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Atomic Cannon.

Atomic Cannon

Field review by the editors.

Rock Island, Illinois

An Atomic Cannon is on display in Memorial Field, part of the Rock Island Arsenal Museum on Arsenal Island, an Army installation whose buildings date to the 1800s, long before the Atomic Age.

The USA built 20 Atomic Cannons in the 1950s, each with a gun barrel 43 feet long. They were built big to hurl a nuclear shell -- which weighed several hundred pounds -- a tactical distance, up to 20 miles, so that the artillery crew, which took cover in trenches, wouldn't be killed by the blast and radiation. The cannons were all retired from service by 1963, but several have survived as outdoor displays at museums and military installations.

Along with the cannon at Rock Island Arsenal is an outdoor collection of over 30 tanks, rocket launchers, traditional big guns -- weapons actually used in combat, unlike the Atomic Cannon, which never was. The gun sits alone on its carriage, without the dual-end transporter trucks that gave the cannon the ability to "shoot-and-scoot."

One Roadside tipster reported that the guard at the gate didn't even know about the Atomic Cannon when they asked where to find it. That's understandable; the cannon, while memorable in concept, could visually be any other plugged-up piece of old military hardware. It has no special markings, flash protection screens, or radiation symbols. Guess if something went wrong, there's really no point.

Also see: Atomic Cannons

Atomic Cannon

Rock Island Arsenal

Rodman Ave., Rock Island, IL
Rock Island Arsenal. I-74 exit 2 (Moline). Drive west on 7th Ave. to 14th St. Turn right and go straight down the street, up the ramp, across the 16th St./Rodman Ave. bridge, onto the Island. With a photo ID, secure a visitor pass at the Moline Gate Visitor Center. Continue about a mile on Rodman Ave. The Cannon will be about a mile on your left, just before East Ave.
Daylight hours. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Gated entry to base; must show photo ID.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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