Fat Gustav - how the Nazis built the largest cannon in the world

In 1936, Adolf Hitler was faced with the problem of overcoming the French Maginot defense line, a 400-kilometer defense line consisting of fortified bunkers, defensive structures, machine-gun nests and artillery points. In addition, the Maginot line of defense, in addition to its considerable length, provided a defense depth of 100 kilometers. After visiting the Friedrich Krupp A.G. engineering plant in 1936, Hitler ordered the development of weapons capable of destroying permanent fortifications that would help overcome the Maginot Line. In 1937, Krupp engineers completed the development of this weapon, and in 1941 two copies of the weapon were created, the 800-mm Dora and Fat Gustav cannons.

The "Fat Gustav" gun weighed 1, 344 tons and required the dismantling of some parts to move it along the railroad tracks. As high as a four-storey building, it was 6 meters wide and 42 meters long. Serving this giant was a team of 500 people under the command of a high-ranking army rank. It took them almost three days to get the gun ready for firing. The cannon was assembled by 2, 000 people for six weeks. The barrel length of this monster is 30 meters.

The projectile diameter of the Tolsty Gustav cannon was 800 mm. To push the projectile out of the barrel, a charge of smokeless powder weighing 1360 kilograms was used. Ammunition for the cannon was of two types: a high-explosive projectile weighing 4, 800 kilograms, stuffed with a powerful explosive, and an all-metal projectile weighing 7, 500 kilograms for breaking concrete. The flight speed of the projectiles fired from the barrel of the Tolstoy Gustav cannon was 800 meters per second.

The angle of elevation of the barrel of the Tolstoy Gustav cannon is 48 degrees, thanks to which it can hit the target with a high-explosive projectile at a distance of 45 kilometers. A projectile designed to destroy concrete could hit a target at a distance of 37 kilometers. Having exploded, the high-explosive shell of the "Fat Gustav" cannon left a crater 10 meters deep, and a concrete-piercing shell could penetrate about 8 meters of reinforced concrete structures.

It was completed by the end of 1940 and the first test shots were fired at the beginning of 1941 at the Rugenwalde test site. On this occasion, Hitler and Albert Speer, Reich Minister of Armaments and Ammunition, arrived on a visit. This is a cannon from a whole family of monster weapons, designed to destroy concrete fortifications and bombard targets at a great distance. Two such cannons fired at Kent across the English Channel. Incredibly, Krupp's 800mm Aisenban gun was built on a risky private initiative rather than a government order. The gun weighed over 1, 000 tons and required two parallel tracks to mount.

Invited to the first demonstration firing in 1940, Hitler fell in love with the gun immediately and named it "Gustav" in honor of the seventy-year-old head of the Krupp family. Gustav Krupp von Wohlen Galbach led a group of German industrialists who organized the Nazi Party Foundation in 1933.

The installation of the gun began in early May and by June 5 the gun was ready to fire. During the siege of Sevastopol, cannon shots were directed by data from a reconnaissance aircraft. The first hit from the cannon was a group of coastal guns, destroyed by a total of 8 volleys. 6 volleys were fired at Fort Stalin with the same effect. 7 shots were fired at the Molotov fort and 9 at the Northern Bay, where a successful hit by a heavy shell pierced the fort in depth, to the ammunition depots, which destroyed it entirely.

She fired 300 rounds at Sevastopol (with a frequency of about 14 pieces per day) fired 30 more times during the suppression of the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto, after which the gun fell into the hands of the Allies, who scrapped it (and bought "whiskey" with the proceeds) moonshine).

The construction of "Tolstoy Gustav" was often described as a waste of time and money, which in part was true, although the defenders of Sevastopol may have had a different opinion. On the other hand, if the Maginot Line could not be bypassed and it would have been possible to shoot at Gibraltar, then the gun could play an important role in the war.

The Gustav is the last and largest Nazi railroad cannon, but the German railroad gun program dates back to the 1930s. The guns that fired at England were experimental rather than practical weapons. The engineers wanted to figure out how far the projectile could be fired. In 1918, the famous "Cannon of Paris" was used to shell the French capital from German positions from a distance of 116 km. In 1938, the German army received the K 12 cannon (Canon 12 Eisenbahn). This 210 mm cannon fired at a maximum range of 120 km.