Saturday 30 March 2019

Modernization on Paper

Technical progress moves in giant leaps during large wars. This rule applied to nearly all types of weapons and armament during WWII, including tanks. Every year of war raised the bar of requirements, and even the newest fighting machines quickly became outdated.

The heavy IS-1 tank was created as a response to the Tiger, but was obsolete by the time it entered production. The IS-2 that came to replace it had a much more powerful gun, but it too would need to be replaced soon. Today let us remember the tanks that were supposed to replace the IS-2 in 1944. Not a single one was ever built in metal, but work on these projects resulted in the creation of the IS-2 with straight upper front hull armour and the IS-3.

Thursday 28 March 2019

Financial Gratitude

One of the biggest issues with T-34 production was the use of new austenitic electrodes, which welders were not skilled at working with. A group of instructors from the NII-48 research institute had to be dispatched to teach them how to work this this new type of welding, which radically reduced the amount of defective armour components.

"March 19th, 1941

To the Chief of the 3rd Department of the NKSP, comrade Yushin
Director of NII-48, comrade A.S. Zayalov

Workers from the 3rd department of the NII-48 resolved a series of issues, which radically increased the quality of armour (austenitic electrodes, repair of armour, welding of thick armour, assistance to factories) by travelling to Podolsk factory and factory #183 to assist in mastering welding of armoured pats.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Demobilization and Amnesty

"Encrypted message #909

From: Leningrad Front
Submitted: 2:10 July 15th, 1945
Received: 3:10 July 15th, 1945
Submitted for decryption: 3:20 July 15th, 1945
Decrypted: 4:00 July 15th, 1945
Decryptor's signature: Kuznetsov

To the Chief of Staff of the 10th Guards Army
To the Chief of Staff of the 41st Guards Rifle Corps

In compliance with the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR decree issued on July 7th, 1945, on the amnesty in connection with victory over Hitler's Germany, the Front Commander orders that:
  1. All military personnel sentenced to penal companies by courts in execution of NKO order #413 dated August 21st, 1943, are freed from further punishment, and directed to:
    1. Privates and NCOs: to their unit for continued service.
    2. Officers: to the Army personnel department.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

New Turret, Old Gun

The 85 mm gun and enlarged turret for the T-34 were developed as separate projects. I already wrote about what happens when you put the 85 mm gun in the standard hex turret, but there was also the option for the opposite: an enlarged turret with the same 76 mm F-34.

T-34 with the F-34 gun (left) and D-5 gun (right)

Monday 25 March 2019

Future of Soviet Tanks

"February 21st, 1938
To People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade Voroshilov
Using existing tanks in the Red Army
  1. Existing 862 T-18 tanks should be used as mobile anti-tank guns in fortified regions in the event that modernization results in satisfactory results. Modernization work is currently being performed. If the modernization is unsuccessful, the T-18s should be removed from service and melted down. There are no spare parts for the T-18, and they are not being produced.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Struggle for the Assembly Line

The experimental Object 240 tank was accepted into service with the Red Army on October 31st, 1943. This was the end of the history of the KV, which started in 1939. The last touch applied to the new tank was the 122 mm D-25T gun, which was capable of defeating any German tank. Soviet designers did not only catch up to the German Tiger tank, but surpassed it. This article will cover the production of the IS-2 and development of its design from late 1943 to mid-1944.

Thursday 21 March 2019

Up, Up, and Away!

"To director of factory #183, comrade Lyash
CC: ABTU Chief, comrade Bokis
NKOP Secretariat Chief, comrade Kryukov

We send you tactical-technical specifications based on the personal orders of the People's Commissar of Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade K.E. Voroshilov and People's Commissar of Defense Industry, comrade M.L. Ruhimovich, for the experimental BT-7-B-IS tank that is capable of city fighting.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Panzerfaust Shortage

"Recently, I have observed a senseless and completely unjustified expenditure of flares and Panzerfausts in the division. Despite a number of orders and directives regarding conservative use of ammunition, no measures have been taken. For instance, just on March 28th, 1945, 60 Panzerfausts were used.

