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"New German Heavy Artillery" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following WWII military intelligence report on German heavy artillery is reproduced from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 10, Oct. 22, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Indications that the Germans have recently introduced two new specialized heavy artillery weapons are found in photographs and captions appearing in a recent number of the German magazine Signal. The two accompanying sketches have been prepared from these photographs.

a. Heavy Mortar

The mortar piece labelled "Thor" is stated in the caption to have been used in the Sevastopol siege operations. Other photographs appearing in the same number of the magazine depict this mortar mounted on a caterpillar tractor, from which it is being fired. An examination of this photograph by U.S. artillery and ordnance officers resulted in a consensus of opinion that the caliber of this mortar was probably between 500-mm and 600-mm. It will be remembered that at the time of the Sevastopol siege, both the German and neutral European press printed stories that the Germans were employing successfully a mortar of 560-mm caliber.

[German Heavy Siege Mortar - Thor]

The development of a weapon of this type is to be ascribed to the ever-growing difficulties the Germans are encountering in mastering the Russian permanent fortifications. Forts and pillboxes are becoming stronger and stronger with the passing of each month; in consequence the attacking force is being required to use ever more powerful weapons of offense.

The mortar pictured has evidently a very short range, certainly not over 5,000 yards and possibly much less. In consequence, its usefulness is very limited.

Nevertheless, so important a role are modern fortifications playing in the fighting now raging in Russia, notably at Stalingrad, that it would appear probable that, as the war continues to develop, all armies, including our own, will find a need for artillery mortars of this approximate type in order to cope with the problem of destroying permanent land fortifications.

b. Railway Gun

The other type of German weapon portrayed in Signal is a very powerful railway gun. The caption in Signal suggests that this gun is mounted along the French Channel Coast. The question of the caliber of this weapon presents some difficulties. Photographs of the shell appearing elsewhere in Signal indicate, however, that it is at least of 16-inch caliber, but more probably between 20 and 22 inches. It is quite possible that this is the same weapon which has been reported on by British sources as follows:

"It has been established that 61.5-cm howitzers, probably on rail mountings, were used at Sevastopol. This weapon is reported to have 112 grooves in the rifling, and to fire a base-fuzed 'anticoncrete' shell (Betongranate) which weighs about 4,400 lbs, is 6 ft 9 in long, and has a copper driving band 2.76 in wide."

[German Railway Gun]

The range of this gun is not known, but is doubtless very great. The German purpose in mounting such a gun in France is not at all clear. It would seem quite possible that it is primarily intended for the bombardment of London and other inland British cities rather than for fire against channel shipping.


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