Friday, 31 January 2014

Soviet AT Instructions

I've covered German AT instructions in great detail, and the time has come for some Soviet ones. The following is "Temporary instructions for combat with enemy tank units" CAMD RF 249-1544-4.

"Temporary instructions for combat with enemy tank units.

Fig. 1. A personal trench.
Fig. 2. Personal trenches connected together.
  1. The most important thing in a battle with enemy tanks is the destruction of enemy tanks. If tanks break through our defending infantry, cut them off from their infantry escort, stop its advance, and destroy it with short counterattacks.
  2. When fighting enemy tanks, keep in mind their weak points.
    1. Tank crews cannot see well. They can pass several meters from concealed infantry and not see them.
    2. Tank crews cannot hear anything except the sound of their own engine.
    3. Tanks can't shoot at people that are lying down in trenches, or are within 5-6 meters of the tank.
    4. A tank can't cross a wide trench, 4.5-5 meters for a heavy tank, 2.5-3 meters for a light tank. A tank can't pass a slope higher than 45 degrees, a vertical wall 1.5-2 meters tall, swamps, rivers with sticky floors. In a forest or in smoke, tanks move slowly.
    5. Only the first wave of heavy tanks has thick armour on the front and in the turret, which can only be penetrated by 76 mm guns and greater. The side armour of these tanks and all armour of light tanks can be penetrated with 45 mm guns. The most vulnerable places are on the top and bottom of the tank. The top and bottom of a tank, as well as the side of a light tank, can be penetrated by anti-tank hand grenades.
    6. Tracks of all German tanks can be broken or damaged by 45 mm guns or anti-tank mines, anti-tank hand grenades, and bundles of 4-5 regular grenades.
    7. A tank carries a large amount of flammable fuel.
  3. Our forces, including infantry, have a number of means to deal with enemy tanks. It is important to know how to use these means, using the weak characteristics of tanks.
    Each infantry regiment and each battalion must have a tank destroyer unit, equipped with anti-tank mines, incendiary bottles, anti-tank hand grenades or grenade bundles, packs of explosives, and smoke bombs. The anti-tank team should be composed of the bravest and most agile soldiers, and well trained in the use of the aforementioned equipment.
    Additionally, infantry has a number of 45 mm AT guns and 76 mm regimental guns.
    All regimental artillery can and must shoot at enemy tanks with direct fire.
    Aircraft can also destroy enemy tanks, by dropping bombs or firing armour piercing bullets from their machineguns.
    Every infantry unit must be able to quickly build deep zig-zag anti-tank trenches or personal trenches (fig. 1), in which it will be protected from enemy tank fire and the fire of supporting aircraft, mortars, and artillery. If there is time, connect personal trenches with passageways (fig. 2). 
  4. When a large amount of tanks attack as a part of the first wave, open fire from all anti-tank artillery at viable combat distances. 45 mm guns should attempt to fire at the flanks, or, if that is not possible, the tracks. A well concealed anti-tank gun firing from the flank is difficult for the enemy to discover. Frontal approaches to the gun should be guarded by other AT guns.
    Infantry that is tasked with destroying tanks should hide in separate trenches until the tanks are close, then attach mines and anti-tank grenades to the tracks with ropes, or, as the tank drives away, throw anti-tank grenades or incendiary fluid on the tank's engine deck, or two smoke grenades tied together, in an attempt to hook them on something on the tank. If there are flamethrowers available, use them, aiming for the tank's observation ports.
    The rest of the infantry should be hidden in trenches or ditches, or, if none are present, camouflage themselves. Observers must always be present. Infantry must open fire at infantry that is accompanying tanks, with the aim of holding it back and cutting it off from the tanks.
    At this time, the anti-tank unit, depending on the situation, may fight the wave of tanks accompanying the infantry, or prepare for tanks that may return to help their infantry.
    As a rule, the infantry escorts are weak, and can be destroyed with short counterattacks.
    Tanks that break through to the rear can be destroyed with any artillery. Batteries must move to camouflaged positions, prepared in advance, and suddenly open direct fire at tanks.
    If our tanks are present in the breakthrough region, they must meet the enemy with powerful fire from camouflaged positions.
  5. Immediately report all successful cases of individual soldiers or units destroying enemy tanks so that the personnel may be rewarded and the act of heroism may be announced to the entire unit.
  6. Tank attacks are almost always supported by artillery or mortar fire, dive bombers, and ground attack aircraft. The best defense from this kind of fire is positioning the forces inside narrow trenches or individual trenches. The best defense against low flying aircraft is machineguns, special AA ones and regular hand-held ones. Sniper fire with rifles may also be effective. In all infantry units, keep a number of personnel trained to combat aircraft: 1-2 hand-held machineguns in a platoon, 1-2 mounted machineguns in a company, no less than a machinegun platoon in a battalion. Regiments and divisions should organize special AA units with AA machineguns and artillery.
  7. Well disguised anti-tank defenses, energetic and skilled work by companies, teams, and units in destroying tanks in cooperation with anti-tank and field artillery can deflect even the most powerful enemy attack.
Chief of the North-Western direction force HQ, Major-General Zaharov
Chief of the Operations Department, Major-General Ivanov"

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Penetrating French Tanks

"Land forces high command
November 11th, 1939

Army Group A: 2000 copies
Army Group B: 2000 copies
Army Group C: 1000 copies
Reserve command: 1000 copies

Tests of a captured French heavy tank showed that, despite 40 mm of sturdy armour, it can be easily penetrated by our anti-tank guns. This is explained by the fact that the upper part of the hull and the turret are made of cast armour, and only the sides of the hull of rolled armour.

Tests indicate that penetration may be achieved:

  1. By shooting at the front and observation slits:
    1. Anti-tank rifle model 1938: 0-100 meters
    2. 20 mm AP shell: 0-100 meters
    3. 37 mm AP shell: 0-700 meters
  2. Side armour (40 mm rolled steel)
    1. Anti-tank rifle model 1938: 0-100 meters
    2. 20 mm AP shell: 0-100 meters
    3. 37 mm AP shell: 0-350 meters
  3. Turret side (45 mm cast steel)
    1. Anti-tank rifle model 1938: 0-100 meters
    2. 20 mm AP shell: 0-100 meters
    3. 37 mm AP shell: 0-350 meters
Fire at the observation slit covers is most effective. They were penetrated and knocked out with a 37 mm gun at 700 meters. 

The enclosed diagram shows the effectiveness of the anti-tank guns of one infantry regiment. The effects of splashing lead from mounted machineguns firing heavy sharp-tipped bullets is described.

Since penetration decreases significantly with distance, choosing your engagement distance correctly is decisive in battle. Opening fire too early leads to a gun's discovery, which decreases its combat value.

By the order of (signature illegible)

Translated by Technician-Intendant 1st grade, Rosumova

Captured in the region of the Vysokoye village, 52 km north of West Livna.
April 23rd, 1942"

By the date (the Germans were in Poland at the time) and assessment of "French heavy tank", Yuri Pasholok estimates that the tank in question is a Renault R-35. However, there is no explanation why a German unit in the USSR in 1942 needs an instruction for fighting an obsolete French tank.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Leningrad's Planned Fate

The blockade of Leningrad is a controversial topic among some circles. Hundreds of thousands of civilians starved to death within the besieged city. To this day, some insist that these live could have been saved if the city surrendered, but a cursory examination of Army Group North's documents shows this to be false. The following scans have been retrieved from NARA (T311, Roll 51, Roll 53, Roll 54), demonstrating the attitude towards the city and its citizens. German to Russian translations have been provided by Labas. The documents are numerous, so I will only be translating the most relevant tidbits. Provided documents come in chronological order.


