T-34 Medium Tank
Author: Valeri Potapov
Created on Monday, 18 September 2000 19:31
Last Updated on Monday, 24 October 2011 12:01
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Prototypes of T-34
On the 4th of May, 1938 the Ministry of Defense of the USSR held an extended meeting in Moscow. V.I. Molotov presided over the meeting and among those present were J.Stalin, K.Voroshilov, as well as other state and military officials, representatives of the defense industry, and tank commanders who had just recently returned from Spain. They were presented with a plan for a new Light Wheeled-tracked Tank A-20, designed at the Kharkov Komintern Steam Engine Factory (KhPZ). A discussion developed during the review of the project concerning the practicality of implementing wheeled-tracked drive on the tanks. The participants of the Spanish Civil War who voiced their opinions on this point, in particular A.A. Vetrov and D.G. Pavlov (at the time - head of ABTU) espoused diametrically opposing points of view on the matter. The opponents of the wheeled-tracked design, who constituted the minority, cited the unfortunate experience which involved sending BT-5 tanks to Spain, but their reasons for raising this argument were ambiguous, considering that the mentioned mission was of a very limited nature and involved only 50 BT-5 tanks.
Unsubstantiated were also references to very low reliability ratings of this type wheeled-tracked running gear: in September of 1937, for example, while advancing to the Aragon front the BT's completed a 500-km march on paved roads without any major mechanical problems. One and a half years later, in Mongolia, BT-7 tanks of the 6th Tank Brigade completed an 800-km march to Khalhin-Gol on tracks, also without any major problems. More likely, the point of the disagreement concerned another question: does a battle tank need this dual-purpose drive train? The wheeled drive train was primarily used during traversal of land on smooth roads and at high speeds - an opportunity, which presented itself quite rarely. If built, the drive mechanism of the A-20 would have to be even more complex than that of the BT-7 because by design the A-20 had three pairs of road wheels. The discussion brought up the vital question: was the occasional convenience of wheeled travel worth the price of a more complex drive train?
There were probably numerous manufacturing, operational, and political reasons against the complex design, but if the bosses wanted a wheeled-tracked tank, why argue? In the end, unexpectedly for the many supporters of the tracked design, and not without Stalin's influence, the construction bureau of KhPZ was entrusted with designing a tracked tank, analogous in mass and tactical/technical characteristics (except of course for the running gear) to the A-20. The decision concerning the drive system was going to be finalized after comparative field testing of the prototypes. Here, it would be appropriate to deviate from our discourse and take a look into the history of development of A-20 to remind the reader of a few significant facts, because it was none other than the A-20 that became the precursor of the tank which would later come to be know as T-34. In 1937, Factory No.183 (KhPZ received this number in the second half of the year) in accordance with the tactical-technical characteristics required by ABTU, was given the task of designing wheeled-tracked tanks BT-7JS and BT-9, as well as making preparations to produce 100 BT-7JS's in the same year. This work was hindered by the construction bureau KB-190, department "100" (tank production), headed since January 1937 by M.I. Koshkin. On top of that, Koshkin in various ways deterred the work of military engineer of 3rd rank and junior scientific assistant of the Stalin VAMM, Adolf Yakovlevich Dick, who was specifically sent to KhPZ to work out several modifications of BT-JS.
On the 13th of October 1937, ABTU stated the demand for the design of a new machine - the wheeled-tracked tank BT-20. In two weeks the director of Factory No.183 Y.E. Maksarev received the following order from the Chief Directorate:
"To the director of the Factory No.183.
By the Government Resolution No.94 of August 15, 1937, the Chief directorate has been offered to design and create experimental versions of a high-speed wheeled-tracked tank with synchronized drive and to prepare the Factory for their mass production by 1939. Considering the extreme importance of this work and tight deadlines imposed by the Government, 8th Chief directorate (Narkomat of the Defense Industry) deems it essential to take the following actions:
1). Create a separate construction bureau (OKB) at KhPZ, which will be under direct supervision of the head engineer of the Factory.
2). In accordance with VAMM and ABTU, appointed A.Dick, military engineer of 3rd rank and junior scientific assistant of the academy as the supervisor of this bureau and appoint a team of 30 VAMM graduates for work in the bureau starting on the 5th of October with 20 more persons being added by the 1st of December.
3). In accordance with ABTU RKKA appoint Captain Evgenij Anatolievich Kulchitsky as the head consultant for the new machine.
4). No later than by the 30th of September, select for work in OKB the 8 best tank constructors at the Factory so that they can be appointed as supervisors of individual groups, as well as a standards official, a secretary, and a record keeper.
5). Create a mock-up shop in the OKB and ensure the right of first priority for all work connected with the new development in all the shops of the Factory.
6). Recognize the crucial necessity to design three versions of the running gear and build two experimental examples, as affirmed in the review of the projects.
7). Conclude an agreement with ABTU to conduct the work no later than by the 15th of October, 1937."
As a result, the newly created design bureau was much more powerful than the main KB. For the development of the new tank ABTU sent to Kharkov captain E.A.Kulchitski, military engineer of 3rd rank A.Y. Dick, engineers P.P. Vasiliev, V.G. Matyukhin, Vodopianov, and 41 VAMM graduates. In its turn the Factory selected constructors A.A. Morozov, N.S. Korotchenko, Shur, A.A. Moloshtanov, M.M. Lurie, Verkhovskii, Dikon, P.N. Goryun, M.I. Tarshinov, A.S. Bondarenko, Y.I. Baran, V.Y. Kurasov, V.M. Doroshenko, Gorbenko, Efimov, Efremenko, Raidochin, P.S. Sentyurin, Dolgonogov, Pomochaibenko, V.S. Kalendin, and Valovoi. The supervisor of the OKB was appointed to be A.Y. Dick, the assistant supervisor - engineer P.N. Goryun, consultant of ABTU - E.A. Kulchitskii, section supervisors - V.M. Doroshenko (control), M.I. Tarshinov (hull), Gorbenko (power plant), A.A. Morozov (transmission), and P. P. Vasiliev (drive train).
All information about the work of this team that has been discovered so far, ends abruptly at the beginning of November 1937. However, it is positively known that TTT for the tank BT-20 (Factory index - A-20) in many ways were based on the design concepts of A.Y. Dick, created in the summer of 1937. Primarily this concerns the construction of gear train, inclination angles of the upper parts of the hull sides, longitudinal placing of propeller shafts in the chassis, angled placement of springs, etc. Even Dick's idea of using five pairs of drive wheels in order to better distribute the load on the chassis found practical application on later machines (however, not on the A-20).
