Thursday 30 July 2015

Tanks and Minefields

"Instructions for arranging the passage of tanks through obstructions on the offensive
  1. In order to have tanks attack during the penetration of the enemy's first line of defense, it is necessary to make a passage in both our and enemy minefields, 1 passage per 5 tanks, 20 meters wide.
  2. Passages in our defenses are made a while before the attack, passages in enemy defenses are made 2-3 days before or on the night before the attack.
  3. The following methods can be used to clear a path through a minefield:
    1. Disarming mines by hand (in this case it is desirable to remove the detonator and leave the mine so that the passage is undetectable).
    2. Destruction of mines with mine trawlers.
    3. Destruction of mines using artillery and mortar fire during the opening barrage.
  4. The decisive condition for success is careful and constant surveillance of enemy minefields and knowledge of their borders and nature.
  5. It is desirable to send tanks in directions not covered by anti-tank mines. Only make passages on the basis of tactical decisions.
  6. All passages must be marked with markers visible during the day and night. The following markers can be used, depending on terrain:
    1. Stakes up to 1 meter tall, covered in dirt from the enemy's side and with lime carbonate on our side.
    2. Birch stakes up to 1 meter tall, covered in dirt from the enemy's side.
    3. Unidirectional signal lamps, pointed towards our side, and equipped with special visors, placed above the ground and undetectable by the enemy.
    4. Special metal plates covered in phosphorous, positioned at a slight slant towards our side.
    5. Stripes painted on terrain with lime carbonate the night before the attack.
  7. The passages must be concealed so that the enemy does not discover them.
  8. Aside from markers indicating the passages, markers must be placed every 25-30 meters. Turns are labelled with arrow pointers, two markers per turn.
  9. A control service is established at the passages.
  1. Before the offensive, make passages in our own minefields. The passages and their approaches are marked with markers.
  2. Assign squads (3-5 sappers with two hand machineguns). If passages in enemy minefields are made 2-3 days before the offensive, the squads observe the minefields from secret locations near the passages. Dig "fox nest" type trenches in two locations:
    1. 150-200 meters from the minefields, to be occupied by the squads immediately before the artillery barrage.
    2. In close proximity to the minefields, to be occupied by the squads when the artillery barrage moves further towards the enemy. Their task here is to guide the tanks towards the passages.
  3. Passages in enemy minefields are made 2-3 days before or on the night of the offensive. If it is impossible to fully make the passages (location is covered by deadly fire from an enemy stronghold), they are either made with artillery or with tank trawlers during the attack. Passages in enemy minefields are marked according to part 1 section 6 the night before the attack.
  4. De-blocking groups (3-5 sappers) are used to check the success of the artillery mine removal (checked after fire moves deeper into enemy defenses) and to disable mines during/after the infantry's advance.
  5. If passages are made through the entire minefield, the sappers send up a red flare. Squads near the passages guide tanks towards them by sending up red flares as the tanks approach.
    If passages were made by artillery and mortars, then the de-blocking groups must check them as soon as the artillery barrage moves deeper into enemy territory, alongside advancing infantry. Signals for tanks are only sent up when the passage is cleared of mines.
  6. Sappers assigned to clearing anti-tank mines are not to be used or any other task. While they work on their task, they are to be covered by infantry, and cooperate with tanks and infantry according to a plan established in advance.
  7. Tasks are issued to sappers on location by the regimental engineer in the presence of the commander of the tank unit that will be using that passage. The divisional engineer gives general instructions on setting up the passages.
    The regimental engineer is responsible for the passages in his regiment's area, the divisional engineer is responsible for all passages of the division.
    The regimental engineer must personally introduce the commanders of the tank units with the obstructions and passages, and give instructions on how to move tanks through the passages. Tank unit commanders are responsible for their crews' knowledge of the passages, their approaches, and following the rules of movement through the passages.
  8. De-blocking groups provide the movement of tanks through passages after checking them. The control procedure is as follows:
    1. After tanks move out from their starting positions, they meet with the passage commandant at the initial landmark. The commandant gives the tank unit commander the direction of movement towards the passage, or points to a landmark where the tanks must go.
    2. Sapper squads send up additional flares to guide the tanks. The path through the minefield is shown by the de-blocking squad, or, if the passage was made in advance, by the hidden sapper squad.
  9. If tanks move ahead of infantry through a passage that was cleared in advance, hidden sapper squads guide them using tracer bullets.
  10. Past the first line of defense, paths through minefields are cleared by attached sapper groups as minefields are discovered in front of the tanks.
  11. These instructions are to be studied by all commanders of engineering units, down to the squad commander and commanders of tank units down to commanders of individual tanks. Divisional engineers are responsible for providing tank unit commanders with one copy of these instructions."

Collection of Combat Documents from the Great Patriotic War, vol. 3, doc. 5.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Biggest Gun, Best Gun

The desire to put bigger and bigger guns on mobile chassis is understandable, but what happens when your chassis can't handle the weight? You bolt another one to it, of course!

"305 mm howitzer on self propelled tracked mounts
  1. Caliber: 305 mm
  2. Shell mass: 330-465 kg
  3. Muzzle velocity: 410-530 m/s
  4. Maximum range: 16.5 km
  5. Recoil resistance: 200 tons
  6. Bore axis height: 2500 mm
  7. Elevation range: 40-70 degrees
  8. Horizontal precision aiming arc: 8 degrees
  9. Combat mass: 70 tons
  10. Artillery unit mass: 25 tons
  11. Transporter with barrel: 35 tons
  12. Transporter with mount: 35 tons
  13. Time to combat readiness: 20 minutes
  14. Speed and off-road performance are identical to the T-34 tank.

  1. Caliber: 210 mm
  2. Shell mass: 135-155 kg
  3. Muzzle velocity: 753-808 m/s
  4. Maximum range: 30 km
  5. Recoil resistance: 80 tons
  6. Bore axis height: 2500 mm
  7. Elevation range: -5 to 45 degrees
  8. Horizontal precision aiming arc: 8 degrees
  9. Combat mass: 70 tons
  10. Artillery unit mass: 25 tons
  11. Transporter with barrel: 35 tons
  12. Transporter with mount: 35 tons
  13. Time to combat readiness: 20 minutes
  14. Speed and off-road performance are identical to the T-34 tank."

Tuesday 28 July 2015

First PTRs

"People's Commissariat of Defense of the USSR
Military Council of the 30th Army
September 23rd, 1941

To the HQ chief of the Western Front, #029/OP in response to #01012 on September 15th, 1941

Inspections of anti-tank rifle platoons and meetings with platoon commanders revealed the following:

Anti-tank rifle companies arrived at the army HQ on August 17th, and were sent to divisions on that same day.
Company commanders, upon arriving at divisional HQ, reported to division commanders regarding the purpose of these rifles and their tactical characteristics.
Commanders of the 251st, 242th, and 162nd infantry divisions treated the rifles as a formality. There were no orders to the divisions or inventory entries, even though they were warned about the great secrecy and value as an anti-tank weapon of the new rifles.
Regimental commanders treated the rifles the same way as the divisional commanders, and used them recklessly.

Anti-tank rifle personnel were frequently thrown into offensives, ordered to fire upon pillboxes and machineguns from their rifles. As a result, 450 rounds were used up fruitlessly, about 40 men were lost, and two rifles have still not been found. It is possible that they have fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Commanders (instructors) of the anti-tank rifle regiments did not demonstrate the necessary backbone and did not manage to persuade battalion and regimental commanders to use the rifles correctly.

Existing measures did not correct this state. Divisional commanders were warned and the guilty are being investigated. Attached is a copy of order #048/OP issued on September 22nd, 1941.

