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  • Article I am quote in concerning the T-34

    Meant more for the the reader with a casual interest in history as opposed to serious students.

    https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the...k-662ba112774f

    On June 22, 1941, Nazi German launched Operation Barbarossa, a massive attack on the Soviet Union that was the largest invasion in history.

    More than three million German soldiers, 150 divisions and 3,000 tanks comprised three mammoth army groups that created a front more than 1,800 miles long.

    The Germans expected to face an inferior enemy—the Slavs whom Adolph Hitler called untermenschen. Giddy from victories in Poland and France, Hitler and many in his military high command believed it was the destiny of Germany to invade Russia. “The end of the Jewish domination in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state,” Hitler announced in his manifesto Mein Kampf.

    For months Germans won victory after resounding victory. But then the attack stalled—and the appearance of a new Soviet tank stunned the Wehrmacht.

  • #2
    "Often good and never worse than adequate". That's a good executive summary on Russian arms and equipment from WWII to today.
    All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
    -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

    Comment


    • #3
      Jason, you missed a point. The T-34 was such a weak protected tank that the crew can die but that tank could live. Take out the bodies, wash out the blood, put a new crew in, and it's good to go.
      Chimo

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Officer of Engineers View Post
        Jason, you missed a point. The T-34 was such a weak protected tank that the crew can die but that tank could live. Take out the bodies, wash out the blood, put a new crew in, and it's good to go.
        Sir, from 1941 into early 43 the T-34/76 might as well have been a tiger tank as far as protection goes. When they slammed into the 22nd Panzer Division for example, the divisions Pz38t's with 37mm cannon were powerless to stop them.

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        • #5
          I got a copy of Jentz's Panzertruppen last year. It seems that the 50-mm. short and long guns didn't fare much better than the 37. According to field report made by a German Panzer Division, the 50-mm. guns could defeat the T-34 only with shots placed in the hull sides between the fifth and sixth road wheels and the ball machine gun mount on the glacis, and at exceedingly close ranges. The short 50 must fire at ranges under 150-100 meters, the long 50 at under 400 meters. Several Panzer crews reported success with rear exhaust vent shots. Apparently, the short-barrelled Panzer IV armed with HEAT shells was the only truly effective tank in the German arsenal against T-34s, until MANN factories started cranking out Pz. IV Specials.
          Last edited by Triple C; 25 Nov 14,, 18:35.
          All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
          -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Triple C View Post
            I got a copy of Jentz's Panzertruppen last year. It seems that the 50-mm. short and long guns didn't fare much better than the 37. According to field report made by a German Panzer Division, the 50-mm. guns could defeat the T-34 only with shots placed in the hull sides between the fifth and sixth road wheels and the ball machine gun mount on the glacis, and at exceedingly close ranges. The short 50 must fire at ranges under 150-100 meters, the long 50 at under 400 meters. Several Panzer crews reported success with rear exhaust vent shots. Apparently, the short-barrelled Panzer IV armed with HEAT shells was the only truly effective tank in the German arsenal against T-34s, until MANN factories started cranking out Pz. IV Specials.
            I wonder how much of the T-34's reputation for toughness is exclusively based on German impressions, and how much is actually corroborated with Russian accounts. The internals of the early T-34 and KV were both extremely susceptible to spalling (Dmitriy Loza, for example, is very critical of this tendency when comparing his experiences operating the T-34 and the M4 Sherman in his memoir), and I have to suspect that even a direct hit that totally failed to penetrate a T-34 would have a reasonable possibility of killing or wounding the crew, something that might not have been apparent to the people shooting at it, especially in the stress of combat.

            Loza's Commanding The Red Army's Sherman Tanks was really eye-opening for me, because his unstinting praise of the M4 and his vehement dislike of the T-34 went against everything I thought I knew about how the two machines compared. Since then I've read interviews with other Soviet tankers, and very few have anything approaching a positive opinion of the T-34, especially among those who operated the earlier models.

            EDIT: See also - http://www.operationbarbarossa.net/t...e-performance/
            Last edited by Genosaurer; 26 Nov 14,, 03:59.
            "Nature abhors a moron." - H.L. Mencken

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            • #7
              Not sure I agree with all the articles conclusions but in general he's bringing up the points I raised to the author.

