In 1944, the Japanese Imperial Army released over 9,000 air balloons filled with bombs and/or incendiaries and aimed them at US and Canadian cities, forests and farmlands. They were intended to wreak havoc, causing explosions and widespread fire but only around 1,000 of the balloons actually made it to their intended targets.
Despite the high hopes of the weapons, only six people were killed as a result of their deployment and they only managed to inflict a small amount of damage. The Americans made sure that none of the damage that was caused was reported so the Japanese only heard about one incident, that of a balloon reaching Wyoming and causing no harm at all. The Japanese soon realised the ineffectiveness of Fire Balloons and discontinued their use after less than six months.
Railway guns are large pieces of artillery placed on rail tracks and used for long range bombardment. Although they were first used in the 19th century, the ones designed by the Krupp weapons manufacturers in the 1930s and used in WW II deserve special mention as they were quite simply massive.
The biggest were the largest two artillery pieces ever used in combat and were known as ‘Schwerer Gustav’ and ‘Dora’. They weighed around 1,350 tons and could fire 7 ton shells up to 37 kilometers (23 miles) away. Gustav was eventually captured by and destroyed by US troops and Dora was destroyed by the Germans to avoid it falling into enemy hands.
Artillery guns were capable of firing across the English Channel and were designed to destroy heavily fortified positions. However with the rise of the aeroplane there usefulness became limited as they were easily destroyed from the air and similar damage could be inflicted on the enemy with the much cheaper and effective fighter and bomber plains. As a result, the Second World War was the last time Railway Guns were to be used.
Goliath tracked mine, German anti-tank weapon (1944)
Fritz X Guided Bomb
Written by Andrew Griffiths – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com