Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Density

The concept of density of fire per minute was a very important one in Soviet strategic planning. Effective offense and defence hedges on first and foremost having enough bullets that can fly at the enemy, and some units went so far as to illustrate their abilities.

Here is a map of the 354th Rifle Division's lines with the available volume of fire that can be sent the enemy's way per linear meter in November of 1944.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Cheating at Statistics: Machinations at Malinovo

The engagement of Otto Carius vs the "1st Tank Brigade Joseph Stalin" is pretty well known. It's already been established that there was no such brigade, no Hero of the USSR major, and the tanks destroyed at the village have been identified by serial number (there were only 5 IS-2s, not 17 like Carius claims). However, the battle that happened next was even more grandiose: the destruction of 28 tanks and a supply convoy! Tigers in Combat describes it rather laconically:

22 July 1944: ... . Subsequently, the Kampfgruppe moves to a position 10 kilometers east of Krivani in order to defeat the rest of the enemy brigade. When the enemy brigade's main body approaches without any reconnaissance, it is ambushed; 28 tanks destroyed.

Carius gives a much more colourful description.

"After we had finished off all the vehicles, there wasn't a Russian to be seen. They had slunk away into the fields, if they hadn't been surprised on their tanks. The entire column of vehicles was burning. Some of the trucks were overturned.
One truck drove into another. And not a single one could escape. By the time the Russians knew where the shooting was coming from, everything had already been knocked out - a really horribly beautiful sight!
Twenty-eight tanks were in front of us, burning and smoldering. With each passing moment, a fuel tank exploded; the ammunition rattled and ripped the turrets apart. We had done a great job. I was firmly convinced that we had given Ivan something to think about. It would certainly suffice to guarantee us a few peaceful nights."

Saturday, 20 July 2019

A Tank for Allies

The American Medium Tank M4 became the second most numerous tank produced in WWII after the T-34, and the first if you count the T-34-85 separately. This record did not come easy. It is often said that this result was reached by converting the American car industry to war footing, but there was only one automotive giant that built Sherman tanks: Ford. The M4 was assembled at specially built tank arsenals, as well as railway car companies and steel foundries.

There was a great variety among types of this tank as well. There were five main variants with four different engines. The M4A4 version was the second most numerous, but the Americans hardly used any of them.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Light Tanks at Aquino

The Stuart and Chaffee are always a welcome sight, zooming around on the relatively small battlefield. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a lot of footage of the Chaffee this year, so it's getting rolled into the Stuart video. 

Beast vs Beast Killer

If you read this blog, you're probably already familiar with tests performed with 152 mm guns against King Tiger tanks. Fans of the King Tiger needn't worry about unfairness, since the ISU-152 was in turn tested against a Pak 43. A new welded hull, rather than cast, was adopted by UZTM, which already had experience with using this type of hull on IS-2 tanks. The results were quite impressive.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Upgunning the T-43

"T-43 tank turret with the D-5 system
Description

During installation of the D-5 system into the T-43 tank turret, an insert is welded into the gun port, as the D-5 system is narrower than the F-34. An armoured shield is installed in the upper front part of the turret.

The seats of the gunner and commander are located in the same place as with the F-34. The turret traverse mechanism remains in the same place. The elevation mechanism is lowered by 40 mm relative to the elevation mechanism used on the F-34.

The trigger of the system is electric. The trigger is installed in the handle of the elevation flywheel. An electric trigger also works the coaxial DT machinegun. There is also a backup hand firing mechanism for the D-5 gun.

The sights and observation devices of the turret are installed in the same way as they are when in the F-34 is installed.

The radio is located in the same place as when the F-34 is installed.

50 rounds of ammunition are carried, 29 of which are carried in the floor, 16 in the turret bustle, and 5 on the right side of the turret.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Infantry vs. Tigers

The German 4th Tank Army received an impressive injection of new reserves in March of 1944: three infantry divisions and a brigade of assault guns. The generosity of their superiors did not end there. The 507th Heavy Tank Battalion was moved out from Western Europe.

Its formation began in May of 1943. It was lucky enough to escape Operation Citadel and fall battles near Kiev. The unit received 45 brand new Tiger tanks between December 1943 and February 1944. Its hour came on March 15th, when the tanks were loaded on trains and set out eastward. Six more followed, which resulted in a total of 51 tanks.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Kalashnikov's Debut

If you ask a foreigner words he associated with Russia, "Kalashnikov" is likely going to be one of them. The famous assault rifle became one of the symbols of not only Russia and the USSR, but the 20th Century. The assault rifle's designer, Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov, also got a share of the glory. As it often happens, this glory was rather one-sided and often subjective. Let's try to get through the other creations of the designer who was defined by his best known work.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Sd.Kfz.251/10 Ausf.D in Action

Another Sd.Kfz.251 from the Ontario Regiment Museum, this time a 251/10 Ausf.D. As far as I can tell, this is an actual German vehicle.


Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Gun Maskirovka

The art of concealment and camouflage was incredibly important for anti-tank gun crews. One position was also not enough: it was necessary to prepare multiple positions, concealment for the crew in case of indirect fire against the gun, storage of ammunition, etc. Diagrams were produced in order to make it easier to see what had to be done.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Dummy Tanks

"Translated from German
Memo on using dummy tanks
  1. Dummy tanks must influence the enemy's decisions in our favour. They must introduce confusion regarding the amount and application of the tanks that oppose him. In addition, they must trick enemy aircraft into bombing false targets.
    Dummy tanks used on the front lines individually do not create the necessary effect, as they can be fired upon by the enemy without the ability to fire back. They can only be put into motion in exceptional cases, and thus are quickly destroyed.
    One must breathe life into these dummies! This is achieved by concentrating a number of dummies into one squad and moving them from place to place. The dummies must be withdrawn from the zone of enemy observation.
    Do not allow the enemy to observe these tanks for prolonged periods of time. It is possible to permit the enemy to view them from the air in your own rear. This can also reveal the enemy's air reconnaissance. The dummy tank squad is not a force on its own, but an aid for a regular tank unit. It must be used alongside a real tank unit. That breathes life into tanks.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Canadian Dry Pin

This was originally written as a submission to a question on r/AskHistorians. Reddit user Jeddaven asked "What disadvantages did Canadian Dry pin tracks face versus tradition tank tracks?" Since this is a topic with little detail available, I decided to reformat my answer and post it here.

Canadian tank production is one underappreciated aspect of the country's contribution to WWII. Montreal Locomotive Works made excellent use of the American M3/M4 chassis, building the Ram and Grizzly tanks, Sexton SPG using their chassis, and the Skink AA tank on the Grizzly chassis.

Initially, these Canadian-built AFVs used WE210 tracks, commonly used on Medium Tanks M3, which were then replaced by T54E1 tracks, also used on American tanks. A shortage of rubber made the Canadians explore an alternative. Fully metallic Canadian Dry Pin tracks were designed.

Canadian Dry Pin track link.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Schmeisser vs. Kalashnikov

There are quite a few brands in the world of weapons that are recognizeable even to the outside observer. One of them is the legendary "Kalashnikov", the AK-47. The assault rifle found a place in popular culture, computer games, and even on flags and coats of arms. However, arguments about its creator still don't die. There are those tho suspect that only German designers could have made the AK, and their labour was appropriated by the Soviets.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

OT-810/Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf.C at Aquino Tank Weekend 2019

The Sd.Kfz.251 was one of the few German army vehicles to see any post-war service. Not only that, it was produced in Czechoslovakia under the index OT-810. Dubbed "Hitler's revenge" by the soldiers, it did not prove very popular, but it did ensure that reenactors dressed as German infantrymen would not have to walk to the battlefield.


Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Book Announcement

I mentioned this in my annual update, but I'm writing a book! Or, rather, I have written a book, and am currently in the final stages of neatly arranging everything and sending it off to the publisher. However, preorders are already open! Head on over to Morton's to reserve a copy, or wait until it becomes available on Amazon or wherever you buy your books.




Cover art by Piotr Forkasiewicz.

Description of the contents:
  • Chapter 1: overview of Soviet tank design, development of requirements for the BT-20 as a result of experience gained in the Spanish Civil War.
  • Chapter 2: Development and trials of the A-20 and A-32 tanks.
  • Chapter 3: Development and trials of the A-34 tank.
  • Chapter 4: Mass production and design changes of the T-34, trials of production tanks.
  • Chapter 5: Delivery and service of T-34 tanks in 1940 and the first half of 1941.

Update: Morton's confirmed that there will indeed be a digital version.

Supercharge

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production #120s
Chelyabinsk
March 31st, 1942

In order to improve the driving qualities of our tanks, I order that:
  1. STZ director, comrade K.A. Zadorozhniy, must:
    1. Perform experimental work  to increase the power of the V-2 engine to 750 hp at 2000-2100 RPM with a centrifugal or volumetric supercharger. 
    2. Complete experimental work to increase the power of engines by May 1st, 1942.
    3. Present the experimental work and reports for approval to my deputy, comrade Zh.Ya. Kotin, by July 10th, 1942.
      Supply one new T-34 and one repaired KV tank for trials.
  2. Acting director of the Kirov factory, comrade S.N. Makhonin, must:
    1. Send two centrifugal AM-35 superchargers to STZ by airplane no later than April 5th, 1942, as well as a set of blueprints of the transmission and engine compartment and gearbox of the KV tank to select a location for the supercharger.
  3. Chief of the NTKP Financial Department, comrade Shagalov must:
    1. Issue 500,000 roubles to STZ director comrade Zadorozhniy for conducting the experimental work.
Authorized representative of the People's Commissar of Tank Production, V. Malyshev"

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

More or Less

Human intelligence is a fickle thing rumours might end up being almost completely wrong, or pretty much right on the money. For instance, this interrogation resulted in information that ends up being almost correct, but it's hard to filter out what is wrong and what is right from this piece of info alone.


