M65 Atomic Cannon
Prolific author David Doyle continues his mission of providing us with wall to wall informational coverage on America’s machines of war, this time bringing us a focused work on the M65 Atomic Cannon, a Cold War weapon designed to bring tactical nuclear warheads to the potential battlefields of Western Europe and the Korean Peninsula.
The Images of War series published by Pen and Sword has traditionally been focused on military campaigns, units, battles, or classes of military hardware. Lately, we’ve seen more and more volumes in the Images of War series that focus on specific military vehicles, which of course is very welcome news for military modelers. Better still, quite a few of these recent titles focused on military vehicles have been authored by David Doyle, known for his attention to detail.
The subject of this book is the M65 artillery piece, called the Atomic Cannon ( or Atomic Annie ) due to its capability of delivering a nuclear warhead on targets up to roughly 20 miles away. The guns prime movers are also covered in this volume. The M65 was developed in the late 40’s after the abrupt end to the Second World War under the twin mushrooms clouds over Japan, and the beginning phases of the Cold War. Long story short, this 280mm gun was fielded shortly after testing in 1953, to units in West Germany and Korea. 20 of these beasts were manufactured, and just a single nuclear shell ( a 15 kiloton warhead ) was ever fired, during stateside testing. These big guns were made obsolete almost immediately due to the rise of missile and rocket based artillery, which had similar nuclear capability in a much smaller, cheaper form. These guns were effectively retired by 1963, but in their day certainly must have given Soviet war planners great concern.
Format - softcover, portrait format
Page Count - 232 pages
Size - 7.5” x 9.75”
Photos - 280+, mostly Black and White, 16 page section with Full Color photographs
Tables / drawings / diagrams - 1 table of technical / general data, 2 tables of unit organizational data located in three appendices.
All text and photograph captions are in English
So What’s Between the Covers?
As seen in the Table of Contents above, this book is laid out in an easy to use, logical manner, making it simple to locate specific information.
The book kicks off with an Introduction that provides the reader with 4 pages of well written information regarding the development of the M65 Atomic Cannon ( including it’s transporters ), it’s testing, deployment issues during its short active duty use, and it’s obsolescence.
The book opens with a pair of chapters which examine the question of hauling of the big M65 gun, starting with the late war / early post-war tank transporters that were under consideration to be used for this task. Above is a typical two page layout found in this volume, very nice photos accompanied by well done, informative captions.
As is typical with this author, the captions are very informative, well written, and convey much information. This is critical in this sort of photograph-heavy volume, as much of the text contained in the book is in the photo captions. The what’s, where’s, and when’s are generally all well described in the captions, and the author’s work here is among the best in the business.
Above - some fascinating photographs of the M65 in the factory.
The many photographs in this volume are generously sized, with most being 1/2 page in size, and quite a few being larger, up to full page in size. Some of the full page sized images are aligned as the one in the above photo is, where you need to rotate your book to view it.
The “Atomic Cannon in Service” chapter provides many great images of the monster gun in various configurations stateside, and in Europe and Korea. Some of these images aren’t the best for making out the details of the gun, being taken from a distance, but rather they are good studies of the gun in transport or set up for exercises, etc. This is in no way a negative, as plenty of very good in detail photographs are located in the very next chapter!
Above - that’s a chilling image at lower right. The only test firing of a nuke shell by the M65.
Above - located in the center of the book, there are 16 pages of full color images.
The “in detail” chapter provides a large number of well composed, sharp photographs that modelers in particular will find extremely useful. Both the gun and it’s M250 tractor are very well covered. There are full color as well as black and white images in this chapter, and as stated above, the captions are quite informative.
Above - the book closes with three useful appendices, one on general data for the M65, the other two on unit composition.
Knowing absolutely nothing about the M65 Atomic Cannon, I found the subject matter of this book extremely interesting.
As to the contents of this volume, quality and presentation are both of a very high standard, up to the author’s typical level. The quality of the text is first rate, being quite informative while remaining “readable”, and the photographs are both interesting and of a uniformly good quality. The layout of the book is nice, with chapters laid out in a logical manner. I’m not a huge fan of the practice of lumping all full color images into the center of the book, instead of placing them throughout the book as appropriate, BUT, if it’s done by the publisher to keep the price reasonable ( and this line of books IS priced quite reasonably ), I’ll gladly accept color images in the center of the book rather than having no color images at all.
I’d have liked to see some scale drawings of the gun and the tractors, but those don’t seem to be a priority in this series of books, and besides which, the inclusion of drawings might reduce the number of photographs, which of course is what this series of books is really all about.
This book is another great addition to the Pen and Sword Images of War line, and will be of terrific interest to artillery fans, or those interested in iconic weaponry of the darkest days of the Cold War. This interesting book actually provoked me to search out and purchase a kit of this gun. For me, that’s high praise indeed!
Thanks to David Doyle Books for the review copy!
Reviewed by Chuck Aleshire, AMPS Chicagoland
AMPS 2nd Vice President, Midwest Region
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