It is necessary to use the anti-tank rifles as follows:
  1. Attach ATR companies (3 platoons) to infantry regiments. It is reasonable to have a separate heavy weapons battalion at the divisional level.
  2. Increase the crew of one rifle to 5 men (2 carry the rifle, two carry ammunition, one is for communication). Give them a cart.
  3. Each ATR platoon should have one handheld machinegun and two PPDs for cover (to destroy small enemy groups that seep through).
  4. Carefully pick the personnel, especially commanders. Equip them with necessary communications and control equipment. (Company commanders should be issued a motorcycle).
Commander of the 30th Army, Major-General Khomenko
Member of the Army Military Council, Brigade Commissar Abramov
HQ Chief of the 30th Army, Colonel Vinogradov"

Monday 27 July 2015

Tiger Siege

"Award Order
  1. Name: Tereshuk, Ivan Andreyevich
  2. Rank: Guards Captain
  3. Position, unit: tank company commander, 216th Tank Battalion, 12th Guards Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1915
  5. Nationality: Ukrainian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) since 1943
  7. Participation in the Civil War, subsequent actions in defense of the USSR, and the Patriotic War (where, when): Voronezh Front from June 28th to October 1st, 1942, South-Western Front from November 23rd, 1942 to March 15th, 1943, Voronezh Front since August 5th, 1943.
  8. Wounds and concussions in the Patriotic War: none
  9. In the Red Army since: 1936
  10. Recruited by: already recruited
  11. Prior awards: Order of the Red Star in 1943
Brief and specific description of personal heroism or achievement: When penetrating enemy defenses at the Kazachya Lisitsa settlement on August 6th, 1943, Guards Captain Tereshuk's company courageously and decisively went into the attack, encouraged by the personal fearlessness and bravery of comrade Tereshuk. Comrade Tereshuk personally destroyed two SPGs, one medium tank, and two AT guns.

During the offensive towards Akhtyrka on August 10th, 1943, comrade Tereshuk was the first to burst into the city with four tanks and took up a defensive position. Tereshuk's group was surrounded, communication with the brigade was cut off. Comrade Tereshuk spent two days in his besieged tank, deflecting several enemy attacks that attempted to capture them alive.

During his presence in the encirclement, comrade Tereshuk's group destroyed four Tiger tanks, two SPGs, two PzIV tanks, five armoured cars, and up to 150 enemy soldiers and officers. Out of comrade Tereshuk's four tanks, two were destroyed, but two managed to break out and make it back to their unit.

For tenacity, decisiveness, and competent command of a company, and for heroism shown in battle against the German hordes, comrade Tereshuk is worthy of the state award "Hero of the Soviet Union"."

CAMD RF 33-793756-47

Wow, four whole Tigers and a handful of lesser vehicles, at a cost of just two T-34s? Very impressive. Let's see what our friend Schneider has to say about that.

"4 August 1943: The division is ordered to redeploy. Relief in place by the 8. PanzerDivision. Railway transport from Brjansk into the area of Achtyrka, where a crisis arises from the enemy penetration near Tomarowka-Borissowka.
7 August 1943: Operational tanks 6.
8 August 1943: Detrainment in Trostianez; several enemy attacks are repelled. In all, six Tigers lost during the most recent engagements.
Total tanks: 9.
10 August 1943: Only one Tiger operational."

13./Panzer-Regiment Grossdeutschland waltzed into the area to resolve the situation created by the success of Tereshuk's buddies, but judging by the sudden decrease of tanks, four T-34s were too much for them. This was the company's last battle, several days later it was consolidated with another tank company.

Sunday 26 July 2015

World of Tanks History Section: What's in a Name? Germany vs USSR

How do you give a codename to an operation? Winston Churchill had a very sober opinion on this topic. For example, one must not brag too much, like "Operation Victorious", but a name like "Slaughter" or "Confusion" will demoralize your own soldiers. Definitely avoid strange and unpleasant names like "Street Brawl". One must also maintain secrecy and not reveal the nature of the operation in the name.

How did the two biggest combatants in WWII, Germany and the USSR, follow these principles? What names did they give to their plans?

Germany: Colours, Mythology, Fanfare

In WWI, Germany created a tradition of taking names from religion, mythology, or medieval history. Names like "Saint Michael", "Achilles", and "Roland" were supposed to raise morale of an army fighting a difficult war. These names are also pretty solid from the point of view of secrecy.

In WWII, the Germans kept their tradition of big and bold names. The attack on the USSR, originally codenamed "Fritz" after the son of one of the planners was renamed to "Barbarossa". Did Hitler think about how naming a military campaign after an emperor that spent a lot of time fighting with Slavs might give away the nature of the operation? Any spy that discovered the name of the operation wouldn't have to think much to find out who it's aimed against.

Interestingly, earlier German operations had much more humble and neutral names. For instance, a set of "coloured" plans to occupy Europe. The annexation of Czechoslovakia was "Green", invasion of Poland was "White". The attack on Benelux states and France in 1940 was named "Yellow". An offensive in the south-west USSR in 1942 was named "Blue". These names revealed nothing about who the operation was aimed against or where action would take place.

The Germans repeated their mistake of associating the name with the location. An offensive aimed at the Kola peninsula from Finland was named "Arctic Fox", the capture of nickel mines near Murmansk was named "Reindeer", a plan to drop paratroops on the Caucasian city of Maikop was named "Shamil", after a leader of the mountain men.

At the same time, the Germans also had misleading names. For instance, an offensive in the Ardennes in 1944 was called "Watch on the Rhine", an invasion of Denmark and Norway was called "Weser Exercise". The famous "Operation Citadel", the summer offensive against the Kursk Salient in 1943, also falls in this category. Its defensive name turned into a double failure: not only did the Germans fail to regain initiative, but suffered a costly defeat.

USSR: Planets and Commanders

At the start of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet commanders had little time to come up with names for obvious reasons. By the end of 1942, this changed.

Operation Uranus was one of the famous ones, the defeat of Germans at Stalingrad. Famous Soviet intelligence worker Pavel Sudoplatov writes in his memoirs that People's Commisssar of Defense Vannikov described to him Stalin's meeting with Soviet scientists in October of 1942 and discussions of a nuclear bomb. Stalin was so impressed that he decided to call the offensive the name of its main component [Uranium and Uranus are the same word in Russian, "Uran"]. 

One must then ask what chemical elements resulted in the names of "Mars" (Kalinin Front offensive against the German 9th Army between Rzhev and Sychevka) and "Saturn" (breakthrough to Rostov and Taganrog, cutting off a German group in the Caucasus)? It is more likely that Soviet commanders were inspired by astronomy rather than chemistry, and Sudoplatov was mistaken.

American historian David Glantz wrote about "Operation Jupiter" that was allegedly designed to defeat the Germans at Vyazma. However, latest research shows that there was no such operation, and the forces that were supposed to take part in it were fighting in other places. The ambitious "Saturn" mentioned above was also corrected down to "Small Saturn", a much more humble offensive at the Don river.

Soviet strategists aimed no less than others to maintain secrecy of their operations. The liberation of North Donbass was given a meek title "Hop", the penetration of the Leningrad blockade carried the name "Spark".

After heavy fighting in the first half of the war, it was considered necessary to lift the spirits of troops, remind them of their army's glorious history, and show that the enemy can be beaten not only when defending, but when attacking. In 1943 and 1944, names of famous commanders were given to operations. "Polkovodets Rumyantsev" that defeated Prussian forces in the Seven Year War liberated Belgorod and Kharkov, "Polkovodets Kutuzov" liberated Orel, Mtsensk, and many other cities. Of course, "Bagration" became the crowning jewel of this series, after which Army Group Center was shattered into pieces. None of these names give a hint to where the attack will take place.

The Red Army's greatest battle, the assault on Berlin, had no name. This is yet another confirmation of the fact that you can't win a war with a name, but giving a good name to an operation is still an art.

Original article available here.