Tuesday 19 March 2019


"To Chief of the 8th Department, Military Engineer 1st Class comrade Afonin
November 18th, 1939

  1. A-34 vehicle (as of November 16th, 1939):
    1. Blueprints for 31 groups have been sent to the plant.
    2. Blueprints for 3 groups have not been sent to the plant completely.
    3. Blueprints for 4 groups are not yet ready: the driver's seat, the radio equipment, the turning mechanism, the instruments.
    4. 307 parts have been produced out of 1229.
  2. Parts for convertible drive trials on the A-20 will be ready no sooner than December 1st, 1939. Delays are caused by plant #500 being overloaded with orders for other tanks (A-7, D-3, D-5).
  3. Trials of the A-32 (loaded to the weight of an A-34) are complete. The tank drove for 1230 km, including 200 km on the highway. Mechanisms functioned in a satisfactory manner during the tests. During trials on the highway the drive sprockets wear heavily. Special trials (grades and slopes) are still to be performed on the A-32.
Senior Military Representative of the ABTU, Military Engineer 2nd Class, Kozyrev
Military Representative of the ABTU, Military Engineer 3rd Class, Baikov"

Monday 18 March 2019


"Decree of the Committee of Defense of the Council of Commissars of the USSR
November 1940 
Moscow, Kremlin

Contents: on additional tactical-technical requirements for SP, T-34, and KV tanks

The Committee of Defense decrees:
  1. To increase effectiveness of the gun crews on the SP, T-34, and KV tanks, widen the turret and install a special commander's cupola with all-around vision.
  2. Establish the crews of the SP, T-34, and KV tanks to be the following:
    1. SP: four man crew, of which the driver sits in the front and the commander and two gun crewmen sit in the turret.
    2. T-34 and KV tanks: five men, of which one commander and two gun crewmen are in the turret and the driver and radio operator in the front of the hull.

Saturday 16 March 2019

IS with a Heavy Gun

The tank that went into production under the name IS-85 was only a temporary solution. By the time GKO decree #4043 "On the production of IS tanks" was signed, the military already considered the 85 mm D-5T gun insufficiently powerful. Experience in fighting new German tanks at Kursk confirmed this. Because of this, the IS-85, also known as IS-1, was produced in limited quantities of just over 100 units. The role of the main heavy tank of the Red Army in the concluding period of the war fell to the IS-122, also known as the IS-2. Interestingly, work on this tank began long before Kursk.

Friday 15 March 2019


Some documents contain interesting information all on their own, some raise more questions than give answers. Then there's something like this.

"Intelligence Department of the Western Front
November 19th, 1942

To the Military Censor of the 33rd Army

Activist's notepad #7.

It is forbidden to cite, publish, refer to, etc. the article titled "The Germans cut prisoners and drink their blood".

Red Army Military Censorship Telegram #13861

Military Censor, Major Lavrentyev."

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Anti-Tiger Tactics

"Directorate of Armoured and Motorized Vehicles of the 6th Army
July 21st, 1943

Only to: 212th Tank Regiment

In battle on the Voronezh Front on July 5th-6th the enemy used T-6 tanks in large amounts. Combat showed that the T-6 is vulnerable to not only 76 mm, but 45 mm guns. The following preliminary conclusions can be made from the experience:
  1. The tank can be knocked out with a 76 mm armour piercing shell when hit in the side or turret from 800 meters.
  2. With a subcaliber armour piercing shell, the tank can be knocked out with a hit to the side from 1 km. The front is not always penetrated from 800 meters.
  3. When using the 45 mm gun, best results are achieved by hitting the side, suspension, or engine group with a subcaliber shell from ranges of up to 200 meters. Maximum range is 500-600 meters.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Tank vs Train

"To the Chief of the 4th Department of the ABTU, Military Engineer 1st Class, comrade Alymov

I report that at 18:15 on January 11th, 1940, during a QA run, a T-28 tank collided with a passenger train coming from Leningrad. The collision took place at a crossing between Ligovo and Negorelovo in the Baltic sector. The crossing was unguarded. There is no gate bar. There is no sound alarm. Weather condition was strong wind with blowing snow, it was also snowing. Military Technician 1st Class comrade Rozov was driving the tank. The results of the collision were:

Monday 11 March 2019

Weak Spots 2

I posted a pretty large collection of flyers showing weak spots of enemy tanks before, but here are a couple more.

First, the Pz38(t).

The symbols are the same: a target with an arrow shows where to throw Molotov cocktails, a target with a bullet shows where to hit the tank with an armour piercing bullet or anti-tank grenade.

The image was included on the back cover of a propaganda booklet, which was generously shared here.

