Monday, July 9, 2018

Atomic Annie — The M65 Atomic Cannon

Designed in 1949 by the American Engineer Robert Schwarz, the M65 “Atomic Annie” was inspired by German railway guns used during World War II.  The M65 however, was designed to deliver a nuclear payload to its target.  The gun and carriage itself weighed around 85 tons, was manned by a crew of 5-7, and was transported by two specially designed towing tractors.  At 280mm in caliber and capable of firing a projectile over 20 miles, the gun was certainly powerful enough as a conventional weapon, but the Atomic Annie was certainly no conventional weapon.  In 1953 it was tested for the first time at the Nevada Test Site, where it fired a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead, creating a blast similar in size to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  
After the successful test, 20 M65 cannons were produced for the US Army and deployed in Europe and Korea.  They were almost always in constant motion so the Soviets never knew where they were and could not target them.  While an interesting weapon, the Atomic Annie suffered from limited range, especially after the development of ballistic missiles which could strike a target from thousands of miles away.  The last M65 Atomic Cannon was retired in 1963.  Today only 8 survive, and are displayed in museums across the country.


  1. The Interstate highway overpass clearance of 14 ft 6 in was established to allow transport of them across the US.

    1. That is a fact that I wasn't aware of. Very interesting.

  2. The last M65 Atomic Cannon was retired in 1963.

    Not accurate. 1965, near Hanau, Germany our Float Bridge Company (814th Engineer Co) rafted one across the Main River.

  3. I knew an Art'y Officer who had one of these for a few Years, a Colonel in charge of a 1-Gun Battery, seldom on a Base, Move Every Day, Fuel and Maintenance Convoys meeting them beside the Road. Had a couple of 5-Ton Cargo Tucks filled with Atom Bombs. His Plan was if they had to Fire, get all the Rounds off and Abandon the Gun, as then it would have been Too Slow of a Target for Airstrikes. Amazing piece of Machinery, was Retired once the Bomb Shop could Fit one into an 8-Inch Shell.

  4. Around 1958 I got a toy modelled on the M65 Atomic Cannon for Christmas. It fired plastic shells clear across the room, and I loved it!

    Found one like it:

  5. I am (was) a career artilleryman. One of these is still sitting in the museum lawn of Fort Sill and one is on a hilltop outside of Ft Riley. Very nice pieces of history, and a great motivator. They were some of the earliest special weapons teams that the Field Artillery branch had.