Sunday, 31 May 2015

Kubinka, 1941

Many armour enthusiasts are aware of the tank museum at Kubinka, a former proving grounds and home to some of the world's rarest exhibits. Naturally, as a valuable military asset, it was fiercely defended. Here is a plan of fortifications from October of 1941.

Unfortunately, the map does not show the site of the tank museum itself, it would be positioned just to the right off the edge of the map.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

German Intel: Polish Tanks

Unlike the Red Army, which got sketches and dry statistics, the Polish get photographs of their vehicles and even a bit of a text blurb, even if they are mostly laconic.

Carden-Loyd type tankette (TK)

"Polish: czolg rozpoznawczy = reconnaissance tank.
Most tank battalions are composed of this tank. They are to be replaced with the improved TKS or TKF models.
Produced in Poland at: state Engineering Works."

TK (F or S) (improved Carden-Loyd TK3)

"Made in Poland. 
The most common small tank in Poland."

Light Renault tank mod. 1918 FT

"This tank is only present in a few battalions and only used for training purposes."

Renault NC27

"Improved light tanks used in Poland, could be replaced with Vickers-Armstrongs."

Vickers Armstrong's 6 ton tank type A

"License-built Polish tank built with modifications based on the English tank described in Heigl's book. This model was allegedly not kept, and the type B (single turret) is preferred."

Vickers Armstrong's 6 ton tank type B
"Polish license-built."

TP 7

"This tank is similar to the Vickers Armstrong type B, but has an improved turret."

Citroen armoured car, Kegresse mod. 1927

"This model is obsolete and will be used up by the troops."

Peugeot armoured car

"French armoured car, obsolete but still down in parades."

"Ursus" armoured car

"Produced in Poland"

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Odd Recognition

Tank identification posters are nothing new. Every army needed some kind of quick guide to let their troops figure out what kind of tank they saw. Here is one such poster.

Seems good at a glance, right? Well, aside from the fact that soldiers were unlikely to see a T1 Heavy tank in combat and by the time this poster was circulated, odds are that there were no T-35s left at all. The Nb.Fz. (here labelled as PzKw V) was also probably not something that soldiers would have to worry about.

What is most interesting to me is that while the authors managed to identify the KV-1 correctly (it was very often called simply KV, due to the tiny amount of any other kind of KV tank), they seem to have had trouble with the KV-2, as it is simply labelled "T". 

Monday, 25 May 2015


Most people only have a very vague idea of what commissars actually did in the Red Army. People that have watched too many Hollywood movies might tell you that they yelled a lot and shot people. As expected, this has little connection with reality. Here's what a commissar's job was, from CAMD RF 236-2673-2714:

"Party-Political Work in the Berlin and Prague Operations

Preparation for the Berlin operation: In the first half of April, the attention of political, party, and Komsomol organizations was directed at preparing units for completion of combat tasks in the shortest possible time. With this in mind, meetings were held of corps and brigade level political chiefs, as well as their deputies, as well as seminars for party commission secretaries, activists, and Komsomol organziation workers. In turn, meetings were called for battalion and division party and Komsomol chiefs and their assistants.

Meetings and seminars were chiefly aimed at sharing experience in party-political work in a combat environment, and preparing political workers for the coming final battles. The seminars contained the following lectures:
  • International position of the Soviet Union
  • Ethical image of the Soviet soldier
  • Raising revolutionary awareness
  • Germany (historical and economical overview)
  • etc.
At the same time, units held party and Komsomol meetings with the topic of "Political-ethical condition of the personnel and tasks for Communists in the upcoming final battles". The army political department considered it paramount that the personnel are prepared politically and order and discipline are maintained.

For instance, in the 61st Guards Tank Brigade, during training exercises, political workers discussed their experiences in the previous battles. Exchange of experience by the best gunners was established, and this experienced was passed on to newly arrived tankers.

Party and Komsomol members covered the shooting range with banners and slogans, the progress of the exercise was summarized in unit newspapers. Requirements for shooting were displayed, results were recorded. Thanks to these efforts, training went smoothly and gave positive effects. In the second battalion, from 11 tank crews, 7 received a score of "Excellent", 3 received "Good" and only one "Satisfactory". 

The political department paid close attention to preparing the personnel of the 20th MIBr, as the unit was to cross several water hazards in the upcoming offensive. The Military Council of the Army tasked the Brigade with swift and refined execution of all work when crossing rivers and making passages through minefields. The issue of ensuring this success was raised at party and Komsomol meetings. Talks were held with personnel on the topic of "The role of the sapper and pontoneer in the downfall of Hitler's Germany". Special issues of unit newspapers were dedicated to this.

During training exercises at the Oder river, party and Komsomol organizations routinely tallied up results and announced soldiers and officers that excelled at their tasks. Communists and Komsomol members served as an example for soldiers and officers that carried out their assigned tasks. For instance, the company of Senior Lieutenant Ovsyannikov, VKP(b) member, built a pier in 3 hours, a task that is scheduled to take 5 hours and 30 minutes. The company of Senior Lieutenant Rogov, VKP(b) candidate, completed this task in 4 hours.