"2) The encirclement of Leningrad, as a final goal, may be achieved by means of a ring, coiling tightly around the city, in order to save on manpower. In order to avoid large losses, the city should not be attacked by infantry. After the destruction of enemy AA and fighters, the city should be rid of any ability to sustain life by destroying dams, warehouses, sources of electrical power, military installations, and enemy forces, with artillery fire.
OKH will negotiate with the Finnish army, which will maintain the encirclement from the north and north-east, acting on the same principles"


"In order to cut off all supply routes into Leningrad and starve it to surrender, Schmidt's group must break through to Ladoga through the Mga railroad station."


"The Fuhrer and OKW see no reason why the Leningrad should not be bombed and fired at with artillery."


"Regarding Leningrad, the city should not be taken, just encircled. I gave the opinion that if Leningrad, possibly due to starvation, surrenders, it must be rid of the ability to defend itself. All soldiers and those capable of fighting should be removed from the city, all weapons should be surrendered. Then we can leave a small portion of forces in the city, freeing up the rest."


"Allegedly, Leningrad is full of evacuees from Krasnogvardeysk, Krasnoye Selo, and Kolpino. Bread rations are already decreasing. After regrouping, I see no reason why we could not move swiftly towards Leningrad. What we should do with the city itself, accept its surrender, destroy it with fire, or let it starve is up to the Fuhrer, and his decision, sadly, has not been made."


"When General-Field Marshall Keitel visited, we discussed that the Finns will only move forward when we attack that shore of the Neva. The Fuhrer is keeping the fate of Leningrad in case of surrender to himself."


"Regarding Leningrad, the principles are the same: we enter the city, and we cannot feed it. General-Field Marshal Keitel thinks that he has a plan to move the women and children to the east. Final decisions have not been made."

A memo titled W.Wette/G.Ueberschär "Unternehmen Barbarossa" from L OKW/WFSt from September 21st, 1941, expands on the above.

"Leningrad Memo
Possibilities:
  1. Take the city, as we have done with other large Russian cities.
    Declined, as then we would be tasked with feeding the population.
  2. Surround the city with a tight ring, and preferably an electrified fence, which would be guarded by machinegunners.
    Deficiency: of the two million citizens, the weak will die, and the strong will control their supplies, and remain alive. There is a danger of an epidemic that will transfer to our front. Additionally, we do not know if our soldiers are willing to shoot at women and children attempting to break out.
  3. Women, children, and old men should be removed, the rest left to starve in the city.
    1. The expulsion through Volhov and into enemy lines is preferable, but impractical. Who is going to control and direct the hundreds of thousands? Where will the Russian front be then?
    2. If they cannot be expelled past the Russian front, they should be distributed among captured territories.
      In any case, there is the possibility that the survivors will be the bearers of an epidemic and will hold in the city for a long time.
  4. After the Finns advance and encircle the city, retreat past the Neva and transfer all territories to the north of it to the Finns. The Finns unofficially requested tat they would like to have their border at the Neva, and that Leningrad must vanish. This is a good political outcome. However, the Finns cannot solve the issue of the population. We must do that.
Conclusions and recommendations:
  1. We announce to the world that Stalin defends Leningrad as a fortress, and thus we must treat it as a military installation. Nevertheless, we will appear merciful, and allow Roosevelt to supply the imprisoned citizens with food using neutral ships supervised by the Red Cross, which we will provide free transit to. Of course, we will not do so, only announce this from a propaganda standpoint.
  2. Leningrad must be tightly encircled and destroyed with artillery and aircraft (initially available aircraft are insufficient).
  3. When the terror and hunger grips the city, a limited number of unarmed civilians will be released through individual openings, and either deported into the depths of Russia or spread out among captured territories. 
  4. The fortress garrison is left to itself for the winter. We will enter in the spring. If the Finns enter earlier, no objections will be made. Everything in it will be either captured or deported deep into Russia. Leningrad will be levelled with explosives, and the territory north of the Neva given to the Finns."
Things are already looking bleak for Leningrad if it falls, but it only gets worse.


"The Fuhrer decided that the surrender of Leningrad will not be accepted. The moral reasons for this are known to the whole world. Time bombs in Kiev represent a great danger to our forces, and Leningrad will likely contain those in much greater numbers. The fact that Leningrad is wired to blow and will be defended to the last man was announced on Soviet-Russian radio. Large scale epidemics are expected. 
Not one German soldier must enter the city. Anyone that wishes to leave through our lines must be fired upon and driven back. Small openings should be left in the lines to allow the population to drain deeper into Russia. For this and all other cities, the rule is in effect that they must be destroyed by fire and bombs before an assault, and the population forced to flee. It is irresponsible to put the lives of German soldiers at risk to save Russian cities and feed their people at the cost of Germany. This will increase the chaos in Russia, and make controlling and exploiting occupied territories easier as more and more Soviet-Russian people flee deeper into Russia. This decree of the Fuhrer should be communicated to all commanders. 
OKH comment: in order to ease the implementation of this plan, current encirclement of Leningrad must be narrowed where tactically necessary."


"A decision came from OKW today regarding Leningrad, dictating that a surrender cannot be accepted. The Army Group asked OKH if Russian forces should be imprisoned in this case. If they are not, the Russians will continue their struggle and cause casualties, likely heavy, on our side.


"2) All visited units asked the question of what to do if Leningrad surrenders, and how to treat the streams of hungry citizens that will leave the city. The impression was that the soldiers are bothered by this. The commander of the 58th infantry division mentioned that he passed on an order from above to his division that matches existing orders, namely that anyone trying to break through should be shot, in order to nip any problems in the bud. According to him, his division will carry out the order, but he doubts that it will maintain self control when forced to kill women, children, and defenseless elders. The overall situation in his flank at Uritsk is worsening, but he is still not as concerned about it as about the civilian issue. This is not only his outlook, but also that of his subordinates. The soldiers know that we cannot feed the millions in Leningrad without an impact for our own country. Because of this, the German soldier must prevent any breakthrough attempts, with weapons if necessary. This may easily lead to the soldier continuing such atrocities after the end of the war. The commanders are trying to find an acceptable solution, but none has been found.
3) All civilians from Kronstadt and the regions of the encirclement are being evacuated. This is necessary, as the population cannot be fed there. The population is being transferred to the rear and spread out among the villages there. A large portion of the population went south to find themselves housing and means of survival. Thousands are moving on the Krasnogvardeysk-Pskov highway, mostly women, children, old men. Where they are going and what they are eating is impossible to determine. There is an impression that these people will, sooner or later, die of hunger. These images have a depressing effect on German soldiers performing construction along the road. 
18th army command reports that leaflets calling to desertion are still being dropped on Leningrad. This is incompatible with the order that deserters are no longer being accepted. They still are (100-120 per day), but these leaflets should be changed."