The published materials about the history of development of T-34 do not talk about OKB, but only mention a section or bureau of perspective development headed by A.A. Morozov, essentially with the same personnel. In the album "Kharkov construction bureau for machine-building of the name of A.A. Morozov", published in Kharkov for the 70th anniversary of KB, it is mentioned that in order to complete the task of developing a new wheeled-tracked tank M. I. Koshkin organized a new subdivision - KB-24. He personally picked the constructors from the volunteers of KB-190 and KB-35 (the latter was responsible for managing the mass production of the T-35 Heavy Tank). This team included 21 people: M. I. Koshkin, A. A. Morozov, A. A. Moloshtanov, M. I. Tarshinov, V. G. Matyukhin, P. P. Vasiliev, C. M. Braginskii, Y. I. Baran, M. I. Kotov, Y. S. Mironov, V. S. Kalendin, V. E. Moiseenko, A. I. Shpaihler, P. S. Sentyurin, N. S. Korotchenko, E. S. Rubinovich, M. M. Lurie, G. P. Fomenko, A. I. Astahov, A. I. Guzeeva, and L. A. Bleimshmidt. At the above-mentioned meeting of the Ministry of Defense the A-20 project was presented by M. I. Koshkin and A. A. Morozov. But let's return back to 1938.
The technical development of a tracked tank, designated A-32, did not take long because its appearance was identical to that of A-20, except for the running gear, which had 5 drive wheels on each side (not 4, like on the A-20). In August 1938 both projects were presented at the meeting of the Chief Military Council of RKKA at the Ministry of Defense. The general opinion of the participants was again leaning toward the wheeled-tracked tank. Once again, Stalin's opinion was the deciding factor: he suggested to build and test both tanks and then make the final decision. The urgency of drawing up the blueprints prompted the expansion of the design team. In the beginning of 1939, the three design teams at Factory No.183 - KB-190, KB-35, and KB-24 - were united into a single entity, code named - division 520. At the same time all of the research shops at the Factory were also merged. M. I. Koshkin became the head designer of division 520, A. A. Morozov became the supervisor of the KB and deputy head constructor, and N. A. Kucherenko became deputy supervisor. By the May of 1939, trial versions of the new tanks were produced in metal. Before July both machines were undergoing Factory tests in Kharkov, and between 17th of July and 23rd of August they underwent field tests. In the test report it was pointed out that neither machine had the full inventory of mandatory equipment. This especially concerned the A-32, which lacked OPBT instrumentation; 6 of the 10 drive wheels were borrowed from BT-7 and battle stowage was not properly furnished.
The commission responsible for conducting the tests made the following comments on the difference between the A-32 and A-20: the former does not have wheeled drive, its hull armor is 30 mm thick (instead of A-20's 25 mm), the main gun is a 76-mm L-10 instead of a 45-mm, its mass is 19 tons. Ammunition storage in the front and on the sides of the A-32 was configured for 76-mm shells. Because of the absence of wheeled drive and the presence of 5 drive wheels, the inner part of the A-32's hull was slightly different from that of A-20. In other respects, there were no major differences between the two tanks. TTH (technical/tactical characteristics) of both tanks were adjusted during the tests. In the course of Factory testing A-20 traveled 872 km (655 km on tracks, 217 km on wheels) and A-32 - 235 km. During the field tests A-20 traveled 3267 km (2176 km on tracks), A-32 - 2886 km. The head of the commission colonel V. N. Chernyaev hesitated to pick either machine as a winner and concluded that both tanks passed the testing successfully. This again raised the earlier question. On the 23rd of September 1939 there took place a tank show, conducted for the Red Army command. Among those present were K.E. Voroshilov, A.A. Zhdanov, A.I. Mikoyan, N.A. Voznesenskii, D.G. Pavlov, and others, as well as the chief designers of the tanks.
Besides the A-20 and the A-32, heavy tanks KV, SMK and T-100 and light tanks BT-7M and T-26 were also brought to the proving grounds. The performance of the A-32 was quite commendable. With seeming effortlessness, the tank surmounted a trench, escarpment, counterescarpment, track bridge, forded a river, climbed a 30° incline and finally, to the great delight of the spectators, toppled a large pine tree with the front section of the hull. From to the results of the tests and the demonstration it was suggested that since the A-32 could potentially support a larger weight, the armor should be increased to 45 mm, with all the supporting parts reinforced appropriately.
In fact, two of such tanks were already being produced at the shop of Factory No.183, under the Factory index A-34. Simultaneously, in October-November of 1939 test were being conducted with two A-32 whose mass has been increased to 6830 kg, equal to that of A-34. The Factory was in a hurry to build the new tanks in time for the 7th of November and employed all of its resources to achieve this goal. However, technical difficulties with power units and transmissions slowed down the production. Despite this delay, all assembly was still made very carefully, all threaded joints were treated with hot oil, and all friction surfaces were wetted through with distilled lubricating grease. Ignoring the protests of military representatives the transmissions were assembled exclusively with imported bearings. Both inner and outer surfaces of the hull and turrets were subject to comprehensive finish. The rather complex technology involved in the production of armored parts for the two tanks did not contribute to faster production either. In particular, the forward section of the hull was fabricated from a single armor plate, which first had to be tempered, then formed, and tempered again. During the tempering and hardening process the parts got damaged and cracks formed during forming. The substantial size of the parts made them difficult to handle during improvement of mistakes.
The turret was also welded from large bent armor plates. The openings (for example, the embrasure of the gun) were cut out after forming, which caused great difficulties during the fabrication. At the same time, by the decree of the Ministry of Defense of SNK USSR No.443ss, the A-34 tank was recommended to be accept for service under the designation T-34 "in case it will successfully pass a 2000-km race".
The production of the first A-34 was completed in January 1940; that of the second one - in February. Army tests started immediately and were documented in official evaluations:
"The first A-34 vehicle passed 200 km of testing. Off-road capability is good. The accompanying BT often got stuck and had to be rescued by the A-34. However, visibility is terrible. The glass fogs up and gets covered by snow within 7-10 minutes. Further progress is impossible - the windows have to be cleaned from the outside. The turret is cramped. 02/15/40. We returned from the run. The tank was taken to have the mask installed. The second A-34 - conducted the break in, all mechanisms are working normally."
After the 250 km run, the first A-34 suffered from a malfunctioning engine, with only 25 hours of operation, which had to be replaced. By February 26th this machine had traveled only 650 km, and the second one - only 350. It became obvious that it will be impossible to conclude all of the testing - 2000 km worth - before the government showing, scheduled for March, and without the completion of the testing, the tanks could not take part in the demonstration. That's when it was decided to drive both A-34s from Kharkov to Moscow, thus accruing the needed mileage in the process. At the special meeting of the party committee of the Factory, M.I.Koshkin was appointed as the person responsible for the task.
On the morning of March 5th (according to other sources, on the night of March 5th-6th), a procession of two A-34s and two tractors "Voroshilovets," one of which was outfitted as living quarters and the other - fully stocked with spare parts, started out down the road to Moscow. To keep the journey secret, the rout circumvented all major towns and roads. The use of bridges was permitted only if it was impossible to cross a river by ice at night. The schedule of the journey took into account not just the time needed for travel and rest, but also the schedule of trains at railway intersections and the predicted weather conditions along the route. The average speed had to be no greater than 30 km/hour. Unfortunately, trouble started fairly soon, not far from Belgorod. While traversing a snow field, one of the tanks lost its main friction clutch. In a number of publications this is attributed to the inexperience of one of the drivers.
