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The German 88 was arguably the best all-round big gun throughout WW2.  I’ve long wondered: just what exactly prevented the allies from mass producing the 88 themselves?  At the latest, the British must have captured a few in North Africa before Pearl Harbor.  While I assume there is a good answer to the question, it would not particularly surprise me to find the answer involves patents/business considerations.  Appall me, yes; surprise me, no.

Second question:  Using today’s acoustic technology, would it be possible to re-create the artillery bombardment that preceded Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg?  I bet it can be done, and think it should.  The history books claim it was heard that afternoon as far away as Philly.


Jim Lynch

Guerneville, Ca




Dear Mr. Lynch,

Several other powers were developing their own anti-aircraft guns during World War II, and their performance compared quite favorably with the famed German FlaK 18 88mm gun, whose 20 lb. shell could reach an altitude of 34,800 feet. Italy’s Cannone da 90/53 could fire a 23-lb. shell to 39,000 feet, Britain’s 3.7-inch (94mm) Mark 3 shot a 29-lb. shell to 34,800 feet and the American M1 90mm AA gun could propel its 22-lb. shell to the same altitude. All of the Allied guns, however, were heavier and less handily deployed for both AA and AT use compared to the “88.” An important exception was the Soviet D-5 anti-aircraft gun, whose performance was roughly on a par with the FlaK 88 and which proved equally adaptable to use as an anti-tank weapon—the D-5T, installed in the T-35/85 medium tank, proved quite capable of penetrating the armor of the Tiger I.

As for the artillery at Gettysburg, we have no more data to simulate the deafening sound of that exchange than the written descriptions of witnesses (they had no recording equipment at the time, and were a bit occupied with other things to have used it even if they had it). Given the amount of cannon deployed on both sides and differences between firing blank and live rounds, the likelihood of exactly reproducing the exact decibels of Pickett’s Charge seems pretty remote. And most of the re-enactors seem able to live with that.


Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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