A cannon that saw World War I battlefields in Europe and retired to a grassy home on Port Jefferson Harbor has gone on a brief vacation, after a local veterans group took it away for repairs.
American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson Station maintains the war memorial at the small Brookhaven Town-owned park between Route 25A and the harbor, across from Port Jefferson Village Hall.
According to Bob Elfers, commander of the post, the memorial’s cannon is at the Legion because “the wheels are totally shot” and it needs welding work and a fresh coat of paint.
The wheels have wooden spokes and rims, with a metal hub and reinforcements.
“The wood just totally disintegrated over the years,” Elfers said. Exposure also caused rusting on the body of the cannon.
Elfers said his group is having someone repair the wheels and weld the rusted parts, and the cannon will be sanded and painted.
The cannon, which is American Legion property, is a German WWI weapon, though Elfers said he does not know its exact history or when the post acquired it, and said no one at the post is old enough to be able to speak to that.
According to Rich Acritelli, a Legion member as well as a military history expert and social studies teacher, the cannon was built by industrial company Friedrich Krupp AG in Essen, Germany, which is in the northwestern part of that country, close to the Netherlands.
The company built armaments as well as naval ships during that period, particularly U-boats.
Acritelli said the cannon was not a heavy artillery weapon and it could have been used in two different ways: either mounted on wheels to assist the German infantry or mounted on a ship for the navy.
Because it was used during World War I, the cannon is roughly a century old.
It is likely that an American soldier took the cannon home with him, a common practice at the time, Acritelli said. It is also likely that soldier was serving on the Western Front, because that was where most of the U.S. military went during WWI.
Aside from the cannon, the memorial park in Port Jefferson contains flags and stones that pay tribute to those who served in wars throughout the nation’s history, as well as a central WWI stone monument.
That WWI monument has a story of its own: It was unveiled on Memorial Day in 1922 and was originally located on East Main Street, on the grass in front of the former First Baptist Church of Port Jefferson.
Elfers said he is hoping the cannon will return to the park in May, in time for Memorial Day.