"The supreme commander is concerned with the issue of Leningrad and its civilian population. The land forces command suggested laying minefields in front of our lines, so that the soldiers do not have to engage the civilians directly. If Red forces at Leningrad and Kronstadt surrender, lay down their arms, and will be extracted into camps, the commander no longer sees a need to maintain the siege of the city. The forces will be transferred to accommodation areas. The majority of the population will die, but at least not in front of our eyes. The possibility of extracting a portion of the population through the road at Volhovstroy should be considered."

The excuse of bombs in Kiev is given, but Hitler has already expressed his desire to level Moscow and Leningrad long before then.


Numerous other statements litter both civilian political and military sources, like Hitler's directive #1601 from September 22nd, Die Zukunft der Stadt Petersburg.

"4. It is proposed to surround the city with a tight ring, and, by means of nonstop fire from artillery of all calibers and bombs, level it with the ground. If, as a result, there will be requests of surrender, decline them, as the issue of the city's population and its supplies cannot be, and should not be, solved by us. In this war, a war for the right to exist, we are not interested in preserving any amount of the population."

So there you have it, whether killed directly in the city, or starved during forced marches eastward or westward (keep in mind that this is written during fall and winter, along routes that aren't easy for even a non-starving traveller), all or most of Leningrad's civilian population would have ended up dead if the city surrendered. Thankfully, Leningrad held out. 1.5 million citizens were evacuated through the Road of Life, and many more survived inside the city.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

MS-1 Repairs


"Excerpt from minutes #9021495 of a meeting at the Technical Directorate of Mechanization and Motorization of the Red Army, July 15th, 1930.

On the issue of: vehicles of the mechanized brigade, on vehicles received by the 2nd Tank Regiment, from the 3rd Tank Regiment (MS-1 tanks of 1st and 2nd series).

Commander of the 2nd Tank Regiment, comrade Malkov.

The vehicles are heavily worn, each travelled around 1000 kilometers or more. Important components need to be replaced with new ones. The brigade commander supports the opinion of the commander of the 2nd Tank Regiment.

Chief of the 2nd UMM directorate, comrade Bokis: the vehicles travelled less than their warranty period. Old vehicles should be repaired, tanks #319 and #326 of the 1st series should be replaced.

In order to restore the tanks, the following parts are required:
  1. Drive wheel crowns: 20
  2. Road wheels with axles: 30
  3. Spider collars: 20
  4. Left and right balance arms: 20
  5. Balance arm axles: 20
  6. Upper springs: 5
  7. Drive wheel gears: 10
  8. Brake strips: 1
  9. Ball bearings: 60 for each tank
  10. Drive wheel axles with hubs: 10
It was decreed that:

13 tanks of the 1st and 2nd series should be left in the regiment for training. Increase the amount of vehicles of the 3rd series in the 2nd Regiment to 60 units. Only send tanks of the 3rd series on maneuvers. The delivery schedule should be as follows:
  • By July 25th: 26 vehicles.
  • By August 1st: 9 vehicles
  • Instruct Bolshevik factory to send spare parts by June 30th
Summon the factory and organization representatives on July 23rd in order to examine the vehicles, and develop a plan for higher quality manufacturing.

Chief of the 2nd UMM Directorate, Bokis"

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Soviet Camouflage

When people think of a Soviet tank, they typically imagine its colour olive drab, perhaps with lots of red stars all over. While pre-war doctrine did put easy identification over concealment, that line of thinking began to change in the late 1930s.

"In 1939, as a result of ABTU's initiative, NIIIT developed a deforming colour scheme for tanks and armoured cars.

Between August 15th and 29th, 1939, ABTU's proving grounds (Kubinka station) performed research on deforming large-spotted colour schemes of wheeled and tracked vehicles. ABTU Chief, Hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel-General of the tank forces comrade Pavlov and IU KA Chief, Major-General comrade Mihailin took part in the trials.

As a result of the trials, it was determined that it is beneficial to replace the olive drab factory paint with a multi-coloured deforming paint scheme. The report with blueprints and photographs was sent to ABTU on August 11th, 1939 (source #38).

NIIIT KA proposed performing field trials in 1941 and provide GABTU with results in June of this year. Currently, NIIIT is performing laboratory tests of deforming paints, in order to finally establish the patterns and composition of the paint. Trials are scheduled for May 10-25th at the ABTU proving grounds (Kubinka station). NIIIT has ordered sufficient amounts of paint for this task.

Chief of the NIIIT KA, Military engineer 1st grade, Zheleznih
Chief of the 2nd Department, Military engineer 2nd grade, Sheglov
January 1st, 1941"
CAMD RF 38-11355-1

However, war does not wait politely for trials to end, and the tankers took matters into their own hands.

"From reports coming to GVIU, it can be seen that active army units apply a deforming colour scheme to their tanks and vehicle, in order to hide them more effectively. However, due to a lack of appropriate colours and poor execution reduce the effect of the paint. I think it is necessary to apply camouflage paint in factory conditions, and hurry the preparation of instructional posters.

Chief of the Red Army GVIU
Major-General of Engineering Forces Kotlyar

August 27th, 1941"
CAMD RF 38-11355-1

Here's a picture of one of those custom-painted tanks. The pattern is very unusual, with tactical markings hurriedly painted over top.


Here are proper instructions for summer camouflage (for artillery):

CAMD RF 81-12104-327

"To the military representative at the Red Profintern factory

In order to mask the material possessions of the artillery units among the terrain, and to ease its concealment by improvised means in the field, a camouflage paint scheme is being implemented. 

The camouflage scheme is to be applied to guns, limbers, ammunition crates, and carts that were previously painted olive drab, barrels of 76 mm model 1938 mountain guns, and artillery transportation methods (tractors, cars, trailers), tarps, tents, and large cases. 

On August 25-28th, we will send you the "Instructions for camouflage painting" and samples of 5K (dark brown), 7K (yellow earth), and 4BO (olive drab), which you must pass on to the factory, retaining 1-2 samples.

In order to fulfil this order, the Council of People's Commissars issued order #5667 on August 7th, 1941, ordering the People's Commissar of Chemical Production to ship 6K and 7K paint using part of the budget for 4BO paint.

It is imperative that camouflage paint be applied immediately, as soon as paint and instructions are received.

Report on delays in this transition, and report as soon as you complete transition to this new camouflage scheme.

Deputy Chief of the GAU KA, Military Engineer First Class, Lipanovich
Military Commissar of the GAU KA, Regimental Commissar Kozlov
August 16th, 1941"

The colours were defined as follows (from Kolomiets and Moshanskiy, Camouflage of Red Army Tanks 1930-1945):
  1. "Green - 4BO (medium colour) works with all green vegetation backgrounds, and is the main, dominant colour. This colour covers 45-55% of the surface area of the object.
  2. Yellow-earth - 7K works with bare earth backgrounds (plowed soil, roads, rock slides, etc). This colour covers 15-30% of the surface area of the object.
  3. Dark brown - 6K works with dark spots on various backgrounds and with tree trunks. This colour covers 15-30% of the surface area of the object.
The following requirements were given when painting:
  1. Spots must imitate natural shapes, must have wobbly contours, and must vary in shape and size.
  2. Spots must be arranged in such a way as to alter the appearance of the object as much as possible. Recognizable parts of the object, such as straight lines and angles, shields, gun barrels, wheels, etc, must be painted with spots of various colours. The direction of elongated spots must not be parallel to the outline of the object, and must intersect with it at various angles. Spots of one colour and similar size should not be placed symmetrically. Spots may be enclosed in one part of the object, or cut off by the outline of the object. "Open" spots must "travel" on to adjacent surfaces, i.e. be painted on at least two surfaces. Angles that are sticking out must be painted in predominately dark colours. The top of an angle must not coincide with the center of a spot. Permanently shaded areas of the object must have highly contrasting yellow and brown spots.
  3. As a general rule, using stencils is unacceptable.
    The spot locations must vary in accordance with the above rules. Alternatively, it is necessary to vary the colours in the included drawings, replacing all or some of the yellow spots with brown, and brown spots with yellow.
Unpainted elements of the barrel, breech, and other mechanisms, sights, and labels are not painted over."

