Tuesday 10 September 2019


"Commanders of the Fronts
August 10th, 1942

Our tank units and formations take heavy losses, and losses in tanks for technical reasons outweigh losses in battle. On the Stalingrad Front, over 6 days of fighting, despite having superiority in tanks and artillery, in 12 of our tank brigades out of 400 tanks 326 were lost, out of those 200 were lost for technical reasons, and the majority were left on the battlefield. Similar examples can also be found on other Fronts. Considering this kind of rates of breakdown inconceivable, the Stavka considers this the be caused by covert sabotage and destruction on behalf of tankers, who either seek out small faults with their tanks or create them themselves in order to keep away from the battle, abandoning their tanks on the battlefield. At the same time, poorly established control over materiel and tracking of whether or not tanks perform their duties in battle in tank units allows this criminal and unacceptable behaviour to continue.

The Stavka of the Supreme Command orders that:
  1. Each tank unit must have small control brigades composed of unquestionably honest technicians, headed by a responsible engineer, to examine each broken down tank in order to ascertain the true nature of the breakdown and necessary measures for repair. These technical brigades must immediately report to the commander of the tank unit on the result of their inspections, along with the names of any personnel guilty of sabotage or destruction. 
  2. Commanders of tank corps, brigades, and independent battalions must assign personnel guilty of sabotage and destruction to tank penalty companies, using them under careful supervision in the most dangerous direction in order to allow them to pay for their crimes.
  3. Hopeless irredeemable cases are to be excluded from the tank unit and stripped of their rank, sent to infantry penalty companies in order to fight in the toughest sectors on foot.
  4. Report on execution and measures taken.
Stavka of the Supreme Command
I. Stalin
A. Vasilevskiy"


  1. Was there any follow up to this? Would like to know if it was truly tankers trying to avoid battle or just the factory and logistic QC was lacking.

    1. There were definitely initiatives at the same time to increase the quality of tanks being produced and improve the quality of training for mechanics. As for how often people were actually accused of sabotage, I have no idea. Personally I've never even seen a mention of a penal tank unit in battle.

    2. I wonder if minor mechanical damage was a good excuse for some Russian tank crews to abandon pre war tanks in hope of getting a T-34 or at least a T-60.

    3. TBF *those* probably developed entirely legitimate issues spontaneously enough, what with the relatively primitive component designs involved and only too often more wear and tear from extended use than the doctor ordered...

    4. I don't know about primitive, T-26es and the later models of BT tanks saw combat as late as 1944, they were pretty sturdy machines. However I wouldn't expect the ones that had hundreds of engine hours on them at the start of the war to last too long, especially since refurbishment wasn't really possible anymore.

    5. "Relatively". No doubt the engineers did what they could to improve them but the basic designs of diverse automotive parts in the early-mid Thirties on the average just weren't as robust as the stuff that started coming online towards the end of the decade - the erstwhile popularity of the wheeled dual-drive systems and their due later abandonement as no longer necessary somewhat illustrates the point.

      The extant old-gen fleets tended to be kind of falling apart already by the start of the war - you've published some of the internal readiness reports here, and I've seen some impressive estimates of the tank serviceability rates during the Winter War for ex - and as the production of new machines of those outdated types was gradually wound down the still-surviving pool sure wasn't getting any fresher.

  2. Just recently I've read some post by Mechanic from Bosnia and he was saying that crew would sabotage their tanks not necessarily by braking it but through neglecting basic maintenance, not cleaning the gun and not taking care of engines. This could put the tank out of service relatively quickly with major damage. He couldn't prove sabotage with such actions. And this is entirely failure of leadership at company level.