Kaiser Wilhelm Geschütz

The Paris Gun (German: Paris-Geschütz / Pariser Kanone) was a type of German long-range siege gun used to bombard Paris during World War I between March and August of 1918. They were the largest pieces of artillery used during the war by barrel length, and are considered to be superguns.

The capabilities of the Paris Gun are not known with full certainty because of the total destruction of the weapon by the Germans in the face of the final Allied offensives. Figures stated for the weapon’s size, range, and performance varied widely depending on the source—not even the number of shells fired is certain.

“The gun was capable of firing a 106-kilogram (234 lb) shell to a range of 130 kilometers (81 mi) and a maximum altitude of 42.3 kilometers (26.3 mi)”

“At the start of its 182-second trajectory, each shell from the Paris Gun reached a speed of 1,640 meters per second (5,400 ft/s).”

The projectile was the first human-made object to reach the stratosphere. Writer and journalist Adam Hochschild put it this way: “It took about three minutes for each giant shell to cover the distance to the city, climbing to an altitude of 25 miles (40 km) at the top of its trajectory. This was by far the highest point ever reached by a man-made object, so high that gunners, in calculating where the shells would land, had to take into account the rotation of the Earth. For the first time in warfare, deadly projectiles rained down on civilians from the stratosphere”.  This reduced drag from air resistance, allowing the shell to achieve a range of over 130 kilometres (81 mi).

What brought Adam Hochschild to introduce some Coriolis factor to the equation? I cannot imagine any one using a slide rule to include rotation besides calculating latitude/longitude coordinates for direction, g, elevation, and tilt. 

Paris Gun

I am showing several trajectories between 10 to 55 degrees tilt. For simplification I omitted elevation of  barrel and g force (free fall calculator here https://www.angio.net/personal/climb/speed.html)

standard gravity is 9.80665 m/s2 (about 32.1740 ft/s2).

earth’s theoretic rotation = 72.3km in 3 minutes at 45 degree latitude

earth’s theoretic rotation = 48.2km in 2 minutes at 45 degree latitude

The Mach number at which an object is flying can be calculated by M = u /c

M is the Mach number, u is velocity of the moving object and c is the speed of sound at the given altitude

The speed of sound is 343 metres per second (1,125 ft/s; 1,235 km/h; 767 mph; 667 kn), or a kilometre in 2.91 s or a mile in 4.69 s

Paris Gun reached a speed of 1,640m/s (5,400 ft/s) “At the start of its 182-second trajectory, each shell from the Paris Gun reached a speed of 1,640 meters per second (5,400 ft/s).”

MACH 4.8 – that is supersonic. Ridiculous!

equatorial circumference is 40075.017 km =rotation per day (24 hrs) – or – 1670km/hr – or – 27.82 km/min – or – .46km/sec

@ 45 degree latitude, circumference = 34696km/24hours – or – 1445.67km/hr – or –  24.10km/min – or – .40km/sec – or – 401 m/sec

1,640m per second x 182 seconds = 298.48km + 72 km rotation of 180 seconds at latitude of 45 degree ….


The gun was fired from the forest of Coucy and the first shell landed on 21 March 1918 on the Quai de la Seine.

The actual gun mounting was found by the French air reconnaissance aviator Didier Daurat. The Paris gun emplacement was dug out of the north side of the wooded hill at Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique.  The gun was mounted on heavy steel rails embedded in concrete, facing Paris.

The gun was fired at an azimuth of 232 degrees (west-southwest) from Crépy-en-Laon, which was at a latitude of 49.5 degrees North.

The gun was taken back to Germany in August 1918 as Allied advances threatened its security. No guns were ever captured by the Allies. It is believed that near the end of the war they were completely destroyed by the Germans. One spare mounting was captured by American troops in Bruyères-sur-Fère, near Château-Thierry, but the gun was never found; the construction plans seem to have been destroyed as well.

Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans were required to turn over a complete Paris Gun to the Allies, but they never complied with this.

shrt lnk: http://wp.me/p5eLCS-qF


  1. For an instance of war-time naming of this gun as “Big Bertha”, see “Paris again Shelled by Long-Range Gun” (PDF). The New York Times. August 6, 1918. p. 3. Retrieved 2011-12-03.
  2. This overall weight of Paris Gun shells is not atypical for artillery of this calibre. As a comparison, World War 1-era, British BL 8-inch howitzer fired a 91 kg (201 lb) high-explosive shell. The 210mm shell fired by the World War 2-era 21 cm Kanone 39 weighed 135 kg (298 lb) and contained 18.8 kg (41 lb) of explosives (13.9% by weight).
  3. This was not an unreasonable assumption, as Zeppelins on night-time air-raids over the United Kingdom had previously used the tactic of cutting their engines when upwind of the target, then releasing their bombs as they silently drifted overhead.
  4. Position 49°31′40.43″N 3°18′17.57″E / 49.5278972°N 3.3048806°E


  1. Bull, Gerald V.; Murphy, Charles H. (1988). Paris Kanonen: The Paris Guns (Wilhelmgeschutze) and Project HARP. Herford: E. S. Mittler. ISBN 3-8132-0304-2.
  2. Miller (1921) pg.737
  3. To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild c. 2011 Adam Hochschild(Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company New York; 2011) pp.320 – 321
  4. Miller (1921) pg.742
  5. Major J. Maitland-Addison (July–September 1918). “The Long Range Guns” (PDF). The Field Artillery Journal (3).
  6. Miller (1921) pg.83
  7. Miller (1921) pg.723
  8. Miller (1921) pg.728
  9. Columbia Alumni News. Alumni Council of Columbia University (Vol. 10, No. 30). 1918. p. 937.
  10. Anne Cipriano Venzon (2 December 2013). The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 436. ISBN 978-1-135-68446-4.
  11. Ford (2000), p.116
  12. Ford (2000), p.117


External links

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