Monday, 1 July 2019

Scorched Earth

"Intelligence department, 1st Ukrainian Front

Captured by the 4th Guards Tank Army on March 20th, 1945
Copy from a copy
Translated from German

Supreme command of the land forces, Field Marshal Keitel
Supreme HQ
September 25th, 1944

Contents: on robbery performed by soldiers within the empire

Reports indicate that soldiers located in regions of the empire that is adjacent to combat zones are guilty of most heinous crimes against the property of their German compatriots. They raid the possessions and stocks of those who have been evacuated and rob abandoned apartments. Commanders did not only fail to combat this, but occasionally participated in these shameful actions.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

From Support Tank to a Lead Role

It often happens that tanks are built for one purpose, but become necessary for another. German tank building is an excellent example of this. The situation with medium tanks was the most complicated. The B.W. tank (Pz.Kpfw.IV) was envisioned as a small batch vehicle, but was several times more numerous than the Z.W. (Pz.Kpfw.III). The situation normalized only by the May-June 1940 campaign, but history repeats itself. By the middle of the war, the Pz.Kpfw.IV once again became the most numerous German tank, outlasting the PzIII in production.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Universal Carrier in Action

Like most Commonwealth forces, the Canadians used Universal Carriers extensively, and they were even produced in Canada. There are always a couple kicking around Aquino Tank Weekend.

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Big Caliber

"To the Commander of the 370th Order of the Red Banner Order of Kutuzov 2nd Class Rifle Division

I report that:
At [illegible] the enemy used 210 mm guns in the artillery barrage of [illegible], which resulted in a direct hit to the turret of IS tank #113 (serial number 41046), as a result of which internal equipment and the engine compartment burned up, and the turret was thrown to the side by the shockwave.
Out of the 6 men inside the tank at the time, the following casualties were taken:
  1. Mechanic-driver Sergeant Romanov: killed
  2. Gunner Starshina Golakhov and loader Private Panov: wounded
Company commander Guards Lieutenant Minulov, technical deputy commander Junior Lieutenant La[illegible] and tank commander Guards Lieutenant Bilanov were not injured.

The majority of the damage was caused by 3 near misses. As a result of fragments and shockwave, 4 men were killed, 4 wounded, and 2 contused.

Regiment commander, Lieutenant-Colonel [signature]
Chief of Staff, Major [signature] 
February 26th, 1945"

The handwritten text over the top of the report is hard to read, it but orders that all IS tanks must be carefully dug in and concealed to prevent this from happening again.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Delivery

"Operational summary
On completion of the ABTU's order for January 1941 by Comintern factory #183

Military Representative P.F. Rusakov

Item
Produced this year
Delivered this year
T-34 tank, L-11 gun
85                                          
30
Same, with radio
81
51
Spare parts for BT tanks
358.5 tons
358.5 tons
Spare parts for T-34 tanks
457.3 tons
457.3 tons
T-34 gearboxes
12
12


Monday, 24 June 2019

Project 423

Project 423 was an ersatz SPG designed by the artillery chief of the Kirov factory, Lev Izrailyevich Gorlitskiy. The SPG consisted of a 76 mm regimental gun on a cruciform mount, surrounded by an armoured shield, similar to the one used on the T-26-6 (more commonly known as SU-26). 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Weaponized Carboard

Scale model building as it is known today has its roots in something that is distant from the world of hobbies. Everything started with the Navy: special models of prospective ships, known as "admiralty models", were built since time immemorial. The British were the creators of this tradition. From them, the world inherited popular scales: 1:16, 1:32, 1:48 and 1:72 all have naval origins.

Scale modelling as a hobby began to evolve in the 20th century. Its popularity today can trace its origins to the boom during WWII. Back then, this was not a hobby, but a practical military solution. In addition to wood, a material commonly used to build models of prospective tanks or ships, cardboard was also used. It is largely because of the cardboard models that modern scale models exist.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

M4A2E8 at the Ontario Regiment Museum

Canada received a large number of M4A2E8 Shermans that were originally meant for shipment to the USSR. These tanks were still used for training well into the 1970s, and a great many of them are still running today. The Ontario Regiment Museum takes out two of its four Shermans during the Aquino Tank Weekend reenactments.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

1942 Tactics

"Wundsdorf Tank School

March 1st, 1942

What tactics will Russian tanks use in 1942?

Throughout the Eastern campaign, the Russians did not attack according to their manuals. We must assume that this will keep happening in the future.

Russian tanks advance in tight cooperation with infantry, since they are subordinate to it. A small group of tanks (5-10) is followed by a group of infantry, which either rides the tanks or is towed on skis. In this way, the Russians do not deliver a concentrated tank strike, but are able to use tanks everywhere.

