Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Carl and I play a World War 2 simulation game via email daily. It is called Combat Mission. I have heard that it is the closest simulation you can play that isn't a classified war game. Anyway, it is on the platoon/company level and it is very realistic - most of the time.

Of course there are problems with the game as there are in any game, but those are usually the exception rather than the rule. Being knowledgeable about WW2 makes it easy for us to rule out certain strategies that the other player may be able to use that just were not realistic at all or maybe don't fit the confines of the game we are playing.

One of the strategies that has been ruled out is using the very large (240mm and up) artillery in any mass quantities. The board that is used in the smaller, platoon level games that we play is just too small to handle those monster shells. Two or three 305mm shells will obliterate about 25-35% of the enemy's hiding places, with men and machines inside.

I have never seen footage of what type and how large a crater these shells actually leave. The largest guns on US battleships were 16", which is about 406mm. The shells that those beasts tossed into the Japanese fortified positions were about the size of a VW bug. Again, I don't know the crater size that those left. I bet in some archive in the Library of Congress there is a text that shows shell blast holes, complete with their depths and widths. All I know is that I am glad I never came under any type of artillery shelling. I simply cannot imagine the misery of sitting in a dugout or trench or building with even 81, 105 or 155mm rounds coming down all around, much less the monsters I have mentioned above.

Speaking of misery, in 1942 the Germans laid siege to Sevastopol. Sevastopol was a very heavily fortified city in the Crimea and home to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. The battle had many phases and cost both sides dearly with the Germans eventually coming out on top. As in interesting side note, the Soviets were so well dug in that the Germans actually gassed the town (civilians be damned) to get them to come out and then cut them down. It is one of the very few instances of chemical warfare in World War Two.

When they were laying siege to Sevastopol, the Germans utilized the largest gun ever to see action in WW2 - the 800mm monster railgun "Dora":

If you are interested, there is a great page with many links about this largest gun ever used in warfare here - that is where the photo above is from. It could level and entire city block with one shell. It could only fire 15 shells per day and had a crew of somewhere around 1,000 men. They had to re-lay the track to transport it (the original use was smashing the Maginot line which we all know the Germans went around) to the Crimea and advance parties were sent into the Crimea to pick the best spot for it to be used. Before firing, measurements had to be taken of the upper atmosphere, along with the temperature of the powder, barrel and shell. Don't want a misfire here, do we? A huge project to say the least. But it laid waste to the guns that protected Sevastopol and the area known as "Fort Stalin". And fast. But they only shot less than fifty of the huge shells after it was all said and done.

Not to be outdone, the Americans toward the end of the war created an even bigger gun, the "Little David". Little David wasn't actually a gun, but a mortar. Check this monster out:

There is lots more info on Little David including the source for this photo above here. It was being developed in the summer of 1945 for the invasion of the mainland of Japan. It was designed to obliterate strongpoints of resistance from a long distance. Can you believe we were developing a 914mm mortar to assist in that invasion? That alone should show you how much trouble we were expecting in that project. Estimates are that the US would have lost over one million men in that invasion. So the next time that someone tries to debate the use of nuclear weapons by the US at the end of WW2, just remember Little David.


Captain Harley said...

The German's used gas at Sevastapol? I've been a history buff of WWII for many years, especially the nazi's. And I never heard of them using gas there? Where did you find this info.? Thank you

Dan from Madison said...

It is mentioned in the wiki entry for the Battle of Sevastopol and I have read it elsewhere, I would have to check my library at home to find an exact reference for you. I didn't mean to say they "gassed" the whole city, but they did gas areas of caves or dugouts that were offering the most stiff resistance.

Captain Harley said...

Thanks for the reply. Sounds real, I just never heard of it before! I beleive I read somewhere that US
Marines used teargas in some of the cave fighting near the end of the pacific campaign in WWII. Great site you have, I have earmarked it. Thanks again.

Bannon DC said...

Your page popped up in a Google search for "Fort Stalin." I was looking for some photos of Fort Stalin to go along with my Combat Mission scenario "Assault on Fort Stalin." You can find it on The Scenario Depot. Salute to fellow CM'ers!

Bannon DC