Atomic Annie is the biggest baddest piece of artillery the US Military ever deployed – 84 feet long, 84 tons, and with a 280mm caliber to the cannon. Oh, and it’s nuclear.
Officially known as the M65 Atomic Cannon, Annie was fired just once for testing.
Annie launched her almost 5-foot-long, 850 pound nuclear artillery shell. Nine seconds later, and just over seven miles away, “the shell that could wipe out an enemy division exploded on target with a roaring violence equal to 15,000 tons of TNT,” launching a massive mushroom cloud that could be seen for miles. The “milestone in military history and in the advancement of nuclear weaponry” erupted in a “churning mass of heat and flame that surrounded the core of the atomic fireball.” Flares launched from the ground were used to show just how high the cloud went up into the air.
And it was all caught on video. [Scroll down for video]
Annie and the other 19 M65 Atomic Cannons spent more than a decade as the front line deterrent against a Soviet invasion, with many experts crediting the nuclear cannon as being the deciding factor that stopped the Soviets from storming across the borders in overwhelming numbers.After serving in that role for more than a decade, they were replaced by more advanced tactical nuclear missiles.
You can still see the gargantuan 85 weapon with its 10-foot-long barrel at the Fort Sill army base in Lawton, Oklahoma. A plaque attached to a commemorative rock alongside the 280MM motorized gun and its transporters details the rise of “Atomic Annie.”
The gun was developed in the 1950s by the American government over a period of eight years, with a prototype even making its way into the procession of President Eisenhower’s inauguration. On May 25, 1953, at 8:31 am, over 3,000 military spectators watched from 5,000 yards away as the world’s first atomic artillery round was shot across the desert rock of the Nevada Test Site.
After the successful test, 20 of the atomic cannons were produced, each at a cost of $800,000 dollars. They were sent to Europe and Korea, but never saw action.
Only eight now survive, including the only one to fire a shot: Atomic Annie at Fort Sill. Other than not having the nude female ‘Able Annie’ artwork on the carriage, she is the same as she was sixty years ago.
As another grim side note to what could have been a weapon in the most devastating of land wars, the original Atomic Annie actually got mixed up with its backup, “Sad Sack.” When it was discovered that it was Sad Sack at Fort Sill instead of Atomic Annie, the real first atomic gun was tracked down in Germany. But in its relocation it fell off a mountain road and killed two soldiers. As for Sad Sack, it went to the Smithsonian, and since 1964 Atomic Annie has rested at Fort Sill, a reminder of the horrific potential of war.
H/T Atlas Obscura