Saturday 9 March 2019

Intermediate IS

Joseph Stalin signed GKO decree #4043 "On the production of IS tanks" on September 4th, 1943. This was the end to a long process of the creation of a new Soviet heavy tank that could replace the KV-1 in production. While it was being developed, Chelyabinsk had time to master both the KV-1S and KV-85. However, such a long journey was not for nothing: the Red Army received a completely new tank, the combined characteristics of which put it among the best heavy tanks in the world at the time. The age of the IS-1 (IS-85) was not long. Very shortly it gave up its first place to its descendant, the IS-2, which became the best Soviet heavy tank of the Great Patriotic War.

Thursday 7 March 2019

IS-2 Resilience

The IS-2 tank debuted in early 1944, and, judging by collected combat experience, still enjoyed relative immunity on the battlefield until the end of the year, both against enemy tanks and anti-tank weapons.

"The resilience of IS-2 armour allows it to openly engage enemy heavy tanks at a range of 1000 m. Irreparable losses only happen as a result of combat with enemy heavy tanks in ambush at a range of 300-400 meters. There were no losses from Panzerfausts, only minor damage (road wheels, suspension arms, tracks."

Via Andrei Ulanov.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Bringing Tractors Back

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production of the USSR #133-Ms
January 21st, 1942

Factory #183 (director comrade Maksarev), having performed the evacuation of equipment to manufacture the Voroshilovets tractor, still has not organized production in its new location. Plant an factory leadership did not pay due attention to rapidly restoring the production of this vehicle alongside the production of the T-34 tank.

The Red Army's requirements for rapid transport for its troops and artillery are not being met. To make up for this drawback in the factory's operation, I order that:
  1. Director of factory #183, comrade Maksarev, must present me with a specific schedule of restoring and organizing Voroshilovets artillery tractor production within ten days. 10 tractors are due in April, 30 in May, and 50 in June.
  2. Director of factory #76, comrade Kochetkov, must supply sufficient amounts of V-2V diesel engines to produce these vehicles.
  3. Deputy Chief of the 1st Department, comrade Davtyan, must establish the list of parts and their amounts that are required by factory #183 from other factories.
  4. Chief Quartermaster comrade Rosin must supply factory #183 with a necessary amount of materials and purchased goods.
  5. My deputy, comrade Kotin, is to present me within 2 weeks a plan to produce a tractor based on the T-34 chassis at factory #183. 
  6. Deputy People's Commissar comrade Stepanov must report on the execution of this order by February 20th.
People's Commissar of Tank Production, V. Malyshev."

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Wet Ammo Rack Effectiveness

After reading reports of frequent fires in Sherman tanks coming from the British, the Americans decided to investigate. Separate trials were done on tanks cleared of ammunition, and frequent fires did not result from penetrations. However, the story was completely different when the opposite case was tested: the tank had a full loadout of ammo, but no traces of fuel or oil.

90% of penetrations of the fighting compartment and the turret caused a fire! To make things worse, CO2 fire extinguishers proved ineffective, and only large quantities of water could fight this fire.

Monday 4 March 2019

Cessation of T-50 Production

"Order of the People's Commissar of Tank Production
January 7th, 1942

To carry out decree #1114ss issued by the State Committee of Defense on January 6th on the cessation of the production of the T-50 tank due to the organization of production of the T-60 tank, I order that:
  1. Factory #174 director, comrade Kantsellson, must:
    1. Cease production of the T-50 tank after using up all hulls and engines present at the factory.
    2. Immediately begin production of KV tank components for the Kirov factory, production of KV spare parts, and spare parts for the T-26 tank using dedicated tools.
    3. Preserve all special tools, instruments, stamps, technical documentation, etc. relevant to the T-50 tank.

Saturday 2 March 2019

Long Barrel for Infantry Tanks

At the moment of its debut in 1940, the Infantry Tank Mk.III, later known as Valentine, was the most balanced vehicle in the British army. Its low top speed was compensated by a rather respectable average speed, especially off-road. 60 mm of armour was very good for the time, and even in 1942 not every gun was capable of penetrating this much armour.

Of course, by 1942 the tank was becoming obsolete. While there was no hope of increasing mobility, there was a chance to improve the firepower. Heroic efforts by Vickers-Armstrongs engineers resulted in a significant increase in caliber, while the tank's mass remained unchanged. As a result, the Valentine fought until the end of the war. Individual vehicles even saw victory on German territory.