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              • #8
                I think it's pretty safe to surmise that even with metallurgical flaws, the T-34 was still greatly superior to Pz III/IV deployed by Wehrmacht in 1941. All tanks are susceptible to spalling to a greater or lesser degree. Tiger B's had been knocked out due to spalling. However, if you require to be within 150 meters to make a kill, you probably need to get in pretty close and score multiple hits to cause spalling that would render the crew ineffective. Even in 1942 a German Panzer Division commander note that engaging T-34s in defensive positions frontally on open terrain always result in failure. The tactics the German Panzer Troop Bulletin recommends in 1941-42 are consistent with those that would be deployed by an aggressive combatant trying to neutralize superior enemy gun and armor with maneuver.

                To put things in perspective, purely from the perspective of scoring a penetration, it was easier for a Sherman tank to defeat Tiger E armor than for a Pz III (50) to do the same to a T-34.
                Last edited by Triple C; 26 Nov 14,, 07:30.
                All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
                -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Triple C View Post
                  I think it's pretty safe to surmise that even with metallurgical flaws, the T-34 was still greatly superior to Pz III/IV deployed by Wehrmacht in 1941.
                  I disagree. The Soviets managed to lose just shy of TEN THOUSAND T-34s by late 1942! In the same time period, the Germans lost fewer than 2,000 Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs. You could argue - and I'd concur - that the T-34 had specific features which were greatly superior to its contemporaries (tracks & suspension, armor arrangement, possibly the main gun depending on how importantly you rate caliber against accuracy and muzzle velocity). However, it had significant deficiencies that made it a seriously inferior weapon system (optics, crew arrangement, ergonomics, crew safety, communications equipment, manufacturing quality, reliability being the most egregious).
                  "Nature abhors a moron." - H.L. Mencken

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    With the disparity in morale, tactical acumen and operational skill heavy Russian losses was not surprising. Platoon sized T-34 and KV-1 groups were never going to beat the attacks of entire Panzer Battalions. German reports from all unit levels suggest until September the Russians used their tanks in exceedingly small penny packets and the Germans chewed them up with manoeuvre and superior volume of fire backed by a lot of guts. Battle between tanks of equal numbers on the company or battalion level was rare between 1941-42 and the Russians frequently won them. After '42 the Germans had the long 75's and 88's and these did tilt the odds in favor of the Germans.

                    I think I would defer to the German Army on this issue. They had more than ample opportunity to evaluate the comparative performance of the tanks in question, from both live combat and captured specimens. There are ergonomic advantages for Pz III's and IV's but a reading of suggestions for improvement submitted by German commanders of armor indicate that they were willing to forgo almost all of them to match the armor, gunpower and mobility of the T-34. The only things they were not willing to part with were the radio and cupola, both of which could and were installed in German captured T-34s.
                    Last edited by Triple C; 27 Nov 14,, 10:57.
                    All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
                    -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      To go into detail:

                      Crew arrangements/Ergonomics--The commander of the 4th Pz.D., whose outfit was savagely mauled by T-34s during the march up Moscow, state that he recommends putting captured T-34s to work immediately and mounting Russian 122-mm. guns in Panzers, even if this means losing the three-men turret. Russians installed three-men turret in T-34s by 1943.
                      Optics: Early Soviet ballistic optics were frequently poor, but report of the said German Pz.D. commander remarks that Russian gunnery was excellent in his experience. The Soviets knew this issue and replaced the ballistic optics with a licensed Zeiss copy used in Panzer III's and these were good devices.
                      Crew safety: Not at all. Panzer III/IV's crew compartment could be breached by anti-tank rifles and British 2 pdr. guns. The inferiority in ballistic shape compared to T-34 made quality of steel irrelevant. Note that the vaunted Pz. III and IV tanks made extensive use of rivets to bolt the superstructure on the chassis. These are very prone to spalling effects. In any case, spalling is less dangerous than enemy rounds achieving catastrophic destruction of tank.
                      Manufacturing quality: I would concede this but it was not a vital concern for the Soviets. They knew with their attrition rate their equipment would be destroyed by hostile weapons before they wore out.
                      Reliability/Dependability: I don't think there's any proof of Panzers being more dependable than T-34s. The T-34, like most Russian equipment, was designed to tolerate low quality control in their assembly lines in the first place. Aberdeen Proving Grounds found the T-34 sample the Russians sent them suffered from weak engine filter and over brittle armor. But even considering loss of performance due to manufacturing standards, the T-34 still had dependability/operational radius to match or surpass the Panzers. Just look at the battle history. The T-34 had no trouble with deep strategic strikes. If anything, German Panzers were temperamental compared to Soviet--and American--medium tanks, not matter how good they were next to French or British equipment. There were reports of severe battle wastage in '41, but what do you expect of Russian units that had no spare parts or trucks?

