At 5 hours 35 minutes on June 5, 1942, a thunderous sound shook the valley near Bakhchisarai, which in 20 years people would take for a thermonuclear explosion. Glass flew out at the railway station and in the houses of inhabitants in the southern part of Bakhchisarai. After 45 seconds, a huge shell fell north of the Mekenzievy Gory station a few tens of meters from the 95th rifle division's field ammunition depot. The next seven shots were fired at the old coastal battery No. 16 south of the village of Lyubimovka. Six more shots were fired on June 5 at the anti-aircraft battery of the Black Sea Fleet. The last shot that day sounded at dusk - at 19 hours 58 minutes.
Until 26 June, monstrous caliber shells covered Soviet positions with a frequency of five to sixteen rounds per day. The shelling ended as suddenly as it began, leaving the Soviet side with an unresolved question: what was it?
"Dora" - the largest and most powerful cannon created in the history of mankind, fired at Sevastopol. Back in 1936, when visiting the Krupp plant, Hitler demanded from the company's management a super-powerful artillery system to deal with the permanent structures of the Maginot Line and Belgian forts. The design group of the Krupp company, which was engaged in the development of a new weapon according to the proposed tactical and technical assignment, was headed by Professor Erich Müller, who completed the project in 1937. The Krupp factories immediately began producing colossi.
The first gun, named after the chief designer's wife, Dora, was completed in early 1941 at a cost of 10 million Reichsmarks. The bolt of the gun was wedge-shaped, and the loading was separate-sleeve. The full length of the barrel was 32.5 m, and the weight was 400 tons (!). In the firing position, the installation length was 43 m, the width was 7 m, and the height was 11.6 m. The total weight of the system was 1350 tons. The supergun carriage consisted of two railway transporters, and the installation was fired from a double track.
In the summer of 1941, the first gun was delivered from the Krupp plant in Essen to the Hillersleben experimental range, 120 km west of Berlin. From September 10 to October 6, 1941, firing was carried out at the range, the results of which fully satisfied the leadership of the Wehrmacht. At the same time, the question arose: where can this super-weapon be used?
The fact is that the Germans managed to capture the Maginot Line and the Belgian forts in May-June 1940 without the help of superweapons. Hitler found the Dora a new goal - to strengthen Gibraltar. But this plan turned out to be impracticable for two reasons: firstly, the railway bridges of Spain were built without relying on the transportation of goods of this weight, and secondly, General Franco was not at all going to let German troops pass through the territory of Spain.
Finally, in February 1942, the Chief of the General Staff of the Ground Forces, General Halder, ordered the Dora to be sent to the Crimea and placed at the disposal of the commander of the 11th Army, Colonel General Manstein, for shelling Sevastopol.
Effective firing range - 40 km. Total weight 1344 tons, barrel weight 400 tons, barrel length 32 m, caliber 800 mm, projectile length (without propellant charge) 3, 75 m, projectile weight 7, 1 ton
At the resort
On April 25, 1942, five echelons with a disassembled gun mount and a service battalion secretly arrived at the Tashlykh-Dair half-station (now the village of Yantarnoye), 30 km south of the Dzhankoy railway junction. The position for "Dora" was chosen 25 km from the targets intended for shelling in Sevastopol and 2 km south of the Bakhchisarai railway station. It was decided to build the top-secret position of the gun in an open field, on a site bare as a table, where there were no rocky shelters or even a small line. A low hill between the Churuk-Su river and the railway was opened by a longitudinal excavation 10 m deep and about 200 m wide, a kilometer branch was laid to the Bakhchisarai station, and "mustaches" were laid to the west of the hill, which ensured a horizontal angle of fire of 45 degrees.
Work on the construction of the firing position was carried out around the clock for four weeks. 600 military construction workers, railway workers, 1000 workers of the Trudfront organization of the Todt organization, 1500 local residents and several hundred prisoners of war were involved. Air defense was provided by reliable camouflage and constant patrols over the area by fighters from the 8th Air Corps of General Richthofen. A battery of 88-mm anti-aircraft guns and 20-mm anti-aircraft guns were lined up next to the position. In addition, the Douro was served by a smoke-masking division, 2 Romanian infantry guard companies, a platoon of service dogs and a special motorized team of the field gendarmerie. In total, the combat activity of the gun was provided by more than four thousand people.
The Gestapo declared the entire area a forbidden zone with all the ensuing consequences. The measures taken turned out to be so successful that the Soviet command did not find out about the arrival in the Crimea, or even about the very existence of Dora until 1945!
Contrary to the official history, the command of the Black Sea Fleet, headed by Admiral Oktyabrsky, did one stupidity after another. Until 1943, it firmly believed that back in June 1941, the Italian fleet entered the Black Sea, and fought stubborn battles with it - they set minefields, bombed mythical enemy submarines and torpedoed enemy ships that existed only in the fevered imagination. As a result, dozens of combat and transport ships of the Black Sea Fleet were killed by their own mines and torpedoes! The command of the Sevastopol defensive region either sent Red Army men and junior commanders who reported explosions of huge shells to a tribunal for alarmism, or, on the contrary, reported to Moscow about the use of 24-inch (610-mm) railway installations by the Germans.
