Virginia War Museum - Atomic Cannon

Field review by the editors.

Newport News, Virginia

The idea of an Atomic Cannon makes sense, in an insane Cold War kind of way: if you build a gun big enough it can fire a nuclear warhead far enough that it won't kill the people who pull the trigger. As an atomic holocaust delivery system, a cannon is also a lot cheaper than a jet or a missile.

So the USA built about 20 Atomic Cannons in the 1950s, each 84 feet long, weighing over 83 tons. Each was known familiarly as, "Atomic Annie." One was even fired, once, at the Nevada Test Site, on May 25, 1953. The shell detonated 500 feet in the air with a 15 kiloton nuclear explosion, the same as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.

Despite their demonstrated effectiveness, the Cannons were retired from service in 1963. Several have survived as outdoor displays at museums and military installations. While memorable in concept, an Atomic Annie could visually be any other plugged-up piece of old military hardware. There are no special markings, flash protection screens, or radiation symbols. Guess if something went wrong, there's really no point.

The Atomic Cannon in Newport News is slightly smaller than the others; it was the original Atomic Annie prototype. It was built just in time to be hauled through Washington, DC, in January 1953, in President Eisenhower's inaugural parade.

Virginia War Museum - Atomic Cannon

Virginia War Museum

Address:
9285 Warwick Blvd, Newport News, VA
Directions:
Virginia War Museum. I-64 exit 263A. South on Mercury Blvd/US 258 for 2.5 miles. At the last traffic light before the bridge, turn right into Huntington Park and follow signs for the Museum.
Hours:
M-Sa 9 am - 4:30 pm, Su 1-4:30 pm. (Call to verify)
Phone:
757-247-8523
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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In the region:
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