                      In contrast, the T-34 had superior gunpower, protection, mobility, and speed over contemporary German tanks. The Russian attrition rate in tanks was attributable to the incompetence of their supply clerks and top generals, not the equality of the weapon system itself.
                      Last edited by Triple C; 27 Nov 14,, 11:10.
                      All those who are merciful with the cruel will come to be cruel to the merciful.
                      -Talmud Kohelet Rabbah, 7:16.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yup, only two Soviet mechanized corps had T-34's in any real numbers and 70% of them were concentrated in just 6 (of 29) mechanized corps all but one in the Ukraine where they were rapidly encircled and cut off. The one mechanized corp in the Baltic region with new tanks in big numbers was the 3rd where very few T-34's seem to have actually made it into combat for some reason. Probably a combination of new crews and air attacks.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Triple C View Post
                          With the disparity in morale, tactical acumen and operational skill heavy Russian losses was not surprising. Platoon sized T-34 and KV-1 groups were never going to beat the attacks of entire Panzer Battalions. German reports from all unit levels suggest until September the Russians used their tanks in exceedingly small penny packets and the Germans chewed them up with manoeuvre and superior volume of fire backed by a lot of guts.
                          From the previously linked page on WWII military myths:

                          "On 22nd June 1941 the majority of T-34 tanks were actually concentrated in several powerful units, and not dispersed in small packets. For example, the 4th and 7th Tank Divisions, 6th Mechanised Corps, Western Special Military District had 238 T-34s and 114 KVs on strength on 22nd June 1941. The 8th and 32nd Tank Divisions, 4th Mechanised Corps, Kiev Special Military District had 313 T-34s and 99 KVs on strength on 22nd June 1941. Considering that T-34 and KV tanks apparently ‘rendered all German tanks as obsolete’, then these four tank divisions easily represented the most powerful concentrated armoured formations in the world during the whole of 1941 and well into 1942. From late August 1941 the Red Army started creating tank brigades, each with 29 authorised T-34 and KV tanks (and 38-64 lighter tanks depending on TOE). By October 1941 many of these tank brigades were in action, but by then many of the panzer division’s panzer regiments were dispersed over wide areas and had far fewer numbers of operational tanks. In short, by late 1941 the Germans had almost as many problems concentrating their armour as the Soviets did."

                          Originally posted by Triple C View Post
                          I think I would defer to the German Army on this issue. They had more than ample opportunity to evaluate the comparative performance of the tanks in question, from both live combat and captured specimens. There are ergonomic advantages for Pz III's and IV's but a reading of suggestions for improvement submitted by German commanders of armor indicate that they were willing to forgo almost all of them to match the armor, gunpower and mobility of the T-34. The only things they were not willing to part with were the radio and cupola, both of which could and were installed in German captured T-34s.
                          Curious on the source, as every German impression I've seen of the 'Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r)' is scathingly critical of just about every feature aside from the armor and main gun. In particular, the lack of mechanical reliability is always mentioned - this closely aligns with the results of US Army testing done on a donated T-34 at Aberdeen during the war, and that was a brand new tank, provided with spares and trained maintenance personnel for the tests.

