Wednesday 31 July 2019


"2nd Ukrainian Front 
March 29th, 1945

I attach the results of interrogation of Unteroffizier Zaibert Friedrich from the 8th company, 979th Infantry Regiment, 271st Infantry Division.

The prisoner served in the 601th Signals Regiment for a long time, which serviced the needs of the land army command. The prisoner stated that:

"Until mid-November of 1944, Hitler's HQ was located in East Prussia in a fortified camp with the codename "Wolfschanze" (wolf's lair), 2-3 km from Rastenburg. Himmler's HQ was 11 km from Angeburg, in Grossgarten. The OKH HQ was in Tiergarten. Ribbentrop's HQ was located in the "Jegerhee" hotel in Angeburg. Hitler's HQ and other HQs were moved from East Prussia to Zossenshobn in the fall of 1944. All construction battalions, technical units, and a number of signals units that serviced Hitler's HQ and other HQs were sent to Bad Reichenhall in Bavaria. I know that they began to construct a fortified camp, big communications hub, and airport.

Tuesday 30 July 2019


"Actions of ground attack aircraft against enemy tanks

During the Patriotic War against German invaders, the destruction of enemy vehicles as well as enemy personnel increased in importance. At this stage of the war, the most important thing was to destroy enemy tanks and SPGs, which then slows down the enemy and prevents his ground forces from advancing.

In addition to ground based methods, ground attack aircraft increased in importance, as they could defeat enemy tanks with cannon fire or special bombs.

Monday 29 July 2019

Object 704 Drama

"Report on the development of the 152 mm ML-20SM SPG
  1. The Journal of the Artillery Committee #0254 1943 indicates that, as a result of trials and review of blueprints of the 152 mm model 1937/43 SPG, work should be done to improve the following areas:
    1. Gun/breech: get rid of the muzzle brake, introduce a sliding quarter or semi automatic breech.
    2. Cradle and recoil elements: simplify the recoil brake, transition to constant resistance to recoil and constant recoil length.
    3. Turning mechanism: improve the design to reduce drifting of the aim and reduce effort of turning the aiming flywheel.
    4. Frame, loading tray, recoil guard: review the design in order to standardize the parts and reduce their number.
  2. By January of 1944, OKB-172 performed a modernization of the ML-20S, which consisted of the following:
    1. Removal of the muzzle brake.
    2. Introduction of a simpler recoil brake with a constant resistance and constant recoil length.
    3. Shorter cradle and recoil elements.
  3. Factory #172 began to work on producing a prototype of the ML-20SM. OKB-172 was told that it was expected by February 10th, 1944.
    In practice, work on the experimental prototype lasted until September of 1944.
  4. After multiple requests made by the GAU to the NKTP to install the ML-20SM into a mass production ISU-152 SPG at the Kirov factory, this order was only given on October 2nd, 1944.
  5. The experimental ML-20SM gun was delivered to the Kirov factory in the first half of October of 1944. As it was established later (December 12th, 1944), the gun was incomplete (lacked a turning mechanism, lacked a prepared location to install it, factory #172 did not respect the established connection between the gun and mantlet)
  6. The GAU raised the issue of completing the ML-20SM to factory #172. Factory #172 representatives arrived at the Kirov factory to perform the work there in mid-February of 1945.
  7. Factory #172 communicated the following to the GAU in early May of 1945:
    1. The ML-20SM is being installed at the Kirov factory not in the mass production ISU-152, but in the experimental "Kirovets-2". Because of this, it is necessary to shorten the cradle and recoil elements. An agreement was reached to make changes to mass production samples, and for now the experimental ML-20SM was installed with a special mantlet (to compensate for the longer recoil elements) and presented to proving grounds trials in this manner.
  8. The GAU informed comrades Ustinov, Malyshev, and Fedorenko by letter that it will only accept a fully completed ML-20SM for trials, with all changes required to install it in the new SPG. At the same time, the question of how future-proof the Kirovets-2 is was raised (May 16th, 1945).
  9. The GBTU and NKTP replied that they were in agreement with the GAU, and urged the NKV to complete modifications of the ML-20SM, after which it would be sent to trials.
    The NKV insisted that the trials are to be carried out at the GAU main proving grounds without changes to the gun, claiming that it is necessary to discover additional requirements for its improvement.
  10. The GAU replied that, if the trials are considered factory trials, the GAU has no issue with trials aimed at determining requirements being carried out at the GAU main proving grounds, and will aid the NKV with necessary service and supplies.
  11. The NKV presented a program of trials at the start of August, and the GAU main proving grounds were ready for the trials in mid-August.
  12. Factory trials of the ML-20SM at the Main proving grounds began on September 24th, 1945, and concluded on November 13th, 1945. The start and end of the trials were delayed due to a lack of NKV representatives. The GAU informed the NKV that they must be sent urgently on two occasions (September 9th and October 15th). 
  13. The report on factory trials arrived at the GAU on December 6th, 1945. The main goal of the trials was to:
    Determine the quality of the weapon.
    Determine the robustness of the system as a whole and its individual components.
  14. In total, 65 rounds with normal charge and 244 with increased charge were fired. Overall, including the rounds fired before arriving at the proving grounds, the gun made 576 shots, 440 of them with increased charge.
  15. The SPG will be sent to the NIBT proving grounds for GBTU trials on December 21st-25th.
  16. The People's Commissariat of Armament gave the order to factory #172 to produce a new MK-20SM including the required improvements described as a result of trials at the GAU proving grounds and NIBT proving grounds.
Senior Engineer of the 2nd Department of the Artillery Committee, Engineer-Major Gorbachev
December 19th, 1945"