However, this seems unlikely because the driving was entrusted to the best test drivers at the Factory, with hundreds of kilometers of experience. Y.E. Maksarev offers a different explanation in his memoirs. According to him, "a representative of GABTU got behind the controls and started turning the machine on snow at full speed, which caused the malfunction of the main friction clutch". M.I. Koshkin decided to continue the journey with just one tank and to have a repair team from the Factory fix the other one. In Serpukhov, the vehicles were met by the deputy people's commissar of intermediate machine production A.A. Goreglyad (in 1939 control of all tank factories was given over from Narkomoboronprom to Narkomsredmash). The working tank arrived in the suburbs of Moscow at the Factory No.37, located in Chergizov.
During the next several days, until the second tank had not arrived, the Factory was visited by representatives from NTK GABTU, VAMM, and Chief Headquarters of RKKA - all of whom wanted a peek at the new machine. During one of these days, M.I. Koshkin became ill and had a fever - the cold weather on the trip took its toll. On the night of March 17th both "34s" arrived at the Ivanov square in the Kremlin. Besides M.I. Koshkin, only two other workers of Factory No.183 were admitted into the Kremlin.
Driver of the tank No.1 was N.F. Nosik, and that of No.2 - I.G. Bitenskii (according to other sources - V. Dyukanov). Next to them, in the position of the gunner sat employees of NKVD. In the morning, the tanks were approached by a large group of party and government officials - J. Stalin, V. Molotov, M. Kalinin, L. Beriya, K. Voroshilov and others. The head of GABTU D.G. Pavlov gave the report. After him spoke M.I. Koshkin. Despite the medicine that he took, Koshkin could not restrain himself from coughing, which prompted disapproving glances from J. Stalin and L. Beriya.
After the report and the inspection, the two tanks drove off in opposite directions: one - to the Spasskie gates, the other - to Troitskie. Before reaching the gates, they turned around sharply and headed toward each other, sending sparks from under the tracks. After completing several laps and turns, the tanks stopped back in the starting position. Stalin liked the new machines and ordered that Factory No.183 receive all the necessary assistance to eradicate the minor faults of A-34, which were explicitly pointed out to him by the deputies of people's commissar of defense, G.I. Kulik and D.G. Pavlov. The latter boldly said to Stalin: "We will pay a big price if our vehicles are not battle worthy enough."
After the Kremlin inspection the tanks headed to the Kubinka proving grounds where they were subjected to 45-mm gun fire. After that, the machines moved on, taking the route Minsk-Kiev-Kharkov. On March 31st 1940, the Defense Ministry signed a protocol which ordered the mass production of T-34 (A-34) at the Factory No.183 and STZ with a significant stipulation "if the A-34 will pass all army tests". Upon their arrival in Kharkov after the 3000 km run, a number of defects was found in the tanks: there was burned ferrodo on the main friction clutch disks, cracked blowers, fractured transmission gears, burned out brakes. The KB was working to fix these defects, but everybody knew that even after modifications the A-34 would not be able to successfully complete the 3000 km guarantied under the warranty. Nevertheless, the plant adopted a mass production program for 1940, which specified the production of 150 A-34 tanks.
On May 5, 1940, the SNK USSR and Central Committee of the Communist Party signed a resolution "About manufacturing T-34 tanks in 1940", which says:
"Attaching importance to equipping the Red Army with T-34 tanks, Council of the Peoples Commissars of the Soviet Union and Central Committee enacts:
1. Require People's Commissar of the Machine-Building Comrade A.I.Likhachev:
a. to produce 600 T-34 tanks in 1940:
- by Factory No.183 - 500 tanks;
- by Stalingradsky Tractor Factory - 100 tanks; and
- by the following plan:
b. to supply the whole program 1940 with diesel engines, for that purpose need to increase the V-2 production by Factory No.75 and manufacture 2,000 engines until the end of year..."
Nevertheless this plan failed. Moreover, in summer 1940 the clouds were gathering over the T-34. The point is that two Pz-III were bought in Germany and delivered to Kubinka for comparative tests. Soviet documentation does not clarify the exact modification of the Pz-III, in all cases it was named as "German T-III". The results were unfavourable for the Soviet T-34.
The T-34 was superior in terms of protection and firepower, but that's all. The Pz-III had a cosy three-man turret with a commander's cupola. Each crewman had an internal communication device at his service. In contrast, the T-34 had a very cramped two-man turret without a commander's cupola. Only the tank commander and the driver had internal communication.
The German tank had a very smooth motion and wasn't as noisy as the T-34: moving with maximum speed the Pz-III could be heard from 150-200 metres while the T-34 could be heard from 450-500 metres.
Soviet engineers were surprised by Pz-III's maximum speed. It was far superior and could run up to 69.7 km/h whereas the T-34's best result was 48.2 km/h. The BT-7, which was used as a standard model, could run on wheels at only 68.1 km/h. The report of those tests indicates that the Pz-III had better suspension, a high quality of German optics, a handy layout of ammunition and radio, and a reliable engine and transmission.
By those results the GABTU issued a summary document for Marshal G.I.Kulik, who affirmed it and ordered production of the T-34 to cease until improvements were made in all revealed defects and drawbacks. Large wrangles occurred. They've were cancelled by the personal meddling of Marshal K.E.Voroshilov: "Tank production must be continued with guaranty race of 1,000 km. Factory must develop a new tank - T-34M with improvements not only in its protection but also in running capabilities, so the new five-speed gearbox should be used."
At that time, M.I.Koshkin's health became worse as he was taken ill with single pneumonia in March 1940. On September 26, 1940, he died. A.A.Morozov became the Chief-engineer of the T-34 project.
Under his guidance the design bureau developed two variants of the T-34's modernisation. The first variant, named the A-41, was an attempt to improve most of defects without developing a new hull and drive train. It had a new three-man turret with a ring diameter of 1,700 mm (standard T-34 has a diameter of 1,420 mm). It was intended to rearm with the newest 76.2 mm F-34 gun, but due to unclear reasons that project was left on paper.
The second variant, named the A-43 and also known as the T-34M, was narrower, higher and longer than the production T-34.
Simultaneously with the A-43 development, the Factory No.183 continued mass production of the T-34. The first three tanks left the Factory's gates by September 15, 1940. Until the end of year a total of 115 tanks were produced or 19% of the initially planned output. STZ didn't produce anything at all. All it could make were 23 half-assembled tanks.
Such a dramatic situation is quite understandable. The T-34 was a completely new tank, it required new technologies to be introduced successfully. Suppliers and manufacturers of various elements of the T-34 also needed time to adjust their technology bases. For example, Mariupol's turrets needed to be improved due to their inaccurate geometry and dimensions. In spite of simplified assembling techniques (for instance the frontal glacis was now welded from two armour plates), the T-34's production was still very difficult and as a result very expensive.
