World War II German Super-Heavy Siege Guns
When HobbyBoss released a 1/72 kit of the German super siege gun known as ‘Dora’ I knew I wanted one. Unfortunately, I still do not have one in my stash (if anyone get me one cheap I am all ears!) so this book will have to do! As with most Osprey titles, they combine well reproduced historical photographs with artist’s renderings. This book is no different. The broad focus of the book are the super siege guns but it is split between those manufactured by Germany and those from foreign manufacturers that were absorbed by the Wehrmacht. The final part of the book concentrates on their operational history.
Anyone familiar with the heavier artillery used by the Germans knows that in the aftermath of the Versailles Treaty and the defeat of Germany, with one exception, they were scrapped. With the rise of Hitler and rearmament, several weapon systems were manufactured to crack fortifications. The rapid fall of France meant that none of these were deployed against the premiere fortification of Europe – France’s Maginot Line. Instead, they were deployed in the eastern front. The newer systems highlighted by the book are the 60 cm/54 cm Karl Gerat. A self-propelled mortar, it was given a longer barrel later in the war. The iconic ‘super weapon’ was the 80 cm (31 inches) rail gun. It was used to reduce the Soviet fortifications surrounded Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula. It was an enormous weapon that did not measure up. The final weapon developed by the Germans was a smaller, more mobile 35.5 cm howitzer.
When the Germans took over Czechoslovakia, they absorbed the Skoda armament factory and the remnants of siege artillery that was once part of the Austrian Empire. Ironically, unlike the modern super weapons, these older weapons were more accurate, easier to use and deploy, and more well liked than the newer weapons. They were mortars and there were 23 of them. The Germans also hid from the Allies a single piece of large artillery that was rehabilitated after Hitler came to power.
The last part of the book speaks to operations and the fate of these weapons. Again, many of you more than likely know the story of some of these weapons. Given my lack of knowledge of some of these weapons, it was interesting to see that many of the smaller weapons were used as heavy artillery. In the end, the Nazi’s insistence on developing these over-engineered super weapons, while interesting, ultimately proved to be a dead end.
I am a military historian by training and have come to appreciate the niche that these publications fill. As someone who also enjoys scale modeling, I enjoy understanding the context of these weapon systems. In terms of this work, I think that this is a great little volume that tells the story of iconic, but ultimately useless, weapons. The illustrations are well reproduced and captivating.
My thanks to IPMS and Osprey Publications for giving me the opportunity to review this book.