Saturday 25 July 2015

Yet Another T-34 Heir

Despite the start of the Great Patriotic War putting on hold any plans to produce the T-34M, ideas to replace the T-34 didn't go anywhere. In a 1942 decree on improvements to the T-34, the following point exists:

"5. For further development and improvement of medium tanks, allow NKTP and factory #183 to build two prototypes of the T-44 tank by September 1st of this year, with the following tactical-technical characteristics.
  • Mass: no more than 32 tons
  • Armour
    • Side: 60 mm
    • Front: 60-75 mm
    • Rear:
      • Rolled: 60 mm
      • Cast: 75 mm
    • Turret (cast): 80-85 mm
  • The turret has a commander's cupola.
  • Speed:
    • Highway: 45-50 kph
    • Off-road: 20-25 kph
  • Armament: 
    • One 76.2 mm gun
    • Two coaxial machineguns
  • Ammunition:
    • 76.2 mm shells: 60-65
    • DT rounds: 2000-2500
  • Crew: 4 (commander and radio operator, loader, gunner, driver).
  • Engine
    • At less than 30 tons: V2-34 engine, 500 hp
    • At more than 20 tons: V2-K engine, 600 hp
  • Fuel range: 250-300 km on a highway.
  • Suspension: torsion bar.
Confirm the rest of the requirements with NKTP and GABTU

6. NKTP (comrade Malyshev) and factory #183 director (comrade Maksarev) must perform trials of the tank with GABTU before October 10th and report to GOKO by October 10th.

7. The People's Commissariat of Finance must issue 5 million rubles to the NKTP from the Council of Commissars reserves to build and test experimental T-44 tanks and 5-speed gearboxes, as well as awards to exceptional workers."

However, it seems that Stalin was not quite ready to give up on the T-34. His trademark red pencil drew a big fat line across anything that had to do with the T-44 in this decree.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Comparative Testing

"Brief technical report on the development of protection against subcaliber and HEAT shells

1. Resistance of the T-34's hull against HEAT shells
During the course of the war, the German army obtained new types of shells: subcaliber and HEAT. Trials of 75 mm German and 76 mm domestic HEAT shells against a T-34 hull showed the following:

Tank component
At angle
Resistance of component
75 mm German HEAT
76 mm domestic HEAT
Front plates
No penetration
No penetration
Lower side
Lower side
No penetration
Upper side
No penetration
No penetration
No penetration
No penetration

The table shows that domestic HEAT shells have superior penetration compared to German HEAT shells, as those can only penetrate the lower side of the tank, and at angles close to normal. A special feature of these shells is that due to their HE component, they do not lose penetration at a distance, meaning that the T-34 can be penetrated from a significant range. As for the HE effect, it is somewhat greater than the effect of regular HE shells.

When the shell hits the side of the tank near the overtrack hull or the suspension, they are destroyed. If the lower part of the turret is hit, the roof of the hull is dented or destroyed. When the rear is hit, hatches, exhaust pipe shields, bolts are torn off.

The 75 mm German HEAT shell is not effective against the T-34's armour. These shells are only a serious threat to the sides of the tank at any range.

2. Resistance of the T-34's hull against subcaliber shells
Trials of the T-34 hull showed that its various components in various positions relative to the shooter can be penetrated from the following distances:

Tank part Shell caliber Range in meters at the following angle
90 80 70 60 50 40 30
Lower side 50 mm
37 mm
No penetration
No penetration
No penetration
Upper side 50 mm
37 mm
No penetration
420 300 115 No penetration
Turret 50 mm 690 660 565 410 205 No penetration

The table shows that the T-34 is weakly protected from subcaliber shells, as important components can be penetrated from significant distances at relatively sharp angles, which limits the area of maneuver in relation to the enemy. Only the front of the hull is impervious to subcaliber shells and, to a lesser degree, the rear, penetrable at a range of 360 meters.

To compare with regular sharp-tipped German armour piercing shells, the 50 mm shell can penetrate the side from normal at a range of 900-1000 meters, and the 37 mm shell at 150 meters."

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Heat Ray Tank

"To the Chair of the State Committee of Defense of the USSR, comrade Stalin

For consideration by your ingenious mind, I provide an idea and a design that could give the Motherland a weapon of unseen all-conquering power. This force can defeat any number of tanks, planes, guns, ships, fortresses, cavalry, or infantry, and can be achieved from this proposed idea. This force can be localized in one all terrain armoured vehicle, and only needs a driver and an operator-gunner. Currently, there is nothing more important than this idea, as it holds the possibility of dominion of the Motherland over the world. Your genius and intuition will easily suggest to you that it is necessary to realize this idea quickly and secretly, on a trial basis.

I do not write much, and do not draw many blueprints, as the idea here is not in the amount of words or blueprints. You will understand me, and the rest will come when it is built, that's the most important thing.

I am hopeful that you will personally read this and order someone to build this under my guidance and test it.

The idea:

The idea consists of the following:

A temperature of over 20,000 degrees is created and transmitted to a distance from 0.001 km to 50 km, burning everything instantly in its path (bodies, cloth, fuel, metal, armour, concrete, stone, ammunition, ships, guns, etc).
  1. Imagine a welding torch, which usually gives a flame that is 700-1000 degrees at the tip. It is known that if air pressure is increased and the design is made more robust, the length of the flame can be made as long as that of a flamethrower.
  2. Imagine that instead of welding torches, there are special nozzles that shoot flame at long ranges.
  3. Imagine that we have 100 such nozzles and that they are fixed on a disk in such a way that they all converge on one point.
  4. In this place, the heat from one nozzle would be 700-1000 degrees, from two almost twice as much (1100-2000 degrees), from three almost 2.5 times as much, etc.
  5. The concentration of 100 flame jets in this point will be (like light collected with 100 lenses) much stronger than just one jet, minus losses for heat loss and dispersion.
  6. It is known that a heat ray can travel millions of kilometers, loses very little energy. It is known that the collection of heat from all the lenses will be nearly equal the sum of all heat from individual lenses. It is known that air will steal little heat, as the air high in the mountains is cold even though it is closer to the sun, since it is heated by the ground and not the sun.
  7. All this means that the point of convergence of all 100 jets will be at minimum 20,000 degrees, and maximum 100,000 degrees.
Where x = the temperature of one flame jet
100 = 100 nozzles
y = loss of heat (0%-80% of the heat)
z = 20,000 degrees to 100,000 degrees
Maximum range: 50 km
  1. There is no item in nature that does not burn at 20,000 degrees, but this heat can be held in a metal pipe that does not only not burn, but does not exceed 100 degrees. This method is based on the well known experiment where you can heat water at 1000 degrees in a container that is thin enough to burn from a candle, as long as there is water in it. 
  2. Based on that, I the pipe which concentrates the heat of the nozzles will be washed over with rapidly pumped cool water.
  3. The pipe will be covered with a rigid metallic hull which has rapidly moving water on the inside.
  4. The inside of the pipe is polished to a mirror sheen to deflect heat.
  5. The pipe tapers to direct the heat at tens of kilometers, at an angle from 1/1000 to 1/10000
    Pipe length: 1 meter
    Pipe diameter: 5-10 cm
November 13th, 1941
Battalion Commissar, M.V. Shekin"

From here.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Combat Commissar

"Award Order
  1. Name: Tupitskin, Ivan Nikitovich
  2. Guards Senior Lieutenant
  3. Position and unit: SPG commander, 375th Guards Fokshany Heavy SPG Regiment
    Is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1916
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member
  7. Participation in the civil war and subsequent action in defense of the USSR, Patriotic War: since 1942.
  8. Wounds: None (killed on March 22nd, 1945)
  9. In the RKKA since: 1941
  10. Recruited by: Pechep regional recruitment office, Orel oblast.
  11. Previous awards: Order of the Red Banner, Order of the Patriotic War 2nd class, medal "For Liberation of Leningrad"
Brief and specific description of personal heroism in battle or achievements: Comrade I.N. Tupitskiy displayed personal heroism and tactical competence in battles with German invaders in Pomerania.

During an offensive towards the city of Koslin, our advance was stalled by enemy fire at a river crossing near Brukkenburg. Comrade Tupitsin performed a flanking maneuver through difficult forested terrain, stealthily approached the crossing, captured it, and held until our units arrived.

