Circa 1952, the US M65 Atomic Cannon, was a towed artillery piece capable of firing a nuclear device. It would be deployed starting in 1953 in Europe and Korea; and retired in 1963. In 1949 Robert Schwartz was tasked with the project intended to create a weapon to form a portion of the deterrent to the perceived threat of the Soviet Union at the time. Schwartz was sequestered under guard watch in a room for 15 days at the Pentagon while he designed what would become the M65. Not long after development began, the project was transferred to the Picatinny Arsenal; which was given the task of designing the payload for the M65. The initial design created by Schwartz used the German K5 railroad gun as a basis; the design was scaled to use a 240 mm shell which was the maximum size available to arsenal. Again Schwartz was sequestered to finalize the design including the method of transportation for the M65. The project was approved by the Pentagon after the intervention of Samuel Feltman, Chief of the Ballistics Section of the Ordnance Department’s Research and Development Division. After a three-year development process led by Feltman, the project was finished by 1952. Although Feltman led the team he did not see it to fruition, passing away in late 1951. The Technical Division Laboratory at the Picatinny Arsenal would be renamed the Samuel Feltman Laboratories. 20 M65 artillery pieces were made at a cost of $800,000 each; one of these M65 artillery pieces was nicknamed Able Annie. Able Annie was fired during tests at Knothole with a backup present nicknamed Sad Sack. The test took place on May 25, 1953 at 8:30am. Codenamed Grable, the test and others where part of the Upshot-Knothole series of nuclear tests that took place in Nevada at Frenchman Flat. Able Annie would end up later earning the nickname Atomic Annie. The names Able Annie and Atomic Annie likely stem from the vehicles design heritage from the German K5 railroad gun which would end up being nicknamed Anzio Annie after it’s employment against US forces during their landings in Italy. A demonstration model was available to be used in Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural parade in January 1953.
The M65 was transported by two tractors, one at both ends, each with an engine generating 375 hp. The tractors were capable of communicating by a phone system and could travel at 35 mph. The M65 was 80 feet long and could travel down a paved or gravel road with a width of 28 feet. The vehicle took 15 minutes to setup for use. The vehicle was capable of a full 360 degree traverse as it sat on a 9 foot circular base plate with jacks. The vehicle had a hydraulic rammer with a back up system using gears; the shells weighed 600 lbs.
Enjoy the following video on this artillery piece:
1. “M65 Atomic Cannon.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Jul 2013. Web. 5 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M65_Atomic_Cannon>.
2. Potts, JR. “M65 Atomic Cannon 280mm Towed Artillery (1952).” Military Factory. N.p., 5 May 2013. Web. 30 Oct 2013. <http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=288>.
3. Crawley, Jeff. “Atomic Annie on the move.” www.army.mil The Official Homepage of the United States Army. N.p., 16 Sep 2010. Web. 31 Oct 2013. <http://www.army.mil/article/45311/atomic-annie-on-the-move>.
4.”Samuel Feltman.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 Jul 2013. Web. 31 Oct 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Feltman>.