With enormous effort Factory No.75 could produce a V-2 engine that worked 150 hours without a failure! Such huge problems! A special test bench was built for verifying the correct and accurate dispersion of fuel and it's even feeding. All 12 atomisers of the V-2 were tested here. All atomisers, valves and needles were manually ground in.
T-34s of the first series were armed with the 76.2 mm L-11 gun. Mass production of L-11 guns was cancelled in 1939 in favour of the F-34 gun, so only about 400 T-34s were armed with the L-11. Tanks of all other modifications were armed with either the F-34 or its modernised variant the F-34M. Being more powerful than the L-11 or F-32, that gun was developed in 1939 by Grabin's design bureau. Initially it was supposed to be used for T-35 and T-28 tanks. On October 19, 1939, mounted on a T-28, the F-34 was tested on the Gorokhovetsky proving ground. From 20 to 23 November 1940 the F-34 was tested in a T-34 tank (the tests consisting of 1,000 shots). As a result of those tests the F-34 was recommended to be accepted for service.
Please notice! Despite being a commonly held view, not one T-34 was armed with the F-32 Tank Gun!
At the same time, according to Order No.76791 of the Minister of Defence (October 25, 1940), the first three T-34s were tested intensively on the Kubinka proving ground. A special commission revealed so many defects and drawbacks that it doubted the T-34's combat capabilities. Questions about cancellation of production and even abandonment of the whole project (!!!) were raised again.
Furthermore, some of the leaders of GABTU and Ministry of Defence maintained the idea that the T-50 should be the most mass produced tank, not the T-34.
Such a position wasn't accidental. As is known, on July 9, 1940 the Soviet High Command decided to form nine mechanised corps. By its organisation, each mechanised corps consisted of two tanks and one motorised division. Each tank division had 63 KV heavy tanks, 210 T-34 medium tanks and 102 light tanks (either BT or T-26 or both). Each motorised division had 275 light tanks (usually T-26). So the T-50 was intended to replace that large park of "outdated" vehicles. In February-March 1940, another 20 mechanised corps were formed using the same TO&E. Also many light tanks were needed to complete the tremendous number of Soviet rifle divisions (each rifle division had 16 tanks). So it is not too hard to calculate the entire number of medium tanks which should be produced to form all these corps: at least 4,620 medium tanks. At that time Soviet industry could produce only three T-34s.
Chief of the GABTU Y.N.Fedorenko and Chief of the GAU G.I.Kulik supported by the Commander of the Western Military District D.G.Pavlov, proposed to cease the T-34's production until the works on the T-34M were finished. The BT-7M's mass production should be resumed instead of the T-34's. For reasons which are unclear that proposal was rejected.
On June 25, 1941, the SNK USSR and the Central Committee of the Communist Party issued a decree "About increasing the manufacturing of KV, T-34 and T-50 tanks, artillery tractors and tank diesel engines in the III and IV quarters of 1941" in which the task to form a complex Tank Industry was given. On July 1, 1941, GKO issued another decree No.GKO-1ss which required the "Krasnoye Sormovo" Factory No.112 to join the production of T-34s. The Factory was required to mount an M-17T petrol engine. Mass production of that engine must have been set up in one of the GAZ's workshops, before that it had produced aircraft engines. A decision to mount a petrol engine instead of diesel was temporary and was connected to shortage of V-2 engines: by that time the only Factory No.75 produced them, all other suppliers were evacuated so they were simply unable to produce anything. By November 1941 mass production of the V-2 was set up in the STZ Factory, but by then Factory No.75 was "on wheels" being evacuated to the East, so the total output of diesel engines wasn't increased.
The production plan of the "Krasnoye Sormovo" supposed 750 "petrol" tanks to be produced until the end of the year. Unfortunately, it had completed only 173 tanks.
At the same time, the Factory No.183 increased its output. Employees worked in two shifts (12 hours each). Production didn't cease even when the Germans bombed the Factory.
TABLE 1. The manufacture of T-34s by the Factory183 before evacuation.
As shown in the table above, the very last tanks were assembled when the Factory was partially destroyed or evacuated. Ordered by decree No.667/SGKO which was dated September 12,1941, director of Factory Y.E.Maksarev started the evacuation process. On September 19, 1941, the first rail echelon had left Kharkov and set out for the Ural Mountains. Once in the new location, Nizhnij Tagil, a new Factory was built in a very short time. It got its old number - No.183. By December 1941, the new Factory could produce 25 tanks using elements which were evacuated from Kharkov.
Looking back on autumn 1941, I can confirm that the STZ was, in essence, the single serious T-34 manufacturer. Now it is understandable why most of STZ's suppliers were set up in Stalingrad as well: mainly to reduce the T-34's cost price and to increase the output of the STZ as much as possible. Armour plates were manufactured by the "Krasniy Oktyabr" Factory ("Red October").
Hulls were manufactured by the Stalingradsky Dockyard (Factory No.264). In short, a full manufacturing industry was organised in one place, which is quite unusual for any complex industry.
In the first half of 1942, the T-34 manufactured by three factories:
- No.183 (Nizhnij Tagil);
- No.112 "Krasnoye Sormovo" (former Gorkiy City); and
- the Stalingradsky Tractor Factory (Stalingrad).
Tanks of these factories have similar technical characteristics but their details differed significantly.
Since most suppliers were lost to the Germans, Soviet tank producers showed wonders of resourcefulness. For example, due to the loss of Dnepropetrovsk, the supply of gas-cylinders for engine emergency starting ceased. So the "Krasnoye Sormovo" used rejected cartridges from artillery shells.
In the STZ most of the welded details were replaced with cast because STZ had one of the best foundries in USSR. As the Germans advanced on Stalingrad, most of STZ's external supply lines had been cut off, rubber for instance. So the T-34s from the STZ had one specific feature: their road wheels didn't have a rubber tyre. Actually, by the end 1942, all other T-34 producers manufactured tanks with the same type of road wheels.
The Factory in Stalingrad produced tanks until the Germans approached the Factory's walls. Today we have an opportunity to imagine the conditions it worked in:
"From the beginning of artillery bombardment and air strikes on the Factory's territory, the Workshop No.5 had done the following:
1. manufactured 68 new tanks;
2. repaired 23 tanks;
3. furthermore, to help our Red Army to repair damaged tanks, a special brigade of skilled workers was formed; and
4. the Red Army was constantly supplied with number of spare parts.
In that period, the Workshop No.5 was hit by five high explosive bombs, 154 incendiary bombs and one shell. The roof was heavily damaged and perforated many times. The gas-holder was burned out."
From October 5, 1942, according to an NKTP order, all works in the STZ were cancelled and employees evacuated. The rest of Factory walls were wiped out during hot battles in Stalingrad.
Striving to compensate for the evident loss of the STZ, in June 1942, GOKO ordered Kirovsky Factory in Chelyabinsk (ChKZ) to begin mass production of the T-34. The first tanks were ready by August 22. In March 1944, production of the T-34 by the ChKZ Factory was cancelled.
