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German 88mm Anti-aircraft, Artillery Gun

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German 88 in Belgium

88mm Gun (eighty-eight)

The 88 mm gun was used by the Germans as an anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and artillery gun during World War II. The IWM photo on the left shows the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division moving past a damaged eighty-eight in Belgium, September 1944.

This stand-alone artillery piece usually had a large cruciform mount when used as an anti-aircraft gun, allowing the eighty-eight to be fired in any direction. The cruciform mount is partially visible in the photo above, ri. Other types of artillery pieces typically had V-shaped bases which allowed them to fire in the forward direction only. Later in WWII, the 88s were also mounted on the Panzer IV tank chassis to create mobile artillery.

Illustration of cruciform mount and wheels for 88mm gun

Wheels were available for the cruciform mount when moving the gun. The front and back legs of the cruciform would be attached to these wheels so that it could be towed like a trailer. The side legs could be folded up while traveling.

The 88 was unusual in that it could also be fired from the wheel mount in an emergency. The side legs could be lowered to the ground for stabilization if it were necessary to fire while the gun was still on the wheels.

The illustration to the right shows the 88mm gun with cruciform mount both on and off the wheels. In the top portion of the illustration, the cruciform mount is attached to the wheels with the nearer of the side legs in the down position and the farther leg is folded up. Also note the shield that was added to the later model 88s to provide a minimal amount of protection from small arms fire. In most cases, the wheels would have been removed when the gun reached its destination, as shown in the lower part of the illustration.

A muzzle break could be fitted on the end of the 88mm gun barrel as shown in the U.S. Army photo to the right. Muzzle brakes were used to help counteract the gun's recoil by redirecting the blast to the sides and also to help prevent the muzzle from rising during firing.

Captured German 88mm anti-aircraft, anti-tank gun.

The U.S. Army photo on the left shows a captured German 88 being towed by what appears to be an U.S. M-4 high speed tractor.

Although the 88mm gun was not the largest or most powerful of the German guns, it was more mobile, had a more rapid rate of fire, could be accurately aimed, and there were no Allied tanks that could withstand a direct hit from its shell. The larger German artillery pieces such the railroad siege gun required considerable set up time in preparation to fire and it was necessary to build a special emplacement or it.


The 88 came to be feared by the Allied forces after suffering unacceptably high lessees such as happened during Operation Battleaxe. During the operation (in Egypt near the border of Libya), the Germans used 88mm guns as tank weapons against the British at Halfaya Pass.

Due in large part to the effectiveness of the German 88mm gun, "Operation Battleaxe cost the British about 90 tanks...almost 1,000 men and the chance to restore morale through a desert victory," Richard Collier, The War in the Desert, (pg71). These German guns were produced in large numbers. Over 18,000 (including all variants) were built during World War II.