On the atomic battlefield of the fifties stood many unusual weapons. When you look back in hindsight you will question the decision makers of the day. Among these stood a manned portable tactical nuclear rifle. Known as the Davy Crockett they were placed up and down the western European front lines. Ready to irradiate the land and stop the Ruskies from crossing into Europe at a moments notice.
The 1950’s fascinate me for many reasons, many of which are connected to it being the beginning of the nuclear age. Whether it’s “duck and cover” or the plan to use nukes to dig docks, it was a time of innovation and the belief that the atom was the future, no matter what the repercussions would be.
Post war America was a place with a limited military budget. Since the US Army wanted some of that fine nuclear money and didn’t want to be left behind it decided the best way to do this was with an unguided recoiless rifle. Think a bazooka that fired a 20 kiloton warhead with a mile and a half range. The single purpose of these weapons was to deny the enemy of it’s front line by irradiating the land.
Naturally when you develop this type of weapon you want to give it a memorable name. Why not use a current TV craze to name your wonder weapon after. Your rifle will be the “King of the wild frontier” and the US military will get a free coon skin hat with each one purchased.
The use of last-ditch weapons was nothing new to the US Military or any other military for that matter; the point to consider here is that it wasn’t considered a last ditch weapon. It was intended to be used in Western Europe against the Russians. Even more interesting was that the military wasn’t looking at the damage it would do, they were looking at how it would irradiate land and make it uninhabitable for 48 hours. The plan was to line up Davy Crockett rifles every couple of miles to insure that the entire front line was full of delicious radiation.
So take some time and watch the YouTube video of one of these being test fired. Then remember what life must have been like back then, sleeping better knowing that there were 2100 of these on the battleground of the future. So full of wonder thanks to the atom.
For more information you can also read the short article about this on wikipedia at the link below.