When performing a mission to reach the shores of the Baltic between Danzig and Gdynia, comrade Tupitsin was assigned to the advance guard. During his march, he encountered a powerful enemy stronghold. He entered battle and eliminated it.

During battle around Danzig, when the enemy stopped our infantry and tanks with powerful fire, comrade Tupitskin rushed forward, spotted the strongholds, and with his fire destroyed 2 guns, 10 machineguns, and 30 enemy soldiers. One hill prevented our forces from taking a stronghold, but comrade Tupitskin's SPG guaranteed that it was taken and that our path to Danzig was cleared. In that battle, comrade Tupitskin's SPG was hit by an armour piercing shell and caught fire. Giving the rest of his crew the chance to leave the vehicle, comrade Tupitskin himself did not have a chance to leave and heroically gave his life for his Motherland.

Comrade Tupitskin's courage, bravery, and heroism in battle with German invaders is worthy of the state award of Hero of the Soviet Union, posthumously."

CAMD RF 33-793756

The story itself isn't particularly exciting, but this is one of the rare award orders that comes with a biography of the hero. Tupitskin, a peasant's son, finished a teaching college in 1935 and became a vice principal, then a school inspector in 1940. In July of 1941, he enrolled in junior political officer courses, which he finished in November, serving as the political chief of the 952nd Infantry Regiment on the Leningrad Front. He took some more political officer courses and jumped around some more political chief positions (this time at company level) until June of 1943, when he presumably had enough of the political life and spent a year at the Kiev Artillery Academy, after which he was given an ISU-122 to command.

Monday 20 July 2015

T-34 Protection Tests

When the first T-34 pre-production prototypes were built and prepared for a long drive from Kharkov to Moscow for a demonstration, ABTU decided to test their newest toy's armour at Kubinka. A dangerous proposition, as the tanks still had to continue their trials afterwards, and blowing them up would not go well. Luckily, the tank withstood all damage.

A-34 #1 after trials, Kubinka
RGVA 31811-3-2003

The 45 mm shells were fired from the standard 45 mm tank gun, the 37 mm shells were fired from the 37 mm Bofors gun in a Vickers 6-ton, both from 100 meters. None of the shells penetrated, but one 45 mm shell, deviously fired into the underside of the turret, managed to rupture the welding seam, jam the turret, and cause some spalling on the inside. The shell did not penetrate. The engine, which was running the whole time, did not stall.

Another test was carried out on T-34s engine, but this one was testing a different kind of protection. Combat in Spain showed that bottles filled with gasoline were an effective weapon against tanks. Soviet testers made no attempts to spare their subjects the brutality of war.

This test is described in the book A-34. Birth of the Thirty-fourth by I. Zheltov and A. Makarov, p. 183-187. This time, A-34 #2 was the victim. In order to ensure that the gasoline would ignite, the engine deck was covered with burning hemp. The T-34's secret weapon against incendiary fluids, shutters on the air intakes controlled from inside the tank, were closed. 500 mL bottles filled with gasoline thrown at the left and right air intakes or the center of the engine deck were ineffective, the gasoline did not penetrate into the tank. The engine did not stall, but the fire on top of the engine deck did have a taxing effect on the cooling system. When the test was attempted with open shutters, the result was much more severe: the exhaust pipes began emitting black smoke after 20 seconds, and the engine stalled. When restarted with the fire still burning, it worked for another 15 seconds and stalled again. This time, even after the fire was put out, it would no longer start.

The front of the tank was also resistant to burning gasoline. When bottles were thrown at the front of the tank, only small amounts made it through the turret ring and driver's hatch.

Here's another, more thorough penetration test, described in this lecture by A. Makarov. This is the first cast T-34 turret using high hardness homogeneous armour, produced at the Mariupol factory in 1940 on ABTU's orders. 

Sadly, he does not describe the test in great detail, only mentioning that while defects were discovered due to an unfamiliar manufacturing process, ABTU representatives agreed that the designers were on the right course. Suggestions were made to improve the manufacturing process, and a few months later, an attempt was made again.

Note the inclusion of an observation device housing (on early turrets it was attached separately). The rear was also reinforced, and trials showed an improvement. In total, the turret was hit 32 times with 37, 45, and 76 mm shells. The robustness of the turrets was satisfactory. The commission remarked that even when hit with high caliber shells, there were no cracks or spalling. The resistance of the turret's armour, 51-55 mm thick, was considered equivalent to the 45 mm rolled plates on the old turrets, but could be produced much faster. In order to penetrate, a 45 mm gun had to fire at basically point blank range with a blunt tipped shell, or from 100 meters with a pointed tipped shell. 

Another cast addition to the design was to the front of the tank, a connecting piece between the upper and lower front plates. This design successfully resisted not only 45 mm, but also 76 mm AP shells. 

Trials of the connecting piece as well as dummy "upper" and "lower" plates.

The lecture also includes a tactical diagram of the T-34 against a 76 mm gun:

The tank was completely invulnerable from the front, but vulnerable from the sides, unless presented at a very sharp angle. Against its own HE shells, the T-34 would also have a tough time. A hit on the turret ring in the rear part of the turret broke through both the roof of the fighting compartment and the turret bay floor and threw the turret off the hull (it was torn off the turret ring by a prior shot). A hit to the lower side also destroyed the floor of the overtrack hull and dealt enough damage to the suspension to stop the tank. However, there were no penetrations of the tank's 40-45 mm thick armour by HE shells. This was deemed satisfactory by the trials commission, but there were some places that the commission pointed out had room for improvement: the front of the turret, the joint between the top and bottom of the rear plates, and the lower side not protected by wheels. 

Sunday 19 July 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Kursk, Secondary Direction

The battles at Prokhorovka, Oboyan, and Ponyri obscured many other no less important battles during the Battle of Kursk. Once of those was the deflection of the auxiliary attack of the German Armee-Abteilung Kempf by Lieutenant-General M. Shumilov's 7th Guards Army. This event took place on the left flank of the Voronezh Front.

There were no SS divisions with trumpeted up names here, regular numbered Wehrmacht divisions went into battle. There were no famous Soviet tank units like Kartukov's 1st Guards Tank Army or Rotmistrov's 5th Guards Tank Army. Even here, in this "insignificant" battle, the Germans lost.

Starting positions

The German commanders expected the qualitative advantage of their new tanks to be a decisive factor in Operation Citadel, but Werner Kempf had nothing to brag about. His army contained three tank divisions (6th, 7th, and 19th), united into the 3rd Tank Corps.

Unlike his colleagues from the SS and named divisions like Grossdeutschland, the corps received no reinforcements. In order to at least somehow help the units battered in March battles, Kempf attached the 228th assault gun battalion with StuG assault guns to the 3rd corps, as well as the 503rd Heavy Tank Battalion with 45 Tigers. Each division in the corps received one company of heavy tanks.

Shumilov's men were facing down Tigers, and in 1943 the Red Army did not yet have the IS-2 and its powerful 122 mm gun to combat them. Most of the tank units attached to the 7th Guards had T-34s, a few consisted only of light T-60 and T-70 tanks, heavy but obsolete KVs and Lend-Lease tanks. Fighting Tigers was going to be hard.

Knowing this, the commander of the Voronezh Front reinforced the 7th Guards Army with the 1529th Heavy SPG Regiment which contained 12 SU-152s, the only unit with these vehicles. They were subordinated to the 24th Guards Infantry Corps.

On July 5th, Kempf began his offensive, and things started going wrong almost immediately. With every day, the Germans experienced more and more difficulties.

The first problem lay in the fact that the front line in front of the attackers stretched almost in its entirety along the shores of Severskiy Donets river. The only foothold near Mikhailovka, captured in the spring, was insufficient to deploy significant forces. Soldiers of the 6th Tank Division that were "lucky" enough to begin their offensive from the foothold soon understood that the Soviets knew its importance.

