Little David

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Little David
Little-david an US siege mortar world war II.jpg
Little David at the Aberdeen Proving Ground
TypeHeavy Mortar
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In serviceTesting only
Used byUnited States
WarsWorld War II
Mass40 tons (without carriage)
Barrel length22 feet (6.7 m)

Shell3,650 pounds (1,656 kg)
Caliber36 inches (914 mm)
Muzzle velocity1250 ft/s (381 m/s)
Maximum firing range6 miles (9.7 km)
Feed systemMuzzle loading

Little David was the nickname of an American 36-inch (914 mm) caliber mortar used for test firing aerial bombs during World War II. With the same calibre as the British Mallet's Mortar, constructed in May 1857, it is one of the largest calibre guns ever built, having a larger calibre than both of Germany's Schwerer Gustav and Dora which were 31.5-inch (800 mm) railway guns.[1]


The mortar was originally used as the launching mechanism for test-firing aerial bombs at Aberdeen Proving Ground (during the war, bombs became larger and larger, necessitating the construction of such a large calibre gun). Little David was therefore not intended as a combat weapon. The mortar's base was a large steel box that was placed below ground, with its top flush with the surrounding surface, allowing the mortar's muzzle to be lowered horizontal for loading at ground level.[1]

"Little David" 36 inch (914 mm) mortar emplacement at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

By 1944, it was expected that American forces would encounter extremely strong fortifications during the expected invasion of Japan. Studies began on using Little David as a siege mortar. The mortar was converted into a two piece mobile unit, consisting of the 80,000-pound (36,000 kg) barrel and the 93,000-pound (42,000 kg) base transported by two artillery tractors. In addition to the two main loads, the Little David unit would also include a bulldozer and crane with bucket to dig the emplacement for the mortar's base.[2]

The huge mortar could be ready to fire in 12 hours. The largest (800 mm) known German artillery weapons were hauled on 25 railway cars and required three weeks to put in firing position, but had a longer range of 47 km (29 mi) compared to the 9.7 km (6.0 mi) of Little David.[2]

Little David was one of the largest artillery pieces ever produced by calibre, although Dora fired a heavier shell. Little David's overall effectiveness would have been questionable because of its limited range and accuracy. When Japan surrendered, the invasion became unnecessary, and Little David (still in its trial phase) never saw combat.

Little David currently resides in the outdoor collection of armor and artillery pieces at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

July 1945 film footage of mortar setup and firing.
Shell at the United States Army Ordnance Museum, Maryland

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "The Militaryfactory web site". retrieved 2 February 2013
  2. ^ a b "Little David at Global Security". Retrieved 14 February 2012

External links[edit]