Political, party, and Komsomol organizations strived to maximally use pre-combat days to hold political events. Good initiative was displayed by political workers of the 2nd battalion of the 63rd Guards Tank Brigade. A house was dedicated to political work for the period in which training took place. Each of the three rooms was cleaned up and tidied. There were always available issues of Pravda, Red Star, Krasnoarmeyets, Frontline Illustrations, and others. There were also checkers, dominoes, paper, envelopes, pencils, etc. The walls were decorated with specially selected materials. In the foreground there was reference material regarding order #5 issued by the Supreme Commander, comrade Stalin. Another board had the plan for political work and a SovInformBureau news bulletin, then posters "This is what will happen to fascist beasts" and "I await you, liberator". Another board displayed the combat report of Guards Major Chirkov's unit. It showed off the best soldiers of the battalion, the combat scores of tankers, counting destroyed and captured enemy vehicles. 

Next to the combat record of the battalion, several issues of the Guardsman newspaper were posted, as well as company newspapers. The main spot was reserved for a map of Europe, with red and blue flags marking the progress of the Red Army and our allies. Tankers spent their free time here, and also this is where various talks and seminars were held.

Before combat started, widespread propaganda work was held. All units were read a set of lectures on the following topics:
  • International position of the Soviet Union
  • Ethical image of the Soviet officer
  • Bolshevist awareness is the key to victory
  • Germany (historical and economical overview)
  • etc
The personnel regularly attended talks on the progress of the Red Army and its allies. The political map of the world was frequently demonstrated at those meetings. Activists instructed their subordinate activists about upcoming work that they would be performing. The most well received talk was on the topic of "Let us fly the banner of victory over Berlin".

By the start of the Berlin operation, the army forces were well instructed in the spirit of Supreme Commander comrade Stalin's Order #5: fly the banner of victory over Berlin. 

Party and Komsomol organizations counted 9087 VKP(b) members, 4995 VKP(b) candidates, and 11194 Komsomol members, 60% of the army personnel in total. Communists and Komsomol members were ready to lead the charge in these final battles to defeat the Germano-fascist armies."

There's more, of course, in this same very verbose tone. Individual heroisms are described, calls to join the party are issued, it's really quite tedious. The exercises held before the Prague operation are largely the same.

"Prague operation: The three-day pause between the Berlin and Prague operations were filled with political work to prepare the personnel for another offensive and execution of a most important government campaign, the Fourth State War Loan. Having received the directions of the Front Political Department, the Army Political Department developed a plan for a loan campaign among its army units.

In accordance with this plan, a meeting of political department chiefs and their deputies was held, with the topic of "Tasks for political workers, party, and Komsomol workers in preparation for the Fourth State War Loan.""

There were also lectures that did not have to do with loans.

"According to the Army Political Department, meetings were held on the following topics:
  • Tasks of political, party, and Komsomol organizations in the Prague operation
  • On the behaviour of soldiers and officers on the territory of allied Czechoslovakia"
And for the rank and file soldiers, more meetings:

"Communists and Komsomol members conducted talks on the following topics:
  • Let's help the Czechoslovakian people free themselves from German fascism
  • Raise Bolshevik awareness
  • Rapists and marauders are the enemies of the Red Army
On May 8th, before entering Prague, the personnel of the brigade were gathered for a meeting, and the brigade commander and political chief made speeches. In their speeches, they clarified the tasks for the soldiers, and outlined proper rules for behaviour. 

The brigade entered Prague in an organized fashion. The front tank displayed the brigade banner. Tanks and cars moved in a strictly ordered manner. There were no recorded instances of poor discipline and amoral behaviour. "

Sadly I could not find the contents of this lecture on the behaviour in Czechoslovakia, but I did find a similar one for Bulgaria.

"Memo for the Red Army warrior in Bulgaria

Comrade fighter, sergeant, and officer!

More than three years of battle with the German invaders and glorious heroism are behind you. You walked from the Volga to the Balkans, bringing freedom to tens of millions of people and death to fascist occupants.

The name of the Red Army is honoured! The Bulgarian Slavic people meet you with great joy, a brotherly people by language and blood.

This is the second time in history that our Motherland frees the Bulgarians from foreign occupation. 500 years ago, the Bulgarians suffered under the Turkish yoke, and received long-awaited freedom from Russia's hands. In 1877, Russian soldiers earned Bulgarian freedom with their blood. Each Bulgarian knows of the heroism of Russian bogatyrs during the siege of Plevna, heroic battles in the snows and mountains of Shipka, the glorious battle at Sheynovo. Brave groups of Bulgarian militia fighting alongside the famous Orlov division received an honourable banner from the people of Samara (today Kuybishev). The Samara banner is held sacred by the Bulgarians. In Plevna, a mausoleum was built in memory of Russian warriors who fell in defense of Bulgarian freedom. A monument to the glory of Russian weapons towers over Shipka.

