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Atomic Cannon.

Atomic Cannon: Prototype or No. 1?

Field review by the editors.

Newport News, Virginia

Atomic Cannons have caused controversy in the past, and the Atomic Cannon in Newport News is stirring up controversy today, but not from anti-nuke or peace activists. Now the debate is: Is this Atomic Cannon #1?

Atomic Cannon.
January 1953: the Atomic Cannon in President Eisenhower's inauguration parade.

Not even Chris Garcia knows for sure, and he's the education coordinator of the Virginia War Museum, which displays the cannon.

Twenty Atomic Cannons were built by the U.S. in the 1950s, all of them designed to shoot warheads comparable to the Hiroshima bomb, part of a bizarre effort by the Army to win future wars on the "nuclear battlefield." The first cannon was completed in 1952, and later appeared in President Eisenhower's inauguration parade in Washington, DC. It was a prestige weapon, worthy of historical preservation. But in subsequent years it got mixed up with all of the other Atomic Cannons, most of which were later scrapped.

For years the cannon at Newport News was dismissed as a non-Atomic Cannon, just a prototype, and Chris himself was inclined to believe that. But in 2020 he turned up a brass ID plate in the museum archives that identified the gun's carriage -- that's everything except the barrel -- as a T72, the kind used exclusively by Atomic Cannons, and further as "No. 1." It would seem to end the argument, except that the Atomic Cannon barrels and carriages were made in separate arsenals. It's possible that a non-number-one barrel is mounted on the number one carriage, or maybe even a cannon barrel that isn't atomic at all.

Chris told us that he wants to update the text of the sign next to the big gun to reflect this information, although he's still skeptical that it's an Atomic Cannon, never mind Atomic Cannon #1. But it certainly seems like it might be.

Also see: Atomic Cannons

Atomic Cannon: Prototype or No. 1?

Virginia War Museum

9285 Warwick Blvd, Newport News, VA
On the grounds of the Virginia War Museum. I-64 exit 263. Drive south on US-258 for 3.5 miles. Exit right onto US-60 toward Ft, Eustis. Immediately turn left at the first stoplight onto Hornet Circle, then a quick right into the parking lot. You'll see cannon in the park, up along the south side of US-60.
Museum M-Sa 9-4:30, Su 1-4:30 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
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