The book also includes instructions. The spots must be first outlined in chalk, and labelled with a letter signifying the colour. In the event that the tank is already painted green, only non-green spots are labelled and painted. When converting summer camouflage to winter camouflage, paint over the green spots with solid white, and over the yellow and brown spots with a hashed pattern. Depending on how open the terrain is, increase or decrease the density of white stripes. Captured vehicles coloured in monochrome grey must be painted in the same fashion.

Unlike tanks, artillery was very commonly painted in camouflaged colours, even artillery in the Reserve of the High Command, which theoretically wouldn't have much use for it.
RGK artillery in camouflage.

M6 AT gun on trials. You can see a camouflage pattern on the gun trailer.


Here's how the tanks dried after being painted at the factory:

Sherman drying after being painted

Also, winter instructions:

CAMD RF 38-11355-107

"Conclusions of the report from the NI proving grounds of the Red Army GABTU on the winter camouflage paint of armoured forces.

Experiments performed on six kinds of paint schemes shows that the best contour and relief masking is achieved with a three-colour paint scheme, with a white image based on the method of optical displacement, a mesh pattern, and spots with a wobbly contour. 

Downsides of this method include a large amount of time needed (14 man-hours), and the necessity to draw an image on the tank before painting.

Recommend the camouflage scheme outlined above for factories. For tanks currently assigned to a unit, paint the whole tank in one shade of white. 

The NI proving grounds must distribute drawings and paint recipes to factories."

The camouflage scheme in question doesn't exactly have three colours. The different types of surfaces are flat white, a white mesh on an olive drab background, and plain olive drab. Something like this:


"MEMO
On camouflage of combat vehicles in winter conditions

1. Type of paint.

A chalk mixture is used in order to paint. During frost, use warm water to prepare it.
Amount: approximately 1200 kg for a two regiment tank brigade, or 5-6 kg per vehicle.

In cases where there is not enough chalk, it is possible to use slaked lime. Lumped lime is completely unsuitable for this task. Disadvantages of using lime: the paint will gradually turn brown, the lime acts as an irritant. Both types of paint can wash off, and are not resistant to snow and rain.

2. Directions on application of camouflage paint.

The order to paint is given out in the winter, right before the vehicles will be used. The order is given by the same unit that orders the use of combat vehicles.

The painting is done by the crews themselves, as close as possible to headquarters (where warm water is available).

Brushes used for washing cars may be used for painting, as well as any containers (buckets, etc). The time to paint a vehicle is 2-3 hours."

CAMD RF 3098-1-2

The Red Army also had a large amount of unofficial winter camouflage schemes.




The next photograph is very interesting. The tanks in it are rather rare T-30s. The T-30 was a simplified T-40 with a better gun and no amphibious ability, but not quite as simplified as a T-60. The tanks have a strange pattern applied to them. One tank like this might be an indication of scorched paint due to an engine fire, but several in one place clearly show that this was the camouflage pattern applied to the tanks of this entire unit.


Elements of the terrain were also used to aid in camouflaging vehicles.



KV-1S Comfort

"Minutes of a technical meeting at the Kirov factory on September 19th, 1942

Present:
Deputy chief engineer Duhov
Senior machine engineer Balzhi
Armament group chief Shneidman
Assistant to the chief of the 2nd department of Artkom, Major Solomonov

Investigated the issue of changes in armament and turret design of the KV-1S.

Conclusions: the turret of the KV-1S is smaller, internally and externally. The crew locations have been changed. The installation of the gun has been changed: the frame was replaced with a mount on the bottom of the turret with a central bar. A mount for a second machinegun is included. The meeting examined blueprints of the gun and turret, sketches of changes in the armament, and examined a production KV-1S turret and tested all main gun mechanisms.

Despite the reduced size, the KV-1S turret provides comfortable working conditions for all crew members in the fighting compartment, good visibility of the battlefield and ability to command the crew for the commander. The loader is the only crew member positioned to the right of the gun, giving him large amounts of volume to work in, increasing comfort.

The commander's position behind the gunner, and the commander's cupola allow him to control the vehicle and the gunner's actions. However, the gunner's workspace is somewhat cramped, and the existing pedal trigger is uncomfortable to use. It is also desirable to move the 9T-7 sight elevation mechanism forward.

In order to increase maneuverability in the rear of the turret, the brass catcher and firing mechanism shield should be moved. The brass catcher box should be lightened.

The meeting considers it necessary to:
  1. Propose that GAU KA orders changes to the ZiS-5 gun:
    1. Remove the pedal trigger for the gun and machinegun, and replace it with a hand trigger mechanism on the handle of the aiming mechanism.
      Attached are blueprints for a hand trigger mechanism developed by SKB-2 of the Kirov factory (for the machinegun). The meeting considers it possible to use an electrical solenoid trigger mechanism, the development of which could be assigned to SKB-2.
    2. When installing the elevation mechanism, turn the worm gear up (by 5-7 degrees) (should be implemented at the Kirov factory).
    3. The elevation mechanism should be moved 300-400 mm forward, which will require changes to the elevation mechanism and gun mount (preliminary development at the Kirov factory).
    4. Change the firing mechanism shield according to the attached sketches.
    5. Reduce the weight of the brass catches by drilling holes in it.
    6. Make an opening in the tail of the gun mount for the gun stopper, according to the attached sketches.
    7. Place the 9T-7 sight in the same plane as the periscopic sight by moving it forward. A sketch of the changes is attached.
  2. It is useful to perform the following after these changes are made:
    1. Perform trials of a tank with the KV-1S turret to check the gun: trajectory angles, precision at 1000 meters, rate of fire when stationary and in motion.
    2. Test the radio man's machinegun, compare the old ball mount and new ball mount (with periscopic sight), and determine parameters for sight markings.
Deputy chief engineer Duhov
Senior machine engineer Balzhi
Armament group chief Shneidman
Assistant to the chief of the 2nd department of Artkom, Major Solomonov"
CAMD RF 38-11355-697

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Arming Vickers Tanks


"Confirmed
June 6th, 1930
Chief of the RKKA AU Bondar

Confirmed
June 6th, 1930
Chief of the RKKA UMM
Halepskiy

Minutes #9003188ss

Meeting between representatives of the NTK AU and NTK UMM on the issue of installing armament in Vickers tanks.