Tight bonds of many years of friendship tie the Bulgarian people with its older brother, the great Russian people. The greatest hopes of Bulgaria were always tied to their hope for Russia. A deep gratitude towards Russia exists in the heart of every Bulgarian. Every Bulgarian knows the names of our great writers: Tolstoy, Turgenev, Chernyshevskiy, Gorkiy, and the names Lenin and Stalin are near and dear to many.

You, glorious warrior of the Red Army, descendant of the heroes of Plevna and Shipka, harden the love and gratitude of the Bulgarian people towards the Russian people and the great Soviet Motherland with your defeat of the Germano-fascist armies and liberation of Bulgaria from German oppression.

For 30 years the Germans tried to turn Bulgaria into their stronghold in the Balkans. They tried to turn the Bulgarians on the USSR. The old Bulgarian government sold out to the Germans, let the Germano-fascist armies into Bulgaria, and, against the will of the Bulgarian people, declared war on the USSR. Crushing the Germans, the Red Army crossed Bulgarian borders on September 8th and helped the Bulgarian people cast off the government clique on the same day. German power in Bulgaria ended forever. Bulgaria burned their bridges with Germany and declared war. Now, Bulgarian forces fight on the Bulgarian-Yugoslav border shoulder to shoulder with Red Army units. This joint struggle against the eternal enemy will further strengthen the many years of friendship between Bulgaria and the peoples of the Soviet Union.

Soviet warrior!

The name of the Soviet Union and the name of Russia is sacred, for Bulgarians and for all people. The title of Red Army warrior is a prestigious one. You are surrounded by love and respect as a liberator.

Carry the respected title of Soviet warrior high!
Remember that among millions of friends, enemies lie in wait, which will use every mistake and every misdemeanour to harm the Motherland, the Red Army, and you.

Keep military secrets safe! Be disciplined, cultural, and well groomed!

Ruthlessly combat those that shame the Red Army with their behaviour! The enemy will attempt to persuade you to take action that will shame the Red Army. They will tempt you with drunkenness, debauchery, insult to the honour of women and families, violation of personal property. They will try to cause a fight between you and the population, cause disrespect and unhappiness.

Be alert and relentlessly reveal German agents, no matter their disguise. Be relentless in your fight against robbers, marauders, rapists, and criminals that shame the honour of the Red Army warrior and in that help the Germans.

Be alert, always and everywhere.

Protect the love and respect of the people that you brought freedom for, respect their customs, laws, and families.

Always remember that we did not come to Bulgaria to force our laws on Bulgaria, but to chase out the Germans and their agents.

Offer assistance to the Bulgarian population and soldiers and officers of the Bulgarian army in anything that aids our struggle against the common enemy: Germano-fascist invaders.

Tirelessly perfect your combat skill and prepare for new battles in order to finish off the German invaders.

Warrior of the Red Army! New heroisms and the final defeat of the German fascists lie ahead! Carry the banner of our Motherland high beyond its borders!

Let the memory of the Red Army forever remain in the hearts of millions of people wherever the Red Army walks, a deep feeling of gratitude, love, and respect for you, comrade soldier, sergeant, and officer!

Political directorate of the 3rd Ukrainian Front"

Saturday, 23 May 2015

German Intel: Red Army Tanks

Naturally, before you invade a country, you need to be aware of what their army is like. This is a German intelligence bulletin listing the tanks that were known to be in the Red Army. Black rectangles mark especially vulnerable areas.

"BA Ford" armoured car

This is a BA-10 armoured car. The German document correctly identifies it as being armed with one 45 mm gun and two machineguns, although the hull MG is very much overexaggerated in the drawing. The armour is also listed correctly (6-10 mm). The speed is a little low (50 kph instead of 52). The mass is listed as 5-7 tons, which is also a bit high (actual mass was 5.1 tons). The vehicle is shown to be vulnerable to armour piercing bullets at 250 meters and 20 mm shells at 700 meters.

Amphibious Tank T-37

The T-37 is correctly named, but its armour is overestimated (10 mm instead of 8) and so is the speed (45 kph instead of 40), but the rest seems about right. The vulnerability of the vehicle is the same as the BA-10.

Amphibious tank T-38

The data on the T-38 is largely the same as on the T-37, except it's 100 kg lighter (it was actually heavier, at 3.3 tons). The armour is still listed as 10 mm, even though it's still thinner (9 mm). Vulnerability is, naturally, the same.

