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SOLD! $13,000! Cold War US Davy Crockett W54 Nuclear Warhead

This inert training warhead is the W54 tactical nuclear warhead that is a bazooka/rifle grenade type projectile. It could be fired with a three-man team from a recoilless rifle on a tripod or jeep mounted. It has a range of range between 1,000 and 13,000 feet. The megaton yield was 01-. 02 kilotons of TNT or 10 to 20 tons. This "Dummy" marked is 30" long with a 12" diameter and weighs 75 LB.


The Davy Crockett and the W54 nuclear warhead together were a remarkable weapon system deployed during the Cold War.

The Davy Crockett Weapon System:

  • The M28/M29 Davy Crockett Weapon System was a tactical nuclear recoilless smoothbore gun designed by the United States during the Cold War.

  • It fired the M388 nuclear projectile, which was armed with the W54 nuclear warhead.

  • The Davy Crockett was the first project assigned to the United States Army Weapon Command in Rock Island, Illinois.

  • Remarkably, it remains one of the smallest nuclear weapon systems ever built, with a yield equivalent to 20 tonnes of TNT (84 GJ).

The W54 Warhead:

  • The W54 warhead used on the Davy Crockett weighed just 51 pounds.

  • It was the smallest and lightest fission bomb (implosion type) ever deployed by the United States.

  • The explosive yield of the W54 warhead varied between 0.01 and 0.02 kilotons (equivalent to approximately 10 to 20 tons of TNT).

  • To put it in perspective, this yield was two to four times as powerful as the ammonium nitrate bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Deployment and Operation:

  • Starting in 1961, the Army fielded Davy Crockett weapons systems to infantry units in locations such as West Germany, Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa, and South Korea.

  • The Davy Crockett was operated by a three-person crew and could be mounted on a jeep.

  • The light M28 120mm recoilless rifle had a range of 1.25 miles, while the heavy M29 155mm rifle could lob the nuclear projectile up to 2.5 miles away.

Controversies and Flaws:

  • While the Army never officially stated that the Davy Crockett would likely render the crew a fatal dose of radiation, it was known that there was a significant chance of exposure unless the crew was well shielded.

  • The concept of fighting on a nuclear battlefield was inherently flawed, as using tactical nuclear weapons like the Davy Crockett would likely escalate the conflict into a full-scale nuclear war.

  • The Davy Crockett was designed to take out enemy tanks, but its deployment raised ethical and strategic concerns.

Legacy:

  • The Davy Crockett serves as a reminder of the heightened tensions and technological brinkmanship during the Cold War.

  • Its small size and powerful yield underscore the complexities of nuclear warfare.

The Davy Crockett remains a fascinating chapter in military history, blending innovation, risk, and the delicate balance of deterrence.


The US Davy Crockett W54 Nuclear Warhead was named after Davy Crockett, the famous American folk hero, frontiersman, and politician, for several possible reasons:

  • Symbol of American Grit: Davy Crockett was known for his courage, resourcefulness, and fighting spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. The developers of the weapon may have seen these qualities as reflecting the intended use of the Davy Crockett in stopping a Soviet invasion.

  • Portability and Maneuverability: Just like the historical Davy Crockett, the weapon system was designed to be portable and maneuverable, unlike larger, fixed nuclear weapons. This association might have contributed to the chosen name.

  • Psychological Impact: Using a well-known American hero's name could have been seen as a way to boost morale and deter aggression. The name might have instilled a sense of familiarity and confidence in US troops, while also sending a clear message to adversaries about the country's resolve.

It's important to note that the naming choice was controversial at the time, as some saw it as inappropriate to associate a weapon of mass destruction with a beloved historical figure. However, the name ultimately stuck and remains a reminder of a unique and unsettling period in history.


This unique item sold for almost $13,000 during the Geibel Ordnance Auction, on March 16, 2024.



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