Back It up Mack, Atomic Annie’s In Town
Considered obsolete as a strategic weapon during it’s time in the Army’s inventory, the “Atomic Cannon” was impressive in size and a cause for concern by it’s enemies. Able to hurl an atomic shell some ten miles, the guns were a deterrent against a massive Warsaw Pact invasion or an unfriendly visit by North Korean troops. Deployed in West Germany and South Korea, the guns lethal shells and mobility were it’s strong suite. Able to travel on or off road it had a top speed of 45 MPH but was a handful to drive. There are a number of pictures where the entire rig is upside down in a ditch, the “A” unit driver wasn’t in sync with the “B” unit driver. Replaced by the Corporal Missile in the late 1950’s, Atomic Annie was held as a front line unit until 1962, when they were shipped back to the United States.
I remember seeing this kit as a youngster in a hobby shop window. Renwal’s art department did a great job rendering the image of a awesome looking cannon with a mushroom cloud in the background, it surely got my attention. But the kit was huge and too complex for a 8 year old and my dad opted for a model of Revell’s 155 “Long Tom”cannon as a replacement. Plus the purchase price for the “Annie” was $7.95, a kingly sum of money for a model in 1960.
When Revell re-issued this model a few years back, I snapped one up right away, I’d build the big cannon after all. Unfortunately, the kit is a product of 1950’s model technology. Compared to today’s plastic offerings, the atomic cannon kit was an un assembled toy. The plastic is thick, poor detail (no instrument gauges or dash board) and basic stuff like cab windows were not included. The more I studied the kit the more I realized it was meant to be played with in one’s backyard with green army men doing battle. But I like a challenge so I purchased a book on the atomic cannon with plenty of photos to reference. Plus the internet is a treasure trove of photos and drawings to aid the model builder.
The model is actually three kits in one, two prime movers and the gun itself. I decided early on to build it as a diorama, trying to move three separate models (without breaking them) would be lessened if it were mounted on a board. I won’t discuss all the improvements I made but the biggest up grade was building the gun barrel from brass tube (even put the rifling in the muzzle) . Other improvements can be seen in white plastic, brass, and MV lenses, I can tell you that a LOT more improvements can be made to this kit, I just made the ones that I thought would add to it’s “eye appeal”. I corresponded with a former soldier stationed in West Germany and he informed me these units were kept in a pristine appearance. When returned to base from field maneuvers the entire unit was scrubbed and polished, hence my weathering is kept to a minimum.
The diorama part was fun, and would tell a story. An indignant local with his blue VW “bug” was getting the business from a GI, so his dog “watered down” the tire on the forward tractor, payback! The figures that come with the kit are faceless blobs so I elected to purchase a number of US army types and 1950’s period weapons. I wanted a group of GI’s with the “Foreign Legion” hats but they are not offered by any company. So I have a mixture of Korean war, WWII and Vietnam soldiers and had to make a few flat top hats to give the diorama the feel of the 1950’s. I scratch built the generator trailer that was used to provide electrical power to the gun and the sand anchors to keep the base plate from moving during an actual shoot. The trees were put together from twigs from a Japanese Maple tree from my backyard and greenery from my scrape foliage box. If you look close there are birds in the trees and a rabbit in the brush. Speaking of trees, I didn’t want to line both sides with trees as to block the view of the gun. Oh yeah, each gun crew named its cannon with a nick name, some of them were cartoon characters. I printed Beetle Bailey on my computer but all the colors came off when I affixed it to the gun carriage. So I hand painted the image, the first time I messed up a home made decal. Cheers!
23 additional images. Click to enlarge.