Saturday, 28 March 2020

The First T-80

The T-70 tank, developed as a continuation of the T-60, had a large number of drawbacks, especially compared to the T-50 that was supposed to become the Red Army's main tank according to pre-war plans. Nevertheless, the T-70 evolved in two directions. A small modernization led to the T-70B. A more thorough modernization led to the T-80, the last Soviet wartime light tank that was put into mass production.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Perfidious Albion

"People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs
10th Department
Outgoing #4490
Received: 18:00 September 20th, 1942
Sent: 19:20 September 20th, 1942

Top Secret, copies forbidden
Specialist number: 896

To: London, Soviet envoy

Top priority

To Mayskiy. You acted like a coward in your conversation with Eden about the Aerocobras.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Kursk Experience

"70th Army HQ
August 25th, 1943
Active army

To the Chief of Staff of the Central Front

I attach summary #1 of the experience of the combat units and formations of the 70th Army in the offensive and defensive battles in July-August of 1943.
Attachment: the aforementioned on one sheet.

Deputy Chief of Staff of the 70th Army, Colonel Abayev

Summary #1

Experience of the combat units and formations of the 70th Army in the offensive and defensive battles in July-August of 1943.
  1. Signals detachments of army units laid telegraph and telephone cable to rifle regiment HQ level. This allowed timely installation of telegraph and telephone cables to connect units, formations, and their neighbours. In the practice preceding combat this was never done.
    The losses in personnel while performing this task were insignificant. The laying of cables proved itself.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020


"To the Commander of the South-Western Direction, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Timoshenko
September 16th, 1941

I direct to you materials written by brigade commander comrade Ivanov

Member of the Military Council of the South Front, Army Commissar 1st Class, Zaporozhets"

"Ideas about the upset of further offensive of fascist forces
Maps: 2,500,000 and 1,000,000

Mistakes and weaknesses of the fascists

The enemy still considers our army to be clumsy, unable to make bold moves, unable to use trickery and deceit in operational maneuvers. He relies on our passivity and simplicity. Because of this, the fascist commanders allow:

Monday, 23 March 2020


Main Artillery Directorate of the Red Army #11794s
December 18th, 1943

To commanders of Fronts and Armies
Copy for Leningrad Front only
RE: using subcaliber and armour burning (HEAT) ammunition

With the goal of increasing the effectiveness of artillery against modern enemy tanks, the Main Artillery Directorate produces and supplies the following new types of ammunition:
  • 45 mm, 57 mm, and 76 mm subcaliber AP-tracer shot with a tungsten core
  • 76 and 122 mm armour burning (HEAT) shells with a powerful explosive charge
Subcaliber shot penetrated armour with a pointed tungsten core and is most effective at close tactical ranges as due to the shape and light weight it quickly loses speed, and therefore penetrative power.

HEAT shells penetrate the armour via a directed explosion and allow the use of guns with low muzzle velocity as effective anti-tank weapons. The effectiveness of these shells remains at long ranges.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

In Search of an Ideal Weapon

The poor results of the Heavy Tank M6 program led to a lethargy in American heavy tank development by the first half of 1944. The success of American medium tanks in North Africa led the American military to believe that they will not need heavy tanks. The summer of 1944 in Normandy proved sobering. It turned out that the Germans had new types of heavy tanks that were a tough nut to crack for American tanks and tank destroyers. As a result, development of several new heavy tanks was expedited in late July of 1944. The Heavy Tank T30 was one of them.

Thursday, 19 March 2020


Out of the many resilient myths that surround the T-34 tank, there are several that revolve around the rarest one of them all: the T-34 tank armed with the 57 mm ZIS-4 gun, specifically the four experimental tanks produced in 1943. Many sources give these tanks and their guns some kind of made up name like T-34-57 or ZIS-4M and claim that these tanks fought in "special tank company #100" from August 15th, 1943. All three of those claims are false.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Sherman Driver

"Award Order
  1. Name: Nikolai Dmitrievich Volnistiy
  2. Rank: Senior Sergeant
  3. Position, unit: mechanic-driver, 53rd Tank Regiment, 69th Mechanized Rifle Brigade, 9th Mechanized Corps
    is nominated for the state award of the Order of the Red Star.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Many Faces of the T-26

"Condition of SPGs and artillery systems on the T-26 chassis

T-26-8: 37 mm AA gun on the T-26 chassis.

According to instructions from the NKSM and tactical-technical requirements developed by the 20th department of the GAU, an experimental prototype of a 37 mm AA gun on the T-26 tank chassis was developed in July and tested.
Trials gave a positive result. Presently blueprints are being developed that include improvements requested by the ANIOP. Production of two prototypes to send to the front is being finished.
Final work on blueprints for mass production will conclude on August 25th, 1941.

