The Coolest Artillery Pieces in History  

Richard Rowe
1.5k votes 291 voters 13.1k views 20 items

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
M109 Paladin Self-Propelled Ar... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Coolest Artillery Pieces in History
Photo: via Wikimedia
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. 
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Karl-Gerät, aka "Thor"
Karl-Gerät, aka "Thor" is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Coolest Artillery Pieces in History
Photo: via Imgur
"Thor" was certainly one of the more interesting guns Germany produced during The War - and as ridiculously huge guns go, it wan't even that impractical. Thor could launch a 2,100-pound, 24-inch shell up to 37 miles away, which isn't too shabby. But far better, Thor was a self-propelled artillery system, like the modern Paladin howitzer. It could shoot and scoot. Granted, "scoot" at 4 mph, but at least it wasn't stuck on rails for three days while 250 people put it together. The Thor mortar did ultimately wind up being just a bit too big and too impractical for its own good, but remains probably the least impractical supergun in Germany's arsenal. 
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The V-2 Rocket
The V-2 Rocket is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Coolest Artillery Pieces in History
Photo: via Reddit

Of all of Germany's terrible and incredible "secret weapons," probably none measure up in terms of reputation and impact to the V-2 rocket. A ballistic artillery weapon in the classic sense, the V-2 launched from bases in Penemunde and landed on London with clockwork regularity. The most frightening aspect of the weapon was the random, sudden nature of its destruction. A V-2 could simply drop out of the sky, anytime, anywhere, and there was nothing to be done about it. Fortunately, V-2s were expensive, difficult and temperamental enough that they didn't have quite the effect on the war that they could have.

The V-2's legacy has been mixed. On the one hand, his experience with the V-2 provided its architect Werhner von Braun the research necessary to launch rockets into space. Without the V-2, we'd have no space travel, no satellites, no GPS, and no moon landing. One the other hand, his development also lead to ICBMs and that 50-year nuclear standoff known as the Cold War. One way or the other, though, von Braun's V-2 is probably the single most important weapon of all time. 
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Big Bertha
Big Bertha is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Coolest Artillery Pieces in History
Photo: via Twitter
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.
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