The rest of Kempf's troops had to cross the river and a 200 meter wide swampy flood plain, capture footholds on the opposite shore, and erect bridges strong enough for heavy vehicles. Only then could they begin their offensive.

Tigers in a Rain of Fire

Despite the fact that Citadel was a German offensive operation, the first move was made by the Soviets. On the night of July 5th, guns, mortars, and rocket artillery opened fire. Their effect on the Germans that were amassed for an attack is described as "overwhelming" in Soviet literature, and this is a fair assessment, especially in the sector of the 7th Guards Army.

Near the Mikhailovka foothold, artillery destroyed one of the two crossings. The first attack from the foothold failed, and the Germans tried to help out with StuGs and Tigers. The bridge collapsed under one of the StuGs, leaving the main forces of the 6th Tank Division and all of its tanks stuck on the other shore. They had to go around, through the crossing of their neighbouring 19th Tank Division that had 60-ton bridge kits.

From the report of the 19th Tank Division: "The bridge for Tigers was halfway finished. At the time, the Russians began a well organized barrage of artillery, mortars, and flanking machinegun fire on the crossing. Even though it was dark, the fire was very precise." The Germans finished their crossing, but ran into another problem, as a result of which Hans von Funk decided that it was safer to have the Tigers ford the river. However, they didn't make it far, only to the first minefield where they stopped to wait for sappers to clear the way.

Funk made the decision to not use the bridge because of mines, but German ones, not Soviet ones. The cooperation between attack teams and sappers to clear the way for attacking units was terrible. For instance, the crossing at Solomatino was blocked by six tanks that were disabled by German mines as soon as they got off the bridge.

Mine Curse of the 19th Division

The 19th division earned the gold medal for bad luck that day. Most of the Tigers that they were issued did not make it across to the eastern shore of Severskiy Donest. Another excerpt from German documents: "We had no maps in our possession describing German minefields. We had only two mutually contradicting plans for minefields, which, as it turned out, were both wrong." As a result, first two Tigers blew up on German mines as soon as they moved out, then two more a while later. The latter were driving across terrain that was considered cleared.

Then, explosions rang one by one. Three tanks carelessly poked into an active mine field and were disabled. Two truck blew up on a road that was also considered safe. Later, 120 mines were removed from it that could not possibly be there.

The attempt to push through Soviet defenses with what was left of the Tiger company was a costly decision. By night, only one undamaged Tiger remained. Of course, a single mine explosion was not enough to send a heavy tank to the scrapyard, but in this battle every tank and every minute were valuable.

The first day of Kempf's offensive was a total failure. The only thing the Germans achieved was the capture of several small footholds on the other side of the river. They were not able to join them into one big one.

From Zveroboy with Love

Vehicles of the 1529th SPG Regiment entered battle on July 7th. They fired indirectly upon German forces that nearly penetrated Shumilov's second line of defense.

Soviet units needed to hold out, while the Germans had to join up with the group attacking in the main direction. Kempf's group was tasked with protecting its flank, a task which it could not carry out. Three days of fierce fighting were costly for both Soviet and German forces, the 6th and 19th Tank Divisions were on their last legs.

The Germans planned to reinforce them with the 7th Tank Division on July 8th, which was still stuck on the right flank. Contrary to German plans, the Soviets attacked first, recapturing the Batratskaya Dacha farm. The Germans realized that their infantry cannot withstand Soviet attacks without tanks. The plan was changed, and the 7th sent its tanks into battle that morning, and its attached Tigers by the evening.

At the tip of the spearhead as always, the Tigers rushed forward, not suspecting that the gunners of the 3rd battery were carefully studying them through their sights. All vehicles of the regiment had their own names. The Tigers ran into "Zveroboy" and "Zubr".

According to the award order of Zveroboy's gunner, the battle did not last long. "The enemy, with up to 12 tanks and a battalion of infantry, attempted to occupy favourable positions (height 191.2) in the vicinity of our lines. 6 German Tigers headed the attack.

Comrade Mikhailov aimed his weapon straight on target and turned the enemy to flight, knocking out 3 T-6 tanks and damaging 4 light tanks." T-6 were Tigers, this is how they were referred to in Soviet documents until the end of the war.

It's likely that this was the first battle between the Tiger and SU-152. It appears to be insignificant against the grand scale of the battle, but this and a thousand other minor skirmishes wore down the German advance. Because of the battle for Batratskaya Dacha, a whole enemy tank division was bogged down, unable to unite with Hoth's forces. As a result, he had to dedicate some of his own forces to protect his flanks. He was still able to advance, for now.

Original article available here.

Saturday 18 July 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Merkava

On June 24th, 2006, Guy Kabili was ambushed. A 300 kilogram explosive flipped his tank, after which it was hit with three anti-tank rockets. Six of the seven men inside survived. Their saviour was the Merkava ("chariot") tank, created with the slogan "the most valuable part of a tank is the crew".

Development of a fortress on wheels

Israel Tal, the father of the Merkava, was a tanker, not an engineer. He commanded the Israeli 84th "Steel" tank division. Tal himself proposed the design of a domestic armoured vehicle after talks to purchase and produce British Chieftain and French AMX-30 tanks failed.

Relying on his rich combat experience and rejecting the need to rely on foreign partners, Israeli workers concentrated on creating a tank suited for local conditions and peculiarities. For instance, while Soviet designers had to deal with railroad standards when making new tanks, Israeli designers would be able to cover their potential theater of war with wheeled transport or using the tanks' own tracks.

Designers studied and compared several suspension systems from various countries, including captured Soviet vehicles, and decided that a spring suspension would work best. It was considered obsolete by this point, but resulted in superior resistance to mines and the ability to quickly swap out road wheels. The driver's observation device was tested in a wooden mockup mounted on a Jeep in areas of potential conflicts.

The Israeli version of the L7 105 mm rifled gun was used as the main weapon, due to its excellent reputation in combat. Later Merkava tanks received a 120 mm smoothbore gun.

The highest priority of the designers was the survival of the crew. To achieve this, the engine and transmission were placed in the front, and the crew and ammunition in the back, the most protected part. A rear hatch increased the chances of leaving a knocked out tank alive. Since the fighting compartment turned out to be very large, it could fit additional ammunition, infantry, or wounded. The Merkava served as a basis for a so called "tankbulance", vehicles with on-board medical equipment and doctors.

These new tanks were adopted into the Israeli army in 1979.

Practical application

The Merkava first saw battle in 1982 during a war in Lebanon. In early June, 200 of these tanks took part in "Operation Peace for Galilee". However, the first battle where they were supposed to engage Syrian T-72s never happened. There are many colourful stories about the slaughter of T-72s by Israeli tanks, but the truth is that the Merkavas simply didn't make it in time. Syrian T-72s fought only unarmoured Jeeps with TOW missiles from the Koah Yosi division.

Ironically, the first potential deadly enemy of the Merkava was an Israeli Magach (Patton). On June 9th, one Merkava from the 198th Battalion was knocked out by Syrians near Ain-a-Tina, after which it was mistakenly fired upon by tanks from another Israeli battalion. A good part of Merkavas lost in that conflict were lost due to friendly fire. For instance, on June 10-11th, Israeli helicopters fired on their own tanks twice. Five tanks were damaged, two crewmen died.

The largest use of Merkavas to this day happened in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. 400 tanks including the newest Merkava-4s took part in an offensive on Hezbollah controlled territory. According to Israeli sources, over 1000 anti-tank rockets and shells were fired at these tanks, including Kornet rockets. 45 tanks were hit a total of 51 times, and about half of those hits penetrated. Three tanks were total losses, and 25 crew members died (these figures do not include losses due to mines and explosives).

