Heavy Gustav

The content below is from Episode 146 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • Hoopla
    • This week I recommend you checkout the app Hoopla or Libby
    • I think I have mentioned this before, but you can get a Library card for free at your local library. If you use that library number, you can read, listen, and watch a massive library of stories for 100% FREE.
    • Libby is an app I’ve been using for years now.
      • I’ve listened to some of my favorite audiobooks like the Darth Bane trilogy, Red Rising series, Ready Player One, and so on.
    • But the other day I mentioned to Shannon that I wanted to listen to Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, but it wasn’t on Libby. She told me there is another app called Hoopla that basically works the same way: log on with your library card and borrow the titles for about a month for free.
    • Sure enough, where Libby didn’t have Contact, Hoopla did. I am amazed by how much I can listen to for free. I feel so blessed to have so much access. Libraries are the SHIT!
    • Contact is a 1985 hard science fiction novel by American scientist Carl Sagan. It deals with the theme of contact between humanity and a more technologically advanced, extraterrestrial life form. It ranked No. 7 on the 1985 U.S. bestseller list.


  • Another WWII episode!
    • Inspired by a scene from Breaking Bad… my favorite drama series.
  • In 1934 Hitler already knew he was going to invade France.
    • The French had constructed the strongest fortification in existence at the time, the Maginot Line, in an attempt to stop the Germans from invading their country.
      • The Maginot line was constructed to avoid the similar destruction that France had suffered in WWI. It was made up of a series of block houses, rail lines, and heavily fortified bunkers.
      • The world saw this Maginot line and thought it was impenetrable.
      • The thick reinforced concrete bunkers built into the earth itself seemed untouchable by any existing weapon.
    • Hitler had a couple ideas to get around this fortification, one of them being the Schwerer Gustav gun.
      • Hitler asked his high command to give him something that hadn’t been built yet. He wanted something that could fire an unstoppable force at the immovable object that was the Maginot line.
  • The Oberkommando des Heeres (German Army high command) asked the Essen weapons creator Friedrich Krupp AG in 1934.
    • Krupp was told to make a gun capable of penetrating 1 meter of steel armor plating or 7 meters of reinforced concrete. They also needed to make this penetrating projectile be fired from a far enough distance to keep the extremely expensive gun protected.
    • Erich Muller, an engineer at Krupp, was put in charge.
      • Erich knew his new project would be a monstrosity, something larger than ever built before.
      • They estimated they’d need an 80 cm (a little over 31 inch or over 2 and a half feet) caliber that would fire a projectile weighing 7 tons and being fired out of a 30-meter (100-foot) long barrel. They knew this sucker would weigh A LOT so they decided to make it deployable on rail tracks.
      • The aiming mechanism, like other railway mobile artillery, would only lift the barrel up or down. In order to aim the gun they would have to position it strategically on a curve in the railway.
    • While drawing up their plans there were proposals for 85 cm and 1 meter (3.2 feet)
    • In 1936 Hitler visited Essen and asked that his gun be battle-ready for the Battle of France.
      • Plans were finished and manufacturing started in early 1937. They estimated completion of the gun would be in 1940, but the insane amount of steel plating needed to create the gun delayed production.

Do you see that image? It is transported via railway… not one railway though…. two…

  • In 1939 a test model was sent from Krupp to Hillersleben for testing.
    • The tests were successful. This monster was able to penetrate the 1 meter (3.2 feet) of steel armor plating and 7 meters (23 feet) of concrete.
  • Hitler and Alfried Krupp met up at Rugenwalde Proving Ground in 1941.
    • Hitler had 2 guns created and the first shot fired from the finished product went off on September 10th 1941 from a makeshift carriage.
    • Then it was tested again in Poland using a 7,100 kilogram (15,653 pound) shell fired at a target nearly 40 kilometers (25 miles) away.
  • While the Gustav Gun wasn’t actually used during the Battle of France due to it not finishing production by the time the Nazis invaded, the invasion was a success.
    • Instead of getting bogged down by the Maginot Line as things played out in WW1’s stagnate trench warfare, German forces went around it, driving their tanks through a wilderness area in neighboring Belgium that the French wrongly assumed would be impenetrable.

We were through the Maginot Line! It was hardly conceivable. Twenty-two years before, we had stood for four and a half long years before this self-same enemy and had won victory after victory but yet finally lost the war. And now we had broken through the renowned Maginot Line and were driving deep into enemy territory. It was not just a beautiful dream. It was reality.”

