5 Strangest Nuclear Weapons Ever Deployed

During the 1950s, the US Army introduced a wide range of unguided missiles, artillery shells, demolition charges, and other explosive systems that could carry nuclear devices that yielded fractions of kilotons to megatons. But as the Cold War raged on, nuclear devices became smaller and more powerful. The Davy Crockett became the smallest nuclear weapon in the expanding arsenal of the United States Army of the early 1960s.

In 1957, the Atomic Energy Commission created a lightweight sub-kiloton yield fission warhead that could be used as a frontline weapon. The Army Ordnance Corps had been looking for a nuclear weapon that could be easily carried to the battlefield and used by infantrymen, and after exploring more than 20 delivery systems, the Army settled on a recoilless rifle system called Battle Group Atomic Delivery System.

During testing, the weapon earned the nickname Davy Crockett to honor the American folk hero who lost his life at the Alamo. The nuclear device then entered service in May of 1961.

The Davy Crockett was a recoilless rifle operated by three soldiers that could also be mounted on vehicles for increased maneuverability and was meant to be used with mortar teams against large concentrations of enemy forces in the combat zone. It also had a 10-to-20-ton yield that resulted in a radiation radius of almost a quarter-mile within the impact zone.

The weapon was produced in two variants: a light M28 120-millimeter recoilless rifle that weighed 185 pounds and a heavy M29 155-millimeter variant that surpassed 400 pounds. The first had a range of 1.25 miles, while the second reached up to 2.5 miles.

The Davy Crockett used a 76-pound M388 atomic projectile carrying a W54 warhead. This warhead weighed over 50 pounds and had an explosive yield of approximately 10 to 20 tons of TNT.

Both variants of the Davy Crockett could be launched from a Jeep or a tripod on the ground, and when used, four fins popped out to stabilize the projectile.

After firing a spotting round to determine the exact distance, the three-man crew inserted a propellant charge and a metal piston down the muzzle. Afterward, they would load the M388 warhead as if it was a rifle grenade.

A special switch allowed the crew to select the height of the detonation. The warhead then reached its target at an approximate speed of 100 miles per hour.

The Davy Crockett was used by American crews stationed in Germany in case the Soviet Union decided to invade West Germany.

Ultimately, only two atomic projectiles were ever detonated, and they occurred during testing. The Army retired them from service in 1971.

To this day, some Davy Crocketts can be found in several museums across the United States.