Thursday, 27 April 2017

Zhukov and Minefields

There's a very common myth about Zhukov prevalent in popular culture, both Russian and Western, about his unparalleled cruelty and disregard for human life. Historian Aleksey Isayev read a radio lecture dispelling common myths about the commander. I'm not going to transcribe the whole thing, since it's over an hour and a half long, but I will tackle one particularly prevalent myth: the allegation that Zhukov marched his men to their death over minefields. Isayev discusses the myth at 1:33:05.

"There's a very famous story, allegedly coming from Eisenhower, about how if Soviet infantry encountered a minefield, it would advance as though there was no minefield there. This is a retelling over a broken telephone. In reality, Zhukov insisted that regular ordinary infantry should undergo sapper training, because simple mine disarmament, removal of simple minefields, can be performed by a person who has certain combat experience, and the implementation of this in ordinary rifle units, so they would not be stalled in front of minefields waiting for sappers and deal with minefields that they could handle by themselves, moving forward, and not remain in place, vulnerable to artillery attack."

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Repair Bill

"Preliminary calculations of capital repairs of the A-34 vehicle

Proposed replacement of mechanisms:
  • V-2 engine: 72,386
  • Electric motors (set): 2610
  • Radiators: 2013
  • Tires: 10,000
  • Ball bearings: 3325
  • Gearbox: 12,000
  • Main friction clutch: 5000
  • Final drives: 4740
  • Tracks: 6612
  • Normalizing parts: 1128
  • Tarp parts: 1275
  • Felt parts: 664
  • Rubber parts: 933
  • Liner: 100
  • Total cost: 122,786

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Valentine Improvement

"To the Chief Engineer of TsAKB and TsAKB Chief, Lieutenant-General of the Technical Forces, comrade Grabin

April 18th, 1944

Valentine tanks armed with a 40 mm gun continue arriving from England in the USSR.

The penetration of this gun is low and, as experience shows, it cannot fight against modern German tanks in battle. In addition, the ammunition used with the 40 mm gun does not include a high explosive shell, making these tanks ineffective against infantry.

I ask you to determine the possibility of designing and producing an experimental Valentine tank with an 85 mm S-53 gun.

It is necessary to include a 7.62 mm machinegun with 360 degree range to combat enemy personnel.

GBTU USA Chief, Major-General of the Engineering Tank Service, Alymov."

CAMD RF 38-11369-284

Monday, 24 April 2017

Kirov Experiments, June 1941

"Report on completion of experimental works on armoured vehicles from May 20th, 1941, to June 20th, 1941

Object 220 (KV-3 base)

As of June 20th, the tank traveled 1979 km in total, 584 km after reassembly. The 850 hp V-2SN engine #2(1193-03) installed on May 30th worked for 27 h. 21 m. During trials, the following defects were discovered:
  1. 3 sets of exhaust collectors burned up over the course of 284 km.
  2. 4 final drive ferodo ribbons burned up. Cause: improper installation and adjustment.
As of June 12th, the existing defects are:

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Infantry Tank Mk.I: the First Infantry Tank

There are many tanks in the history of armoured warfare that were simply unlucky. The British Infantry Tank Mk.I is one of them. Even its name was lost when it became the Matilda due to some historian's error, even though that name applies to a completely different vehicle. As Britain's first infantry tank, it was hopelessly obsolete by the start of the war. Even its thick armour was not enough to survive in a war that it was simply not suitable for.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Gun Motor Carriage M10

Unlike many tanks, few tank destroyers arrived in the USSR within the Lend Lease program. The Gun Motor Carriage T48, or SU-57, built on the chassis of the M3 halftrack, was the only exception. Initially, they were built by the Americans for a British order, but the British barely used them. The USSR gave them a completely different reception: they were used actively and showed themselves as an effective anti-tank measure. As for tank destroyers on a tank chassis, the only Western vehicle that was accepted into the army was the Gun Motor Carriage M10, known widely under the British nickname "Wolverine".

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Party Hard

"To the commander of the 61st Radom Rifle Corps

I report that at 23:00 on May 6th, 1945, American correspondents Captains Robert Ruben, John McVane, Victor Berstein, Richard Hotslet, escorted by Sr. Lieutenant Bruce Feshenden and driver Corporal John Doyle were detailed near Hohenwarthe village while headed across the Elbe.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

End of Rearmament

"To the People's Commissariat of Defense of the USSR
Comrade Beria
January 9th, 1942

Chief designers of factory #92, Major-General of the Technical Forces, comrade Grabin, installed domestic armament in two Matilda and Valentine tanks.

Instead of the English 40 mm gun and 7.92 mm machinegun in the Valentine tank, our 45 mm tank gun and DT machinegun are used.

Instead of the English 40 mm gun and 7.92 mm machinegun in the Matilda tank, our 76 mm tank gun and DT machinegun are used.