We must discard the idea that tanks will only attack in regimental-sized fronts. These small groups of tanks can get through terrain that is suboptimal for tanks (thin forest, forest clearings, dirt roads, etc). Anti-tank obstacles several hundred meters from the front lines are pointless in this case, since the tanks already have very close targets.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

The New T-34

"December 6th, 1940
#77319ss
To Regional Engineer at factory #183, Military Engineer 2nd Class, comrade Kozyrev

The following is a list of changes and additions necessary to add to the production T-34 tank.
  1. Complete battle weight of no more than 26 tons.
  2. Armament: one 76 mm L-11 gun with coaxial DT machinegun, a second DT for the radio operator, and a submachinegun (PPD) in the turret for firing through hatches. Install the F-34 76 mm gun after January 1941.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Cruiser with a Big Head

SPGs are hardly a strength of the British tank industry. The country developed the first SPG on a tank chassis, but then the birthplace of tanks fell behind in the creation of self propelled artillery. Suffice it to say that Britain produced half as many SPGs as Canada in WWII (not counting those converted into SPGs from tanks). British SPGs implemented rather unusual design decisions. This was true for their tank destroyers as well, both the Challenger and Avenger.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Pz.Kpfw.III Replica at the Ontario Regiment Museum

This tank is not an actual PzIII, but you can hardly tell just by looking at it. The only giveaway was that the tires don't say "Continental" on them. According to the driver, it was built entirely to factory blueprints externally, and only the insides come from the M113 APC. 


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Panther Intel

"British Military Mission in the USSR
Moscow
July 9th, 1943

To: Major General Dubinin
CC: GABTU Chief

Contents: new German medium and heavy tanks
  1. I present to you the following information that we already communicated to the GABTU. This information comes from prisoners of war and captured documents and has not been confirmed.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Experimental Work at factory #183, January 1941

"February 4th, 1941
#87s

To the Chief of the 3rd Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Class, Afonin

The following work was performed at factory #183 during January of 1941:

1. Experimental work
  1. Trials of T-34 gearboxes were performed. 2 gearboxes with reduced 3rd gear ratios were installed in January. The first, with the ratio lowered by 14.6%, travelled about 550 km. The second, with a gear ratio lowered by 8%, travelled 340 km. Preliminary trials show that driving tanks with reduced gear ratios is easier than those with production gearboxes. One vehicle's gearbox had its 2nd, 3rd, and 4th gears constantly engaged, where the 3rd gear was reduced by 22.1% and 4th gear by 9.5%. Changing gears was performed using a clutch. The tank with this gearbox travelled for 400 km. In this tank it is easier to engage the third gear than on the production gearbox. No chipping of the gear teeth was observed.

Monday, 10 June 2019

1942 Lineup: New Players

"Wundsdorf Tank School

March 1st, 1942

Which Russian tanks will you encounter in 1942?

...

When looking at modern types of Russian tanks, you must realize that tanks of significantly high quality have been attained in a surprisingly short amount of time. Special attention is paid to armour and effectiveness of armament. A goal of standardization is obvious, for instance the T-34 and both KV tanks have the same 12 cylinder 500 hp engine.

Weak points include weak clutch casings, gearboxes, and turning mechanisms. The technically advanced shape of the T-34 is notable. The Russians have very good quality armour steel. Curved 75 mm thick plates signify that Russian factories are very well equipped.

Instead of the obsolete T-26, we are seeing large amounts of small modern T-60 tanks. The best Russian tank, the T-34, came out of the BT, and the T-28 and T-35 are being replaced by the KV (Klim Voroshilov) type 1 (7.62 cm gun) and type 2 (15.2 cm gun). An amphibious tank is being produced (T-40).

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Temporary Reinforcement

Modernization often starts immediately after a tank is accepted for service and put into production. The T-34 was no exception in this regard. A number of changes to simplify production and improve the tank's characteristics were made in the first year. The T-34 changed even more radically in 1941. For instance, the L-11 gun was replaced with the F-34 gun in March of 1941. There were also plans to improve the armour, but they were only partially realized. Let us discuss the applique armour used on T-34 tanks from 1941 to 1943.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Thick Skin

"The 38th Tank Brigade with elements of the 266th Rifle Division began an offensive at 5:00 on a front from height 183 to Koshpurovka, overcoming stout enemy resistance at Grushino by 17:00 and capturing the settlement as well as the Karachintsev homestead. The tanks approached Maryevka, the offensive continues.

As a result, the brigade lost: one T-60 tank burned up from fire, one tank knocked out by a mine. 10 MK-2 tanks blew up on mines, of those two had their floor armour torn open and engines were disabled. One tank had its oil tank penetrated, two tanks had their tracks, skirts, and suspension destroyed, one tank had a drive sprocket destroyed, one tank lost a track and took 41 hits, 25 from 37 mm guns and 16 from 20 mm guns, none of them penetrating. 8 of the tanks listed will be restored by the end of May 13th, 1942."

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Anti-Tank Snipers

"Translated from German. Truncated.
November 11th, 1943

146th Motorized Regiment, 25th Tank Division
#14143 February 10th, 1943
Supreme Command of the German Army

From experience on the front lines in the past weeks
...
3. Combat of Russian infantry against tank riders

The ability of Russian infantry to fight tank riders, infantry accompanying tanks, and commanders peeking out of tank hatches (using individual snipers) is notable.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

T-43, Take One

"For further development and improvement of medium tanks, permit the NKTP and factory #183 to produce two experimental prototypes of T-44 tanks with the following tactical-technical requirements by September 1st [1942]:
  1. Mass: under 32 tons
  2. Armour:
    1. Sides: 60 mm
    2. Front: 60-75 mm
    3. Rear: 60 mm rolled, 75 mm cast
    4. Turret (cast): 80-85 mm
      The turret must have a commander's cupola.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Big Guns

"To the Chief of the 16th Department of the GAU Artillery Committee, Colonel comrade Zhevanik

I report on the work that I performed during my trip to Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk from May 3rd to May 28th, 1943.

