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Alamogordo Daily News
J.R. Oppenheim, Staff Writer
Article Launched:12/14/2006 12:00:00 AM MST

Al Goddard shows off his Military Order of Devil Dogs Patch. (J.R. Oppenheim/Daily News)«1»Back in World War II, when he served onboard a ship in the South Pacific, Marine Al Goddard heard a sound that caught his attention.

It came from the ship's anti-aircraft artillery. The shell would be launched and explode overhead. It never left Goddard.

"I liked the sounds of the shells bursting overhead," Goddard recalls.

Now, the 86-year-old Goddard is making noise of his own. This time, it comes from homemade, fully-functioning cannons.

For the last 10 years or so, Goddard has worked in a workshop at his home in Alamo Heights. Much smaller in size, the "Ironside" cannons fire .69 caliber lead balls. He also creates a .50 caliber variety.

Goddard not only manufactures the cannons for himself, he sells them to those interested.

Around 10 years ago, the Marine Corps League obtained a cannon to be raffled off as a prize. Goddard said it was gold plated and quite a prize to win.

"I liked it so well I decided I would make one," he said.

Goddard researched the construction, set up a small machine shop and found the right tools to fabricate the steel. Two years later, Goddard had nine completed cannons to his credit.

Over the years, Goddard said, he continued his studies to make them more authentic

and function better. He also began to sell some of the finished products and even gave some away. He said he never sought a profit.
"I was doing it for fun," he said. "It was just a hobby."

Goddard's passion for cannons increased when son, Tom, won a trip to Boston to visit the USS Constitution. Tom, a cannon enthusiast himself, was allowed four guests to bring. He brought his father.

Goddard said the Ironside cannons he makes are modeled after the ones used on the USS Constitution. He added the crew of the Constitution was amazed by his construction efforts.

"You might say I became obsessed after visiting the USS Constitution and seeing the cannons firsthand," he said.

In building the cannons, Goddard uses 13-inch 1018 cold rolled steel lengths, blued by a hot salt process, for the barrel. Oak is used for the carriage, and brass or brass-plated steel is used for the fittings. Goddard said all the brass work must be done by hand. His gold-plated cannons are 24 karat. It takes around two and a half months for Goddard to finish one cannon.

Black powder is required to fire the cannon. Despite the fact there are no sights on the cannons, they are surprisingly accurate. Goddard has some targets in which the bullseye, nine ring and eight ring were hit several times.

Most of those interested in buying the cannons are in the Marine Corps League's Military Order of Devil Dogs, a group similar to the Veterans of Foreign War. He's also planning a demonstration at the Marine Corps League's national convention next August.

Goddard sells .69 caliber cannons for $325, $400 if they're gold plated. But it's not profit he's seeking.

"I sell them to augment my Social Security," he said. "I like to build cannons and work in the machine shop."​
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