Based on personal inspection and review of trials materials, I deem that the re-armament of English tanks is senseless for the following reasons:

Porsche Suspension

"British Embassy, Moscow
British Military Mission in the USSR
Moscow, May 15th, 1944

To: Mr. Lieutenant General Lebedev
Copy: Mr. Chief of the NKO Department of External Affairs

The War Ministry asked me to provide it with brief information on the suspension of the Ferdinand self propelled gun. It is especially interested in the diameter and length of the torsion bars, their position, and the distance between the axles. A diagram with specified sizes would be very valuable, especially if accompanied by a description of the performance of the suspension.

I would be most grateful if you supplied me with the aforementioned data.

M.B. Burrows
Lieutenant General, Head of the British Military Mission in the USSR."

Monday, 17 April 2017

Cheating at Statistics 19: Time Travelling Tigers

One of the first uses of the IS-85 tank was in the Korsun Pocket. The 13th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment, equipped with brand new IS-85s, was sent to block Kampfgruppe Bake (an unusual formation equipped with both Tiger and Panther tanks) from breaking through to the pocket. Forczyk describes this engagement as not particularly favourable to the IS tanks.

"These heavy tanks were committed into action on 15 February and unwisely attacked Kampfgruppe Bake instead of sitting on the defense; the Panthers and Tigers knocked virtually all of them out. Following this incident, the GABTU resolved to upgrade the new IS-series heavy tanks to the 122 mm gun."

Oof, that's quite a mistake for a book published in 2015. The decree titled "On IS tanks" authorized the production of an IS tank armed with a 122 mm gun in September of 1943. By February 15th, these tanks were not only in production, but had already reached the front lines.

However, there's something else fishy in play here. This unit that was destroyed by Tigers and Panthers mysteriously pops up on the very next page to wreak havoc on Kampfgruppe Bake and Frank's attempts to break through to the encircled men. Let's take a look at what actually happened.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

T18 HMC: Quick Howitzer

The American army began thinking of motorizing their artillery back in WWI. For a long time, attempts were made to build an SPG on the chassis of the light tracked Holt tractor. In parallel, John Walter Christie was working on a similar vehicle. Neither project satisfied the US Army for various reasons. A second attempt at an SPG was made in 1930, but the Howitzer Motor Carriage T1 remained an experiment. The next opportunity to obtain self propelled artillery came a decade later in the form of the Howitzer Motor Carriage T18.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Combat Car M1: Armour for American Cavalry

Traditionally, cavalry occupied a very strong position in the American army. As soon as there was an opportunity to obtain its own tanks, the cavalry took it. Since, officially, the cavalry was not allowed to have tanks, the name "combat car" was used, even though these vehicles were actually tanks. The Combat Car M1 and several similar vehicles on its chassis are typical representatives of the small family of interbellum cavalry tanks.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

On German Tank Losses

Aleksey Isayev talked about the peculiar nature of German loss records before, but this time he specifically tackles the losses of tank units.

"The Germans had a habit of not recording the tank as lost until the very last moment, even if it stands right in the middle of Soviet positions, but unburnt, it can be recorded in documents as still recoverable. Who knows, maybe the Russians will go away, we'll pull it out. Later, when the situation was completely hopeless, it was finally written off as an irrecoverable loss. And even then, if the tank is only a charred husk, it can be recorded as "in long-term repairs" in German documents.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Nomenclature Confusion

Periodically, one can find information online that the M2 Light Tank, namely the M2A4, was shipped to the USSR as a part of Lend-Lease aid. Indeed, 31 "American light M2A4" tanks show up in the "Report on tanks arriving from England for use by the Red Army as of January 15th, 1942". 


31 American light tanks just arrived at Arkhangelsk by convoy. The British ordered M2A4 tanks, so maybe they pawned a few off to the Soviets. Seems fairly bulletproof, but things aren't always what they seem.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Experimental Guns

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Kulik
July 23th, 1940

I report on the status of experimental work on tank and anti-tank armament specified in meeting minutes from June 16th, 1940
  1. Working blueprints of a powerful 76 mm anti-tank gun based on the USV produced by factory #92 are complete and sent to the manufacturing plants, aside from blueprints for the balancing mechanism and the rear of the mount.
  2. Working blueprints for a powerful 76 mm tank gun based on the F-34 were developed and sent to the manufacturing plants.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Archive Awareness is now Tank Archives

Over four years ago, I started writing this blog. Originally, it was called Ensign Expendable's Archive Awareness, stemming from my World of Tanks forums username and the fact that very few posters there had the slightest idea about what historical archives were or how they functioned. Since that was quite a mouthful, I decided to make the URL quick and snappy: Tank Archives.

The brave new world that opened before me was full of potential. My original grandiose plans included several sites under the Archive Awareness umbrella dedicated to archive documents of various themes. Out of those, only Soviet Gun Archives ever materialized, and even that fell into disuse as I figured out that my real passion was tanks, and only tanks.

However, there is nothing as permanent as the temporary, and so the name remained, despite the occasionally confused search queries (my favourite is "tank archive awareness"). It's finally time to shuffle things around a little and make the name more consistent. 