1. Kalinin factory #8.

Based on directions by Lieutenant General of Artillery Hohlov, I organized work to design and produce an experimental 85 mm tank gun. To achieve this, I supplied factory #8 with a copy of the tactical-technical requirements and necessary blueprints with the aid of the GAU military representative at factory #9. I negotiated with the factory's director, comrade Fratkin, as well as the chief engineer and chief designer. Based on this meeting, comrade Fratkin gave the order on May 4th to quickly begin work on designing the gun with the aim of completing blueprints by May 10th.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

6-pounder, American Style

The Ordnance Department gave its permission to produce the British QF 6-pounder under license in February of 1941 in order to supply them through Lend Lease. At that point, only prototypes of the gun had been built. Even though the 6-pounder was ready for production in the summer of 1940, the British decided to postpone it for mass production of 40 mm QF 2-pounder guns. This was a logical decision. The British needed to rapidly compensate for the armament lost in France, and six 2-pounders could be made for the cost of one 6-pounder.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

New Year, New Engine

"To the Chief of the 1st Section of the 1st Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 2nd Class comrade Chikov

In response to your request by telephone, I reply with the program of 150 hour trials of the the V-2 S4 engine.

The engine has completed its trials, the trial was passed. Currently the engine is being prepared to be tested again according to the same program.

Attachment: program on 3 pages.

GABTU Regional Engineer, Military Engineer 2nd Class, Fedorov"
January 29th, 1941


Via Yuri Pasholok.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

1942 Lineup

"Wundsdorf Tank School
March 1st, 1942

Which Russian tanks will you encounter in 1942?

A significant amount of obsolete tanks:
  1. Ford armoured reconnaissance car
  2. T-37 amphibious tank
  3. T-26 light tank
  4. BT (Christie) light tank
  5. T-28 heavy tank
  6. T-35A heavy tank
Modern tanks:
  1. T-60 light tank
  2. T-40 amphibious tank
  3. T-34 heavy tank
  4. KV-1 heavy tank
  5. KV-2 heavy tank

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

News from Finland

"On April 8th, 1944, a prisoner was captured near Ashtakhma lake with a photograph of the German "Amphibian" car on him. The prisoner indicated that 66 "Amphibian" cars arrived from German to Finland and were assigned to the 6th SS Grenadier Division. The photograph is attached. A description of this vehicle can be found in report #0235 for 1943.

Monday, 27 May 2019

T-34s vs Tiger

"
Report
On military trials of T-34 and T-34-85 tanks against the T-6 "Tiger" tank
2nd Tank Battalion, 63rd Guards Tank Brigade
June 16th, 1944

1. The 2nd Tank Battalion fired the guns. The battalion commander, Guards Captain Chirkov, was directed by the brigade commander, Guards Colonel Fomichev, in the presence of the deputy commander of the 10th Guards Tank Corps, Guards Colonel Belov, Chief of Staff of the 18th Army, and the senior officers of the 18th Army.

2. Firing was done against a German Tiger tank from 400, 600, 800, and 1300 meters.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Second Hand

The SOMUA S 35 tank was well regarded not only in the French army, but in the army of its greatest enemy. Unlike the Pz38(t), the tank did not serve in first echelon divisions, but the Pz.Kpfw.35 S (f) ended up being the only French tank that was not converted into SPGs en masse and was used by the Germans and their allies as a tank. It actively fought as a part of independent tank battalions and in armoured trains. Individual tanks lasted until the end of the war.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Great Minds Think Alike

The British were questioning the value of a hull machinegun by 1943. The gun was hard to operate and seemed to offer little actual benefit in combat. It did, however, significantly weaken the tank's armour. By 1944 the Soviets had relegated their hull MGs to fixed mounts operated by the driver, but the main drawback still remained.



"To: Deputy People's Commissar of Tank Production of the USSR, comrade Zernov
CC: GBTU TU Chief, Major General comrade Afonin

RE: hull machinegun on the IS-2 tank

Orders ##158ss and 244ss request the improvement of the front hull armour. This was done by straightening the hull front, increasing the thickness and slope of the front of the turret platform.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Autocannon Penetration

Due to a shortage of DShK machineguns, the T-30 and T-60 tanks were equipped with the 20 mm ShVAK autocannon. Despite the larger caliber, penetration was not much more impressive than the DShK was capable of.
"
  • The muzzle velocity of the 20 mm AP-I round (B-Z) is 796 m/s and 892 m/s for the round with NB-200 (nitroglycerine gunpowder) propellant.
  • The precision of the ShVAK gun at ranges of up to 1000 m in bursts of 2-3 shots is satisfactory.
  • The TMFP sight scale designed for the 12.7 mm machinegun cannot be used for the ShVAK 20 mm cannon. A new sight scale needs to be applied for the optical and iron sights.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Lynx or Puma

"Leningrad Front,
Intelligence Department
October 21st, 1944
#2201ss

To the Chief of Intelligence of the 8th Army

I report on the presence in the German army of a new armoured reconnaissance car armed with a 75 mm gun called "Luchs".