Vickers-Armstrong's T-26A tank

This is the two-turreted T-26 mod. 1931 or 1932. The document can't decide, ascribing the tank an armament of one 37 mm gun and two machineguns, whereas in reality tanks with two turrets had either two machineguns or one 37 mm gun and one machinegun. The armour is listed as 14 mm, which is in between the mod. 1931's 13 mm and mod. 1932's 15 mm. The mass (8.55 tons) is more than either of the modifications (8 and 8.4 tons respectively). This tank is listed as invulnerable to armour piercing bullets, but still vulnerable to 20 mm shells at a range of 550 meters.

Vickers-Armstrong's T-26B Tank

This is the most common T-26, T-26 mod. 1933. Armour is too thin (14 mm instead of 15 mm) and mass is a bit high (9.55 tons instead of 9.4). Vulnerability is the same as the above tank.

Vickers-Armstrong's T-26B Flamethrower Tank

This is a KhT-130 chemical tank, the Red Army's most common flamethrower tank on the T-26 chassis. Data is the same as on the "T-26B".

Vickers-Armstrong's T-26C Tank

This is the last model of the T-26, T-26 mod. 1939. The mass is too low again (9.7 tons instead of 10.25), armour is still too thin at 14 mm. The armament is identified correctly. The vulnerability of the tank is the same as above.

BT (Christie tank)

Despite the Germans being aware that there are different kinds of BT tank, they are all rolled into the one BT entry. The mass is listed as 10.5 tons to 12 tons, and is a little off again, as the BT-2 weighed in at 11 tons and the BT-7 went up to 13.9 tons. Armour is listed as 6-16 mm; too thin for the BT-7, which went up to 22 mm. Armament is listed for all BT models, including the BT-7 with a 76 mm gun. The vehicle is vulnerable to 20 mm shells at 400 meters. 

T-28 Medium Tank

Here we have the classic T-28 with a KT-28 gun. Unlike with the T-26, there is only one T-28 model listed in the guide. The mass is a bit too high (28 tons vs. 25). Vulnerability is listed as 300 meters with the 20 mm gun, 700 meters with the Czech 37 mm gun, 450 meters with the German 37 mm gun, 1400 meters with the 50 mm tank gun, and 1500 meters with the 50 mm AT gun. The side is vulnerable at 500 meters to the 20 mm gun and at any range to any other gun.

T-35A Heavy Tank

The drawing might not look like it, but yes, this is the T-35. Armament is identified correctly, even though the drawing seems to be missing three turrets. Vulnerability is the same as in for the T-28.

T-35C Heavy Tank

The SMK (the only new Soviet tank the Germans seemed to be aware of) has been rolled into the T-35 family, which is not too absurd if you don't have very good intel. The drawing is of the early SMK with the T-35 suspension, but the tank already lost its third turret. This information is likely based on the SMK that was bogged down in Finland, as there was not much opportunity to examine the other two prototype heavy tanks.

The vulnerability of the tank is not too shabby either: impervious to bullets or 20 mm shells, vulnerable to 37 mm guns at 100 meters, and to 50 mm guns at 450 meters. The Germans bust out the heavy artillery here, noting that the tank is vulnerable at 500 meters to the 105 mm mod. 1918 cannon firing mod. 1939 shells.

And that's it, no T-34, no KV-1 or KV-2. Those tanks were indeed surprises for the German intelligence.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Invisible Tanks

Players of World of Tanks often complain about tank destroyers that can appear from seemingly nowhere and deal enormous damage without being seen, but this is definitely something that has its roots in reality.

"Award Order
  1. Name: Prokhorov, Nikolai Fedorovich
  2. Rank: Junior Lieutenant
  3. Position and unit: SU-85 commander, 1438th Znamensk, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov SPG Regiment
    Is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1925
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member since 1944 #6963369
  7. Participation in the civil war and subsequent action in defense of the USSR (where, when): 2nd Ukrainian Front since November of 1943
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Great Patriotic War: none
  9. In the Red Army since: 1943
  10. Recruited by: Ekaterinovsk recruitment office, Saratov oblast
  11. Previous awards: Order of the Patriotic War 2nd Class, Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class
Brief and specific description of heroism or achievement: Displayed courage and heroism in battles for the Soviet Motherland. On August 24th, in the Hushi region, comrade Prokhorov attacked a German column and destroyed 5 guns of various calibers, 11 cars, and 17 carts with men and military cargo, 2 tractors with trailers and 50 soldiers and officers. On September 16th, near Kiralhedvesh, comrade Prokhorov allowed an enemy counterattack of 4 tanks and infantry to approach within 40 meters and destroyed 3 enemy tanks at point blank range and crushed 30 enemy soldiers with his tracks. With this heroic feat, comrade Prokhorov allowed his corps to achieve their objective.

He is worthy of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

Commander of the 1438th Znamensk, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov SPG Regiment, Major Derbenev."

CAMD RF 33-793756-39

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Flexible Tracks

For a very long time, the concept of a tank track remained the same. One wheel in the front, one wheel in the back, some road wheels and maybe return rollers in between. However, A.N. Yermolovich was creative enough to challenge that notion in 1931, obtaining a patent for it.