                          For example, this page cites (among others) direct quotations from a report by 2.Kompanie/Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 128, which employed a homogenous formation of captured T-34s, T-34/85s (called "T 43" in German parlance) and SU-85s:

                          "Regardless of our limited experience, it can be stated that the Russian tanks are not suitable for long road marches and high speeds. It has turned out that the highest speed that can be achieved is 10 to 12 km/hr. It is also necessary on marches to halt every half hour for at least 15 to 20 minutes to let the machine cool down. Difficulties and breakdowns of the steering clutches have occurred with all the new Beute-Panzer. In difficult terrain, on the march, and during the attack, in which the Panzer must be frequently steered and turned, within a short time the steering clutches overheat and are coated with oil. The result is that the clutches don't grip and the Panzer is no longer manoeuvrable. After they have cooled, the clutches must be rinsed with a lot of fuel.
                          ...
                          The gun sights in Russian tanks are far behind the German designs. The German gunners need to be thoroughly accustomed to the Russian telescopic gunsights. The ability to spot a hit through the gunsight is very limited.
                          ...
                          Safe driving and sure command of both the T 43 and SU 85 can't be achieved with the hatches closed. We base this statement on our experience that on the first day in combat in the Jassy bridgehead, four Beute-Panzer got stuck in the trench system and couldn't get free with their own power, resulting in the destruction of German defensive weapons during the attempt to retrieve them. The same thing happened on the second day.
                          ...
                          In a Russian tank it is difficult to command a Panzer or a unit and at the same time serve as the gunner. Therefore fire direction for the entire Kompanie is hardly possible, and the concentrated effect of the unit’s firepower is lost. The commander's cupola on the T 43 makes it easier to command and fire at the same time; however; vision is very limited to five very small and narrow slits.
                          ...
                          Our experience is that the capabilities of the 7.62 cm Kw.K. are good. Thorough adjustment of the weapons and careful aiming ensure high accuracy even at long ranges. With their low rate of fire, the weapons are accurate and have few stoppages.
                          ...
                          Based on all these facts, the Kompanie concludes that the success of using captured tanks as a Panzer is questionable. The results of the last days in combat in the Jassy bridgehead have shown that their employment as a Panzerjaeger appears suitable."
                          Last edited by Genosaurer; 28 Nov 14,, 22:32.
                          "Nature abhors a moron." - H.L. Mencken

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                          • #14
                            One more:

                            Originally posted by Triple C View Post
                            Reliability/Dependability: I don't think there's any proof of Panzers being more dependable than T-34s. The T-34, like most Russian equipment, was designed to tolerate low quality control in their assembly lines in the first place. Aberdeen Proving Grounds found the T-34 sample the Russians sent them suffered from weak engine filter and over brittle armor.
                            A GRU representative was present at the US Army's evaluation of the T-34 and KV-1 at Aberdeen (donated for testing in 1942, along with spares and an engineer to maintain them during the tests), and wrote a report on the American findings. It's interesting reading.

                            "Everyone, without exception, approves of the shape of the hull of our tanks. The T-34's is particularly good. All are of the opinion that the shape of the T-34's hull is better than that of any American tank. The KV's is worse than on any current American tank.
                            ...
                            The main deficiency [of the hull] is the permeability to water of the lower hull during water crossings, as well as the upper hull during rain. In heavy rain lots of water flows through chinks/ cracks, which leads to the disabling of the electrical equipment and even the ammunition."


                            "[The transmission is] without doubt, poor. An interesting thing happened. Those working on the transmission of the KV were struck that it was very much like those transmissions on which they had worked 12-15 years ago. The firm was questioned. The firm sent the blueprints of their transmission type A-23. To everyone's surprise, the blueprints of our transmission turned out to be a copy of those sent. The Americans were surprised, not that we were copying their design, but that we were copying a design that they had rejected 15-20 years ago. The Americans consider that, from the point of view of the designer, installing such a transmission in the tank would create an inhuman harshness for the driver (hard to work). On the T-34 the transmission is also very poor. When it was being operated, the cogs completely fell to pieces (on all the cogwheels). A chemical analysis of the cogs on the cogwheels showed that their thermal treatment is very poor and does not in any way meet American standards for such mechanisms.
                            ...
                            [The clutch is] without doubt, poor. In America, they rejected the installation of friction clutches, even on tractors (never mind tanks), several years ago. In addition to the fallaciousness of the very principle, our friction clutches are extremely carelessly machined from low-quality steel, which quickly causes wear and tear, accelerates the penetration of dirt into the drum and in no way ensures reliable functioning."