Monday, 20 May 2019

T-34-85 Review

"Report on the use of the T-34 in combat during the Patriotic War in the 37th Guards Tank Regiment
  1. The S-53 gun installed on the T-34 tank has a number of design drawbacks, such as:
    1. When firing, the electrical firing mechanism burns out, and until the end of the battle one is forced to use the manual firing mechanism.
    2. The recoil break grease nipples break after 1300-1500 shots, which then need replacing. The factory quota promises 2000 shots before replacement.
    3. The DT machinegun, both in the coaxial mount and in the hull, has a very small brass catcher, and there are frequent stoppages because of it. There is enough room to make it bigger both for the coaxial and the hull machinegun.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

In Search of the Perfect Sphere

The idea of building spherical tanks was born long ago. Spherical tanks were treated as a viable weapon during WWI, but interest in this topic peaked in the 1930s and 40s. Most of the time, work reached the prototype stage, or sometimes only scale demonstration models were built. Nevertheless, spherical machines continued to enchant the minds of engineers. In our time, the "descendants" of spherical tanks are rather common, having lost their drawbacks.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Bunker Turret

I posted about German bunkers with tank turrets before, but only the drawings. Here are some instructions to go along with them.

"Translated from German
8th Jager Division

January 5th, 1944

21 armoured 38(t) turrets were installed in the division's sector. They are a powerful foundation for a line of defense, impenetrable by a hurricane of enemy fire. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

MP-44 in Combat

"Translated from German (excerpts)
563rd Grenadier Division
Quartermaster department

Contents: on the use of the "MP-44" submachinegun

Preliminary instructions from the Supreme Command of the Land Forces give the following directions on using the MP-44 submachinegun:
  1. The MP-44 is a weapon that is used to fire single shots (like a semiautomatic rifle) first and as an automatic weapon second. This weapon meets the requirements for automatic weapons of an individual soldier.
    The value of this weapon is contained in the high rate of fire and precision, as well as in the ability to concentrate fire. Its value is best demonstrated when several shooters fire together.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Compatibility

"Order of the People's Commissariat of Tank Production
Moscow
February 16th, 1942
#206-ms

Lately there have been cases of individual factories making design and technological changes to components and assemblies of production tanks. Changes are being made without consideration for interchangeability and without preliminary agreements between factories that build tanks of the same type.

This kind of senseless behaviour results in violations of agreed upon blueprints and technical documentation and disrupts the work of repair bases during restoration of vehicles of the same type that are produced by different factories.

Monday, 13 May 2019

The Myth of the Disposable T-34

This is a claim that I'm sure many of my readers have seen. It's usually worded something like "the lifespan of a T-34 tank on the battlefield was X hours, so the Soviets saw no reason to produce a tank that lasted X+1 hours". The number varies, but the sentiment is generally the same slight rewording of the "human waves" myth, pushing a narrative of disposable soldiers with disposable weapons sent to die in incredible numbers. However, one would consider it strange that an army whose main breakthrough exploitation tank was so short-lived would not only survive in a war characterized by long and deep armoured thrusts measuring hundreds of kilometers, but excel in it. Even a brief glance at contemporary documents demonstrates that reliability was always an important component of Soviet tank manufacturing.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

None More Frightening than the Cat

German industry created three armoured vehicles during WWII that had a significant effect on tank building worldwide. The appearance of the Tiger made Allied tanks obsolete. The few Ferdinand SPGs that were built introduced serious changes into the Soviet tank program. The third tank was the Panther, and its influence was comparable to that of the Tiger.

The tank was a quite unpleasant surprise for the Red Army and its allies when it made its debut at Kursk. Despite its deficiencies, the Panther is a good candidate for the best German tank of the war. The Panther was superior to the Tiger in terms of armament and frontal protection, and was made in significantly higher numbers. Many tank designers were looking at the Panther when they were making the next generation of medium and heavy tanks.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Expert Opinion

"Report on the development of the new A-20 tank at factory #183

The A-20 is began development at factory #183 in December of 1937 by designer Koshkin.

Information obtained by the UNKVD of Kharkov oblast reveals that Koshkin is conducting sabotage in the development of the tank. This was confirmed by the former director of factory #183 Bondarenko (convicted), from whose confession it can be seen that Koshkin was intentionally sabotaging the design of the A-20 tank from the very beginning on the orders of an anti-Soviet right-Trotskyist organization.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

"Tommy Gons"

"From Washington
#11115, 11116
00:45 August 14th, 1941
#3

Immediate priority
To: Stalin, Molotov, Shaposhnikov
  1. The American government officially asks if we need submachineguns currently used by the American military (the so called "Tommy gons"), as well as ammunition for them, and in what amounts. The caliber is 11.53 mm, weight 3.5 kg, effective range of 400 m, the length is about the same as the PPD, top rate of fire is 500 RPM. Three types of magazines: 20, 50, 100 rounds. Muzzle velocity around 300 meters per second. The cartridges are the revolver type. Looks like the Americans have a large stock of this machinegun. It might be good for arming reconnaissance units, paratroopers, cavalry, motorcyclists, and partisans. I request your instruction for the volume of the order.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Production Trials

To establish the qualities of the mass produced T-34, three tanks were picked out at the end of 1940 to be run through large scale trials, including 3000 km of driving, gunnery, and communication tests. The conclusions outlined a number of issues with the design, but only because the Red Army had high hopes for this tank. It was already clear that the T-34 was going to be an exceptional fighting machine.