"Class 72g, 4

An Authorship Certificate for an Invention

Description of a collapsible single seat tracked tank, attached to the authorship certificate for A.N. Yermolovich, submitted on June 15th, 1931 (inquiry #90258). The issuing of the authorship certificate was announced on September 30th, 1933.

The proposed one-seat tank has a mobile weight that moves the rear half of the tank up and down in order to achieve the ability to bend itself along the central joint, which will assist in movement on cross-country terrain.

The schematic in fig. 1 shows the tank from the side, fig. 2 shows it reversing over an obstacle, and fig. 3 shows a diagram of the mobile weight mechanism.

The proposed tank (figs. 1-3) is equipped with three wheels, with which it can move about off road. In order to bend about the central joint A (fig. 2), the tank is equipped with a sliding weight Д and a weight Б (fig. 3). The latter automatically raises or lowers the rear of the tank when on off-road terrain (fig. 2).

The tank is equipped with a rubberized cloth track E, and covered on the side by caps Ж. 3 machineguns and one gunner (also driver) are positioned in the front of the tank. The engine И, fuel tank K, and muffler L are placed in the rear of the tank."

The solution seems unconventional, and went unused for many decades, but it did find application in modern military robots.

Monday, 18 May 2015


While most games, video or otherwise, simplify a tank's resilience to penetrating hits with hit points, reality is a lot more complicated. While one-hit kills are definitely possible, it is not unknown for a tank to take several shots before it is completely incapable of fighting further, or even limp back home with many penetrations in its armour. Let's take a look at how well various tanks stood up to punishment, comparing the data gathered by the Allies in this document and data gathered by the Soviets.

First, shots discovered in knocked out tanks. Soviet information comes from NII-48 research that you've previously seen here. Since the Americans did not find any tanks with more than 8 hits, I will lump all T-34s that were hit more than 8 times into "9+".

Number of penetrations Tiger Panther PzIV M4 Sherman T-34

32% 80% 62% 26%
2 40% 27% 20% 27% 21%
3 20% 18%

5% 14%


2% 13%


6 20%



8 20%

2% 1%


The Soviets had a much greater sample size (145 T-34s vs only 5 Tigers, 22 Panthers, 5 PzIVs, and 40 Shermans), but it can still be seen that for any tank, a large amount is destroyed with only one or two hits. In fact, only the only tanks more than half of which survive two hits are the Tiger and T-34.

Tank Hits to knock out Penetrations to knock out
Tiger 4.2 2.6
Panther 2.55 1.9
PzIV 1.2 1.2
M4 Sherman 1.63 1.55
T-34 3.48 1.59

Compared to its medium equals, the PzIV is doing very poorly. It takes less hits or penetrations to knock out than either Allied medium tank. The Sherman and T-34 are pretty close in number of penetrations, falling behind the larger and heavier Germans, but the T-34 can take a lot more hits than the Sherman before it goes down, and even more than the Panther. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Russians through French Eyes

It appears that there were enough Soviets rooting around Berlin in 1946 that the French needed to make an identification book. Clearly the artist that was given the task had some fun with it. Let's start with a fairly ordinary one.

10 - Lieutenant Tanker

Indeed, that is a Senior Lieutenant, dressed rather reasonably. His rank and file subordinate is rather... different.

14 - Tanker

The uniform isn't completely wrong, but the facial expression and Akimbo style pistols makes it look like he just walked into the wrong saloon in the Wild West.

8 - Female Auxiliary

While the artist may have seen a Soviet tank crewman from a distance, he almost certainly has never seen a woman, as this is quite obviously Severus Snape from the Harry Potter movies in drag.

11 - Red Army Female Auxiliary

While the previous woman was at least clothed in a Red Army uniform, nothing except the caption implies that this is one is associated with the Red Army at all and is not, in fact, a 19th Century poet.

You can see the entire booklet here.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Close Combat

"Award Order
  1. Name: Sergeev, Mikhail Yegorovich
  2. Rank: Red Armyman
  3. Position, unit: 57 mm gun loader, 3rd Motorized Infantry Battalion, 44th Polotsk Motorized Infantry Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1924
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: none
  7. Participation in the Civil War or subsequent actions in defense of the USSR: participant in the Patriotic War since August 1944
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War; none
  9. In the Red Army since: April 1944
  10. Recruited by: Krivoy Rog recruitment office, Dnepropetrovks oblast
  11. Prior awards: none

Brief and specific description of heroism or achievements: On August 18th, 1944, the battalion received a task to stop a German offensive along the highway to Šiauliai, near Kosciuki. At dawn, the battalion moved out under the cover of machinegun and artillery fire. The 57 mm gun took up a position near the cemetery, north-west of Kosciuki, and supported the advance of the 8th infantry company with fire. The enemy, having discovered our forces moving to an important road, attacked with motorized infantry. The artillerymen destroyed upcoming vehicles at close range and scattered enemy infantry. Under the deadly fire of the brave artillerymen, the enemy retreated in panic, taking heavy losses in men and vehicles.