The battles of 2006 showed once again that there is no such thing as an invincible tank, the only question is how much effort must be spent to destroy it. Even the best tanks will take heavy losses when used incorrectly. A battle at the dried out Saluki river serves as such an example. The Israeli offensive in this direction was delayed by two days. As a result, Hezbollah had time to prepare anti-tank defenses which were not discovered by Israeli scouts. Even though new Merkava-4 tanks were sent into battle, there were still losses. Tanks were fired upon from multiple directions, three out of 24 vehicles received penetrating hits, 7 tankers died. Considering the situation, a bold tank charge without reconnaissance and support, this is a relatively small loss,but it was possible for the whole column to remain on the sandy slopes of Saluki.

Merkava's designers managed to achieve their goal: maximum protection, especially for the crew. As Israel Tal once said "The tank with the better crew will be victorious!" Merkava's combat path shows that the tank's designers had their priorities straight. The most important component, the crew, was valued higher than anything else.

Original article available here.

Friday 17 July 2015

Object 268 Loading Instructions

A while ago, I caught a glimpse of the autoloader operation instructions in the IS-7. Today, I came across a similar label inside the Object 268, a successor to the ISU-152 on the IS-8/T-10 chassis in this video.

"Instructions of operation of the loading mechanism.
  1. Turn on electrical power. The green light should turn on. Open the gun breech.
  2. Place the shell on the tray and mover out the frame, holding the shell in place.
  3. After the shell is secured, place the propellant in the tray and press the "ram" button. If the propellant is not rammed in all the way, open the manual control cover. The red light should turn on. Using the "back" button, return the chain and, having lowered the cover, repeat the ramming process."
The ram button is in the center of the control panel, with the indicator lights on the right. The manual control box is on the left.

Thursday 16 July 2015

SU-76 Manual

"Orders to commanders of the 4th Ukrainian Front on the combat use of SPG regiments (SU-76) and their cooperation with infantry in combat
  1. SPGs (SU-76), organized into batteries or regiments, are tasked with not only supporting tanks, but mainly supporting infantry in defense and attack.
  2. When SPGs (SU-76) cooperate with infantry, the SPG (SU-76) should be viewed as an infantry support weapon that is less vulnerable and more mobile than regimental towed artillery.
  3. Based on this understanding, a regiment of SPGs should be assigned to a division, and inside the division, one regiment should be assigned to every battalion. The use of individual SPGs is undesirable, as the battery is indivisible.
  4. On the offensive, a battery of SU-76s attached to an infantry battalion positions itself among and behind the infantry lines, same as divisional and regimental artillery. The task of the SU-76 battery is set by the battalion commander, who gives specific targets, no more than 2-3 targets per SPG. The battery commander distributes targets between SPGs. The same commander, the battery commander, picks the positions of the battery based on the given task and terrain.
    During artillery barrages, the SPGs may be included in the direct fire group. In this case, the tasks are given to the SPGs by the direct fire group commander, through the SPG regiment commander.
    The tasks given to the SPG battery commander by the infantry commander do not free him from the responsibility of independently seeking out and destroying targets in his sector.
  5. When the infantry moves out, the battery supports the infantry until such a time as the infantry reaches the region of the targets being suppressed by the battery. When infantry reaches target depth, the battery moves out to the next line, either vehicle by vehicle or with the whole battery, depending on the situation, without losing communication or ceasing cooperation with infantry.
    When the battery reaches its new positions, the battalion commander issues new targets. If there are no orders from the battalion commander, the battery commander must personally discover and destroy the targets that impede infantry progress the most. During the offensive, the SPG battery acts as infantry support guns and fires from positions dictated by the position of our infantry.
    Infantry commanders and soldiers must know and remember that the SU-76 SPG is not a tank, but an SPG, and does not fight outside of infantry ranks. When the enemy is demoralized or retreating, SPG batteries, like regular infantry gun batteries, rapidly move forward, destroy the enemy at close range, and pursue him. The infantry must not lag behind its SPGs, but also rapidly follow.
  6. When organizing cooperation between infantry and artillery, ensure that there is a mutual understanding of objectives. Shared landmarks must be established to make directions easier. The simplest signals possible must be agreed upon, legible to junior infantry commanders and commanders of individual SPGs. 
  7. One of the objectives of self propelled artillery in the offensive is the support of infantry while it fortifies on new ground.
  8. In this case, when the infantry moves to a defensive position, the batteries become mobile or immobile artillery with a potentially wider range. Pick concealed positions to shoot from, dig the SPGs into the ground if possible. On the offensive, as in defense, when enemy tanks or SPGs appear, SU-76 batteries ignore all other objectives and fire immediately at enemy tanks or SPGs. The order of opening fire is covered by existing manuals on tank combat. This task remains a priority until all enemy tanks are suppressed or chased off.
  9. When the regiment fights in the region of a division, the SPG regiment commander remains with the divisional artillery commander or where the commander orders him to be. The regimental commander must, without ignoring the objectives given by the infantry commander, control his battery and control their fire, provide them with ammunition and other supplies. Regrouping or reassigning batteries can be done only through the SU-76 regiment commander.
  10. These directions do not apply to SPGs assigned to a tank destroyer regiment (SU-85), which follow special directions.
4th Ukrainian Front commander, Army General Petrov
Member of the Military Council of the 4th Ukrainian Front, Colonel-General Mekhlis
Commander of Artillery of the 4th Ukrainian Front, Lieutenant-General Kariofilli"

Collection of Combat Documents from the Great Patriotic War, vol. 2, doc. 10.

Wednesday 15 July 2015


"Reporting to TU GBTU KA Chief, Engineer-Colonel comrade Blagonravov

I report that:
  1. From January 1st to July 1st, 1945, the following was sent:
    1. Train car #1726224, transport 105/6023, 160 road wheels for M4A2 tanks, to Bryansk warehouse #2707, June 1st, 1945.
    2. Train car #562541, transport 105/6024, Valentine tank spare parts (74 units), Matilda tank spare parts (1 unit), miscellaneous parts (12 units). Total: 87 units. Sent to Berezaika, June 1st, 1945.
    3. Train car #329148, transport 105/6024, M4A2 spare parts (26 units) to Bryansk warehouse #2707, June 1st, 1945.
    4. 3 ND-10 tractors, transport 109/4864, sent to Balashiha station, repair factory #24, April 1st, 1945.
    5. Workshops:
      1. Mechanical workshop "N": 1
      2. Workshop "H": 6
      3. I-30 charging stations: 4
      4. Total: 11
        Sent by transport 109/4872 to Nara station, to a subsidiary of factory #90.
  2. Loaded, but not shipped:
    1. Harley Davidson motorcycles: 83.
    2. M4A2 armament parts: 262 units.
    3. M4A2 spare parts: 2752 units.
  3. Remains in ports as of July 1st, 1945:
    1. Molotovsk: 
      1. M4A2 parts: 317 units
      2. M4A2 road wheels: 27 units
      3. TE-48 instruments: 2 units
        In total enough for two train cars
    2. Bakaritsa:
      1. ND-10 tractors: 3
      2. Type K welding workshops: 4
      3. Radio workshops: 5
      4. M4A2 instruments: 306 units
      5. M4A2 parts: 53 units
        In total enough for 15 train cars.
Chief of the Foreign Vehicle Acceptance Department of GBTU KA, Guards Engineer-Colonel Trelin."

