In many ways World War II was the beginning of unbridled mechanized warfare - and the development of Hitler's Gustav gun only added to that legacy. The Gustav gun was like nothing else anyone had ever seen before: at a whopping four-stories high and weighing in at over 1,350 tons, the giant tank-like gun had destructive abilities that put it in a class of its own; however, it had its downsides.
The giant weapon was hugely impractical and stuck out like a sore thumb in the German countryside, leaving its operators incredibly vulnerable to attack from Allied planes overhead - not to mention the fact that the gun could only be fired 14 times a day based on the tedious nature of its operation.
Despite the fact that only two of these guns were ever manufactured, and that they were sent to the junk yard within a year, the Gustav gun remains one of the most devastatingly impressive methods of firepower ever developed, and without a doubt one of the largest.
Hitler Was Bent On Invading France - And He Needed The Gustav Gun To Do It
Near the beginning of WWII, Germany set its sights on overtaking its western neighbor, France. France's military defenses relied on rather archaic methods recycled from WWI, so Germany decided to get creative.
France's only real defense against the Nazi army was its Maginot Line, which was essentially "a great line of fortifications that spanned France's borders with several neighbors" forming "a glorified trench." And despite the fact that the line itself was strongest along France's boarder with Germany, it was naively outdated when it came to the mechanized fighting that was ushered in by WWII.
Though Hitler eventually had his armies simply bypass the Maginot Line, he still continued the development of the weapon that would have allowed him to destroy the line altogether.
The Gustav Gun Was Four Stories Tall And Weighed Over 1,350 Tons
The creation of the Gustav gun began with Hitler employing the expertise of the Friedrich Krupp A.G. company out of Essen, Germany, with the intent of developing a railway gun capable of destroying the French trench. The result was a four-story, 1,350-ton gun that was capable of firing off both 10,000-pound shells and "16,540-pound concrete-piercing shells—roughly the weight of an unladen 71-passenger school bus, traveling at 2700ft/s."
The weapon's precision was also remarkably high - it could hit a target as far as 29 miles away and could break through as much as 264 feet of reinforced concrete with a single blow.
It Required Nearly 2,000 People To Operate And Could Only Be Transported By Railway
The Gustav and its sister gun, the Dora, only saw brief action. In total, the Gustav fired off a little over 300 rounds in its lifetime before its bulky self was seized by Allied troops. Dora's fared no better: the Germans quickly dismantled the second gun for fear of it being taken and used against them.
The failure of the gun within just a year's time can be credited to both its enormously impractical size as well as its slow recovery time. The gun not only had to be transported from place to place via railway, but was so large that it had to be partially disassembled as well, adding to the time required to simply get it into firing position. Once it was ready to go, it would only end up being able to fire around 14 rounds per day, thanks to how involved the process of loading it was. Plus, it could hardly be considered stealthy and was particularly vulnerable to Allied war planes.