We heard Rozhkov's report on installing Maxim machineguns in Carden-Lloyd Mk IV tankettes, and a high power 37 mm gun in the turret of the 12-ton tank, and reached the following conclusions:
  1. A machine gun can be installed in a Carden-Lloyd Mk IV tankette by the company as a part of the order, according to a note on the Vickers blueprint #012390.
  2. Installing a 37 mm tank gun in the turret of a six-ton tank: the installation of a 37 mm tank gun in the front part of the turret would require the following changes:
    1. The sides are straight, gradually transitioning into the turret cylinder.
    2. In order to achieve sufficient horizontal traverse angles, and ensure comfort of use, the turning mechanism should be turned into a position parallel to the turret axis.
    3. The front of the turret is tilted back 13 degrees in order to achieve 20 degrees of gun elevation, like on the MS-1 turret.
    4. In order to provide 360 degree view and balance the turret, the turret roof should be lowered by 60 mm, and a cupola should be installed.
    5. Increase the diameter of the turret ring ball bearings, as they were made with a machine gun in mind.
  3. Installing a 45 mm gun in the turret of a 12-ton tank: the following should be done to install a 45 mm gun into the 12-ton tank:
    1. Cut a circular hole in the front of the turret of the proper size.
    2. Attach a flat metal sheet from the inside of the turret using straightening valves.
    3. Bolt the cradle carrier for the 45 mm gun to this sheet.
    4. In order to increase the robustness of the roof, attach the sides at an angle to the turret axis.
    5. Install the turning mechanism next to the gunner's left hand.
    6. Place the machinegun at the end of the perpendicular turret axis.
    7. The second turning mechanism is placed in a convenient location for the right gunner. Both mechanisms can be disabled.
    8. The rear of the turret will hold a radio. In order to develop the mount, we need to provide the company with the size of the gun and its recoil length.
Signatures: Sverchkov, Miller, Braverman, Rozhkov, Ozerov."

Friday, 24 January 2014

Scary German Tanks


"Exhibit of captured German armament (1941-1943)

According to the decree of the State Committee of Defense, on June 22nd of this year [handwritten] on the second anniversary of the start of the Great Patriotic War, an exhibit of armament captured from the Germans in battle (1941-1943) opens in Moscow.

The exhibit will be open from 10 am to 8 pm.

The admission fee is one ruble. For Red Armymen, Red Seamen, and those injured in the Great Patriotic War, the admission fee is 20 kopecks.

For the convenience of visitors, tickets will be sold in all Mosgorspravka information bureaus, in all theatrical ticket booths in Moscow, and on weekends and holidays, in ticket booths at the exhibit.

Children under 14 are not allowed entry without parental supervision.

 [handwritten] Exhibit chief, Lieutenant-General R. Hmelnitskiy

[handwritten] Publish in newspapers on June 20th of this year"

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Lend-Lease Replacement

"To the deputy chair of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, comrade Mikoyan

On the issue of American tank shipments in 1943, I report that:
  1. We received two types of tanks from America in 1942, M3 light and M3 medium.
    Additionally, caravan #19 brought 26 M4-A2 tanks into the USSR (medium type).
  2. In battle, the M3 light and M3 medium tanks demonstrate many defects, drastically reducing their combat effectiveness.
  3. The main defects are as follows:
    1. The tanks ignite easily when shot.
    2. The tanks are large, and have many vertical armour plates, which results in the tanks being vulnerable to even low caliber anti-tank guns.
    3. Low reliability of American engines of the aircraft type installed in these tanks.
    4. It is not possible to use the 75 mm howitzer on the M3 medium tank when the tank is dug in, as the cannon ends up at ground level. The front two machine guns are unusable for the same reason.
These defects were reported in July of 1942. Based on this information, I believe it to be nonsensical to continue purchasing M3 medium and M3 light tanks from America. Instead, M4-A2 tanks should be purchased in the same numbers.

The M4-A2 has the same suspension, transmission, and lower hull as the M3 medium. The top part of the hull has sloped armour. The turret contains a 75 mm cannon with a coaxial machine gun. Instead of a gasoline engine, the tank is powered by two diesel "General Motors" engines, with a combined power of 375 hp. The M4-A2 tank is the latest model of medium tank, and better matches modern requirements.

A downside of the M4-A2 tank is the scorching of the injector nozzle and cylinder pistons. The chief of the American military mission, General Faymonville and Lieutenant-Colonel Gray know of this defect. The latter considers it easily preventable with tractor type nozzles (type A), 300 of which were requested from America by airplane.

The M4-A2 tank will be delivered with a replacement engine nozzle, rubber-metal tracks, and spurs on every track link. Additionally, please purchase the following in America:
  1. Half-track M2 APCs (with armament).
  2. Half-armoured M3-A1 recon cars.
  3. Mobile tank workshops.
  4. Special high capacity cargo trucks.
Waiting for your orders.

Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, Korobkov
Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, Biryukov"
CAMD RF 38-11355-1722

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

ML-20 Artillery Tables

Continuing my collection of artillery tables, the model 1937 ML-20 gun-howitzer, which found a home in the SU-152 and ISU-152 Soviet SPGs. The ML-20 could fire several different types of ammunition. Here is the table for the BR-540 armour piercing shell:


The table confirms the impressive dispersion results from the test I posted: 20 cm vertical and 30 cm horizontal at 1000 meters. 

The next shell type is the naval high explosive semi-AP shell. At 1000 meters, it has the same dispersion as the AP shell.



Next is the OF-540 high explosive fragmentation long range steel gun grenade. Its scattering is much greater: 30 cm vertical and 70 cm horizontal at 1000 meters. This table has much greater ranges than the AP ones, capping out at over 17 kilometers.


Next is the concrete penetrating G-53 shell. It shares its table with the OF-530 high explosive fragmentation long range steel howitzer grenade and O-530A long range steel-iron grenade.


A little better, 20 cm vertically and 70 cm horizontally at 1000 meters. With the G-545 concrete penetrating shell, the dispersion gets even better: 20 cm and 50 cm respectively. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Immortal T-34

The initial T-34 was far from a perfect vehicle, with the T-34-85 upgrade being a far superior vehicle that saw many decades of post-war service. However, the older 76 mm model was not forgotten, and saw post-war service along with its successor.


T-34-85 and T-34-76 in the East German Nationale Volksarmee. The T-34-76 has a small turret and lacks railings for infantry, meaning it was likely produced in early 1942. 

The above image is dated somewhere around the late 1950s to late 1960s, but here is a much more recent image of two T-34-76es in North Korean service, a model 1941 and a model 1942.


Despite the poor picture quality, the suspension is obviously different. The road wheels have been replaced with post-war ones, and the track is from a T-55. The gun, however, is still the same F-34. I wonder if they developed any improved ammunition for it.

Edit: Another T-34-76 from North Korea. This photo is dated 2013.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

KV-3 Production


We already saw that the USSR was planning to build the KV-3 in 1941, but let's take a look at these plans in greater detail.

CAMD RF 38-11355-22

"To BTU KA Chief, Military Engineer 1st Grade, comrade Korobkov

The Kirov factory began finalizing working blueprints for the KV-3 vehicle and their production. Simultaneously, the factory is preparing necessary documentation and technical documents for 1942, with the objective of finishing them by September 15th, 1941. Due to this, I ask you to inform me of changes to the blueprints that you would like to be made for 1942 by April 1st. Additionally, I would like you to specify the addresses to mail these blueprints to, and in what amounts.