Cheating at Statistics 18: Volosovo Vanishing

Following some very generous evaluations of their performance, the s.Pz.Abt. 502 continued backing up before the advance of the Red Army. Just a few days later, on January 28th, 1944, an epic battle erupted near the village of Volosovo:

"28 January 1944: Volosovo is reached. Tiger III (Feldwebel Hermann) is approached by 27 T-34s. With only 3 armor-piercing and 9 high-explosive rounds remaining, he destroys 7 T-34s. Several alerted Tigers knock out 8 more T-34s. Ammunition is running out. 9 more T-34s are knocked out at dawn."

A scenario fit for an action movie! It seems everything is lost. but victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat and 24 of the attacking 27 T-34s are knocked out! However, just to be safe, let's make sure that the battle actually happened.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Light Tanks T1E4 and T2E1: Experiments on an Ideal Platform

The idea of a light tank with a front engine that the American Ordnance Department insisted on was at a dead end by 1932. Trials of the Light Tank T1 family and later the Medium Tank T2 showed that the idea was unacceptable. Poor visibility, excessive mass, bad crew conditions, and, most importantly, the limits of further development, put an end to such tanks. Designers moved on to working on other tanks with different layouts. Harry Knox, the father of the front engine American tanks, did not abandon his idea, and kept looking for a place for his idea. Stooping down to plagiarism, he crossed his Light Tank T1E1 with the Vickers Mk.E, its overseas competitor. The resulting "hybrid" Light Tank T2E1 was not that bad.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Medium Tank M2: Last Place in the Arms Race

The late 1930s were a time when armoured vehicles were developing rapidly. The start of WWII in September of 1939 gave an even bigger push to the flywheel of progress. Designs that were considered revolutionary suddenly fell behind. There were cases where tanks became obsolete soon after coming out of the factory. The American Medium Tank M2 is among those unlucky ones. You can read a lot of mockery of the combat abilities of this tank, but they are unreasonable. American engineers made a decent medium tank, but by the time it entered mass production there were already other tanks with more armour and better armament.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Tank RMA

"To the Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal G.I. Kulik

The chief designer of factory #92, comrade Grabin, reports to me that the 85 mm F-30 gun installed in the T-220 tank turret made by the Kirov factory is unbalanced and the pedal trigger is positioned in an unsatisfactory manner. 

In order to balance the gun and reposition the trigger, the tank and the gun have to be sent back to factory #92 for adjustments.

I ask you to immediately order the shipment of the T-220 tank with the 85 mm F-30 gun from the Kirov factory to factory #92.

Deputy People's Commissar of Armament, Mirzakhanov."

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Replacement Steel

"State Committee of Defense
Decree #3038
March 16th, 1943
Moscow, Kremlin

In order to test the quality of armoured plate made from KM-1 steel (FD 5732) as a replacement for M3-2 (8S) steel on tank hulls:
  1. The People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metal (comrade Tevosyan) must deliver KM-1 plate to factories ##112, 176, and Uralmash in the amount earlier established by the agreement between the People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metal and GABTU and the NKTP.
  2. The People's Commissariat of Tank Building (comrade Zaltsmann) must produce and test experimental T-34 and T-70 tank hulls at factories ##112, 176, and Uralmash from KM-1 steel produced by the People's Commissariat of Ferrous Metal and deliver conclusions to the Council of People's Commissars regarding the possibility of using KM-1 steel (FD 5732).
  3. In the event of satisfactory results of trials of KM-1 steel, the People's Commissariat of Tank Building (comrade Zaltsmann) must investigate the preparations necessary for hardening this steel at NKTP factories at a temperature of 200 degrees.
Deputy Chair of the Committee of Defense, V. Molotov

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

ZIS-30 in Combat

"To the Deputy Chief of GABTU, Major-General of the Technical Forces, Lebedev
CC: Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces Tamruchi
April 5th, 1942

The 57 mm anti-tank gun mounted on the Komsomolets chassis showed itself as a dangerous weapon against any type of enemy tank. During use in battle, the following advantages and drawbacks were discovered.

Monday, 3 April 2017

T-34 Tank Destroyer

"Approved by Deputy People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, G. Kulik
May 27th, 1941

Tactical-Technical Requirements for an 85 mm SPG

1. Purpose of the SPG
  1. The 85 mm SPG is designed to accompany moto-mechanized units and for combat with enemy tanks and armoured cars.
  2. The 85 mm SPG must be able to combat strongholds and personnel positioned in the open, or behind light field fortifications, support direct and indirect fire, and be able to penetrate 85-90 mm of armour with a coefficient of K=2400 at 30 degrees at a range of 1000 meters.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Halftrack Experiments

Ever since their appearance in the mid-1910s, halftracks have been considered as a chassis for armoured vehicles, especially SPGs. Better off-road performance than wheeled vehicles and stability made these vehicles an attractive chassis for artillery. Halftrack SPGs were popular in Germany and the United States. The heroes of this article, Soviet ZIS-41 and ZIS-43 halftracks, are not as well known.