Monday, 16 March 2020

T-34 Improvements

"Decree #1873ss of the State Committee of Defense
June 5th, 1942

On improvement of the T-34 tank

The State Committee of Defense decrees that the T-34 tank, having sufficient armour for a medium tank (45 mm), good power to weight ratio (18.2 hp/ton), needs improvements in gearbox mechanisms and vision. The most important task of the People's Commissariat of Tank Production and directors of tank factories that produce the T-34 is the rapid development of improved gearbox mechanisms and vision devices.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Pershing on Steroids

The history of the American heavy tank building program during the years of WW2 is very messy. On one hand, there was a standardized Heavy Tank M6, which quickly became obsolete. On the other hand, a whole three heavy tanks were in development by the spring of 1945. The first, the Heavy Tank T28, had little resemblance to a tank. The second, the Heavy Tank T29, was the highest priority. Finally, the Heavy Tank T32, the development of which began later than all the rest, was built a year and a half earlier than the T29. Even though the tank was just an "overfed" M26 Pershing, it ended up as the best protected American classic heavy tank built in the 1940s.

Thursday, 12 March 2020


"To commanders of tank units and armoured trains

_ July 1943

Recent fighting showed that artillerymen and tankers leave tanks alone after the first penetration during enemy tank attacks. The enemy takes advantage of this, evacuates the tanks at night or even during the day, repairs them and sends them into battle.

The Front commander orders: the army needs to reliably shoot up and burn every knocked out enemy tank to completely render it useless.

Chief of Staff of the Motorized and Armoured Forces of the 13th Army
Lieutenant Colonel Chetverikov"

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Tanks and Air

"Orders to the 4th Tank Army #019
July 24th, 1943

The Army Commander orders that:

Friendly identification markings for aircraft consist of:
  1. For cabins of trucks and turrets of tanks: a white triangle at the top, as large as possible.
  2. Motorized rifle units mark the front line with white strips of fabric.
  3. When our aircraft are seen, immediately fire green-red flares and a burst of tracers towards the enemy.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Book Review: German Army Regulation on the Medium Tank Company

Most of my readers are likely aware of the YouTube channel Military History Visualized (and its audio-only companion, Military History Not Visualized). Bernhard Kast, the man behind the scenes, teamed up with another prolific historian, Christoph Bergs, who runs Military Aviation History. Together, they broke into a new genre: print. Bernhard was kind enough to send me a copy of the book to review.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Grosstraktor Amphibious Trials

"People's Commissar of Military and Naval Affairs
Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council
K. Voroshilov
November 3rd, 1929
Moscow, 19 Frunze St.

To: Comrade Stalin

I attach a report on testing the amphibious properties of German tanks at Kazan. The experiments have been unsuccessful so far. Recall that although the tanks are early prototypes, the Germans spent 6-7 years on designing and building them."

Saturday, 7 March 2020

"Baby Doll", "Stovepipe", and Others

Due to the widespread use of the Faustpatrone, its name became shorthand for any German man-portable HEAT rocket launcher in the Red Army. However, German industry produced other anti-tank weapons for infantry, including those that were much more interesting and much more dangerous than the Faustpatrone.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Sherman Tanks of the Red Army

I hinted at a big announcement in my annual status update a few days ago, and now it's official. I'm proud to announce that I'm writing another book, this time dedicated to the service of American M4 tanks in the Red Army.

Lead By Example

"Award Order
  1. Name: Ivan Mikhailovich Harlamov
  2. Rank: Junior Lieutenant
  3. Position, unit: M4A2 tank commander, 2nd tank company, 53rd Tank Regiment, 69th Mechanized Brigade of the 9th Mechanized Corps
    is nominated for the Order of the Red Star.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Gearing Up

"Commanders of the 5th Shock, 44th, 2nd Guards, 28th, 51st Armies

For the duration of the upcoming operation, establish the following norm for soldiers (sergeants).
  1. Rifleman
    1. Rifle: 1
    2. Ammunition: 120 rounds
    3. RGD grenades: 4
    4. Trench shovel: 1
    5. Individual medical kit
      A rifle section should have 4 RPG grenades.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Goliath Intel

"Intelligence Department of the Armoured and Motor Vehicles HQ of the Bryansk Front
August 2nd, 1943

The commander of Armoured and Motor Vehicles of the Bryansk front orders that all personnel must be familiarized with a new German anti-tank weapon: torpedo tankettes.