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Tiger Duel

"Award order
  1. Name: Nugayev, Nagjim Nugmanovich
  2. Rank: Junior Sergeant
  3. Position, unit: deputy gun commander, 1669th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union with the award of Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal.
  4. Year of birth: 1910
  5. Nationality: Tatar
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) candidate since July of 1943
  7. Participation in the civil war, subsequent actions in defense of the USSR, and the Patriotic War (where, when): Patriotic War, Voronezh and Steppe Fronts, May 1943.
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War: wounded on October 5th, 1943.
  9. In the Red Army since: October 1941.
  10. Recruited by: Shahrizyab recruitment office, Uzbek ASSR.
  11. Prior awards: For Bravery medal on October 16th, 1943, by order regarding the 1669th Tank Destroyer Artillery Regiment.
Brief and specific description of personal heroism or achievements: On October 5th, 1943, the enemy attempted to liquidate our foothold on the west shore of the Dniepr and capture Borodayevka with a large amount of infantry reinforced by tanks and aircraft. A Tiger tank, two medium, and one light tank were moving towards Junior Sergeant Nugayev's gun. The crew met the enemy heroically. A few shots, and the light and medium tanks were destroyed. However, the Tiger was almost at the gun, firing from its cannon and machineguns at 100-150 meters. The Tiger was knocked out by the gun. The enemy's attack failed. Nugayev was heavily wounded and sent to the hospital. In total, gunner Nugayev's gun destroyed three tanks in July of 1943, two cars, ten machineguns, up to 100 fascists, and suppressed the fire of three mortar batteries.

He is worthy of the title of Hero of the Soviet Union with the award of the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal."

CAMD RF 33-793756-34

Well well, that's quite an action-packed sequence, prime for Hollywood! Sadly, not all the details are here, like what kind of gun he was using. The choices are slim though, tank destroyer artillery units used 45 or 76 mm guns, so in this case it was most likely a ZiS-3.

Since a Tiger was mentioned, it's time to ask our good friend Wolfgang Schneider to confirm the fact. SS Panzer Regiment 3 was just rooting around west of the Dniepr around this time, let's see what happened to them.

"5 October 1943: Operational tanks: 5. In the days that follow, the company is employed sporadically in screening positions along the main line of resistance.
7 October 1943: The company is assembled in Usbenskoje.
8 October 1943: Support of a counterattack through a side arm of the Dnjepr and capture of the Kolerda Peninsula. One Tiger suffers an internal main-gun explosion.
9 October 1943: An enemy penetration west of Tschikalowka is cleared.
10 October 1943: Operational tanks: 2."

Well, that matches the description. Along with the dramatic gun explosion Tiger, two Tigers are lost in an unidentified way over these five days. It's likely that one of them met its end in front of Nugayev's gun.

Monday 13 July 2015

War of the Worlds

"To the People's Commissar of Defense of the USSR, comrade Stalin

Dear Joseph Vissarionovich!

As I wish to defeat detestable fascism and its army quickly, I recommend my invention, KARAR: an armoured light jumping vehicle. The design, tactical, and combat capabilities are as follows.

Design: a steel ball-shaped turret, placed on six legs. The legs are the suspension, put in motion by an engine in the turret. The Karar moves by jumping between 5 and 20 meters. The jump is powered by the engine. Its power is transmitted to the legs by clutch A and rocker B. The rocker, pushing against the top of the leg, throws the body of the Karar in the desired direction. Two rockers push on two neighbouring legs, at the time of the jump the other legs are retracted. Before jumping, the turret is turned with the motor. There are six positions for the turret.

The Karar is piloted by one person who sits in the turret on a rotating chair. The driver is, at the same time, the gunner. The Karar is 3 meters tall, the turret diameter is up to 1.5 meters. The six legs are positioned in a six-pointed star with a diameter of 3.5 meters.

The Karar is made of light alloys, which makes it light overall, making the jumps quick and easy. See the overall view and specific parts in the attached diagram. I did not have the opportunity to provide detailed blueprints, as the idea of the Karar was born in a battlefield situation without the possibility of consultation for technical calculations and drafting of proper blueprints. It would be desirable to work with a real engineer. I could provide blueprints or models of the vehicle within a short time. According to my calculations, producing the Karar would be very cheap. The engine does not need to be powerful, and will use a little more fuel than a motorcycle. A notable feature of the Karar is the ease of replacing any component [you can stop reading now, the author's technical illiteracy can be seen in every word, but the author does not see it and demands an answer]

I ask that you review my proposal and give me an answer. In case I am needed personally, my address is Borovichi, mailbox 73/4, cadet Korneev Aleksandr Grigoryevich.


October 2nd, 1942"

From here.

Sunday 12 July 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Railway Warriors

Land Merrimack: the first real armoured train, 1862

When the Northern forces sieged Richmond during the American Civil War, Southern commanders were afraid that assault guns will be used against the city. In order to counter this threat, General Lee ordered a train car with a powerful 165 mm naval gun. The Navy was supposed to build and service it. It already had experience with armour, as recently steamship Merrimack was refitted into ironclad Virginia.

The "Land Merrimack" consisted of an armoured train car protected by two layers of thick strips of rolled iron on an oak foundation. The armour was installed on the front and on the sides, the rear and the top remained open to allow for ventilation and crew evacuation. Behind the armoured car was a locomotive, protected from bullets by bales of cotton. The same "armour" was used on carts with riflemen.

The only use of the "Land Merrimack" in support of infantry happened during the battle for Savage's Station in late June of 1862. The armoured train was effective, killing many Northerners and forcing them to abandon a hospital with 500 wounded.

"Hairy Mary": the strangest armour, 1899

The first widespread use of armoured trains was during the Boer War of 1899-1902. The Boers actively used guerilla tactics to harass British supply lines. In order to protect them, the British started building armoured trains that served as mobile garrisons.

One of the most interesting armoured trains of the era was built using the Havelock locomotive. Instead of armoured plate, the locomotive was protected with tightly wound hemp rope 6 inches (15 cm) thick. This made the locomotive practically invulnerable to bullets and small caliber shells.

Due to its exotic exterior, the locomotive was nicknamed "Hairy Mary". This was the most unusual armour for this type of armoured vehicle.

The first Russian armoured train, 1914

This train was built in Tarnopol in the workshops of the 9th Railway Battalion on a captured Austro-Hungarian locomotive and three train cars: two with machineguns and one with a cannon. The armament was also captured. It consisted of one 80 mm Austrian gun and 12 machineguns. The train was protected by regular steel plates and sand sandwiched between boards. One of the machinegun cars had a turret for observation of the battlefield.

Despite the primitive design, the train fought well and proved itself in the first battles of WWI. For instance, in the Lvov direction, on August 22nd, 1914, a sudden attack by the armoured train allowed the capture of an important bridge and ensure the capture of Stanislawow. The armoured train of the 9th Battalion often earned the praise of commanders.

The first Russian armoured train finished its career as a part of the Red Army on the South Front in 1919.

Armoured Motorized Train Car "Zaamurets": a train with a curious fate, 1916

A self propelled train car was built for the Russian army using the most advanced technology of the time. Its armour was sloped. It was propelled by gasoline engines, equipped with rangefinders and periscopes, as well as internal telephones. The Zaamurets was armed with 57 mm automatic Nordenfelt guns.

During its service, this train car changed hands many times. Starting out in the Russian army, it then was used by the Ukrainian units of the Central Rada in 1917. In January of 1918 the Zaamurets fought for the Reds, but literally a month later it was captured by a gang of anarchists and used to terrorize villages near Odessa. A while later, the Red Army recaptured it.

The Civil War brought the Zaamurets to Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk). Here, the Czechoslovak Legion, fighting for the White Army, captured it. The Czechs renamed it "Orlik", replaced some of the armament, and used it until their departure from Russia. The train was left to the Japanese, which later gave it to the Whites near Vladivostok. In 1922, the Zaamurets retreated with the Whites to Harbin. In the mid-1920s the train fought in the army of Chinese field commander Zhang Xu Chan. Some sources say that the Japanese captured it in 1931 in Manchuria.

Rain on Baku: an armoured train strategic operation, 1920

In the spring of 1920, the Red Army defeated the White Guards commander Anton Denikin and drew closer to the borders of Azerbaijan. The capture of this republic was very important, as it was rich in oil. However, the local government was prepared to burn the oil wells lest they fall into the hands of the Bolsheviks.

In order to resolve this situation, four armoured trains were selected: "Timofey Ulyanov", "Third International", "Red Dagestan" and "Red Astrakhan". On the night of April 27th, they penetrated enemy fortified lines, fought their way through 200 kilometers, and burst into Baku.

