Firing the Atomic Cannon (1953)


Outstanding color footage of the only time the M-65 280mm Atomic Cannon was ever fired with it's nuclear warhead. With the deployment in the 1950s of atomic weapons on both sides of the Cold War, all three branches (Army, Navy, Air Force) of the U.S. military sought to justify fielding nuclear weapons within their individual arsenals. For the U.S. Army, prior to the refinement of tactical nuclear missiles, that meant developing an atomic artillery piece. This weapon was the M-65 280mm Motorized Heavy Gun, also known as the Atomic Cannon. On May 25, 1953, at 8:30 am, as the tenth of a series of eleven nuclear test firings during Operation UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE, T-131 number 9 fired a W-9 15 kiloton warhead (shot GRABLE) a distance of seven miles. The device detonated at an altitude of 524 feet above the target in Area 5 (known as "Frenchman Flat") on the Nevada Proving Ground. This was the only nuclear firing of the M-65. Film courtesy of For more information see:


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