Have you ever run into a spider web at night, and gotten a case of the "screaming mimi's?" Ever met a sizeable lady, and silently spoken the words "Big Bertha?" Ever fired a bottle rocket at your cousin on the Fourth of July, used a GPS nav system, or shot a gun? Well, you have artillery to thank for all of that. And a lot more.
Big artillery pieces are like great warriors in their own rights. They've got names, personalities, biographies, and histories of their own. Gustav and Dora, Thor and Little David, Davey Crockett and Satan himself; they all have seen battle from time to time. It's kind of odd how much of artillery history has worked its way into pop culture, and how often we refer to the big guns of days gone by.Here are a few of the biggest, coolest and most important ballistic weapons in history. Vote up the best artillery pieces from history, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.
M109 Paladin Self-Propelled Artillery
Don't call it a "tank." The Paladin is a self-propelled howitzer, just like any of the big guns of yore, but without the need for an external truck or tractor to pull it. The Paladin's 155 mm main gun can land six rounds a minute up to 11 miles away - but that isn't its neatest hat trick. By incrementally lowering the barrel and the power of the charge, the Paladin can get half a dozen shells to hit the same target at the same time. Or, it can adjust slightly, and blow up an entire column of tanks simultaneously. Then, it can scoot off at 35 mph, realign and do it again. So, by the time the enemy's hit and returns fire, the Paladin is no longer sitting where they were aiming.
Now there's a healthy sized girl, if there ever was one - about 94,000 pounds of her, to be exact. "Big Bertha" was the name given to this first World War, super-heavy howitzer manufactured in Germany by Krupp, who also produced the Paris Gun, as well as Gustav and Dora. Bertha fired a massive 1,800-pound shell 8 miles away, and Germany used her for smashing Russian fortifications. Bertha was named after Bertha Krupp, heiress and owner of the company - who was by all accounts, not big. The name refers to the size of the shell the howitzer fired, and it's an adaptation of the original German word for "fat," which is "dicke." Just think that one over.
Gustav and Dora
Nazi Germany's Gustav and Dora rail cannons were perhaps the most insane expression of Germany's obsession with big guns. Gustav was 155 feet long, weighed 1,350 tons, and could fire a 3-foot diameter, 15,300-pound shell at targets up to 24 miles away. It took three days and a crew of 250 people to set up, and cost Germany 7 million Reichmarks. Gustav and Dora were fantastic terror weapons, in psychological terms - but proved to be too big, too heavy, and too expensive and impractical for Germany to employ effectively in battle.
Massive catapults like this trebuchet were the Gustav cannons of their time. The principle behind the mechanics is pretty simple; the trebuchet is essentially just a supersized sling, Trebuchets were capable of flinging artillery stones weighing several hundred pounds up to a half mile away, making these the first heavy artillery pieces in history.