On August 19th, 1944, the enemy pulled up reserves and tanks and renewed their fierce attacks. 8th infantry company was attacked by up to 18 tanks and a battalion of infantry, aiming to reach the highway and hit the flank of the neighbouring battalion.

Red Armyman Sergeev, a loader, received an order from his commander to let the tanks come close and then fire, to ensure that not a single German tank could break through or return. Comrade Sergeev fulfilled his commander's order with distinction, replying "The order will be carried out, as long as any one of us lives, the fascist bastards will not pass." When tanks approached to 100-150 meters, the commander ordered "For the Motherland, for Stalin! Directly at the German tanks, fire!" Gunner Pisarenko knocked out 4 tanks, but he was wounded. He was replaced with breech operator Vydrenko, but he was blinded by an explosion. Then, comrade Sergeev took the gunner's position. Tanks were coming directly at the gun, but he did not falter, and knocked out a Panther tank at 50 meters. The Germans did not cease their attacks and kept coming. A direct hit from a Ferdinand knocked out the gun, but the heroic artillerymen did not leave their positions. As three tanks headed towards them, the commander yelled "Ready grenades!". The gun crew prepared their grenades and, with tanks were 15 meters away, yelling "you bastards won't get past us" pelted the tanks with grenades. An eighth tank with its crew met its end, the rest turned back. Segreev took out his submachinegun and shot up the Germans running in panic. The Germans, choking on fire and blood, rolled back, taking heavy losses in men and vehicles.

For his heroism, private Mikhail Yegorovich Sergeev is worthy of the highest reward of the Motherland: the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-43

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Tanks at Balaton

I've explored the issue of brittle German armour in many articles, but each one seems to get the same complaint: it's only an experiment, real life is not like this! Here are some photos from the battle at Lake Balaton (Operation Spring Awakening) that demonstrate very well how far German armour declined.

Despite hitting the Tiger's highly sloped transmission cover, this shell made a large breach in the tank's armour, destroying it.

Some people tell me that the Panther's wheels protected its thin side armour from low caliber guns, but that does not seem to be the case here. This Panther was hit through the wheel and then the side armour, knocking it out.

This Panther fell victim to a high caliber HE shell. The shell ricocheted off its upper front plate, but left a breach and cracks in the armour. The tank was abandoned by its crew.

A relatively routine penetration of the Panther's side armour, leading to significant amount of spalling.

This Jadgpanzer 38(t) fell victim to a 76 mm round, despite its highly angled 60 mm of armour around the gun mantlet. Interestingly enough, the armour was not as brittle here as it was on the Panther above. 

A gaping hole in the side of a Wirbelwind.

Another Panther with a huge hole in its side.

Many people complain that shooting at one tank during tests several times is unfair, but this is what a Panther caught in a Soviet ambush looks like. Several shots to the side resulted in a large portion of the armour caving in.

An explosion split this Panther's upper front plate all the way across.

This is a very interesting shot, as it managed to penetrate the gun, and then the gun mantlet behind it.

Another set of lucky shots to the turret that managed to knock off the gun.

Another Panther with an enormous crack across its front armour.

Another Panther that was caught in an ambush. Three shots to the turret seemed to not crack the armour that much, but the lower turret and upper hull shots resulted in a lot of spalling.

More effective shots to the turret. These one did not knock the gun off, but knocked out the tank anyway.

One or two shots to the side of the turret resulted in a huge breach forming.

Another Panther that was likely the victim of an ambush, and another one where the turret fares a lot better in terms of spalling then the hull.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Factory #183 Production Problems

"To Military Engineer 2nd Class, comrade Makarov

I report on the progress of completion of the production quota for February 1940 at factory #183 and the predictions on completing the quarterly quota in March of this year.

1. Department 100

The quota for January for A-7M vehicles was 38% complete. Instead of 105 vehicles agreed upon, 40 vehicles were made.

The cause was described in my report in January in detail. The problems discussed in the report have not been solved in February. The factory still receives insufficient metal and subcontracted parts. Additionally, not all design defects of the A-7M have been resolved. Currently, the support platform for the gear train is being redesigned. It needs to be raised by 40 mm. For correction of this defect, 40 tanks have been disassembled, and this part is being redone on all hulls. As a result, instead of completing the quota for February and covering the deficit for January, the quota for February will be 56% complete (60 vehicles instead of 105). The quota for January and February will be only 47.6% complete, instead of 210 vehicles, only 100 vehicles will be made.

In January and February, spare parts for A-5 and A-7 vehicles were produced according to the Committee of Defense decree 20s/s issued on January 8th, 1940. Before the end of February, 9 million rubles worth of spare parts will be ready for ABTU and repair factories.

