The Buzz

5 Weapons That Killed Millions During World War One

Fast they were not, sailing underwater at a torpid pace of 9 knots, and 17 knots on the surface. Endurance in those days was limited (the earliest World War I U-boats could only stay underwater an hour before the batteries ran out). But armed with an 88- or 105-millimeter deck guns and six torpedo tubes with 16 reloads, the 24 Type 93s built by Germany sank 411,000 tons of Allied shipping.

Big Bertha and the Paris Gun:

Deadly weapons or freaks of gunpowder? You decide.

Big Bertha was a giant German howitzer with a caliber of 16.5 inches, wider than most battleship guns at the time.  Hurling a nearly one-ton shell as far as eight miles away, Big Bertha smashed Belgian forts in 1914, allowing the German armies to pass through Belgium and almost capture Paris.

The Paris Gun made history by hurling shells into the stratosphere. Where Big Bertha was squat, the Paris Gun was long and narrow, firing a 200-pound shell as far as 81 miles away, which allowed the Germans to conduct a long-range bombardment of Paris.

Like all such wonder weapons, they were expensive and fragile (the Paris Gun could only fire 20 shells before the barrel wore out). But being able to destroy forts or bombard a city from nearly a hundred miles away earned them their notoriety.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for TNI.

 This first appeared in 2015.