Kirov factory director, Zaltsmann
March 5th, 1941"

Sure enough, by April, the requirements were finalized.



"Decree of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the VKP(b)

Moscow, Kremlin

On the tactical-technical characteristics of the KV-3 tank

The SNK of the USSR and Central Committee of the VKP(b) determined that:
  • In revision of the decree #548-232ss from March 15th, 1941 and #827-345 April 7th, 1941, the following tactical-technical characteristics of the KV-3 are set:
    • Size:
      • Full length: 7850 mm
      • Full width: 3420 mm
      • Full height: 2950 mm
      • Clearance: 450 mm
      • Turret ring: 1670 mm
      • Mass: 67-68 tons
    • Armour:
      • Turret: 115 mm
      • Driver's armour plate: 115-120 mm
      • Side: 90 mm
    • Height of the stamped turret: 980 mm
    • Speed: 30 kph
    • Armament: 
      • 107 mm gun with 800 m/s muzzle velocity (one)
      • DT machineguns (three)
      • Ammunition capacity:
        • 45 107 mm shells
        • 60 disk magazines for the DT
    • Crew: 6
    • Engine: factory #75 diesel with 850 hp
  • The Kirov factory and Izhor factory must begin production of KV-3 tanks with the above tactical-technical characteristics, according to the due dates and amounts listed in the decree #548-232ss on March 15th, 1941 by the SNK and Central Committee.
  • The director of factory #92 comrade Elyan and Chief Engineer comrade Grabin must develop blueprints for the installation of the 107 mm ZiS-6 gun in the KV-3 stamped turret.
  • The People's Commissar of Medium Production, comrade Malyshev, and factory #75 director comrade Kochetkov must provide 850 hp tank diesel engines in the following quantities:
Consumer
Total
Per month
July
August
September
October
November
December
Kirov factory
560
25
85
100
100
115
125
NKO
100



30
35
35
  • Until trials and mass production of 850 hp diesels is completed, the Kirov factory is allowed to install no more than 200 700 hp diesels on the KV-3, under the condition that they be upgraded to 850 hp engines by April 1st, 1942. The NKO will provide engines from its reserves.
  • The People's Commissar of Aviation Production comrade Shahurin and factory #24 director must provide factory #75 with superchargers, in the following quantities:
Consumer
Total
Per month
July
August
September
October
November
December
Factory #75
660
25
85
100
140
150
160
  • Factory #75 must organize and begin production of supercharged 850 hp engines by January 1st, 1942.
  • The Kirov factory director comrade Zaltsmann, Chief Engineer comrade Kotin, factory #75 director comrade Kochetkov and Chief Engineer comrade Chupahin must perform trials and modifications of the 850 hp engine in May-June.
  • Issue 5 million rubles to factory #75 to establish production of superchargers.
  • The People's Commissar of Medium Production can increase the capacity of factory #75 and its auxiliary (formerly factory #48) without any projects assigned to it until January 1st, 1942.
  • Comrade Saburov of Central Planning must equip factory #75 with equipment necessary for production of superchargers, with delivery scheduled for the third quarter of 1941.
  • Due to the production of the new KV-3 tank, the Kirov factory is no longer required to produce spare parts for KV-1 tanks starting with June 1941. Production of spare parts will be passed on to ChTZ.
  • The Kirov factory must pass its equipment for production of KV-1 spare parts to ChTZ that cannot be used for production of KV-3 components.
  • Comrade Saburov of Central Planning must equip organizations in the Leningrad and Moscow districts with equipment and instruments for the mass production of the KV-3, and ensure supply of rapid cutting tools and hard alloys to the Kirov factory.
  • Central Planning must instruct factories to add to their nomenclature the changes included in the decree #548-232ss from March 15th, 1941, according to the specifications provided by the People's Commissariat of Heavy Production.
  • The People's Commissar of Heavy Production, comrade Yefremov, must organize the design of instruments, stamps, and devices, and deliver them in time for the mass production of KV-3 tanks.
  • The Izhor factory may install uniformly thick (90-100 mm) turrets on KV-1 tanks in lieu of installing 25-30 mm screens after July 1st, 1941, according to the decree of the USSR SNK and CC VKP(b) from April 7th, 1941.
  • Due to the new KV-3 tank, the Committee of Reserves of the USSR SNK must cancel the reserve plan for KV-1 parts for 1941, and free up the Kirov factory.
Materials submitted through the municipal Party committee.

Signed on April 22nd, 1941

Kuznetsov
Zaltsmann
Kazakov
Kotin"

About a month before the war, things were going according to schedule.

CAMD RF 38-11355-101

"Act on the state of readiness of the KV-3 project developed by the Kirov factory

The current act is composed to inform that the following work has been done on the KV-3 project as of May 29th, 1941:
  1. Proposal and technical project, costing 100,000 rubles
  2. Model, costing 50,000 rubles
  3. Working blueprints, costing 250,000 rubles
  4. Engine received, costing 100,000 rubles.
The total cost of completed work is five hundred thousand (500,000) roubles, which should be paid in advance. The final payments will be calculated.

Chief of Department #1 of the Kirov factory, Lantzberg
Chief Engineer of Department #1, Kotin
Deputy Chief of the 3rd Department of the BTU, Military Engineer 1st Grade, Rogachev
Senior Military Representative at the Kirov factory, Military Engineer 2nd Grade, Shpitanov"

However, all that war business got in the way of retooling for a brand new tank. Kirov factory didn't give up. The KV-3, as well as a 1200 hp engine for it are still listed in the list of Kirov factory projects for 1942 (CAMD RF 38-11355-720), due on May 1st, 1942, and October 1st, 1942, respectively.

Rough Handling at Aberdeen

I talked about the summaries of tests at Aberdeen, but this document should shine more light on the proceedings, as it was written specifically from an engineer's standpoint.

"To the People's Commissar of External Trade, comrade Mikoyan
July 14th, 1943

I report the following on the report of engineer comrade Prishepenko from the Tank Department and his discussion with Robert Pollack:
  1. One KV-1 and one T-34 were sent to the USA through Arkhangelsk in the end of August, 1942.
  2. The KV-1 was produced at the Kirov factory in Chelyabinsk. The T-34 was produced at factory #183 in Nizhniy Tagil.
  3. The tanks were assembled under closer supervision than usual, and tested more carefully than for mass production tanks.
  4. Their designs were not different from mass production models.
  5. In July 1942, before the tanks were sent to the US, BTU GABTU KA sent blueprints, instructions, and manuals on the tanks, as well as lists of design changes made in 1942 compared to the tanks described in the manuals to comrade Krutikov, to give to US general Famoville. 
  6. Since general Famonville wanted these items shipped by plane, they would have arrived in America before the tanks.
    Since then, we received no further requests for manuals of explanations.
  7. Our manuals are much more detailed than the American or English ones. They contain instructions on the calibration and service of individual mechanisms.
  8. Because of this, the complains that Robert Pollack made in the discussion with comrade Prishepenko about certain components in the KV differing from those in the instructions are unfounded, as they were told this, and given necessary errata.
  9. The KV and T-34 had R-9 radios and not 71TK-3 radios (obsolete models removed from production). This fact was also communicated through the errata.
  10. Our tanks were sent with a large amount of spare parts, unlike American and English tanks. After their request, we sent them a new KV friction clutch.
  11. How they managed to destroy the KV final drives is unknown. It is a very strong component of the vehicle, and very rarely breaks in practice. It is very likely that they adjusted them very incorrectly.
All of these complaints are due to the American command refusing help from our engineers working in America at this time, and never requested service instruments for our tanks.

