5 weapons designed for just one target each
The best weapons work against a variety of targets and in many different scenarios. Sometimes, a specific target is so tough or so-well defended a custom weapon is needed to destroy it. Here are 5 weapons created to destroy a single target or set of targets.
1. The Dutch "floating volcano"
In 1585, Dutch defenders at Antwerp needed to break the Spanish siege they were stuck behind. Targeting a pontoon bridge across the River Schelde, the Dutch defenders created "hellraisers."
These were two ships completely filled with explosives and shrapnel. When the second ship detonated, it was described as a "floating volcano" that shattered nearby ships and buildings, destroyed the bridge, and threw people into the air for miles.
2. The Nazi Gustav gun
One of the largest cannons in history, the Gustav gun fired an 800-mm, high-explosive shell nearly 30 miles. A bunker-busting round from the gun could pierce 264 feet of concrete.
The cannon performed well at Sevastapol, Russia, but was designed to destroy the Maginot line in France. When the Nazis made it around the French defenses before Gustav was ready, the weapon was repurposed for its Russian adventure.
3. The Ottoman's 27-ft cannon
The Basilica cannon is visible in this modern painting of the Siege of Constantinople. It's being pulled by the team of oxen on the right. Painting: Wikipedia/Fausto Zonaro
Constantinople had survived 1,000 years of sieges by the time Sultan Mehmed II began eyeing it. To crack the walls of the fortress, Mehmed accepted an offer from a Hungarian cannon expert to build the "Basilica cannon," a 27-ft-long cannon that fired a 30-inch round.
On April 12, 1453 the cannon was fired for the first time against Constantinople. Its shells obliterated any portion of wall they hit. When Mehmed moved his ground forces in, the city had few defenses left and fell within hours.
4. Germany's bouncing bombs
Photos: Imperial War Museum and German Army Archives
Developed by Dr. Barnes Wallace, bouncing bombs carried 6,600 pounds of high-explosive as they skipped across the water surface to get past German torpedo nets at well-defended German dams. The bombs reached the dams and sunk along the wall before detonating.
On May 17, 1943, Barnes' dambusters were dropped from Lancaster bombers, damaging three German dams and flooding nearby towns and railways. Hundreds of laborers were killed and 20,000 workers were pulled from other projects to repair the damage.
5. Germany's V-3 cannon
The V-3 Cannon was built into the hillside in Nazi-occupied France. It was to have 50 barrels that would fire 600 rounds per hour into London, a target 100 miles from the cannon. It was test-fired in Jan. 1944, but problems with its 9-ft long shells delayed its use.
The prospects for the cannon were dealt a double blow by the Allied invasion on D-day and a Royal Air Force bombing of the cannon a month later on July 6, 1944. The weapon was moved to Germany and fired just 44 rounds during the Battle of the Bulge.