All About Schwerer Gustav & DORA
Schwerer Gustav & DORA
Schwerer Gustav (English: Heavy Gustaf, or Great Gustaf) and Dora were the names of two massive World War 2 German80 cm K (E) railway siege guns. They were developed in the late 1930s by Krupp for the express purpose of destroying heavy fortifications, specifically those in the French Maginot Line. They weighed nearly 1,350 tonnes, and could fire shells weighing seven tonnes to a range of 37 kilometers (23 miles). Designed in preparation for World War II, and intended for use against the deep forts of the Maginot Line, they were not ready for action when the Wehrmacht outflanked the line during the Battle of France. Gustav was used in the Soviet Union at the siege of Sevastopol during Operation Barbarossa. They were moved to Leningrad, and may have been intended for Warsaw. Gustav was captured by US troops and cut up, whilst Dora was destroyed near the end of the war to avoid capture by the Red Army.
It was the largest calibre rifled weapon in the history of artillery to see actual combat, and fired the heaviest shells of any artillery piece. It is only surpassed in calibre by the American 36-inch Little David mortar and a handful of earlier siege mortars that all fired smaller shells.
Nothing further happened until March 1936, when during a visit to Essen, Adolf Hitler enquired as to the giant guns’ feasibility. No definite commitment was given by Hitler, but design work began on an 80 cm model. The resulting plans were completed in early 1937 and approved. Fabrication of the first gun started in the summer of 1937. However, technical complications in the forging of such massive pieces of steel made it apparent that the original completion date of spring 1940 could not be met.
Krupp built a test model in late 1939 and sent it to the Hillersleben firing range for testing. Penetration was tested on this occasion. Firing at high elevation, the 7.1 tonne shell was able to penetrate the specified seven meters of concrete and the one meter armour plate . When the tests were completed in mid-1940 the complex carriage was further developed. Alfried Krupp, after whose father the gun was named, personally hosted Hitler at the Rügenwald Proving Ground during the formal acceptance trials of the Gustav Gun in the spring of 1941. Hitler was so awe-struck, he commanded that the 11 tonne shell could only be used at his discretion. As he never gave permission, it was never deployed.
Two guns were ordered. The first round was test-fired from the commissioned gun barrel on 10 September 1941 from a makeshift gun carriage on the Hillersleben firing range. In November 1941, the barrel was taken to Rügenwald where 8 further firing tests took place using the 7,100 kilogram armor-piercing (AP) shell out to a range of 37,210 meters.
In combat, the gun was mounted on a specially designed chassis, supported by eight bogies on two parallel sets of railway tracks. Each of the bogies had 5 axles, giving a total of 40 axles (80 wheels). Krupp christened the gun Schwerer Gustav (Heavy Gustav) after the senior director of the firm, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach.
The ammunition for the gun consisted of a heavy concrete-piercing shell and a lighter high-explosive shell. A super-long-range rocket projectile was also planned with a range of 150 km that would require the barrel being extended to 84 meters.
In keeping with the tradition of the Krupp company, no charge was made for the first gun. However, they did charge seven million Reichsmarkfor the second gun Dora, named after the senior engineer’s wife.
In February 1942 Heavy Artillery Unit (E) 672 reorganized and went on the march, and Schwerer Gustav began its long ride to the Crimea. The train carrying the gun was of 25 cars, a total length of 1.5 kilometers. The gun reached the Perekop Isthmus in early March 1942, where it was held until early April. A special railway spur line was built to the Simferopol-Sevastopol railway 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of the target, at the end of which four semi-circular tracks were built specially for the Gustav to traverse. Outer tracks were required for the cranes which would have assembled Gustav.
The siege of Sevastopol was to be the gun’s first combat test. Installation began in early May, and by 5 June the gun was ready to fire. The following targets were engaged:
- 5 June
- Coastal guns at a range of 25,000 m. Eight shells fired.
- Fort Stalin. Six shells fired.
- 6 June
- Fort Molotov. Seven shells fired.
- “White Cliff” aka “Ammunition Mountion”: an undersea ammunition magazine in Severnaya (“Northern”) Bay. The magazine was sited 30 meters under the sea with at least 10 meters of concrete protection. After nine shells were fired, the magazine was ruined and one of the boats in the bay sunk.
- 7 June
- Firing in support of an infantry attack on Sudwestspitze, an outlying fortification. Seven shells fired.
- 11 June
- Fort Siberia. Five shells fired.
- 17 June
- Fort Maxim Gorki and its coastal battery. Five shells fired.
By the end of the siege on 4 July the city of Sevastopol lay in ruins, and 30,000 tons of artillery ammunition had been fired. Gustav had fired 48 rounds and worn out its original barrel, which had already fired around 250 rounds during testing and development. The gun was fitted with the spare barrel and the original was sent back to Krupp’s factory in Essen for relining.
The gun was then dismantled and moved to the northern part of the eastern front, where an attack was planned on Leningrad. The gun was placed some 30 km from the city near the railway station of Taizy. The gun was fully operational when the attack was cancelled. The gun then spent the winter of 1942/43 near Leningrad.
Then it was moved back to Germany for refurbishment. Despite some claims, it was never used in Warsaw during the 1944 uprising, though one of its shells is on display at the Polish Army Museum there.
The gun then appears to have been destroyed to prevent its capture sometime before 22 April 1945, when its ruins were discovered in a forest 15 kilometers (9 miles) north of Auerbachabout 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Chemnitz.
Dora was the second gun to be produced. It was deployed briefly against Stalingrad, where the gun arrived at its emplacement 15 kilometers (9 miles) to the west of the city sometime in mid-August 1942. It was ready to fire on 13 September. It was quickly withdrawn, however, when Soviet encirclement threatened. When the Germans began their long retreat they tookDora with them. Dora was broken up before the end of the war, being discovered in the west by American troops some time after the discovery of Schwerer Gustav.
The Langer Gustav was a long cannon with 52 centimeter caliber and a 43 meter barrel. It was intended to fire super-long-range rocket projectiles weighing 680 kilograms to a range of 190 kilometers. This gave it the range to hit London. It was never completed after being damaged during construction by one of the many RAF bombing raids on Essen.
Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster Project…
The Monster was to be a 1,500 tonne mobile, self-propelled platform for an 80-cm K (E) gun, along with two 15 cm sFH 18 heavy howitzers, and multiple MG 151 auto cannons. It was deemed impractical, and in 1943 was canceled by Albert Speer. It never left the drawing board and no progress was ever made. It would have easily surpassed the Panzer VIII Maus(heaviest tank ever built) and the Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte (also never built) in weight and size.
- Weight of projectile: 4.8 t (4,800 kg)
- Muzzle velocity: 820 m/s
- Maximum range: 48 km
- Explosive mass: 700 kg
- Crater size: 30 ft (10 m) wide 30 ft (10 m) deep.
The main body was made of chrome-nickel steel, fitted with an aluminium alloy ballistic nose cone.
- Length of shell: 3.6 m
- Weight of projectile: 7.1 t (7,100 kg)
- Muzzle velocity: 720 m/s
- Maximum range: 38 km
- Explosive mass: 250 kg
- Penetration: In testing it was demonstrated to penetrate 7 metres of concrete at maximum elevation (beyond that available during combat) with a special charge .
- 80 cm “Schwerer Gustav” (Heavy Gustav) – Deployed in March 1942 against Sevastopol.
- 80 cm “Dora” – Deployed against Stalingrad in September 1942. Possibly never fired.
- 52 cm “Langer Gustav” (Long Gustav) – Started but not completed.