The W54 is the smallest nuclear warhead that the US ever produced. It was positively TINY, weighing only 51 pounds. It was less than 30 inches long and 11 inches in diameter (those being the size of the warhead inside a M-29 casing). It was used in some of the most stylish nuclear weapons of the cold war, and has gone on to inspire a lot of portable-nuke fiction, including (but not limited to!) united states suitcase nuke paranoia. It had a variable yield that could be dialed up on the spot, from .01 kilotons (10 tons) to 10 kilotons.

This is a picture of some sharp dressed gentlemen fondling the W54.




In the late '50s the US Government built the W54 into a recoilless rifle shell for the 155mm recoilless rifle, calling the entire tripod-mounted assembly the M29 Davy Crockett. It could lob its mini-nuke warheads 2.5 miles, where they proceeded to do sub-standard, sub-kiloton damage. It was supposed to take out an entire tank battlegroup, and without cold war tank overpressure, melting, and NBC statistics, we have no idea how that would've come out. It's also clearly the inspiration for the mini-nuke launcher in Fallout 3, and was portrayed directly in Hideo Kojima's cold war documentary, Metal Gear Solid 3.





This is a totally not suggestive infographic of some strong soldiers loading the Davy Crockett.


While unfortunate, this graphic is the most informative, concise piece of work we've found. It contains excerpts from FM 23-30, which means that whoever made it did some super hardcore research. We were pretty sure that it came from the 33rd Armored website, but we can't find it up anywhere. It may have been taken down for being POP SECRET or something.


The geniuses in charge of awesome-named atomic projects (such as the delicious Operation Nougat) went on to make a less-customized form of the W54 into a backpack nuke called the Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM). The US thought that it would be used by paradropping commandos on key pieces of infrastructure in the USSR, whereupon these commandos would swim out to waiting submarines to avoid the blast (or more likely, get caught in the blast, as any submarine close enough to receive troops could have deployed them just as easily). Though the physics package from the W54 weighed only 51 pounds, this munition weighed 163 pounds, for reasons we don't have access to. Here are some photos of what people on the internet think it could've looked like.








FM 23-30 is the US Army Field Manual for the operation and care of the Davy Crockett, and we'd kill to get a copy. If you have one, e-mail us.


There are also citations for FM 9-11: Operation and Employment of the Davy Crockett Battlefield Missile, XM-28/29 (June 1963). If that's real, we'll take what we can get.

They also put the W54 into a dumbfire anti-air missile, and a small air-to-ground missile. Nobody cared, not even us.