"Conclusions
  1. Due to its armament, armour, type and power of engine, and cruising range, the T-34 must be the prevailing tank in the Red Army’s system of armament due to the wide range of possibilities of tactical use of this tank. The design of this type of tank must be especially thoroughly polished.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Light SPGs with Big Guns

The SU-76M SPG, armed with the ZIS-3 76 mm gun, was the second most numerous vehicle in the Red Army. This gun was one of Grabin's best, and had very respectable characteristics. Nevertheless, the idea of installing a more powerful gun was persistent, and some variants, such as the SU-85B, came close to entering production. However, the Red Army never received its domestic Marder.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Prospective SPGs

"April 14th 1944

Confirmed: Chief of the GBTU USA, Major General of the Tank Engineering Service, Alymov

Plan of the 3rd Department of the GBTU USA for April-May 1944

Work
Executor
Due date
Controlling the completion of 100 mm D-10S gun installation into the SU-100 at factory #9 and the Uralmash factory.
Konev
May 1st, 1944
Organizing and performing large scale trials of the SU-100 from the first batch.
Konev
June 1st, 1944
Taking part in SU-152M trials with an OBM-143 gun and giving conclusions.
Ryabtsev
May 1st, 1944
Controlling the installation of and participation in trials of the 122 mm high power gun into the ISU. Giving conclusions.
Ryabtsev
May 15th, 1944
Controlling the production and testing of the 85 mm high power gun.
Konev
June 1st, 1944
Organizing and execution of trials of the SU-85 (GAZ). Giving conclusions.
Volgushev
May 15th, 1944
Controlling experimental work at factory #38:


·         Testing the installation of the 122 mm howitzer into the SU-76M
Afanasenkov
May 15th, 1944
·         Correction of defects of the SU-37 discovered during proving grounds trials.
Vasilevskiy
May 1st, 1944
·         Organization and execution of SU-37 trials after the prototype is improved. Giving conclusions.
Vasilevskiy, Volgushev
May 20th, 1944
Organization and execution of proving grounds trials of the SU-37 produced by factory #40. Giving conclusions.
Vasilevskiy, Volgushev
May 15th, 1944


Via Yuri Pasholok.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

SU-57

"Decree of the Committee of Defense #___
__ September 1944
Moscow

Contents: acceptance of the SU-57 57 mm SPG

1. Accept the 57 mm SPG produced on the chassis of the SU-76M SPG into service with anti-tank artillery regiments. Give it the name "57 mm SU-57 SPG model 1944".

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

SU-76M Successor Requirements



"Tactical-technical requirements for the design of experimental light SPGs with a rear fighting compartment

A. Main requirements
  1. Type of SPG: tracked, rear fighting compartment
  2. Weight: no more than 25 tons
  3. Crew: 4
  4. Dimensions:
    1. Width: 3000 mm
    2. Height: 2300 mm
    3. Clearance: minimum 450 mm

Monday, 29 April 2019

Tank Destroyer Ace

"Award Order
  1. Name: Kurochkin, Viktor Aleksandrovich
  2. Rank: Lieutenant
  3. Position and unit: SU-85 commander, 1893rd Fastov Self Propelled Artillery Regiment
    Is nominated for the Order of the Red Banner.
  4. Year of birth: 1923
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VLKSM
  7. Participation in the Civil War, subsequent combat in defense of the USSR, and Patriotic War: from August 1943 until present on the 1st Ukrainian Front.
  8. Wounds and contusions in the Patriotic War: none
  9. In the Red Army since: 1942
  10. Recruited by: Ulyanovsk Recruitment Office, Ulyanovsk Oblast
  11. Prior awards: none

Saturday, 27 April 2019

The Second Generation of the Stahlhelm

After WWI, the role of infantry changed. Trench warfare was left behind, mobility increased, and new requirements were demanded of the infantry helmet. This resulted in the development of a new generation of the Stahlhelm, which, in general, inherited the shape of its predecessors.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Reinheitsgebot

"Translated from German
44th Infantry Regiment
Regiment HQ

To the quartermaster company of the 44th Infantry Regiment

Due to an incident that occurred recently, I must order that:

All personnel are forbidden from producing moonshine by distilling rye flour etc., as well as consuming such vodka produced by Russian civilians. Such use of bread grain is prohibited in Germany, and consumption of such vodka, produced in the most primitive manner, bears a serious danger to one's health.