Some information about the torpedo tankette:

During the offensive in the Orel-Kursk direction on July 5th, 1943, the Germans used torpedo tankettes to demolish our tanks, pillboxes, dugouts, and minefields. 

According to incomplete information, a tank destroyer battalion consisting of three companies armed with torpedo tankettes was allegedly operational near Protasovo and Ponyri.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

The Almighty Panzerfaust

Soviet movies set in the initial stages of the Great Patriotic War depict the Simonov and Degtyaryev anti-tank rifles as incredibly effective. In movies that cover the end of the war, not necessarily even Soviet ones, German Panzerfausts are credited with similar effectiveness. One shot = one tank, even from incredible distances. Of course, people do not come to the cinema to wonder why such a wonder weapon did not prevent Soviet T-34s and American Sherman tanks from appearing in the streets of German cities. How effective were German rocket propelled anti-tank grenades really?

Friday, 28 February 2020

Seven Years of Tank Archives

The seventh year of running this blog has come to an end. Last year I started with an exciting announcement: I was writing my first book! It was published in October of 2019 in the UK, and recently also became available in the US and Canada. The response so far has been excellent, including an incredibly favourable review from the German Tank Museum in Munster and Tank and AFV News. I also recorded two more videos of my own with Military History Visualized: one on the effect of the Spanish Civil War on Soviet tank development, and one on the top 3 most grievous errors in the T-34 Wikipedia article. As always, there's a lot more general banter than just the primary topic of the video.

Speaking of YouTube, I launched my own channel! So far there are about 30 videos of various military reenactments I've been to over the years. This doesn't only include tanks and other AFVs: artillery, boats, and cavalry make an appearance too. Winter is not good reenactment season, so there hasn't been new content in a while, but it will come!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Mongolian Regiment

All aid provided by foreign governments to the USSR is usually lumped under the term Lend Lease, but this is inaccurate. A significant amount of aid came from other sources, such as Mongolia. One of the contributions was money to build the "For Revolutionary Mongolia" tank column consisting of 32 T-34 and 21 T-70 tanks. These tanks went to the 112th Order of the Red Banner Tank Brigade.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Object 263 Development

"Brief report on the results of experimental, scientific research, and test production at VNII-100 in June of 1950

Topic #1: heavy ISU-130 SPG on the chassis of the new heavy tank

The development of the ISU-130 (Object 263) technical project was completed in June of 1950. 

Two sets of overall blueprints and detailed blueprints of specific components as well as an explanatory memo were sent to the Ministry of Transport Machinery with letter #1035ss on June 28th, 1950.

To resolve issues connected with the development of the technical project by the Institute as of July 1st, 1950, the following experimental work was performed.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Tiger Killers

"Combat against T-VI "Tiger" tanks
Conclusions from combat experience gained during the defensive operations of the Central and Voronezh Fronts between July 5th and 10th, 1943

Initial data about experience in combat against T-VI "Tiger" tanks boils down to the following:
  1. Organization: POW interrogations (on the Central Front) showed that the T-VI is used in independent tank 4-company battalions, 10-12 tanks per company, subordinate to supreme command..Early claims about the T-VI allegedly being used organically in every division and that one tank division (2nd TD) was entirely rearmed with Tigers are unlikely.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Last Cruiser

The stagnation of British tank building in the 1930s cost the country dearly in WWII. Nearly the entire war was spent playing catch-up. There were some minor successes such as the Matilda tank, but the most common type of tank was the cruiser. Having started the war with tanks that had similar characteristics to the Soviet BT-7 tank, British tankers continued to receive new vehicles that were half a step behind their German counterparts. The British only received a tank that had more or less caught up to the enemy towards the end of the war. This was the Comet, the last cruiser tank put into mass production.

Thursday, 20 February 2020


"Order to the forces of the 9th Army
January 29th, 1940
Active army

By order of the Stavka of the Supreme Command, fur ushanka hats have arrived for all personnel of the 9th Army.

I order that:
  1. The quartermaster of the army must:
    1. Issue fur ushanka hats to personnel based on the requests of unit quartermasters and commanders of independent units. Prioritize units in active combat. Complete issuing hats by February 5th, 1940.
    2. When issuing the fur ushanka hats, reclaim the old felt hats, collect them at the army warehouse, disinfect them and perform repairs.
  2. Commanders and commissars of army and independent units must issue fur ushanka hats to their personnel within 24 hours of receipt, reclaim the old felt hats, and deliver them to the supply warehouse or central supply warehouse in Kem, depending on location.
    Warn the troops that they must preserve their ushanka hat and not lose it.
    When the steel helmet is worn, the ushanka hat should be stored in the backpack.
Commander of the 9th Army, Komkor Chuykov
Member of the Military Council, Army Commissar 1st Class, Mekhlis
Chief of Staff, Komdiv Nikoshov"

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Obsolete Trophies

"Information on Somua and Hotchkiss tanks

On September 9-10th, near grid square 5016-7, the 38th Guards Independent Tank Brigade knocked out and captured 12 enemy tanks. Of them, 4 are Somua and 8 are Hotchkiss type. Of them, 1 Somua and 6 Hotchkiss are still functional.