Sunday 28 July 2019

Quad and 25-pounder in Action

The 25-pounder gun-howitzer was a very effective weapon, seeing service not just in WWII, but for a long time after. A large number of guns were preserved in excellent condition because of this. This particular gun shows up at events at least three times per year, and it's always a joy to see in action.

Saturday 27 July 2019

Kalashnikov and the Intermediate Round

After an unsuccessful attempt at a submachinegun and light machinegun, the young small arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov did not lose hope, but began to design a new semiautomatic carbine for the new intermediate round. However, here too he was faced with defeat. Why did it happen, and what lessons did the future author of the AK learn from this?

Thursday 25 July 2019

StuG Replica at Aquino

This StuG replica looks pretty good, but a quick count of the road wheels reveals that it's not a StuG at all. This is a vehicle on the FV 432 chassis, which is commonly used to make replicas of PzIII and StuG vehicles for reenactments.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Rabbit Season

"Order #0429
3rd Guards Tank Army
October 30th, 1944

RE: prohibition of hunting with automatic weapons

Individual units and formations in the army had instances where officers and enlisted men hunted game (moose, goats, rabbits) with automatic weapons, which could result in casualties among military personnel or civilians.

Tuesday 23 July 2019


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

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

Monday 22 July 2019

Cheating at Statistics: Machinations at Malinovo

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

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

Carius gives a much more colourful description.

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

Saturday 20 July 2019

A Tank for Allies

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

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

Thursday 18 July 2019

Light Tanks at Aquino

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

Beast vs Beast Killer

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

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Upgunning the T-43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 15 July 2019

Infantry vs. Tigers

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

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

Saturday 13 July 2019

Kalashnikov's Debut

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

Thursday 11 July 2019

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

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

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Gun Maskirovka

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

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Dummy Tanks

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

Monday 8 July 2019

Canadian Dry Pin

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

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

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

Canadian Dry Pin track link.

Saturday 6 July 2019

Schmeisser vs. Kalashnikov

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

Thursday 4 July 2019

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

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

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Book Announcement

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

Cover art by Piotr Forkasiewicz.

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

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


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

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

Tuesday 2 July 2019

More or Less

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

Monday 1 July 2019

Scorched Earth

"Intelligence department, 1st Ukrainian Front

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

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

Contents: on robbery performed by soldiers within the empire

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