In March, the factory plans on completing the quota for the first quarter completely, or produce 225 vehicles. Considering the supplies of hulls, turrets, V-2 engines, metal and subcontracted parts, and the capacity of production plants, the factory is only capable of producing 150 tanks in March, and 40 vehicles will be in the process of assembly on April 1st, 1940.

Under these conditions, no more than 3.5 million worth of spare parts will be produced in March. The figures of 150 completed vehicles, 40 vehicles in assembly, and 3.5 million worth of spare parts are achievable under the condition that no additional orders are given to the department.

2. Department 200

In February, the Voroshilovets tractor department will not finish a single tractor. In March, the department plans on completing the quarterly quota completely, or producing 75 tractors. 55 tractors can be considered a realistic number, of 75% completion.

Spare parts for KIN and Voroshilovets are being produced, and the quota will be fully met.

3. Department 500

The department is producing an initial batch of A-34 vehicles, repairing T-35s, and is producing spare parts for A-2, A-5, and A-7 vehicles, as well as working in cooperation with departments 100 and 200 to complete the quota.

In March, the department should assemble two A-34 tanks of the initial batch. Currently, a significant amount of parts has not started production, as blueprints are not ready. It can be assumed that no vehicles will be ready until April 10th.

The department was ordered to repair 3 T-35 vehicles in the first quarter of 1940. Only one will be repaired. Out of 170,000 rubles worth of spare parts for the T-35, only 35,000 worth will be produced. Quotas for production of A-2, A-5, and A-7 parts will be met.

4. Supplies of metal and subcontracted parts

The insufficient supplies are the root cause of failure to meet quota. I will give you some examples:
  1. Track strips, chromansil steel, 192x35x10, supplied by Kuybishev factory in Kramatorsk. We need 800 tons this quarter, we received only 80 tons.
  2. Chrome-nickel steel from Red October and Electrostal factories:
    1. KhN-4: 0-120 mm. Ordered: 195 tons, delivered: 5 tons
    2. KhN-4: 0-130 mm. Ordered: 70 tons, delivered: 0 tons
    3. 18KhNV: 0-90 mm. Ordered: 100 tons, delivered as of February 23rd, 1940: 17 tons
  3. Bazhma: required: 1.5 tons. Received: 0
  4. Tin: the factory, including the locomotive factory, needs 25 tons. Just for A-7M production, 4.5 tons is needed. So far we received 4.9 tons. There are no funds to receive more,
  5. 09-3 disks from HTZ. Required this quarter: 60 thousand. Received: 5390.
  6. Wheel disks from Hammer and Sickle. Required this quarter: 10700 units. Received: 597 units.
These factories lack the metals to complete quarterly quotas.

5. Measures taken by factory #183 and the Military Acceptance Apparatus
  1. Use of all factory metal reserves.
  2. Use of replacements without lowering the quality of production.
  3. Changes to the assembly process caused by not having parts at the appropriate times.
  4. Re-election at the factory party organization is done with the issue of meeting quarterly quotas as the main issue.
  5. Socialist competitions between individual departments, plants, brigades and machinery crews for completion of quarterly quotas were started.
I personally gathered the military representatives for a meeting as soon as I returned from Moscow where I was summoned to report to you, and communicated all requirements given to me and the military acceptance apparatus by ABTU command. The entire acceptance apparatus, including myself as a member of the factory party organization, fights to complete the quarterly quota. Additionally, I selected a group of comrades headed by Military Acceptance Assistant comrade Kiselev that are tasked with issues of supply and will assist the Supply and Control department with its work.

Senior ABTU Military Representative, Military Engineer 2nd Class, Kozyrev"

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Grenade Juggler

"Award Order
  1. Name: Sizintsev, Ivan Ignatyevich
  2. Rank: Guards Junior Lieutenant
  3. Position, unit: light SPG battery commander, 953rd Noviy Bug Red Banner Light SPG Regiment
  4. is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  5. Year of birth: 1912
  6. Nationality: Russian
  7. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member since August, 1942
  8. Participation in the civil war and subsequent actions in defense of the USSR: Stalingrad and Voronezh Fronts from November 19th, 1942 to February 2nd, 1943, 3rd Belorrussian Front from May 27th, 1944 to July 12th, 1944.
  9. Wounds or concussions in the Great Patriotic War: light wound on November 27th, 1942 at the Stalingrad front, light wound on February 2nd, 1943, Voronezh Front, heavy wound on July 7th, 1944, 3rd Belorussian Front. (ID series #BY000001 #150505)
  10. In the Red Army since: 1942
  11. Recruited by: Stupino recruitment office, Moscow oblast.
  12. Previous awards: "For Defense of Stalingrad" medal, in 1944
Brief and specific description of heroism or achievements: From July 22nd to 25th, during a penetration of enemy lines in the Vitebsk direction at the rivers of Sukhodrovka, Luchesa and Serokorotenka, comrade Sizintsev's battery of SU-76 SPGs was assigned to the 69th Infantry Regiment, 97th Infantry Division. With the task of crossing Luchesa as quickly as possible, comrade Sizintsev reached the Greater Kalinovichi region at the end of July 23rd, 1944. Having encountered strong enemy resistance, he retreated, flanked with his infantry across the 144th Infantry Division's sector, and then defeated the enemy garrison in Greater Kalinovich with the help of the 144th. Without stopping his pursuit of the enemy, he crossed Luchesa, captured the village of Rudaki, and held it until our infantry arrived. With no losses in men or vehicles, comrade Sizintsev's battery supported our infantry with fire and tracks, dealing great damage to the enemy between July 22nd and July 25th. 1 PzIII tank was destroyed, 5 75 mm guns, 27 machinegun nests, 3 pillboxes made with BT-7 turrets, 2 carts, 6 hourses, 4 cars, and up to 110 soldiers and officers of the enemy.