Preliminary combat and technical characteristics of these tanks have been established:

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Long Living KV-1S

"Award order
  1. Name: Ivan Agapovich Podkosov 
  2. Rank: Guards Lieutenant
  3. Position: Commander of the "Papanin" tank, 80th Guards Idritsa Order of the Red Banner Order of Suvorov 3rd class Heavy Tank Regiment
    is nominated for the Order of the Red Star.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

The Australian Sentinel

Nations with no prior tank building experience first began building tanks in WWII, including several nations from the British Commonwealth. Most frequently, these nations built copies of British designs, for instance the Canadian Valentines. However, Canada also built its own original tank (the Ram) on an American chassis. Australia developed and began production of fully original tanks named AC (Australian Cruiser) or Sentinel. These tanks did not see battle, but they remain a colourful chapter of world tank building history.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

BS-3 Sights

"1st Ukrainian Front
Directorate of Artillery
December 20th, 1944

The commander of the 10th Guards Artillery Tank Destroyer Brigade reports that when firing HE grenades from the 100 mm gun at a 1.5 by 1.5 meter target installed at a range of 1200 to 1800 meters using a sight configured as in the manual, the shell passes above the target. A reduction in 2-4 mils gives excellent results (hit on first shot). 

The Commander of Artillery of the Front orders that:
  1. Check the correctness of these conclusions by performing practical firing trials with the 100 mm gun. If similar results are achieved, fire at these ranges with the reduced sight setting.
  2. Report the results of practical firing trials and deviation from the sight tables when striking a vertical target.
Chief of Staff of Artillery of the 1st Ukrainian Front, Colonel Murzin
Deputy Chief of Staff of Artillery of the 1st Ukrainian Front, Guards Lieutenant Colonel Skrobov"

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Katyusha Effectiveness


Enemy soldiers on our artillery and mortars (based on interrogations of POWs, journals and letters of German and Hungarian troops)

POW Unteroffizier Franz Georg Lamus (222nd Infantry Regiment, 1st battalion, 4th company) says the following on the power of Russian weapons:

"Russia has many weapons. There are powerful airplanes. This goes against the stories were were told that the Red Army is poor and has nothing. The Stalinorgel (Katyusha) has the greatest effect on troops. When the mortar fires 42 shots everything living in the vicinity of the explosions burns. The sound of the explosions also has a negative effect on the morale of troops."

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

T-34M Requirements

"To the Chief of the Red Army GABTU, Lieutenant General of the Tank Forces, comrade Ya.N. Fedorenko
December 30th, 1940

Copy: to the Chairman of the Committee of Defense of the Council of Commissars of the USSR, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Voroshilov

In carrying out order #428 of the Committee of Defense issued on November 19th, 1940, I present the reasons for switching to a torsion bar suspension. The coil spring suspension of the T-34 tank is reliable, but has the following drawbacks:
  1. Significant oscillations make firing on the move difficult.
  2. The suspension spring and guide rod shafts constrict the internal space of the tank, impede free placement of components, and reduce the amount of ammunition that can be carried.
  3. Cutouts must be made in the sides of the tank for the suspension arms that weaken the resistance of the armour.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Sights Trials

"April 4th, 1941

Report on the trials of a PT-4 periscopic tank sight

Trials were conducted according to directive #145211/s of the Main Automotive and Armoured Vehicle Directorate of the Red Army issued on March 22nd, 1941, by commission #6833 composed of:
  • Chairman: deputy commander of military unit 6837 Major T.G. Kuznetsov
  • Members:
    • Deputy chief of artillery supply of unit 6833 Sr. Lieutenant Burkov
    • Chief of ammunition supply of unit 6837 Lieutenant Kochegarov
  • Also present:
    • GABTU military engineer 3rd class G.M. Margulis
    • GAU assistant military representative Major L.D. Podgoretskiy
    • Lenin factory #69 senior engineer D.P. Gimein
    • Experimental proving grounds senior engineer, military engineer 3rd class B.A. Ivanov

