Massachusetts Gov. Leverett Saltonstall to celebrate the awarding of the honor.

The Athol Daily News of April 22, 1943 — when the end of the war was still 2½ years away — reported, “The 2,300 Starrett employees standing in the rain throughout the 45-minute ceremony, cheered as Brig. Gen. Burton O. Lewis, district chief, Boston Ordnance District, presented the flag to David Findley, President, who accepted it on behalf of the men and women whose production efforts were recognized by the war department.”

Precision measuring devices and other tools produced by the Athol manufacturer went to other American industries making the tanks, planes, landing craft, weapons, uniforms and other items necessary for fighting a brutal global conflict.

Scott Robinson, who recently retired after 50 years at Starrett and was manning the display, said, “The war effort was very demanding. In fact, we built a whole new complex to do band saw blades and saw materials. But basically, we provided micrometers, indicators, calipers — all the things the company was built on. The war effort required those tools to make everything.

“There’s nothing in the world today that’s not measured,” said Robinson. “Think of anything — your shirt. At some point, someone has to measure the thickness of the cloth. Paper, metal, anything.”

Some of the items on display included a Soviet-designed ZPU-4 14.5 mm anti-aircraft weapon mounted with four (one is missing) KPV heavy machine guns captured in Iraq. The MMHX is raising money to restore the weapon. Once restored, the organization plans to place it on public display at a local American Legion.

Visitors could also see a couple of “general purpose” vehicles — or Jeeps — from the World War II era: a 1942 Ford GPW and a 1944 Willies. An example of the workhorse of both Desert Storm and the Iraq War, the Humvee, was also on display.

In addition to equipment used in conflicts of the recent past, visitors had a chance to examine replicas of weapons used in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Jeff Cooke of Royalston brought along reproductions of two cannon: a model 1841 three-pounder, built to two-thirds scale, and a King howitzer, designed by Daniel King and manufactured circa 1760. The former, Cooke explained, would have been used in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), while the latter would have been employed in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) and the American Revolution (1776-1783). The King howitzer was built to actual size.

Cooke said there are modern-day rules for reproducing historic cannon,

“In the Commonwealth,” he explained, “you now have to use a steel-lined insert in the cannon barrel. It’s a safety precaution. The reason for that is that cast iron can sometimes fail catastrophically when it’s fired.”

In addition to making reproductions of antique ordnance, Cooke also participates in Revolutionary War reenactments.

“I’ve been doing this probably four years,” he said. “I’m a member of the Artillery Company of Newport (R.I.), which is the longest continually active artillery company in the United States. It was formed in 1741, and King George is the one who commissioned the artillery company.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the MMHX can go to www.facebook.com/historyexpo.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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