World War II

GREAT GUNS

STUDENTS OF WORLD WAR II are familiar with Nazi Germany’s V1 and V2 weapons that brought terror to southern England in the last year of the war. Less known is the V3—which the Nazis also called the “London Cannon”—a massive, multi-charge gun designed to shoot a 215-pound shell nearly 100 miles. Adolf Hitler hoped it would blast the British capital to smithereens.

A ballistics engineer named August Coenders sold the concept of a super cannon to the Führer in 1942. Coenders’s design called for an initial charge in the gun’s breechblock that would propel a 150mm shell into a huge, 139-yard-long barrel. The shell would then be accelerated through the barrel by successive detonations of 32 additional charges, creating a muzzle velocity of 1,640 yards per second. According to Coenders’s calculations, a deployment of 50 guns launching 3,000 rounds a day would saturate London with shells

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