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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of Anzio (Jan-Jun 1944)

28 cm Kanone 5 (E)

28 cm Kanone 5 (E)

The Allied troops which landed in Anzio the 22nd January 1944 did not expect the German resistance to be so tenacious. Decades after the war controversies still arose about the behavior of General Lucas, about how the "Shingle" operation could have been avoided or handled in a different way, or about so many other arguments concerning those hard weeks. The truth is that the Allied soldiers who landed in the coast faced situations which greatly reminded the stories from the survivors of the First World War. There was no clear division between the frontline and the rearguard, projectiles and grenades fell from everywhere, and there was nearly no shelter outside the craters created by the explosions. In the middle of this hell, a long-range German cannon, probably hidden anywhere in the highlands which the soldiers could see on the horizon, went out of its hideout every certain time to fire a couple of 280-millimeter projectiles. Then it disappeared without leaving a trace. Aerial reconnaissance was unable to spot it. Some fighter-bomber, which overflew the beachhead when the projectiles fell, headed toward the alleged direction from where they seemed to come, and then returned while bringing comforting news about the destruction of the cannon. But after a short while another cannonade would inexorably arrive, causing new victims among the troops which crowded the ruins of the villages. As it is known, soldiers get used to anything, and so they began to nickname their invisible enemy as "Anzio Annie" or "Anzio Express". Week after week the long-range artillery piece kept under its fire the forces landing at Anzio, and when the Allies could finally break the situation and advance toward Rome its thundering voice suddenly vanished. The mystery was revealed when the American captured, inutilized by the German themselves, two huge railway cannons of caliber 280 millimeters, whose barrel alone had more than 20 meters in length. What had happened was that the American had destroyed a stretch of the railway line which connected Velletri with Rome. In a tunnel not far from Velletri two cannons were sheltered, one for being used and another one in reserve. When the German were sure that no enemy aircraft was nearby, they took outside one of the cannons which, after having fired a deadly cannonade, was immediately returned to its refuge, while in the outside the gunners removed any trace which could have revealed the existence of the artillery position. When the railway line was cut, the gunners, after having sent a last "tribute" to Anzio, destroyed everything and withdrew. As a curiosity, it is worth to mention that the American, after having captured the remainings of both cannons (which the German had named as "Leopold" and "Robert"), took them to United States, where they managed to rebuild one of them, by "borrowing" pieces from the other, and test it. The rebuilt "Anzio Express" is nowadays preserved near the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in United States. Let us see now some of the characteristics of "Leopold". Designed in the years 1934-36 by engineers from the omnipresent Krupp, it began its trials in the beginning of 1936. Accepted by the Supreme Command of the Army, it entered service in 1940 and soon became the standard weapon of railway artillery. It was a piece of optimal ballistic qualities, which had a notable precision and a good rate of fire (for it could fire up to 15 times per hour) and which was, within its natural limits, easily transportable. Since its horizontal firing arc was one degree only, when this was insufficient either specially built and properly oriented railroads or a Vogele railroad turntable, which allowed to fire in the whole 360-degree arc, could be used. The 28 cm Kanone 5 (E) (as this was its official denomination) could be fitted with four types of bore: a rifled bore with a 10-millimeter deep rifling, a rifled bore with a 7-millimeter deep rifling, a rifled bore with a variable-step rifling and a smooth bore of caliber 310 millimeters. In total, Krupp produced 30 cannons complete with their carriages, three barrels and 30 liners intended for replacing the worn out bores.

Year: 1936

Weight: 218 tonnes

Total length: 31.10 meters

Barrel length: 21.54 meters

Elevation arc: 50 degrees

Horizontal arc: 1 degree

Rate of fire: 8-15 shots per hour

Range: 52 kilometers

Caliber: 280 millimeters

Weight of the projectile: 255 kilograms

Barrel lifespan: 240-550 shots, depending on the type of projectile and propellant charge

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