Released by the Department of Energy (and appropriate sanitized to remove classified material) this Armed Forces Special Weapons Project film shows the Upshot-Knothole atomic tests including the use of the so-called Atomic Cannon in 1953. Operation Upshot–Knothole was a series of eleven nuclear test shots conducted in 1953 at the Nevada Test Site. It followed Operation Ivy and preceded Operation Castle.
Over 21,000 soldiers took part in the ground exercise Desert Rock V in conjunction with the Grable shot. Grable was a 280mm shell fired from the “Atomic Cannon” and was viewed by a number of high-ranking military officials.
The test series was notable as containing the first time an atomic artillery shell was fired (shot Grable), the first two shots (both fizzles) by University of California Radiation Laboratory—Livermore (now Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), and for testing out some of the thermonuclear components that would be used for the massive thermonuclear series of Operation Castle.
The M65 atomic cannon, often called “Atomic Annie”, was a towed artillery piece built by the United States and capable of firing a nuclear device. It was developed in the early 1950s, at the beginning of the Cold War, and fielded, by 1953, in Europe and South Korea.
The cannon was transported by two specially designed tractors, both capable of independent steering in the manner of some extra-long fire trucks. Each of the tractors was rated at 375 hp, and the somewhat awkward combination could achieve speeds of 35 miles an hour and negotiate right angle turns on 28 ft wide, paved or packed roads. The artillery piece could be unlimbered in 15 minutes, then returned to traveling configuration in another 15 minutes.
On May 25, 1953 at 8:30am, the atomic cannon was tested at the Nevada Test Site (specifically Frenchman Flat) as part of the Upshot–Knothole series of nuclear tests. The test — codenamed “Grable” — was attended by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arthur W. Radford and Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson; it resulted in the successful detonation of a 15 kt shell (W9 warhead) at a range of seven miles. This was the first and only nuclear shell to be fired from a cannon (the Little Feller 1 test shot of an M388 used a Davy Crockett weapon system which was a recoilless smooth bore gun firing the warhead mounted on the end of a spigot inserted in the barrel of the weapon.)
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This film is part of the Periscope Film LLC archive, one of the largest historic military, transportation, and aviation stock footage collections in the USA. Entirely film backed, this material is available for licensing in 24p HD, 2k and 4k. For more information visit http://www.PeriscopeFilm.com