Uralmash started mass production of hulls and turrets from April 1942 and supplied them to Factory No.183. In July 28, 1942, being ordered by GOKO's decree No.2120, Uralmash then began mass production (assembling) of a whole T-34. The first tank was manufactured in September 1942. Constructors I.F.Varhushev and V.S.Arseniev developed a new pressed turret. From October 1942 to March 1944 Uralmash manufactured 2,050 of these turrets, and sent a significant number of those turrets to ChKZ. Uralmash did not manufacture the T-34 for very long. From August 1943, it switched to various SP guns which were based on the T-34's chassis.
In 1942, the Factory No.174 was evacuated to Omsk, and launched T-34 mass production.
In August 1942, a new turret was developed. It had a hexagonal form, and all documents of that time named it "a turret of improved form". It was better then all previous turrets but still was very cramped. It had two rounded hatches instead of the previous "united" hatch. The turret also received an air ventilator that was mounted on the roof under the armoured cupola. Furthermore, the tank received an improved air filter "Cyclone", a 5-speed gearbox, and cylindrical external fuel tanks (up to four tanks, one of them always filled with oil, the rest were filled with fuel).
In summer 1943, the "Krasnoye Sormovo" had developed the new cast commander's cupola and began to mount it. Uralmash had proposed its own variant of a pressed commander's cupola, but it was rejected.
T-34 was produced until mid-1944. Then it was replaced with its upgunned variant - the T-34-85.
The "Krasnoye Sormovo" also developed and produced 68 T-34-76 protected with anti-HEAT shields (skirts) like those on most of the German tanks. It supposed these skirts would protect them from German HEAT ammunition, but it wasn't checked. In the very first battle common 75 mm AP rounds destroyed most of those tanks. The idea was considered as hopeless and was abandoned.
TABLE 2. Complete list of the T-34-76 manufacturers
|Designation||Russian name||English transcription||City||Ïðèì.|
||Kharkovsky Parovozostroitelny Zavod
||Kharkov Steam-Engine Plant
||Before autumn 1941
||Uralsky Vagonostroitelny Zavod
||Ural Rail-Car Plant
||There is KhPZ after evacuation in October 1941.
||Stalingradsky Tractorny Zavod
||Stalingrad Tractor Plant
||Gorkij (today - Nizhnij Nivgorod)
||Uralsky Zavod Tyazhelogo Machinostroyeniya
||Ural Plant of Heavy Machine-Building
||Chelyabinsky Kirovsky Zavod
||Kirov's Plant in Chelyabinsk
||There is Kirov's Plant after evacuation from Leningrad
TABLE 3. Manufacture of T-34-76 tanks on Factory183 in 1941-1945
|Years||Output per quarter||Yearly|
|%% from planned output|
The first mass production T-34 came to the tank formations of the Red Army late autumn 1940. However, the planned fighting training has begun only spring 1941. Unfortunately, much reorganization of the tank troops that were conducted last two pre-war years influenced negatively on the mastering the use of the new tanks.
As known, on November 21, 1939, Supreme Military Council of the Red Army decided to disband all existing (four) tank corps that existed in the Red Army by that time. Tanks brigades and mechanized divisions were created instead of them. Less then a year later the Ministry of the Defense makes diametrically opposite decision, and starts forming nine mechanized corps. Finally, in February-March 1941, the deployment of 20 more mechanized corps has begun.
Unfortunately, army had neither people nor machinery to do it. Nevertheless, the last pre-war year endless rearrangements were going on: some formations were deploying, others were eliminated, units of other types of forces were being hand over to the tank troops, etc. All of this was accompanied by shifting of units and formations from one place of distribution to others. Thus, by the beginning of the Great Patriotic War only those 9 mechanized corps which were created during summer 1940 were relatively efficient. But even in them the organization of the fighting training in some cases left much to be desired. In great use was the faulty system of the saving the moto-resource of the tanks, at which crews were training on worn-out machinery of the fighting-training depot. And the new, better and mostly different from earlier generation machinery was kept in hangars. It was no use of BT-2 tanks for training crews of BT-7 tanks, but it was non-sense when outdated T-26's were used to train drivers for newest T-34 tanks.
As a result, crews did not master most of the received T-34s. Mechanics knew the system of the tanks very poorly. This was one of the reasons for high percentage of non-fighting losses of the KVs and T-34s during first months of the war.
There are many discrepancy of the amount of T-34 tanks in the Red Army by the beginning of the war. More recently we find the information that by June 22, 1941, Soviet factories manufactured 1225 T-34 tanks. This is not quite right. This number of tanks was calculated during 1940 (total 115) and first six months of 1941 (total 1110), which ended June 30, not June 22. Of this amount of the machinery 97 tanks were accepted in 1940 and 1129 in 1941. After adding we get 1226 tanks (the difference between manufactured and accepted in one tank is permissible).
There is also no common opinion on the amount of T-34, which were in service in the western military districts. The most recent is the number of 967. However, the amount of tanks (and not only tanks) of once or other type on the exact date of June 22 no one would count. The reports on the amount of tanks in the troops were released on the first day of each month.
By June 1, 194, western military districts (Leningrad, Baltic Special, Western Special, Kiev Special, and Odessa Special) had 832 tanks. 68 T-34s more were in the rear districts (Moscow, Kharkov, Orel). The difference between 967 and 832 is 135 tanks (some sources say 138), which could be received by the frontier districts during June.
Unfortunately, we cannot talk about the exact amount of T-34 tanks in mechanized corps of the districts. We have only parts of information. The South-Western Front was deployed on the base of the Kiev Special Military District. Thus, we can presume that the commander of the tank troops of the front composed the table in the beginning of July 1941 in retrospect, probably by memory.
As to the Baltic Special Military District, two mechanized corps - 3rd and 12th - were distributed there. T-34s were only in 3rd. By January 1, 1941, the amount of them was 50. As it was planned, the 3rd Corps was to receive 103 T-34s more. We still don't know the amount of the received tanks by June 22, if the corps received any. Mechanized corps of the Leningrad Military District - the 1st and the 10th - had no T-34 tanks. Eight T-34s were at Leningrad Tanker's Training Courses.
Thus, we can't give the exact amount of T-34 in the frontier military districts. 967 can be considered the closest number to the truth. Is it a little or a lot?
By the beginning of the war Western frontier districts had 19 mechanized corps, including 10,394 tanks of all kinds (other sources state - 11,000). Taking in consideration tanks in some rifle, cavalry, and separate tank units this amount increases to 12,782 tanks (by information at June 1st). T-34 tanks were only 7.5% of this amount.
However, on June 22, 1941, Germany with its allies deployed 3,899 tanks and assault guns including the Reserve of Supreme commandment of Wehrmacht - 2nd and 5th tank divisions (originally didn't participate in fights) - against our Western frontier. Only 1,404 of them were medium tanks Pz-III and Pz-IV, so 967 T-34 tanks (we should consider also 504 heavy KV) were supposed to be formidable force.