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Thick Skin of German Beasts

German Tiger, Panther, and King Tiger tanks are some of the best known vehicles in the history of tank building and still occupy the minds of armoured vehicle enthusiasts. Their enormous size, thick armour, and long powerful weapons created a reputation of all-destroying and nearly invulnerable tanks. However, if everything is more or less clear with their size and armament, then the issue of armour is much more difficult. This is the first in a cycle dedicated to the creation of armour for the Tiger Ausf.H1, Panther of all variants, and the Tiger Ausf.B, their assembly, and trials of the armour in the USSR, USA, and Great Britain. To start, let us talk about rolled armour that the hulls and turrets of Tigers and Panthers were composed of almost fully.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Ersatz AP

"To the commander of the 89th Artillery Regiment

To commanders of artillery of rifle regiments

Combat at the Bryansk Front showed that 76 mm shrapnel rounds set to impact fuse successfully penetrate enemy small and medium tanks. Based on this, the Deputy Commander of the South Western Front, Lieutenant General Parsegov and Deputy Commander of the 40th Army, Major General Varentsov, order that:

In future combat with enemy small and medium tanks fire shrapnel rounds with the fuse set to impact. Report on the results to me immediately.

Deliver this order to all personnel of the regiment and its units.

Chief of Artillery, Colonel Gritsenko
62nd Rifle Division Chief of Artillery Staff, Major Usik"

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

KV-3 Delays

"June 2nd, 1941
To the People's Commissar of Heavy Machinebuilding comrade Yefremov
To the Chairman of the Committee of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union comrade Voroshilov
To the Chief of the Main Auto-Armour Directorate of the Red Army, General Fedorenko

In accordance with government decrees #525-234s issued on May 13th, 1941, 548-232s on March 15th, 1941, 827-347s on April 7th, 1941, and 1217-503s on May 5th, 1941, the Kirov factory was required to:
  1. Present a prototype of the KV-3 tank for trials on by May 25th.
  2. Produce KV tanks with applique armour by June 1st.
  3. Begin production of the KV tank with a flamethrower in July.
In order to achieve this, the Kirov factory must receive:
  1. The hull and turret of the experimental KV-3 tank from the Izhora factory by May 20th.
  2. A set of experimental KV-1 and KV-2 turrets with applique armour from the same by May 1st.
  3. A ZIS-6 system from factory #92 by May 25th.
  4. Blueprints of a flamethrower mount from factory #174 by June 1st.
None of the aforementioned components and blueprints of the flamethrower mount have been received at the Kirov factory. The deadlines for delivery of a flamethrower for the KV-3 vehicle are not known.

I ask you to instruct the necessary People's Commissariats to expedite the delivery of the aforementioned components to the Kirov factory, as the deadlines set by the government are passed and any delay creates a threat to the mass production of the KV-3 tank starting with August of 1941.

Factory director Zaltsman."

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

76 mm HEAT

Main Artillery Directorate
Artillery Committee

January 12th, 1944

To commanders of artillery of Fronts and Armies:

RE: using 76 mm armour burning (HEAT) ammunition

Armour burning (HEAT) ammunition (index BP-353A) that has been developed for the 76 mm model 1927 regimental gun by the GAU has been supplied since October of 1942.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Lend Lease Review

"Report of the 92nd Tank Brigade on the use of American M3 medium and M3 light tanks.
  1. Advantages, from a tactical point of view.
    1. High density of fire.
    2. Good observation (a commander's cupola is present).
    3. The light tank is very mobile.
    4. The engines are quite while driving.
    5. The sights and ballistics of the 75 mm and 37 mm guns are good.
    6. The crews on the M3s and M3l are well placed.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

"Furniture Truck", "Whirlwind" and "Eastern Wind"

The Flakpanzer 38(t) SPAAG that was put into production in late 1943 was treated as only a temporary fix until a more effective SPAAG could be developed for tank units. German designers analyzed a number of possibilities and chose one. The production of the new vehicle began quickly, and in March of 1944 the German army received the first 3,7 cm Flak 43 auf Pz.Kpfw. IV (Sf), better known as Flakpanzer IV (3.7 cm Flak 43). These vehicles and their descendants were in high demand on the front lines due to the loss of air superiority.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Lend Lease Shipments

"Information on shipments of imported tanks as of November 1941 until October 21st, 1943

M3 med
M3 light
In total for 1941-1942
Total in 1943

Acting Chief of the GBTU TU, Engineer Lieutenant-Colonel Muravich
Senior Assistant to the Chief of the 5th Department of the GBTU TU, Engineer Major Denshikov"

CAMD RF 38-11355-1677 p.204