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 ArtilleryPhoto: flickr / CC0Don'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.Agree or disagree?
The V-2 RocketPhoto: flickr / CC0
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.Agree or disagree?
Davy Crockett Nuclear RiflePhoto: Kelly Michals / FlickrTechnically an artillery piece, and definitely one of the most simultaneously stupid and brilliant weapons of all time, the Davy Crockett was a big gun nobody wanted to use. It fired a small nuclear warhead with about a quarter mile blast radius up to a mile and a half away. It was designed during the height of the Cold War, and meant to bring legions of Soviet tanks to a halt. However, the fallout from the blast was likely to be just as - if not more - deadly to the crew firing it than to the tanks themselves. As a kamikaze weapon of last resort, the nuclear rifle would have proven fantastically effective - but everybody's glad it never came to that.Agree or disagree?
Screaming MimiPhoto: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BYEver had the screaming mimi's? Now you know where that saying came from. "Screaming Mimis" were German artillery rockets, so named for the telltale shriek they produced while slicing through the air. The sound itself was a psychological weapon, inspiring absolute terror in all who heard it, giving people "the screaming mimis." Germany created several versions with multiple rocket tubes, which could let off a massive hail of 12.6-inch rocket rounds, and bring down complete destruction on large areas up to five miles away.Agree or disagree?