During World War I the French 75' or, more formally, the Canon de 75 modèle 1897, passed into French national legend as the gun that enabled the French to win the war. It was famous even before 1914 as what may now be regarded as the first of all modern field artillery designs: it coupled a highly efficient recoil mechanism with a rapid-action breech design and a carriage that enabled hitherto unheard-of rates of fire to be maintained.
By 1939 the 75 was rather past its best, and was outranged by more modern field gun designs, but the French still had well over 4,500 of them in front-line use. Other nations also had the 75. The list of these nations was long for it included the USA (which was producing its own 75-mm M1897A2 and 75-mm M1897A4 versions), Poland (armata polowa wz 97/17), Portugal, many of the French colonies, some Baltic states, Greece, Romania, Ireland and many other nations.
The 75 has undergone some adaptation as a form of tank weapon, but it was to be left to the Americans to make the full development of this possibility when they later adapted the type as the main gun for their M3 and M4 tank series. In France the 75 was updated to Canon de 75 modèle 1897/33 standard with a new split trail carriage, but by 1939 there were few of these in service.
In the shambles of May and June 1940 huge numbers of 75s fell into the hands of the Germans, who were only too happy to use many of them for their own purposes as the 7.5-cm FK 231(f) or, more commonly, as the 7.5-cm FK 97(f). At first many were issued to occupation garrisons and second-line formations, while others were later incorporated into the beach defences of the Atlantic Wall. Many more were stockpiled ready to be on hand when some use could be found for them. That came during 1941 when it was discovered the hard way that the armour of the T-34/76 Soviet tank was invulnerable to nearly all the German anti-tank weapons. As a hasty stopgap improvisation the stockpiled 75s were taken from the storerooms, fitted with strengthening bands around the barrel and placed on 5-cm Pak 38 anti-tank gun carriages. A muzzle brake was fitted and special armour-piercing (AP) ammunition was hastily produced, the results were rushed to the Eastern Front and there they proved just capable of tackling the Soviet tank armour. This rushed improvisation was known to the Germans as the 7.5-cm Pak 97/38 and was really too powerful for the light anti-tank gun carriage, but it worked for the period until proper anti-tank guns arrived on the scene, The 7.5cm Pak 97/38 was not the only war-time development of the 75, for later the Americans developed the 75 to the stage where it could be carried in North American B-25 bombers as an anti-ship weapon.