Attachment on five pages.
Deputy chief of the Mechanized and Armoured Forces of the Red Army, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Forces, Korobkov.
Deputy GBTU Chief, Lieutenant-General of the Tank Engineering Forces, Lebedev"
CAMD RF 38-11355-1377

Saturday, 18 January 2014

55th Army's Offensive Operation

I obtained a report on an offensive by the 55th Army, from March 19th, 1943 to March 27th, 1943 (CAMD RF 411-10189-436). It's quite lengthy, and not as suitable for episodic as Guardsmen in the Fall was, and hardly at all about tanks, but there are a few relevant parts. One is quite interesting.

"Senior Sergeant Matveev from this same unit [690th IPTAP], on March 19th, set fire to an "Elephant" tank from 300 meters with his 76 mm gun, thus dispelling the opinion that this tank is immune to AT artillery."

A Ferdinand, an upgraded one even, at Leningrad? Of course not. This is one of the first encounters with a Tiger tank. Due to an elephant figure seen on the first knocked out tanks (the insignia of the 502nd s.Pz.Abt), the tank was called Elephant. It is only when some German literature was captured that referred to the tank did the Red Army find out its proper name.

As always, let's confirm this event. Schneider's Tigers in Combat I indeed mentions that a Soviet offensive took place on March 19th at Krasniy Bor and Sablino. Only 4 Tiger tanks remain operational in 1/s.Pz.Abt 502. Sadly, as always, the diaries are not exactly forthcoming on the details.

That's really the only tank-related thing in the artillery section. The infantry section only mentions presence of tanks here and there, and doesn't really reveal anything interesting for analysis. Now for the good part: Tanks!

"Tanks
  1. The terrain made using tanks difficult. Tank-accessible regions were only available between the flanks of the 123rd and 291st Infantry Divisions, which covered a large amount of forested areas, limiting the coverage and maneuverability of tanks on the front echelons and first lines of defense.
  2. Organization of tank cooperation with infantry and aircraft:
    1. After a decision by the Military Council of the 55th Army on the combat use of tank units, which was communicated to the commanders of the 222nd Independent Tank Brigade, 220th Independent Tank Brigade, 152nd Independent Tank Brigade and 31st Guards Heavy Tank Breakthrough Regiment, the units began reconnaissance of rendezvous points, starting positions, and movement routes. The starting positions were determined as follows: 31st Guards at the north outskirts of Krasniy Bor, 220th at the south outskirts of Kolpino, 222nd on the western outskirts of Kolpino, 152nd on the western outskirts of Kolpino, after the 222nd vacates the area.
    2. On March 10th, 1943, tank commanders received excerpts from the 55nd Army HQ order, which determined the objectives of the tank units in the upcoming offensive. Based on the order, tank commanders began joint reconnaissance with commander of infantry divisions acting in the offensive sector, and developed cooperation plans.
    3. From March 11th to March 14th, the units continued reconnaissance, a task which consumed all personnel, including the drivers.
    4. From March 14th to March 17th, tank units performed exercises in the region, practising their cooperation with 123rd and 291st infantry divisions, in places where the mobile groups had to enter the breakthrough and cooperate with aviation.
    5. After all questions have been resolved, mobile group HQs received representatives from artillery and aviation. From artillery: one fire correction team per battalion, which practised correcting fire using the tank's radio. From aviation: radio teams with powerful radios that could call in and direct aircraft. All cooperation between infantry, artillery, sappers, and aviation was recorded in the battle plan, as well as the main predetermined signals.
  3. Battle dynamics
    1. On March 19th, 1943, at 9:05, the breakthrough group, consisting of the 222nd ITB and 31st GTBR, attacked the enemy's front lines along with elements of the 123rd and 291th infantry divisions. By 20:00, the 222nd reached: the cemetery (1867) and Lesn. (1868-v) with one battalion, and Krasniy Bor at the north-eastern clearing (1867-a) with another. The brigade had no further successes in battle, taking losses in personnel and materiel. Overnight, the brigade continued on to their nighttime objectives.
      By 20:00 on March 19th, the 31st GTBR reached (1870-n), (1870-v), (1870-v). When the regiment reached this line, the tanks remained with their infantry. In order to keep the position that the infantry captured, they were reinforced with ammunition without leaving the defensive line.
    2. The 71st Independent Armoured Train Division, in cooperation with elements of the 72nd infantry division, opened fire on the Voyskorovo, Kattelovo, Petrovshina, Samsokovka regions from the Kolpitsino railroad station. At 10:00, the division concentrated at the Rybatskaya and Obuhovo stations, entering the reserve of the 55th Army commander.
    3. From March 20th to March 24th, the 222 ITB and 31 GTBR supported 123rd, 291st, 268th, and 189th infantry divisions, and continued the offensive with the objective of destroying the enemy's reinforcements and capturing the line: Bezymyannaya height (1172), mark 43.8 (1273), mark 43.6 (1274), mark 36.3 (1375), Gertovo, widening and supporting the breakthrough at Kordelevo, Chernaya Rechka, Polisarka river, bridge (1467), mark 41.1 (1568), and to the left of the line: Vorobyevy Dachi, foothold (2172), Mishkino.
      The 222nd ITB, remaining in the reserve of the army commander, was ready to deflect an attack from the previous directions. On March 20th, one tank company, received orders from the HQ chief of the 55th Army, Major-General Tsvetkov to, at 19:10, acting as an infantry support group alongside 1/56 Independent Infantry Brigade re-group with cut off elements of the 123rd infantry division, clear the clearing at Smol., clear the clearing along Kordelovskiy stream, and fortify for a defense, arranging an ambush of four tanks in the Poperechnaya clearing (1767-b), and three tanks north of the Smol. clearing (1866-1867), where, alongside elements of the 123rd, they will deflect enemy attacks. The company completed their objectives. The 152nd ITB, 31st Guards Light Tank Brigade, 49th Guards Heavy Breakthrough Regiment, and 3rd Independent Armoured Car Brigade remained in the reserves of the 55th Army commander. 
    4. Between March 25th and March 27th, the 152nd ITB and 220th ITB conducted preparations for an offensive. The 220th ITB and 291st ID were tasked with striking with their left flank between the Kordelovskiy stream and Poperechnaya clearing, form up at the Kamenistaya clearing, capture the forest north-east of Chernaya Rechka, and capture the line: Vinokur river, Polisarka river, until the Konnaya Pustosh swamps.
      152nd ITB, with one battalion and elements of the 13th ID strikes with their left flank, with the objective to capture the Pesochnaya clearing (1568), destroying the enemy's hardpoints along the highway. Further, guarding its right, it was to capture the Vuinaya clearing (1269-1279), marker 47.0, and ready to deliver a strike at Sablino.
      One tank battalion, with elements of the 189th ID, captured the line: mark 42.7 (on the highway), Vazhnaya clearing (1770-1771), destroying the enemy hardpoints along the railroad, exiting the forests west of Ulyanovka.
    5. On March 24th, the 222nd ITB and 31st GTBR were removed from the advancing army. 222nd ITB was transferred to the Front reserves at Rybatskoye, which it reached by 12:00 on March 25th. The 31st was transferred to the army reserves at Ust-Izhora, which it reached by 24:00 on March 25th. Units in reserve performed maintenance and were resupplied with personnel and materiel.
      The 30th Guards Light Tank Brigade was transferred to the Front reserve by the commander of the Armoured Forces of the Leningrad Front, due to its inability to be used in the offensive sector due to spring mud and limited off-road performance of the Brigade's tanks.
      48th Battalion of the 152nd Independent Tank Brigade reached the ravine (1770-b), but could not advance further due to poor terrain. Infantry moving behind the tanks could not advance due to heavy enemy resistance. Tanks attempting to cross (1770-b) were stuck, and left without infantry cover. Later, on March 28th-31st, the tanks remained with infantry, repelling enemy attacks in parallel with working on evacuation and repair of damaged materiel. The 152nd ITB commander deployed a motorized infantry brigade as support.
  4. Conclusions
    1. Due to the heavily swamped forests, spring mud, insufficient communication between tank, infantry, and artillery, tank units could not notably impact the course of the battle, and took heavy losses.
    2. Tank units and crews were not ready to fight in forests and maneuver in difficult terrain. The reconnaissance performed during battle was unsatisfactory, resulting in many losses due to stuck and sunken tanks.
    3. Poor terrain and concentrations of artillery would not let tank units maneuver, which cased losses and did not allow concentrated use of tanks in any direction.
    4. Cooperation between tanks with artillery and infantry was lacking. Artillery spotters communicated the most dangerous targets slowly, artillery poorly supported tanks, infantry could not keep up with tanks, leaving them without much needed infantry cover. The enemy swiftly transported 88 mm guns in the most likely directions where tanks would be used, causing damage to our tanks. Most likely, tanks that were stuck would be hit by these guns."
 Tanks come up once more in the conclusions.

