Heavy Artillery Production Propaganda Film from WW2

Manufacturing artillery pieces is an utterly fascinating process – especially if one has any knowledge of manufacturing. Specifically, creating the barrels is perhaps one of the most technically challenging parts of making the howitzers. Outside of the physical forming of the barrel itself, putting in precision rifling over the length of the part usually measured in meters is a challenge that few companies have mastered. Its far harder than making a mere AR barrel.

Often, the processes used to manufacture these pieces are closely held secrets. Companies understandably work very hard to keep their proprietary processes close to the chest.

Fortunately for us, a fantastic little YouTube channel, World War 2: The Lost Footage has a bit of found footage for us to marvel at courtesy of Germany during the war. With basic footage of of the forging process along with some of the lathe turning, the video focuses a bit more on the assembly of the weapons, including some interesting footage on how the breech was loaded on the massive railway weapons of the war.

For those who geek out on manufacturing processes, the video is an invaluable look into the truly heavy industry needed to create those truly heavy guns. Be sure to check out The Lost Footage as well for additional films. 

 



Frank.K

TFB’s FNG. Completely irreverent of all things marketing but a passionate lover of new ideas and old ones well executed. Enjoys musing on all things firearms, shooting 3-gun, and attempting to be both tacticool AND tactical.


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  • Anonymoose

    Teutonic gnome magic on a massive scale!

  • Alan

    “The Germans wore grey, you wore blue”

  • B. Young

    want one!

  • Mitch

    I bet the Death Star would be a reality by now if we hadn’t won…

  • Paul Prochko

    Here in Pocatello, Idaho, we had a gun plant building a number of barrels for the war effort, most notably, our 15″ naval gun barrels.. Many were reconditioned and relined here to. You didn’t get many shots from one of those barrels before the liners were burned out. The 15″ in guns barrels were absolutely huge especially at the breech end. Took two special rail cars together set up specially just to haul them The process was absolutely fascinating as was the equipment …the main crane was as big as the crane in the German video…we called her big Bertha.

    • ARCNA442

      I never would have guessed naval rifles were made in Idaho – was there a lot of heavy industry there? However, 15″ was a European caliber. The USN used 12″, 14″, or 16″.

      • Paul Prochko

        Actually, your right…they were 16″ barrels…as in the Missouri… Thought was that Pocatello was far enough inland to be relatively safe. Quote from Crazy Phil: During and after WWII, we lived close to Pocatello, Idaho. I was only

        6 at the war’s beginning, but I remember the huge Naval Ordnance

        Plant in Pocatello. Those big battleship guns were shipped there to get

        their barrels relined.

        I googled and found “Sixteen-inch Naval Guns” that is quite interesting.

        16-inch/50 caliber means 16″ diameter, and 50 caliber means length

        of barrel 50 times diameter, or 66′.

        They could lob a 2,700 pound “bullet” over 26 miles.

        • Paul Prochko

          They had a giant shaft equal to the length of the gun barrel excavated in the floor of the building and lined with large electrical coils going round and round from top to bottom of the pit. They would lower the barrel into the pit and stand it on end, then heat the barrel to high temp. Then above the main floor they had a special crane straight above the pit, that would hoist the barrel liner vertically and align it with the barrel standing vertically in the heat soak pit. They had only one shot at lowering the liner into the preheated barrel, and it they had any problem and couldn’t lower it immediately straight on in, the liner would heat and seize with the barrel and they would have to scrap the whole barrel…read: bad hair day for sure. They also cut the outer barrel there (built the whole barrel) on giant long lathes which the operators road on while turning the barrels to outer finished diameter. I worked in that building but not on the barrels (later date) a lot of the equipment was still around and was fascinating stuff.

          • Mr. Smith Wesson

            Fascinating. And I wonder how they removed the OLD liner…

          • Paul Prochko

            I honestly don’t know but, seems like I recall a made mention that they had to bore them out. I will have to ask around but it will be awhile… If someone out there knows for sure, I hope they comment.

  • rooftopvoter

    (calculates how many powder throws on my 505 to make up one charge)

  • Seth Hill

    VAS?!!!!!!! Nein schießen?!!!!!!!

    • Mr. Smith Wesson

      Nein schießen 🙁

  • Rogertc1

    The Rock Island Arsenal has been making howitzers since before WW1. I was stationed there in the 1980s. They had mothballed all the old production equipment. Not sure if they still have it yet.

  • Mr. Smith Wesson

    Paul, I’m starting to read the entire PDF — great stuff!

    • Paul Prochko

      Hope you enjoy it.

      • Mr. Smith Wesson

        Got the answer from the PDF!
        “Relining of a 16-Inch Gun Barrel:
        A 16-inch gun barrel does not have to be scrapped when it is
        worn out in service because of its built-up type construction.
        After the barrel is removed from service it is shipped back to a
        manufacturing facility. There the complete assembly is placed in
        the furnace pits used to heat the barrel during assembly. Cooling
        water is then piped through the interior of the barrel. While the
        assembly is being heated large jacks pull on the liner until it is
        broken loose from the assembly. The liner is then removed from the
        assembly and a new liner placed into the old assembly. The new
        assembly is machined internally to become a new gun barrel ready for proof-firing and issue to the fleet.”

        • Paul Prochko

          Outstanding Mr. Smith and Wesson !

  • Cannoneer No. 4

    Firearms not heavy artillery.

  • Tassiebush

    That was wonderful!