The versatile 88mm cannon was Germany’s main heavy antiaircraft—or “flak”—gun during World War II. When an 88mm projectile exploded at altitude, it sent out jagged metal fragments that tore through nearby aircraft. It also left a characteristic black cloud hanging in the sky.
The 88mm cannon’s high-velocity fire also made it a deadly antitank gun, and it could be used as conventional artillery against distant ground targets. Other versions equipped heavy tanks and submarines.
The Museum’s 88mm cannon is painted as a typical weapon used in Europe during the strategic bombing campaign. The rings around the barrel represent aircraft shot down by the gun crew.
Chart showing the ranges of German antiaircraft weapons. USAAF heavy bombers flew at the limits of the 88 mm cannon’s effective ceiling.
The occasional direct flak hit caused devastating damage. Amazingly, five of the ten crewmembers on this B-17 bailed out before it fell out of control.
“Flak so thick you could get out and walk on it” was a common phrase to describe heavy antiaircraft fire. Each black cloud was caused by an exploding flak projectile.
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