On July 11th, 12th, and 13th, comrade Sizintsev fought on the streets of Vilnius, supporting 3rd company, 69th Infantry Regiment, 97th Infantry Division. His battery received the order to destroy the enemy in a 0.5 km wide sector between the train station to the eastern bridge over Neris river. The surrounded enemies were resisting fiercely. Comrade Sizintsev had cleverness and daring to counter the enemy's ferocity. Here is how comrade Sizintsev's crews destroyed strongholds set up in basements where guns could not reach them: SPGs would drive up to the porthole at full speed and the crews would throw grenades into it. In an attempt to take advantage of the SU-76's open fighting compartment, the enemy would fire from upper floors and throw grenades in, but the crews could throw them out before they exploded. Comrade Sizintsev showed initiative by personally throwing out the first two grenades. Concealing his vehicles behind building corners and in alleyways, comrade Sizintsev managed this without any personnel losses. The SPGs continued to destroy the enemy, moving relentlessly along with the infantry, gradually clearing street after street of enemies: Algidra, Novgorodskaya, Pilim, Messin Lane, Rudnichki Lane, Nemetskaya, Vilniusskaya.

These battles had many harrowing moments. For instance, on the night of July 12th, the enemy surrounded the 3rd Company and comrade Sizintsev's battery in the Messin and Rudnichki lanes, cutting through their rear through Pilim street. The infantrymen panicked. It was necessary to act quickly and decisively. After careful reconnaissance, comrade Sizintsev burst out to Pilim street at full speed, and shot up two German guns at a range of 50 meters, at which point the whole battery came out onto the street. With their combined fire, the guns destroyed 10 cars, 2 tractors with ammunition and infantry, another 75 mm gun, and up to 80 Germans. Inspired by the SPGs' success, the infantry attacked the enemy and completely destroyed those who broke through. The situation was rectified and communications restored. In total, during fighting in the streets of Vilnius, comrade Sizintsev's battery destroyed the following with no losses of their own: 8 75 mm guns, 1 88 mm AA gun, 1 PzIII, over 40 machineguns, 16 cars, 3 tractors, and up to 440 soldiers and officers of the enemy. 246 Germans were taken prisoner in cooperation with 3rd Company.

On the morning of July 13th, the enemy ceased resistance, an the city was taken. Comrade Sizintsev was heavily wounded in the evening of July 12th, but continued to command the battle despite repeated orders from the commander of the 69th Infantry Regiment to evacuate to the rear.

For exemplary organization of infantry cooperation, daring and decisive action, skilled control of the battery, personal bravery and heroism demonstrated near Vitebsk and in Vilnius, comrade Sizintsev is worthy of the top government award: the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-43

Monday, 11 May 2015

Aw, Shucks

In a recent interview at Tank and AFV News, famous tank historian Steven Zaloga mentioned something that's been a bit of a hobby of mine:

"In spite of all the stuff that’s been written about the German side, the stuff that’s out there is not very good. A lot of what’s out there on Tiger tanks is very one sided. There are some very good Russian websites that are pointing out all the errors in those Tiger histories, you know German accounts will say “Oh Tiger regiment such and such went this Russian tank unit and destroyed 57 vehicles.” And then the Russians go and look at the unit histories from the Russian side and find that the incident either didn't occur at all or the German tank claims were grossly exaggerated. "

At the time I thought that "very good Russian websites" certainly referred to or, or one of the other Russian tank history "giants". However, the author of Tank and AFV News recently got a copy of Armored Champion and you'll never guess who's in it.

I must say, I never expected to be next to Thomas Jentz on any list, but here I am.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Some T-64 Drawings

Livejournal user armor_kiev_ua posted some drawings of the Object 432 (that would later become the T-64).

First is a comparison in size between the M60 Patton (the hypothetical enemy's best and scariest tank at the moment) and the new Soviet tank.

The second is a bit more interesting, showing the composite armour of the hull and turret.