Erwin Rommel’s Leader of the Nazi 7th Panzer Division
  • While Schwerer Gustav didn’t get to perform in the battle it was designed for, Germany was successful and had A LOT more plans for battle in the coming years, so Gustav would have its day.
    • The Gustav gun was deployed a few times throughout WWII, but the only operation where it was used extensively was in the Siege of Sevastopol (part of Operation Barbarossa) on the Eastern front against the Russians.
    • It was the heaviest piece of mobile artillery ever built and the largest caliber rifle weapon ever used in war.
    • It was designed and developed by the Krupp Family to be a siege weapon.
      • Siege: a military operation in which enemy forces surround a town or building, cutting off essential supplies, with the aim of compelling the surrender of those inside.
    • The fully assembled gun weighed nearly 1,350 tonnes (1,490 short tons), and could fire shells weighing 7 t (7.7 short tons) to a range of 47 km (29 mi).
    • It took 5 weeks and over 4,000 people to get the Gustave gun ready at the Siege of Sevastopol.
  • Those 7 tonne shells could breakthrough 7 meters of reinforced concrete.
    • There was a major downside to this big boy, it took about 500 people just to fire the damn thing and it took about 4,000 more people to transport, protect it, and operate it on the battlefield.
      • About 1,500 soldiers were needed to protect the gun from enemy aircraft.
      • It took 5 days just to assemble the damn thing.
    • By the time the Siege of Sevastopol was over the city was destroyed. The 500 man crew running the gun had fired 48 rounds.
      • The Gustav destroyed several high-value targets, including a munitions depot located roughly 30 m (98 ft) below ground level.
      • Those 48 shots compromised the gun and the 100-foot barrel had to be replaced after the Siege of Sevastopol.

  • After Sevastopol the Gustav Gun was moved to Leningrad and for an entire winter this giant black gun (the largest ever created) loomed outside the city.
    • Before the Gustav could be used at Leningrad the attack was called off, but I feel like seeing this thing outside your city would definitely have some psychological affect.
    • There was a second gun created and used in battle. It was a similar model and named Dora after the engineer Erich Muller’s wife.
      • How romantic. Maybe I will get Shannon a similar present for Valentines day. … now… where do I get an engineering degree, 1,400 tons of steel, and over 7 million Reichsmarks ($24 million USD) worth of funding to make another “largest gun ever created” so I can call it Shannon?
    • Another Model called the Langer Gustav was a 2nd generation model of the Gustav that had smaller shells (1,500 pounds), smaller caliber (52cm/ 20.4 inches), but a longer barrel (43 meters/ 141 feet) for a much longer range (118 miles). This gun could have shot from their claimed territory in Calais France and reached London…
      • Luckily an RAF bombing run destroyed the Langer Gustav while it was still in construction.
  • Third Gen Gustav guns were something from nightmares.
    • The Landkreuzer P 15000 Monster was going to be a gustav gun tank with the 80cm (31.4961 inches) caliber barrel (same size as Gen One), but also was going to have 2 heavy howitzer guns, and MG 151 autocannons for anti-aircraft capabilities. This thing was a small town on tank tracks.
    • Gen 3 Gustav Landkreuzer P15000 Monster was never built. Thank god we beat the Nazis… for a lot of reasons.
      • Some say the 3rd Gen project was scrapped before prototype phase, others say it was a thing of urban myth.
      • But if it was made it would have weighed over 500 tons more than the heaviest tank ever built, the Panzer VIII Maus.
  • The Germans dismantled the Schwerer Gustav before they had lost the war.
    • In the end the Germans realized the Gustav Gun was just too damn clunky. Over 4,000 soldiers were taken off the front line and needed to operate it. It took FOREVER to transport and assemble and once it was finally set up, protected, and manned, its rate of fire was only about 14 rounds per day. It took HOURS to calibrate the damn thing between each shot.
    • Gustav was destroyed by the Germans near the end of the war in 1945 to avoid capture by the Soviet Red Army.
      • The weapons ruins were found on April 22nd 1945 in a foest near Auerbach and Chemnitz.
      • After the soviets got a chance to study it, they sent it to Merseburg where the remains were lost.
      • Dora, the 2nd and last Gustav to be used in combat was destroyed April 19th and discovered by American troops a few days later.
      • Today, some of the remains of Dora are kept in the Dresden Military History Museum of Bundeswehr.
  • Schwerer Gustav was the largest-calibre rifled weapon ever used in combat, and in terms of overall weight, the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever built. It fired the heaviest shells of any artillery piece.[4] It was surpassed in calibre only by the unused British Mallet’s Mortar and the American Little David bomb-testing mortar—both at 36 inches (91.5 cm)—but was the only one of the three to be used in combat.