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

9285 Warwick Blvd, Newport News, VA
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.
M-Sa 9 am - 4:30 pm, Su 1-4:30 pm. (Virus outbreak may affect access to attraction. Call to verify.)
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Auto Muffler KingAuto Muffler King, Newport News, VA - 1 mi.
Bottling Plant Coke BottlesBottling Plant Coke Bottles, Newport News, VA - 3 mi.
USS Monitor Relics, ReplicaUSS Monitor Relics, Replica, Newport News, VA - 3 mi.
In the region:
Pork-Proud Town Founders, Smithfield, VA - 10 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in Virginia

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Virginia.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

April 10, 2020

My Sights

My Sights

Create Your Own Bizarre Road Trips!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Virginia Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

World's Largest Cowboy Boots, San Antonio, Texas (Apr 6-12, 2020)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from Subscribe now! Hotel & Motel Finder

Special rates for hotels.

Book Now