Sunday 28 June 2020

Warspot Article: Study of the T-34-85 in the Korean War

Even though the US managed to obtain two T-34 tanks during WWII, they missed their chance to get a T-34-85. This was remedied during the Korean War. Even though the tank that was recovered was incomplete, it allowed the Americans to learn a lot about Soviet tank development. POW interrogations filled in the gaps on the tank's performance in battle.


  1. "The stock ammunition loadout consisted of 55 rounds: 30 anti-personnel, 20 HE, and only 5 AP"- what do they mean distinguishing anti personnel vs HE?

    1. Maybe "anti personnel" projectile that's fragmentation projectile? IIRC, in Soviet terminology, if 15-20% weight of projectile that's HE material, in this case we have "High Explosive-Fragmentation" projectile. If 20-30% of projectile that's HE material, in this case we have "High Explosive" projectile. If below 15% of projectile that's HE material, in this case we have fragmentation projectile. Of course, I include only HE-style ammo.

  2. It would have been interesting to read accounts of T-34/85s knocking out Pershings and Pattons.

    Most of the accounts I read of Korean actions were written by the Allies, such as a two-sentence account of a battle between a Centurion and a T-34/85 in which the Centurion absorbed 'several frantic hits' from the T-34 before "dismantling it with one shot". It appears the exchanges weren't always so one-sided.

    1. Ran into mentions of a few cases while Wiki Walking on that war the other day, ambush flank shots pretty much if memory serves. Probably didn't really help that by the time the Americans actually started getting proper combat tanks (ie. something bigger than Chaffees) onto the scene the NK fleet was already largely gone from campaign attrition and bad logistics.

    2. Here are the kill ratios by claims:

      M4A3E8  claimed 47 lost 20 ratio 2.35
      M26 claimed 38 lost 6 ratio 6.33
      M46 claimed 12 lost 8 ratio 1.5

      Wow, so T-34/85s took out a full 6 Pershings and 8 Pattons. Even if these are repairable, that's still more an achievement. And what? M-24s Chaffees knocked no NO T-34/85s? Where are they in this data?

      Note this totals to 97 (there were another 18 'probables' not included). Obviously, 97 T-34/85s claimed as killed doesn't square with the 39 T-34/85s found on the battlefield which were actually found to have been killed by tanks. Yes, it's possible that some of these might have been obscured or mis-identifed as air kills because the air force blasted them after they were lost, but then again how then do you explain the 59 completely undamaged and abandoned T-34/85s that somehow escaped that fate?

      Re-evaluating this based on the much lower actual tank kill number found on the battlefield, I would wager that the real loser and source of overclaims was the M4E8 Sherman. The Sherman, even with HVAP rounds (tungsten rounds don't fare well against sloped armor) might struggle against a T-34/85 and its APCBCHE round would only be effective inside of medium ranges. This leads me to suspect that the oft-repeated conclusion from Korea that "M4 Shermans could take on T-34/85s on equal or better terms" is flawed.