In the future, I will issue strict punishments for the smallest failures to obey this order. I hope that commanders of all ranks will do everything to follow this order. Familiarize all personnel of the quartermaster company with this order. Confirm this familiarization and report to the regiment HQ.

Commander of the regiment, Sudau

Translated by Sr. Lieutenant Renzin"

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

T-34 with Torsion Bars

"Decree #___
Committee of Defense of the USSR
Moscow, Kremlin

On the transition to T-34 tanks with a torsion bar suspension

Instruct the USSR NKSM (factory #183) to produce two experimental T-34 tanks by April 1st, 1941, with the following changes:
  1. Replace the spring suspension of the T-34 with an individual torsion bar suspension.
  2. Install wheels with internal shock absorption.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Armour Order

"To Washington
#7835
Sent: 9:00 August 7th, 1941
Copy 1

CC: comrade Stalin, comrade Molotov, comrade Mikoyan, 10th dept.

New York
Priority

We are in great need of armour plates for tanks. They are needed more than several important types of armament. I very much ask you to get the American embassy to send 127,700 tons of armoured plates, hardened and cleanly cut.

Monday, 22 April 2019

T-34 Shipments

"To GABTU Regional Engineer at factory #183, Kharkov

I send you the directions for shipping T-34 tanks, which are to be strictly followed.

Until June 1st, 1941, you delivered the following T-34 tanks:
  • Kiev Military District:
    • Lvov: 241
    • Striy: 20
    • Kremenets: 34
    • Zlochev: 38
    • Darnitsa: 22
    • Kiev Tank Academy: 8
    • Total: 363
  • Western Military District:
    • Belostok: 72
    • Chizhov: 50
    • Total: 122
  • Baltic Military District:
    • Alitus: 50
  • Odessa Military District:
    • Kishenev: 50
  • Leningrad Military District:
    • Leningrad Armoured Command Academy: 5
  • Orel Military District:
    • Orlovsk Tank Academy: 15
  • Kharkov Military District:
    • Kharkov Tank Academy: 11
  • Moscow Military District:
    • Military Academy of Mechanization and Motorization: 2
  • Volga Military District:
    • Academies: 21
  • Factories #174 and 92: 2
  • Total: 641

Saturday, 20 April 2019

From the Pickelhaube to the Stahlhelm

Many years after the World Wars, the infantry helmet has become a symbol of war. A descendant of bronze and iron helmets used by legionnaires, gladiators, knights, and other warriors of the past, the steel helmet is one of the few elements of a soldier's equipment that hasn't changed its initial function in our days, despite significant technological progress. The most memorable such helmet of the first half of the 20th century was the Stahlhelm (steel helmet). Its aggressive and predatory form is easily recognizeable: a combination of a cylindrical portion, protecting the head, a cone-shaped portion protecting the back, neck, and ears from shrapnel raining from above, and a protruding visor. The Wehrmacht soldier's visage with a stark shadow cast by the helmet's visor was a staple of propaganda. What is the history of this helmet?

Thursday, 18 April 2019

From Each According to Ability...

"To the Chief of the Armoured Forces of the 7th Guards Cavalry Corps
CC: Commander of the 16 Guards Cavalry Division

I report that out of 10 MK-2 (Matilda) tanks received by the regiment, only two were equipped with radios. An investigation discovered that the radios were "redistributed" at the 201st Tank Brigade prior to sending their tanks to a different unit.

The 1st Tank Battalion of the 201st Tank Brigade was especially guilty of illegally taking parts from the tanks, as it was done at night without the tank commander present.

I consider these disorderly and criminal actions of commanders who allowed the "parting out" of fully functional combat vehicles.

I ask you to petition the Front commander to discover the culprit and return the radios for installation into our tanks.

Commander of the 32nd Tank Regiment, Guards Lieutenant-Colonel Galkin
Chief of Staff, Guards Major Shuderman"

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Reuse and Recycle

"January 17th, 1945
To commanders of corps artillery
To commanders of army artillery units
To commanders of fire support units

A large amount of guns and ammunition has been captured during offensive operations, which few generals and officers thought about using, despite complications with delivery of domestic ammunition.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

T-44 Prototype #2 Rate of Fire Trials

"Results of firing

Firing from standstill at an angle of 0 degrees. 

Target
Range
# shots
# direct hits
# of hits within 30 meters
Time spent
Rate of fire
Notes
Panther. Aiming was done using manual traverse.
900
10
8
2
1 min 5 sec
9.2 RPM
All rounds in turret rack
Panther and PzIII in a 30 deg arc. Aiming was done using manual traverse.
800
5
5
-
1 min 25 sec
7 RPM
5 rounds in the turret rack, 5 rounds to the right of the driver
1000
5
5
-
Panther tank, PzIII tank, 3x3 meter target in a 40 deg arc. Aiming was done using manual traverse.
800
3
3
-
1 min 40 sec
5.4 RPM
All rounds stored to the right of the driver
1000
3
3
-
1500
4
4
1
Panther tank, PzIII tank, 3x3 meter target in a 40 deg arc. Aiming was done with electric traverse.
800
5
5
-
2 min 40 sec
3.7 RPM
1500
5
1
2