After the end of the fighting in the Crimea in May 1944, a special commission was looking for a firing position for a super-heavy gun in the areas of the villages of Duvankoy (now Verkhnesadovoe) and Zalanka (Front), but to no avail. Documents about the use of "Dora" also were not among the trophies of the Red Army captured in Germany. Therefore, Soviet military historians concluded that there was no Dora near Sevastopol at all, and all rumors about it were Abwehr disinformation. On the other hand, the writers "had fun" on "Dora" in full. In dozens of detective stories, heroic scouts, partisans, pilots and sailors found and destroyed the Dora. There were people who “for the destruction of“Dora”“were awarded government awards, and one of them was even awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
The origin of myths around the "Dora" was facilitated by the action of her 7-ton shells, the effectiveness of which was close to … zero! Of the 53 fired 800-mm shells, only 5 hit the target. The observation posts of the 672 division noted hits on battery No. 365, the stronghold of the rifle regiment of the 95th rifle division and the command post of the anti-aircraft battalion of the 61st air defense regiment.
True, Manstein in his book "Lost Victories" wrote: "The cannon with one shot destroyed a large ammunition depot on the coast of Severnaya Bay, hidden in rocks at a depth of 30 m." Note that none of the tunnels of Sukharnaya Balka was blown up by German artillery fire until the last days of the defense of the northern side of Sevastopol, that is, until June 25-26. And the explosion, about which Manstein writes, occurred from the detonation of ammunition, openly laid out on the coast of the bay and prepared for evacuation to the South Side. When firing at other objects, the shells lay at a distance of 100 to 740 m from the target.
The headquarters of the 11th German army chose targets rather unsuccessfully. First of all, the targets for the Dora's armor-piercing shells were supposed to be coastal tower batteries No. 30 and No. 35, protected command posts of the fleet, the Primorsky army and coastal defense, fleet communications centers, adits of underground arsenals, special plants No. 1 and No. 2 and fuel depots, hidden in the thickness of the Inkerman limestones, but almost no fire was fired at them.
As for the eight shells fired at the coastal battery No. 16, this is nothing more than an embarrassment of German intelligence. The 254-mm cannons installed there were removed back in the late 1920s, and since then there has been no one there. By the way, I climbed and filmed the entire battery No. 16 up and down, but did not find any serious damage. Later, the Chief of the General Staff of the Wehrmacht, Colonel-General Halder, assessed the "Dora" as follows: "A real work of art, but, unfortunately, useless."
In addition to Dora, two more 800-mm sisters were manufactured in Germany, which, however, did not take part in the hostilities. In 1944, the Germans planned to use the Douro for firing from French territory at London. For this purpose, the H.326 three-stage rockets were developed. In addition, Krupp designed a new barrel with a smooth bore, 52 cm in caliber and 48 meters long, for Dora. The firing range was supposed to be 100 km. However, the projectile itself contained only 30 kg of explosive and its high-explosive effect was negligible compared to the FAU-1 and FAU-2. Hitler ordered to stop work on the 52-cm barrel and demanded the creation of a weapon that shoots high-explosive shells weighing 10 tons with 1, 2 tons of explosives. It is clear that the creation of such a weapon was a fantasy.
On April 22, 1945, during the offensive in Bavaria by the 3rd American Army, the advanced patrols of one of the units, passing through the forest 36 km north of the city of Auerbach, found 14 heavy platforms at the dead end of the railway line and the remains of some huge and complex a metal structure badly damaged by an explosion. Later, other details were found in a nearby tunnel, in particular - two giant artillery barrels (one of which turned out to be intact), parts of carriages, a bolt, etc. Interrogation of prisoners showed that the discovered structures belong to the super-powerful Dora and Gustav guns. Upon completion of the survey, the remains of both artillery systems were scrapped.
The third super-powerful weapon - one of the "Gustavs" - ended up in the Soviet zone of occupation, and its further fate is unknown to Western researchers. The author found a mention of him in the "Report of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Armaments on the work in Germany in 1945-1947." vol. 2. According to the report: “… in July 1946, a special group of Soviet specialists, on the instructions of the Ministry of Armaments, undertook a study of the 800-mm Gustav installation. The group compiled a report with a description, drawings and photographs of the 800-mm gun and carried out work to prepare for the removal of the 800-mm railway installation "Gustav" in the USSR."
In 1946-1947, an echelon with parts of the 80-cm gun "Gustav" arrived in Stalingrad at the plant "Barricades". At the factory, the weapon was studied for two years. According to information received from KB veterans, the plant was instructed to create a similar system, but I did not find confirmation of this in the archives. By 1950, the remains of "Gustav" were sent to the factory landfill, where they were stored until 1960, and then were scrapped.
Together with the gun, seven cartridges were delivered to the Barricades plant. Six of them were subsequently scrapped, and one, which was used as a fire barrel, survived and was later sent to Malakhov Kurgan. This is all that remains of the greatest weapon in human history.