Unfortunately, we couldn't use it in full. Unsuccessful location, shortage of people and equipment, lack of crews' training, reserve parts for tanks and evacuation vehicles significantly reduced fighting efficiency of the Soviet mechanized corps. During long marches (most of the mechanized corps formations were deployed pretty far from the borderline) not only old tanks but also new T-34s and KVs were breaking. Gearboxes and friction clutches were breaking because of inexperienced drivers. The most of breakage couldn't be fixed on the spot. And the provision of the troops with evacuating vehicles was too low. Mechanized corps were provided with tractors in average of 44% including trucks that were used as tractors for artillery but were useless for tanks towing. Even where tractors were available not always they could help.
Agricultural tractors "Stalinets S-60" and "Stalinets S-65" with draught of 4 tons manufactured in Chelyabinsk were basic evacuation vehicles of the tank units of the Red Army. They could manage towing T-26 and BT, but when trying to move 26-ton T-34 they were literally bristling up. It required two or even three tractors, which was not possible all the time. More than a half of all T-34s (and heavy KVs also) of the frontier districts were located in Kiev Special Military District, at the time when the main impact was at Western Special Military District.
However, the most dramatic events of the first days of the was related to tank battles in the triangle of Rovno-Lutks-Brody took place on the South-Western front and still undeservedly poor described in literature.
By the end of June 24, on the Rovno direction, on the junction of the 5th and 6th armies a gap of 50 kilometers occurred, where the formations of the 1st German Tank Group of the general E.Kleist (799 tanks) has directed. The threat of break in of the German troops and embrace of the basic troops of the South-Western Front from North was created. For liquidation of this threat and rout of the enemy a counter-offensive by forces of 8th, 9th, 15th, and 19th mechanized corps has been put on flanks of broken-through German troops on June 26-29.
The 9th Mechanized Corps (the commander - major-general K.Rokossovsky) and the 19th Mechanized Corps (the commander - general N.Feklenko), accomplished more than 200 kilometers march under continuous influence of the enemy's aircraft and now were East of Lutsk and were supposed to attack on Dubno from the North.
The 8th Mechanized Corps (the commander - major-general D.Ryabuishev) and the 15th Mechanized Corps (the commander - major-general I.Karpezo) were attacking on Dubno from the South and the North-West. We should emphasize that by the beginning of the war this corps had 286, 279, 858, and 733 tanks correspondingly, so 2156 at all! 181 of them were T-34s and 140 were KVs. Up to 50% of this amount didn't participate in the counter-offensive, because of many different reasons. A part of them was lost, a part broke down while going to starting positions, others just didn't come on time: the 7th Motorised Division of the 8th Mechanized Corps, for example, was still marching at that time. Nevertheless, at least 1000 tanks were ready to attack the enemy. The forces were distributed unevenly: 700 tanks were attacking from the South and around 300 tanks - from the North. And almost all of the T-34s and KVs were in the North formation.
The counter-attack of our troops has begun on June 26 and transformed into a counter-offensive with formations of the 1st Tank Group of the enemy. The especially strong defeat was put on the 48th German Motorised Corps, the 11th Tank Division was completely routed. However, we couldn't finish the operation with encirclement of the enemy because of lack of the precisely adjusted communication and co-operation between attacking corps and their higher staffs.
He's what V.S.Arkhipov, the commander of the reconnaissance battalion of the 43rd Division of the 19th Mechanized Corps wrote in his memoirs:
"Faint radio communication with long intervals was the reason for late information from the frontline to the higher staffs. That's why the decisions made by staffs and passed to the frontline most of the time were late and didn't answer to the changed situation. For example, evening of June 26, our division smashed the right flank of the 11th German Tank Division and routed one of its tank regiments and got to Dubno. We didn't know that the 8th Mechanized Corps of the general D.I.Ryabushev was successfully moving towards us from the South, fighting formations of the 48th Motorised Corps. Same situation has repeated next day, when all three corps - 36th Rifle, 8th and 19th Mechanized - again were attacking on Dubno direction. And again our neighbors, the 36th Rifle Division and us got near Dubno, but we didn't know that 34th Tank Division of the 8th Mechanized Corps under commandment of colonel I.V.Vasiliev was already in the city. Thus, July 26-27 Soviet tank wedges twice ran deeply - up to 30 kilometers - into both flanks of German motorised corps.
However, the absence of the connection between these units and mutual lack of information didn't let to finish the attack and encircle the 48th Corps between Brody and Dubno. By the enemy's troops we could see that this encirclement was imminent. Evening of June 26, when we were chasing Germans to Dubno, it was not an organized retreat, but panic escape of the enemy. Units of the 11th Tank Division mixed up and flee in panic. It showed also in fact that besides hundreds of prisoners we captured many tanks and armored personnel carriers and around 100 motorcycles left in good condition by crews. Approaching Dubno, at twighlight, tankers of the 86th Regiment saw eight German tanks at the end of their convoy, most probably Germans mistook our tanks for German. The crews surrounded with their tanks after the first request of our tankers. Prisoners usually were saying that they're not members of the National-Socialist party (NSDAP), and were gladly testifying. This kind of psychological condition of German troops - depression and panic - I've seen again only after the Battle of Stalingrad and Battle of Kursk. Hence it follows that counter-offensive of the mechanized corps of the South-Western Front started on the 5th day of the was had hard moral effect on Germans."
But according to the note dated June 29 in the diary of the commander of the General Staff of Wehrmacht, colonel-general F.Galder German troops were impacted not only morally:
"At the right flank of the 1st Tank Group the 8th Russian Tank Corps broke deeply into our position, and got to the rear of our 11th Tank Division. This enemy's breakthrough caused bad confusion in our rear around Brody and Dubno. The enemy threatens Dubno front South-West, and its very undesirable to lose Dubno, because of storage of ammunition and properties there".
By September 4, 1941, losses of the 1st German Tank Army were 408 tanks, 186 of them were irrevocable. This number could increase if 4th Mechanized Corps (commander - major-general A.A.Vlasov), which had 313 T-34s and 101 KVs, joined the counter-offensive. But this corps was acting Southern, in the area of the 6th Army. Our losses were also great - after three days of the operation all four mechanized corps were left almost with no tanks.
The amount of losses of the Red Army in period of June 22-July 9 were 11,712 tanks, among them almost all T-34s. And all of the losses were irrevocable, because it wasn't possible to fix the broken tanks - the battlefields were left for Germans.
Huge casualties and machinery losses, sluggishness and inflexibility in the management of the troops led to transfer from corps to smaller formations - brigades, regiments, and battalions.
