On the evening of March 22, 1990, Dr. Gerald Bull got out of a car in Brussels, Belgium and headed back to his apartment.
Born in Ontario, Canada, Bull had, as a child, endured a series of unfortunate events that saw his parents’ fortune wiped out by the Great Depression, the death of his mother and his aunt, and the inability of his father to properly care for the children.
But Gerald Bull was an overcomer with a great mind, so much so that he received his Ph.D. at just 23 years of age. He had developed a keen interest in aerodynamics, which got him hired by a Canadian-British consortium doing work in ballistics and artillery. It soon became apparent that the somewhat unique goal of creating a gun that could launch artillery shells and ultimately satellites into orbit was his passion.
As Bull rode the elevator, he may have thought back on the long road that brought him here.
In the age of rapidly advancing rocketry, there wasn’t a great need for “space-capable” artillery, and funding was scarce. So Bull took his knowledge and applied it directly to improving artillery pieces. In particular, his work with 155mm howitzers created some of the longest-range, most accurate guns ever fired. Unguided shells could travel well over 30 miles and land within 30′ of their targets.
Eventually moving to Belgium in the early 1980’s, his prowess with guns landed him continued work with South Africa (which had already purchased his designs and used them to great effect against Angola in the 70’s). It also gained him employment from China and…Iraq. Bull had never lost his dream of creating a “supergun” (a gun to launch satellites into orbit), and in Saddam Hussein he found the perfect combination of interest and money. By convincing Hussein that “real” world powers had space programs, and showing designs of an immense gun more than 450′ in length (Hussein loved all things oversized, outlandish or no), the Iraqi leader was sold.
Of course, Saddam Hussein had other ideas for the gun (called Project Babylon), like firing conventional and chemical weapons at his enemies, particularly Israel. But the gun’s immense size meant it was immoble, and the Israeli government, kept well-informed of the project by its spies, was content to let the gun be built, knowing it could be targeted and destroyed rapidly.
Things took a different turn when Saddam Hussein pulled Bull aside and asked if, oh-by-the-way, he could help them with their Scud missile program as part of a quid-pro-quo for the supergun funding. Working on improved missile nosecone designs represented a far greater, far grimmer threat than a giant fixed artillery piece, but Gerald Bull, finally able to build his dream, ignored warnings sent to him about the missile work and dove right in.
Gerald Bull got out of the elevator and walked toward his apartment. From the shadows another shadow stepped, holding a silenced pistol. Three shots were fired into the back of Gerald Bull and, after he fell, two more into his head for good measure. Gerald Bull was dead.
No arrests were ever made in Bull’s assassination. Speculation runs wild as to who killed the father of the supergun. Was it the Israelis, the ultimate target of the Scuds? Was it the Americans, just months from watching Hussein overrun Kuwait? Was it the Iranians, still angry over the bitter struggle with Iraq in the 80’s? Or was it Iraq itself, on orders from a fanatical President Hussein, scared of secrets being leaked?
We’ll probably never know for sure.
Recommended Reading: Arms and the Man: Dr. Gerald Bull, Iraq and the Supergun – Lowther’s book is completely fascinating. If you can find a copy, grab it. Otherwise, do an Internet search. Conspiracy loves a theory, and plenty exist, many with very informative detail.