World’s BIGGEST / MOST POWERFUL GUN ever built! (Heavy Gustav Railway Gun.)
This is the Schwerer Gustav, or, in English, the Heavy or Great Gustav. And very, very heavy and great it was -- it weighed 1,350 tonnes and could fire a 7 tonne shell to a range of 30 miles.
Developed by Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, the Heavy Gustav 800 mm caliber monster canon was explicitly designed as a siege artillery weapon to penetrate and decimate the super thick reinforced concrete fortifications of the French defensive facility known as the Maginot Line.
Built by the leading German arms manufacturer Krupp AG, and in fact named after the company CEO Gustav Krupp, the Heavy Gustav Railway gun stretched 155 feet in length, including its 106 foot long barrel. It required a team of thousands to dig embankments and lay railway tracks; and around 3 days and 250 people were needed to assemble the gigantic weapon.
The infamous, Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, was personally involved in the gun’s commissioning. In fact it was not until Hitler visited the Krupp company and enquired about the viability of such a theoretical weapon that things were finally set in motion and the colossal cannon was born.
Quite ironically though the Heavy Gustav Gun itself, the most powerful gun in the world ever, was never actually used in the fighting between the French and Germans, as the Nazis essentially invaded France via Belgium and therefore almost entirely circumvented the immensely expensive line of heavy French fortifications – indeed the brilliantly constructed yet completely under-utilized Maginot line has since become a synonym for how the best laid plans can so often go badly awry.
Then again, owing to the damage that Gustav would soon wreak upon an impressive system of Soviet fortifications, perhaps the allegedly “impregnable” Maginot line was best left untested.
And so it was in June of 1942 and at the Eastern Front siege of Sevastopol that Gustav was called in, and first used in combat.
In spite of a massive conventional German aerial and artillery bombardment, the tenacious Soviets, safely hidden in their massive underground bunkers, had so far managed to hold the strategically critical port city of Sevastopol.
It was therefore hoped by the German High Command that Gustav’s imminent arrival would help break the stalemate and end the siege in their favour.
Transported to the Crimea on a heavily customized 1.5 kilometre long 25 car train, Gustav was painstakingly positioned, assembled, and secured by some 3800 personnel. And when the world’s largest ever gun was finally unleashed, it proved to be utterly devastating.
Over a short 4 week period commencing on the 5th of June 1942, Gustav operated with clinical and overwhelming force -- with a single 7-tonne concrete piercing shell reportedly penetrating more than 100-feet of earth before obliterating a crucial Soviet underground ammunitions store.
By early July, Gustav had brought the siege to a decisive conclusion – with the Soviets surrendering and with the city of Sevastopol left in ruins.
And so while Gustav’s effectiveness as the ultimate siege breaking artillery piece was undeniable; it actually barely took any further part in the war owing to the extraordinary inherent challenges in transporting it, as well as due the limited opportunities available to a Nazi regime that would soon come under siege itself.
Uncertainty and conjecture surround Gustav's fate, but it seems this phenomenal weapon, the likes of which the world had never before seen, was probably destroyed by the retreating German army so as to avoid it falling into the hands of the advancing Soviet Union.
Wikipedia Commons details below:
"Bundesarchiv N 1603 Bild-121, Russland, Sewastopol, zerstörter Hafen" by Bundesarchiv http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_N_1603_Bild-121,_Russland,_Sewastopol,_zerst%C3%B6rter_Hafen.jpg#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_N_1603_Bild-121,_Russland,_Sewastopol,_zerst%C3%B6rter_Hafen.jpg
"Maginot line 1" by John C. Watkins V http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maginot_line_1.jpg#/media/File:Maginot_line_1.jpg
"Battle of France collage" by User:DIREKTOR http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_of_France_collage.jpg#/media/File:Battle_of_France_collage.jpg
"Fotothek df ps 0000010 Blick vom Rathausturm" by Deutsche Fotothek http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fotothek_df_ps_0000010_Blick_vom_Rathausturm.jpg#/media/File:Fotothek_df_ps_0000010_Blick_vom_Rathausturm.jpg
The music featured in the video -- called "Apocalyptic War: Underscore" -- was composed by La Cigale.
Many thanks for watching,