Brigades of different organization were participating in Battle for Moscow. For example, the 8th Tank Brigade had regimental structure it had 22 T-34s, 7 KVs, and 32 light tanks. The 4th Tank Brigade (from November 11, 1941 - the 1st Guards Tank Division) was formed in September 1941, in Stalingrad by battalion scheme organization, including 49 tanks (16 of them - T-34s manufactured by STZ). This formation with commander M.E.Katukov was successfully acting around Orel and Mtsensk, fighting against the 2nd German Tank Group of the general H.Guderian, and after 360-kilometer march by itself, got into fight on the Volokolamsk direction. Speaking of the 1st Guards Brigade we should mention the senior-lieutenant Dmitrij Fedorovich Lavrinenko. He fought 28 battles. Three T-34 tanks of his were burned down. At the day of his death for the village Goruny (suburb of Volokolamsk) on December 17, 1941, Lavrinenko shot his 52nd tank of the enemy and became one the most effective Soviet tanker of the WWII (another tank ace was Guards Captain Konstanin Samokhin, during five months he was credited with 69 German tanks, 13 other AFVs, 82 guns, 117 motor vehicles; he was KIA on the February 23, 1942). Its astonishing and insulting that Dmitriy Lavrinenko wasn't rewarded. Even after his death!
In the defense of Moscow T-34-57 tanks-hunters have participated. The 21st Tank Brigade that was acting on Klin direction had about 10 of these tanks. In just two days - October 15 and 16 - the brigade, acting from ambushes, shot 18 enemy's tanks.
However, tank units of the Red Army, which were defending Moscow didn't have many T-34 tanks. Light tanks were prevailing, old ones as well as new T-60s. Let's say, that at the beginning of October 1941, the Western Front had 483 tanks, only 45 of which were T-34s and KVs. By the end of the year the amount of T-34 in the troops increased a little, but didn't exceed 25-30% of the whole amount of tanks.
The same situation was in 1942 as well, despite increase in manufacturing of T-34. For example, tank troops of the 61st Army by the beginning of Bolkhov attacking operation in June 1942, had 334 tanks of 7 different types. Only 67 of them (20%) were T-34.
However there is very interesting to see what the Germans thought about capabilities of the T-34. On 26 May 1942 the General der Schnellen Truppen beim Oberkommando des Heeres distributed the following "Instructions to units on the Eastern Front for Combating the Russian T-34 Tank with our Panzers" (cited from T.Jentz "Panzertruppen"):
"Characteristics of the T34.
The T-34 is faster, more maneuverable, has better cross-country mobility than our Pz.Kpfw.lll and IV. Its armor is stronger. The penetrating ability of its 7.62 cm cannon is superior to our 5 cm KwK. and the 7.5 cm KwK40. The favorable form of sloping all of the armor plates aids in causing the shells to skid off.
Combating the T-34 with the 5 cm KwK tank gun is possible only at short ranges from the flank or rear, where it is important to achieve a hit as perpendicular to the surface as possible. Hits on the turret ring, even with high-explosive shells or machine gun bullets, usually result in jamming the turret. In addition, armor-piercing shells fired at close range that hit the gun mantle result in penetrations and breaking open the weld seams. The T-34 can be penetrated at ranges up to 1000 metres with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 as well as the 7.5 cm Hohlgranate (hollow-charge shells)
Russian Tank Tactics.
In defense and covering a retreat, the T-34 with the turret at six o'clock is often dug in on a commanding height along a road or on the edge of woods or villages. Then after surprisingly opening fire from ambush, the T-34 can be driven out of the concealed position still under cover.
In correctly recognizing his technical superiority in weapons, the T-34 already opens fire on German Panzers at ranges from 1200 to 1800 metres. Because the T-34 is faster than the German Panzers, he can choose the range for a firefight.
Our Panzer Tactics.
Because the 5 cm KwK can only be expected to penetrate the flanks of the T34 at short range, the following tactics have proven been to be correct in combating them:
a. Attract and tie down the opponent frontally by having a Pz.Kpfw.III take up the firefight. Choose a hull down position or drive in a zig-zag course to make it difficult for the opponent to hit the target.
b. At the same time, utilizing all available cover, two other Pz.Kpfw.llls attempt to circumvent the T34 to the right or left in order to gain a position in the flank or in the rear and knock him out at short range with PzGr40 fired at the hull or rear.
c. If a Pz.Kpfw.lV is available among our own Panzers, it is to be employed in front of the opponent. The use of Nebelgranaten (smoke shells) can blind the T-34 or aid the other Panzers in closing in. It is also possible that the opponent will think that the smoke is poison gas and break off the action.
When encountering numerically superior enemy tanks (T-34 and KV), success has always resulted when our Panzer unit builds a fire front and overwhelms the enemy with fire. Even when no penetrations can be achieved, the enemy, impressed by the accuracy and rate of fire of the German Panzers, almost always breaks off the action".
The T-34 became the main battle tank of the Soviet tank troops only by 1943. It's shown on the example of the Center and Voronezh Fronts right before the Battle of Kursk.
Table 1. Distribution of the various tanks by July 1943.
|KV||T-34||T-60 and T-70|
Thus, among all tanks of two fronts in July 1943, T-34s were 62% in total and stood the hardest Battle of Kursk, including famous Prokhorovka.
Evening of July 10, 1943 the commandment of the Voronezh Front received order of Stavka to commit the counter-attack on German troops attacking in Prokhorovka direction.
For this, the 5th Guards Army of the Lt.Gen. Zhadov and the 5th Guards Tank Army of the Lt.Gen. Rotmistrov were transferred from reserve Steppe Front to the Voronezh Front. The 5th Guards Tank Army was the first army of the uniform compound. The formation of the army has begun February 10, 1942 and by the beginning of the Battle of Kursk was stated around Ostrozhsk (Voronezh region). The 18th Tank Corps, the 29th Tank Corps, and the 5th Guards Mechanized Corps were parts of it.
11.00 PM July 6, the army received order to concentrate on the right shore of the Oskol river. 1.15 PM the advanced group of the army began moving, and in 45 minutes the main forces went on. It's necessary to mention the immaculate organization of the march. Head traffic was prohibited on all of the routes of the convoys. Army was moving 24 hours a day, with short stops for refueling. The march was surely covered with antiaircraft artillery and aircraft, and thanks to all of this, the march was unnoticed by the enemy's reconnaissance. Army has moved 330-380 kilometers in three days. And there was almost no broken machinery, which shows increased reliability of tanks as well as competent maintenance of the machinery.
On July 9, the 5th Guards Tank Army concentrated around Prokhorovka. Supposedly, the army with addition of two tank corps (the 2nd and the 2nd Guard) would attack on Germans at 10.00 AM together with the 5th Guards Army and the 5th Guards Tank Army, and the 1st Tank Army, and would destroy the broken-in enemy's group on the Oboyan direction, not letting it to retreat South. However, preparation of the counter-offensive, which began on June 11, was wrecked by the Germans, who attacked twice on our defense: first - in Oboyan direction, and then - on Prokhorovka. As a result of partial retreat of our troops artillery, which had a major role in counter-offensive, had losses, at the positions of deployment as well as in movements to the frontline.
Early morning of June 12, because of German attack on the 69th Army, a threat for the left flank of the deploying on the South-West of Prokhorovka main forces of the 5th Tank Army has occurred. The 6th and the 19th Tank Divisions (about 200 tanks) started attacking from the area of Melichove to Rzhavets.
