A 3 inch by 14.75 inch mortar shell marked with a Red Stripe indicating low explosive yield causing harm to near by soldiers but leaving most structures intact for friendly occupation. The printing on the shell represent manufacturer numbers and lots. The 3 inch mortar was carried by the Mortar Platoon of Support Company of the 1st Battalion, 48th Highlanders during the campaigns in Sicily, Italy and The Netherlands. The 2 inch mortar was carried within an infantry platoon for immediate battlefield action.
A mortar launcher is a portable, short-barreled, muzzle-loading artillery piece that fires explosive projectiles at low velocities, short ranges, and high, arcing trajectories. The weapon is contrasted with larger artillery pieces, which fire at high velocities, long ranges, and low, direct trajectories. A present-day mortar consists of a lightweight tube that rests on a base plate and is supported by a bipod. The weapon is operated by dropping a mortar shell onto a firing pin in the tube that detonates the shell’s propellant, which launches it toward the target.
In modern warfare, mortars up to 81 mm can be carried by infantry and used as a small-scale short-range substitute for artillery. Mortars have the advantages of portability because of their size, of freedom of movement without the need for logistical support, and of the capacity to be fired from a trench or defilade (a fighting position that protects the operators from direct return fire). Because of its high trajectory, mortar fire can be used against enemy positions such as trench lines, gun pits, and other locations not protected by overhead cover.