When Red sympathizers heard about the success of the armoured trains, a rebellion erupted in Baku. In only one day, control of the city was in Bolshevik hands.

Armoured Train #13: the smallest in history, 1940

This dwarf was built for a narrow rail gauge, only 38.1 cm wide. It consisted of two train cars, one with a Boys AT rifle, one with two machineguns, one of which could be used for anti-air.

Despite superstitions, the train was indexed #13. The locomotive was ironically named "Hercules". #13 entered service in July of 1940.

Despite the fact that the Germans never landed in Britain, the train still fought in battle. During the Battle of Britain, the train crew's AA gunners claimed that they shot down two enemy planes, a He-111 bomber and a Bf 109 fighter.

The train remained in service until 1943.

Armoured Train #1, 66th Squadron: the heaviest armed, 1942

This Soviet armoured train was built in Voroshilovgrad (today Lugansk) at the October Revolution factory. It consisted of an armoured locomotive and two armoured train platforms. The first had a T-34 turret with a 76 mm gun, two 76 mm guns separately, and 6 machineguns. The second had a KV-2 turret with a 152 mm howitzer, a 76 mm gun, and a 45 mm gun in a T-34 turret, as well as 8 machineguns. The train also had two DShK AA machineguns.

The train fought at Voroshiliovgrad with the 66th Squadron. Documents record that it repelled 18 German attacks from the air and mention that some planes were shot down.

German recon trains: the most maneuverable, 1944

The most maneuverable armoured trains of WWII were German light and heavy recon trains. They consisted of several (up to 10 for light and 12 for heavy) armoured draisines with internal combustion engines. A main feature of these trains was that, if necessary, the draisines could separate and travel independently. This increased the tactical flexibility of the armoured train.

The draisines were armed with machineguns, automatic 20 mm AA guns, and various caliber guns taken from German, Italian, and maybe even Soviet tanks.

These trains were used in the Balkans in the second half of 1944.

"Kozma Minin" and "Ilya Muromets", longest serving, 1942-1945

These two armoured trains were a part of the 31st Special Squadron. The "special" label indicated that these trains were equipped with rocket launchers. Additionally, "Kozma Minin" and "Ilya Muromets" were equipped with 76 mm guns, machineguns, and AA guns.

The trains entered service in 1942, as a part of the Bryansk Front. In 1943, they fought at Bolkhov and Mtsensk, covering weaknesses in Soviet defenses. In these battles, they destroyed 11 German strongholds, a mortar battery, and two trains.

In 1944 and 1945, "Kozma Minin" and "Ilya Muromets" fought their way through the Ukraine, Poland, and Germany, covering the Red Army during the crossing of the Vistula and the liberation of Warsaw. They met the end of the war in Germany, at Frankfurt an der Oder, protecting the rear of the 1st Belorussian Front.

Original article available here.

Saturday 11 July 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Armchair Generals

In the years of the Great Patriotic War, officers of the General Staff tasked with studying the experience of war were like pearl hunters in muddy waters. Numerous letters arrived addressed to them with suggestions on how to sooner defeat Germany. Many of them were odd or curious. Here are some excerpts from secret suggestions in 1942.

More forces, new and interesting ones

Major-General Pulko-Dmitriyev of the Tashkent Intendant Academy found, as he thought, a flawless plan of fighting German tanks. In his words "a fascist tank division would break upon" a special anti-tank battalion armed with 300 AT rifle crews. According to the author, such a division contained 300 tanks.

The officer that received this letter wrote in the margins that a German tank division does not have this many tanks. The main idea that every enemy tank needs a dedicated AT rifle was not commented upon.

Comrade Yagudin from Baku wrote that the era of flying tanks is close, same with fortress tanks and mosquito tanks (the author does not mention if they were just very small or were also capable of flight). Until these tanks were made, it was important to organize the forces correctly. The author wanted a motorized brigade, consisting of tank, airborne, artillery, and motorized infantry groups. A brigade is not the largest unit, consisting of about 50 tanks, but Yagudin came up with a 500 vehicle monster which could easily be classified as a corps or even an army.

With this brigade, he proposed "an offensive in the Bryansk-Smolensk-Gomel-Minsk direction, developing success on flanks, and at the same time moving up the remainder of the front, especially the flanks (Baltic and Black Sea shores)"

Saving the best for last, Captain Matyevosyan from the 22nd Army proposed "Amphibian tanks that could carry tank riders and fly up to 25 meters in the air over a range of 10-20 kilometers". The General Staff did not appreciate this proposal, as the phrase about 25 meters is thickly underlined and there is a short message in the margin: "Science fiction"

How to Defeat Germany for Dummies

A burning desire to defeat the enemy is not enough. One also needs knowledge and experience, otherwise these attempts will look silly. For instance, comrade Kargopolov from Stalingrad attempted to grasp the theory and practice of modern warfare and came to the following conclusion: "Do we need this idea of battle, why seek a meeting with dynamic armed enemy forces? When one thinks about it, one must admit that we do not." Instead of fighting the German army, the author proposed to concentrate as many armoured and mechanized forces in the direction of Smolensk-Minsk as possible and move them forward. In 6-7 days, they will be at the walls of Berlin. Secondary offensives would be aimed in the direction of Rzhev-Riga and Elets-Kursk-Kiev.

The author did not forget about the Allies, proposing that they move their tank forces by air and, without worrying about France or Belgium, aim towards the Rhine to meet the Soviet tank armies somewhere in the middle of Germany.

Sergeant Fedorov had an original idea, attacking from the rear. He proposed waiting for long Arctic nights on the Leningrad Front and sneak by with "transport like northern dogs, reindeer, skiers". Fedorov imagined that this will bring unparalleled success. He also cursed lazy scientists and demanded that doctors and chemists develop sleeping gas.

Military Engineer Second Class Malyuk of the Siberian railroad also had grandiose ideas. He invented "strategic triangles" and "strategic trapezoids" to strike suddenly at the German forces, as they would allow to "with relatively few losses, move forward and discover the intentions of the enemy". This "military geometry" was built upon a strike force of 9-10 divisions (a good 100,000 men). This was only the beginning, Malyuk started making plans for groups of 25-30 divisions. According to his prognosis, a successful execution of this plan would allow these units to reach the Baltic in 10-15 days, and Bucharest and the Danube in 20-25, surrounding all enemy armies. After that, as the author logically concluded, "Hitler has one way out, the noose."

Political Chief Kovalev's Red Vice

The plan of a breakthrough and defeat of German armies developed by reservist political chief Kovalev was largely born from a surplus of red pencils, paper, and spare time.

The massive red pincers in this drawing were Kovalev's plan. The first "armoured breakthrough group" was supposed to attack in the direction of Stalino (Donetsk), Dnepropetrovsk, and Kirovograd. When they reached the Ukrainian steppes, they would split up into two parts that would join up around Ploesti.

In order to realize this plan, "only" 15 tank divisions and 16 motorized divisions were needed. According to Kovalev, this would cut off Germany from Romanian oil and prevent German control over the Romanian, Hungarian, and Italian armies. As a result, "the armies would no doubt quarrel".

Many parts of Kovalev's plan were unclear. For instance, where would the Red Army get tank divisions in 1942? At that time, the tank forces have not yet recovered from the heavy losses of 1941 and the largest tank unit was a brigade (60 tanks). Even if all tanks, including light T-60s, were gathered up, there would not be enough vehicles. The political chief also did not mention what would prevent the Germans from communicating with their allies via radio.

The reply from the General Staff stated that the plan does not consider the current situation in our armies and is "in general, a fantasy".

One can only be surprised by the patience and professionalism of the General Staff that, during the very difficult year of 1942, wrote over and over: "The data you have communicated in the letter will be considered. In the future when developing suggestions, please:
  • Consider the situation at hand.
  • Back up your suggestions with calculations of forces and supplies that they require.
  • When composing plans and suggestions, do not depart from reality."
Original article available here.