Thus, two brigades of the 5th Guards Tank Army (tank, motorcycle, antitank, and howitzer regiments) were relocated to the 69th Army frontline. All those troops, were united in a group with commander - major-general K.G.Trufanov (about 100 tanks including T-34s) not only stopped moving North enemy, but threw him back to the starting point.
8.30 AM July 12, the main forces of the German troops, including the SS divisions "Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler", "Das Reich", and "Totenkopf", which had up to 500 tanks and assault guns, including 42 Tigers started attacking in Prokhorovka direction. At the same time, after 15-min artillery mission the German group was attacked by the main forces of the 5th Guards Tank Army, which led to deployment of the oncoming tank battle, in which about 200 tanks from both sides fought, and the enemy had more medium and heavy tanks than we did. This battle, in defiance of stereotypes, didn't take place at one single field like the Borodino or the Verden, but was on front up to 35 kilometers long, and appeared in many individual tank battles.
Despite suddenness of the attack, Soviet tanks were net by concentrated fire of the German antitank artillery and assault guns. However, the 18th Tank Corps on a high speed broke into the state farm "Oktyabrskiy" and, with huge losses, captured it. With moving forward the corps met enemy's tank group which had 15 heavy tanks Tiger, fought it for few hours, and by 6.00 PM turned to defense.
The 29th Tank Corps had maneuver fight for the height 252.5 with tanks of LSSAH Division, but after 4.00 PM was driven back by tanks of the "Totenkopf" Division, and after dark also turned to defense.
The 2nd Guards Tank Corps, that was attacking on Kalinin village, at 2.30 PM suddenly met the "Das Reich" Motorised Division SS, which drove it back to the starting point. The 2nd Tank Corps, that was covering junction between the 2nd Guards Tank Corps and the 29th Tank Corps moved back German units a bit, but came under fire of the 2nd echelon's assault guns and antitank guns, sustained losses and was stopped.
Despite the fact that the 5th Guards Tank Army, which was acting in line of 17-19 kilometers, could reach density of the attacking troops up to 45 tanks per 1 kilometer, it couldn't fulfill its mission. Losses of the army, excluding group of general Trufanov, were 328 tanks and self-propelled guns, and together with the attached formations reached 60% of the starting amount.
German troops lost 320 tanks only on the day of July 12, according to the report of the commander of the Voronezh Front. German statistics lowers this number to 218, and even to 190 tanks. Anyhow, by the end of July 12, the Germans left the battlefield in Prokhorovka, and by July 16 began organized retreating. Incidentally, "Citadel" operation has failed.
On July 12, the troops of the Bryansk Front started attacking. On July 18, a fresh tank group - the 3rd Guards Tank Army (475 T-34s and 224 T-70s) - got into the battle.
On Belgorod-Kharkov direction the Soviet troops reached the starting line that they had before German attack by July 23. On August 3, a counter-offensive of the Voronezh and Steppe Fronts has begun. That time tank replenished formations. Thus, the 1st Tank Army had 549 tanks (412 of them were T-34s). After all T-34 tanks were used in mass in the Battle of Kursk and in all following operations in 1943.
However, we should mention that their main opponents were not tanks as many history buffs thought, but German antitank artillery. German antitank and tank guns caused 90% of our tank losses in 1943-1945. Unfortunately, modern tank "lovers" ignore those facts and keep comparing T-34 to Panthers and Tigers.
Table 2. Losses of the T-34s depending of the German gun calibres.
|20 mm||37 mm||50 mm L42||50 mm L60||75 mm||88 mm||105 mm||128 mm||Unknown|
|Prior September 1942
|Stalingrad operation, 1942-1943
|Kursk Battle, the Central Front, 1943
From the table we can see clearly, that in 1943 66,5% of T-34s were shot by 75-mm and 88-mm tank guns (Pz-IV, Pz-V, Pz-VI) and antitank guns. At the beginning of the war the T-34 had advantage over the enemy's tanks in distance, for its better gun could hit any German tank from a distance up to 1,000 metres. While, the range of firing of enemy tanks usually didn't exceed 300 metres. In 1943, with increase in armor thickness of the German tanks, distance of the effective fire on them decreased and didn't exceed 500 metres. At the same time 75- and 88-millimeter long barreled German guns could hit the T-34 on the ranges of 900 and 1,500 metres relatively.
Thus, by the end of 1943, the T-34 was not longer suitable for the given tasks. After detailed examitation of the latest war experience, a special commission stated "the T-34 is no longer match to the current war conditions. It become permeable for Germans guns at all ranges". The modernisation has been needed. As a result the T-34-85 was developed. As to the T-34-76, since 1944 the amount of them in the active army was decreasing continuously. The rest of the tanks was still acting in all operations of the Red Army in 1944-1945, including Berlin operation, but in general it was taken out of the first line, and used in rear units as training tanks. T-34s were in some units of the Red Army up to the early 1950s.
Besides the Red Army, during WWII T-34 tanks served in the People's Army of Poland, People-Liberating army of Yugoslavia, and the Czech Corps.
In June 1943-January 1945, the Polish Army received 118 T-34 tanks, mainly from the Factory "Krasnoe Soromovo" and from repair factories. By the end of the fighting in Europe all Polish units had 62 tanks of this type. Some tanks were re-equipped into armored evacuation vehicles and used even in 1950s.
We cannot give the exact amount of tanks received by the People-Liberating Army of Yugoslavia and by the Czech Corps. Most probably we can talk about few dozens.
The Wehrmacht used captured T-34s also. For example, the "Das Reich" Motorised Division had 25 T-34s at the time of the attack on Kursk, summer 1943. Some of them were equipped with German commander turrets. The Germans reconstructed some T-34s into self-propelled antiaircraft guns and evacuation vehicles.
The amount of T-34 in the Finnish Army didn't exceed 9 vehicles, seven of which served until 1960s.
Some T-34 were used by the Hungarian and the Romanian Armies, as well as the Russian Liberating Army (ROA) of the general A.A.Vlasov.
Translation: Valeri Potapov,
Sources: "T-34. Operational manual", NKTP, 1941;
"T-34. Handbook", Voenizdat, 1944;
"About manufacturing T-34 tanks in 1940" AP RF. F.93. Document collection;
Bronekollektsiya No.3, 1999;
J.Magnuski "Wozy bojowe", LWP, Warsawa, 1985;
"Soviet tanks in combat 1941-1945. The T-28, T-34, T-34-85 and T-44", Concord publ. company;
S.Zaloga, J.Grandsen "T-34 in action";
Thomas I.Jentz "Panzer Truppen", Shiffer Military History, Atglen, PA;
M.Pavlov, I.Pavlov, I.Zheltov "Sovetskie Srednie Tanki Dovoennogo Perioda", Armada, 2000:
"Srednij tank T-34. Albom konstruktivnikh elementov", NKTP, 1941;
I.Shmelev "T-34", Tekhnika i Vooruzhenie No.11-12, 1998