Sunday, November 20, 2011

Father Of Guns: The Schwerer Gustav

Schwerer Gustav (English: Heavy Gustaf, or Great Gustaf) and Dora were the names of two massive World War II German 80 cm K (E) railway siege guns. They were developed in the late 1930s by Krupp for the express purpose of destroying heavy fortifications, specifically those in the French Maginot Line. They weighed nearly 1,350 tonnes, and could fire shells weighing seven tonnes to a range of 65 kilometres (40 mi). Designed in preparation for World War II, and intended for use against the deep forts of the Maginot Line, they were not ready for action when the Wehrmacht outflanked the line during the Battle of France. Gustav was used in the Soviet Union at the siege of Sevastopol during Operation Barbarossa. They were moved to Leningrad, and may have been intended for Warsaw. Gustav was captured by US troops and cut up, whilst Dora was destroyed near the end of the war to avoid capture by the Red Army.

It was the largest calibre rifled weapon in the history of artillery to see actual combat, and fired the heaviest shells of any artillery piece.It is only surpassed in calibre by the French Monster Mortar (36 French inches; 975mm), the British Mallet's Mortar (36 inch; 914 mm) and the American Little David mortar (36 inch; 910 mm).

In February 1942, Heavy Artillery Unit (E) 672 reorganized and went on the march, and Schwerer Gustav began its long ride to the Crimea. The train carrying the gun was of 25 cars, a total length of 1.5 kilometres. The gun reached the Perekop Isthmus in early March 1942, where it was held until early April. A special railway spur line was built to the Simferopol-Sevastopol railway 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) north of the target, at the end of which four semi-circular tracks were built specially for the Gustav to traverse. Outer tracks were required for the cranes which would have assembled Gustav.

The siege of Sevastopol was to be the gun's first combat test. Installation began in early May, and by 5 June the gun was ready to fire. The following targets were engaged:
5 June
Coastal guns at a range of 25,000 m. Eight shells fired.
Fort Stalin. Six shells fired.
6 June
Fort Molotov. Seven shells fired.
"White Cliff" aka "Ammunition Mountion": an undersea ammunition magazine in Severnaya ("Northern") Bay. The magazine was sited 30 metres under the sea with at least 10 metres of concrete protection. After nine shells were fired, the magazine was ruined and one of the boats in the bay sunk.[4]
7 June
Firing in support of an infantry attack on Sudwestspitze, an outlying fortification. Seven shells fired.
11 June
Fort Siberia. Five shells fired.
17 June
Fort Maxim Gorki and its coastal battery. Five shells fired.

By the end of the siege on 4 July the city of Sevastopol lay in ruins, and 30,000 tons of artillery ammunition had been fired. Gustav had fired 48 rounds and worn out its original barrel, which had already fired around 250 rounds during testing and development. The gun was fitted with the spare barrel and the original was sent back to Krupp's factory in Essen for relining.

The gun was then dismantled and moved to the northern part of the eastern front, where an attack was planned on Leningrad. The gun was placed some 30 km from the city near the railway station of Taizy. The gun was fully operational when the attack was cancelled. The gun then spent the winter of 1942/43 near Leningrad.

Then it was moved back to Germany for refurbishment. Despite some claims, it was never used in Warsaw during the 1944 uprising,[citation needed] though one of its shells is on display at the Polish Army Museum there.

The gun then appears to have been destroyed to prevent its capture sometime before 22 April 1945, when its ruins were discovered in a forest 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) north of Auerbach about 50 kilometres (31 mi) southwest of Chemnitz.

High Explosive
Weight of projectile: 4.8 t (4,800 kg)
Muzzle velocity: 820 m/s
Maximum range: 48 km
Explosive mass: 700 kg
Crater size: 30 ft (10 m) wide 30 ft (10 m) deep.

AP Shell

The main body was made of chrom-nickel steel, fitted with an aluminium alloy ballistic nose cone.
Length of shell: 3.6 m
Weight of projectile: 7.1 t (7,100 kg)
Muzzle velocity: 720 m/s
Maximum range: 38 km
Explosive mass: 250 kg
Penetration: In testing it was demonstrated to penetrate 7 metres of concrete at maximum elevation (beyond that available during combat) with a special charge.