Grafenwoehr, Germany — Seventy years ago on April 19, 1945 around 1.30 p.m., a large explosion rocked the region. “Dora,” the largest weapon of all times, was blown up on the railroad tracks between Eschenbach and Kirchenthumbach on the northern border of the training area near Metzenhof. Following Hitler‘s orders, German soldiers destroyed the huge artillery gun.
The world’s largest guns
Following Hitler’s wishes, Krupp AG in Essen developed two 80-centimeter-cannons in 1937: “Heavy Gustav 1 and 2.” During the delivery ceremony, Gustav 1, the largest weapon of all times, was renamed “Dora.” The gun weighed 1.350 tons. The 80-centimeter caliber gun barrel had a length of more than 32 meters and weighed 400 tons. The armor-piercing missile weighed 7.100 kilos and was 6.79 meters long. It had a range of 47 kilometers. The explosion effect was so strong that one missile created a 30-meter-deep crater. Eight trains were necessary to transport the weapon. The cannon had to be assembled on a double-track curve. 4.120 engineers were needed for the construction of the tracks and the emplacement, the assembly, maintenance, security, camouflage etc. 1.500 soldiers belonging to a special artillery unit were needed for fire control and operation.
“Dora” outside of the Sewastopol fortress
During the battles of World War II, “Dora” was used in July 1942 for the bombardment of the Sewastopol fortress on the Crimea. Forty-eight armor-piercing grenades were shot at city’s fortifications. “Dora” was not used in combat again. In September 1943, the cannon arrived at the Army’s maintenance depot at Auerswalde near Chemnitz (Saxony). As the Red Army was approaching from the East and the Americans from the West, it was blown up there. The second train carrying “Gustav 2” was aimlessly traveling South through the collapsing “Reich.” It stranded near Metzenhof where it met the same fate. Since only “Dora” had been used in combat and achieved legendary fame, the name “Dora” was used in literature and found its way into everyday language.
General Patton visits “Dora”
After the end of the war, people literally went on pilgrimages to Metzenhof to seethe blown up cannon. Especially American soldiers wanted a snapshot Hitler’s monster weapon. In the summer of 1945, General George S. Patton visited Metzenhof. The large iron pieces were not dismantled and transported away until 1950.
Gerhard Seemann built a 1:35 scale model of the “Dora Super Heavy Railway Gun.“ The model has a length of almost two meters and is on display at the Culture and Military Museum in Grafenwöhr. Another sensational exhibit is an approximately 1.5 ton iron piece from the blown-up barrel of “Dora.” You can also watch the historic movie of General George S. Patton’s visit.