Big Bertha (Howitzer)

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Big Bertha; literal translation "Thick (or fat) Bertha", is the name of a type of super-heavy howitzer developed by the famous armaments manufacturer Krupp in Germany on the eve of World War I. Only two examples of the howitzer were available at the beginning of World War I, and they were used to destroy the Belgian forts at Liège, Namur, and Antwerp, and the French fort at Maubeuge, as well as other forts in northern France. Bertha proved very effective against older constructions such as the Belgian forts designed in the 1880s by Brialmont, destroying several in a few days. The most spectacular success was the Belgian Fort Loncin which exploded after taking a direct hit to its ammunition magazine. The concrete used in the Belgian forts was of poor quality, however, and consisted of layers of concrete only, with no steel reinforcement. Big Bertha gained a strong reputation on both sides of the lines due to its early impressive successes in smashing the forts at Liege. The German press went wild with enthusiasm and declared the Bertha a Wunderwaffe. When used later during the German assault upon Verdun in February, 1916, however, it proved ineffective, as the newer construction of this fort, consisting of concrete reinforced with steel, could withstand even the large semi-armour-piercing shells of the Berthas. Two Big Berthas were captured at the end of the war. One was taken to the United States and evaluated at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. The gun was later placed on display at the United States Army Ordnance Museum., and eventually scrapped during the 1950s. The fate of the other is unknown. Claims that another Bertha survived on Krupp's proving ground at Meppen, and was used again in World War II in the Battle of Sevastopol, are based on a misconception. It was in fact a Gamma-Gerät howitzer which was assembled at Meppen after the Great War from parts scavenged by Krupp, and went on to see action in the Second World War, along with the modern and even larger Mörser Karl and Schwerer Gustav. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]







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