Charles Peshall Plunkett graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1879. He later served in Admiral George Dewey's squadron at Manila Bay in the Spanish-American War, commanded the battleship North Dakota (BB-29) and the armored cruiser South Dakota (ACR-9), and had been the Director of Target Practice and Engineering Competitions. All in all, a rather conventional career for a naval gunnery expert in that era. But when the United States entered World War I in 1917, Plunkett's career took a most unconventional turn.
As the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) hurriedly prepared to deploy to the battlefields of Europe, a glaring deficiency was quickly realized. The U.S. Army had no long-range artillery and would soon be facing an enemy who did.