                            "The diesel is good and light. The idea of using diesel engines on tanks is shared in full by American specialists and military personnel.
                            ...
                            The deficiency of our diesels is the criminally poor air cleaners on the T-34. The Americans consider that only a saboteur could have constructed such a device. They also don't understand why in our manuals it is called oil-bath. [Probably indicating that they weren't using it quite correctly, since the filters had to be oiled to work properly - although that'd be odd since the Soviets sent an engineer along with the tanks to explain their operation and maintenance. Maybe they didn't listen to him, or maybe the author misinterpreted?]

                            Their tests in a laboratory showed that:
                            - The air cleaner doesn't clean at all the air which is drawn into the motor;
                            - Its capacity does not allow for the flow of the necessary quantity of air, even when the motor is idling. As a result, the motor does not achieve its full capacity. Dirt getting into the cylinders leads them to quickly wear out, compression drops, and the engine loses even more power.

                            In addition, the filter was manufactured, from a mechanical point of view, extremely primitively: in places the spot-welding of the electric welding has burned through the metal, leading to leakage of oil etc. On the KV the filter is better manufactured, but it does not secure the flow in sufficient quantity of normal cleaned air. On both motors the starters are poor, being weak and of unreliable construction."

                            "[The T-34 interior arrangement's] main weakness is that it is very tight. The Americans could not understand how our tankers could fit inside during winter, when they wear sheepskin jackets. The electrical mechanism for turning the turret is very bad. The motor is weak, heavily overloaded and sparks horribly, as a result of which the device regulating the speed of the rotation burns out, and the teeth of the cogwheels break into pieces. They recommend redoing it as a hydraulic or simply manual system."

                            "The deficiencies in our tracks from their viewpoint results from the lightness of their construction. They can easily be damaged by small calibre shells and mortar bombs. The pins are extremely poorly tempered and made of poor steel. As a result they quickly wear and the track often breaks. The idea of having loose track pins that are held in place by a cam welded to the side of the hull, at first was greatly liked by the Americans. But when in use under certain operating conditions, the pins would become bent which often resulted in the track rupturing. The Americans consider that if the armour is reduced in thickness the resultant weight saving can be used to make the tracks heavier and more reliable."

                            "On the T-34, [the suspension] is poor. Suspension of the Christie type was tested long ago by the Americans, and unconditionally rejected. On our tanks, as a result of the poor steel on the springs, it very quickly [unclear word] and as a result clearance is noticeably reduced. On the KV the suspension is very good."

                            "From the American point of view, our tanks are slow. Both our tanks can climb an incline better than any American tank. The welding of the armour plating is extremely crude and careless. The radio sets in laboratory tests turned out to be not bad. However, because of poor shielding and poor protection, after installation in the tanks the sets did not manage to establish normal communications at distances greater than 10 miles. The compactness of the radio sets and their intelligent placement in the tanks was pleasing. The machining of equipment components and parts was, with few exceptions, very poor. In particular the Americans were troubled by the disgraceful design and extremely poor work on the drive / gear / transmission links / blocks on the T-34. After much torment they made new ones and replaced ours. All the tanks' mechanisms demand very frequent adjustments / fine-tuning."
                            Last edited by Genosaurer; 28 Nov 14,, 22:42.
                            "Nature abhors a moron." - H.L. Mencken

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Genosaurer View Post

                              "Everyone, without exception, approves of the shape of the hull of our tanks. The T-34's is particularly good. All are of the opinion that the shape of the T-34's hull is better than that of any American tank.... [The T-34 interior arrangement's] main weakness is that it is very tight. The Americans could not understand how our tankers could fit inside during winter, when they wear sheepskin jackets.

                              Sloped armor is all well and good from the front, but a tumblehome hull with a pinched waist for a turret ring was a dead end design.

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