"Tanks took heavy losses when fighting in forests. This was due to the fact that they had no infantry or artillery cover, and were left on their own. Tanks must advance behind infantry, not in front of it, and as fire support in already scouted directions."

Regrettably, I do not have the appendix with the loss numbers in it. It would have been interesting to compare against the German claims in Tigers in Combat. However, some crude comparisons can still be made: the 502nd claims to have knocked out 10 tanks on March 19th, 12 tanks on March 20th, and 18 tanks on March 21st, for a total of 40 tanks. Next, nothing happens until March 31st. 

An Independent Heavy Tank Breakthrough Regiment would contain 21 tanks, and an Independent Tank Brigade two 24-tank platoons, for a total of 48 tanks. Therefore, at their full strength, the 31st GTBR and 222nd ITB could have brought 69 tanks to the fight. It's hard to believe that, having knocked out more than half of the enemy tanks, the 502nd Battalion would immediately withdraw, and the Soviet tank units would continue fighting for three more days before being transferred to reserves, not to mention that the Soviets documented heavy beatings specifically at the hands of towed anti-tank guns.

The 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion and 31st Guards Heavy Tank Breakthrough Regiment met again, under much better documented terms.

Friday, 17 January 2014

World of Tanks History Section: Sharing Parts

Two articles on similar themes were posted, and both were pretty short, so I am going to merge them into one. The theme is components that belonged in both a tank and an airplane, in this case, engines and guns.

A Tank's Winged Heart

The tank is a mobile battle unit. Therefore, its engine is no less important than the gun or armour. Every country building a tank encountered the problem of an engine that combined two important factors:. First of all, a tank engine needs to be powerful enough to move a multi-ton vehicle. Second, the engine needs to work in conditions far from ideal, it needs to be reliable and forgiving.

The optimal solution would be a special tank engine, but it was not always possible to develop one. Tanks used engines from tractors, cars, airplanes. 

The talented American engineer J. Christie used airplane engines for his vehicles. The experimental M1928 used a V-shaped Liberty L-12 engine. The tank reached a speed of 120 kph in trials on wheels, and 65 kph on tracks. This engine was used on aircraft until 1927.

Liberty engines were used on British cruiser tanks, including the Crusader tank, widely used in the first parts of WWII. The later Cromwell tank used an engine derived from an aviational design, the 12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Merlin III. Famous airplanes such as the Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane and Mustang X used this engine.

The Continental W6709A engine was used on the American M5 Stuart tank, one of the country's most massively produced tanks. The M2 Medium tank, another tank from the early days of WWII, used the 9-cylinder Continental R975EC2. 

The USSR developed the M-5 engine based on the Liberty L-12, which was used on BT series tanks. Later, the USSR developed another engine that was installed on planes, as well as tanks. The M-17 engine was based on the German BMW-VI. M-17 engines were installed in heavy TB-3 bombers, I-3 fighters, MDR-2 flying boats, and other vehicles. Modified M-17 engines were used on BT-7, T-35, and T-28 tanks.

It's hard to find a person that has not heard of the German super-heavy Maus tank. Many don't know that one of the potential engines that could have powered it was the Daimler-Benz DB.603 airplane engine, manufactured since 1942. This engine was used in He-219A-7 long range bombers, Me-410B heavy fighters, and other aircraft.

The eventual decline of aircraft engines used in tanks was due to the fact that airplane engines are more suited for working in the air. They were unreliable on tanks and needed high quality fuel, which was expensive to produce. Finally, airplane engine factories simply could not provide enough engines for all customers. Nevertheless, over the course of many years, tanks from many countries rode into battle with "winged hearts".

Original article available here.

Weapons of Two Worlds

Development and improvements in airplane design led to aircraft that were difficult to shoot down. This was especially true for bombers, whose toughness grew with size. Typical armament of a 1930s fighter consisted only of rifle caliber machine guns, making shooting down a bomber very difficult.

Adding more machine guns did not solve the problem. 

Earlier, we spoke of airplane motors used in armoured vehicles. The same thing happened with guns. Some of them descended from the skies, others did the opposite, flying upward after being developed for land combat.

Airplane guns usually had a small caliber, 20-37 mm, but they were automatic, which meant they could fire in bursts. Cannons drastically increased the firepower of aircraft.

The small T-60 tank was developed and produced in 1941 to replace the losses of Soviet tank units during the first stages of the Great Patriotic War. The first T-60s were armed with the tank version of the 20 mm automatic ShVAK cannon, based on the ShVAK-20 aircraft cannon. The use of the ShVAK did not start with the T-60, it was used on earlier T-40 and T-30 tanks. The gun proved itself picky: it was not used to a dirty tank, and the automatic mechanisms would jam. The gun was modified, and the result was called TNSh-20 (Tank, Nudelman-Shpitalniy). The VJa (Volkov-Jartsev) cannon was also explored, but was never implemented in metal.

There were also large caliber plane guns. For example, G and H modifications of the Mitchell B25 bomber had 75 mm cannons. This gun was later used on the M24 Chaffee tank. It was planned with an M3 gun, like the Sherman, but it turned out that the mass and recoil were too much for a light tank. Engineers decided to equip the Chaffee with the bomber's gun.

An example of a gun that migrated from tanks to planes would be the 50 mm KwK 39 German gun, used in the PzIII tank. The BK-5 aircraft cannon was inspired by its design, and was used on the Me.410, Junkers Ju88P4, and jet fighter Me.262.

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