Wednesday, 30 September 2015

New AT Guns

"State Committee of Defense Decree #3187
April 15th, 1943
Moscow, Kremlin

On measures for reinforcement of anti-tank defenses.

In order to strengthen our anti-tank defenses, the State Committee of Defense decrees that:
  1. The People's Commissar of Armament, comrade Ustinov, must replace the production of 45 mm mod. 1937 guns at factory #172 with 45 mm M-42 guns, following this schedule:
    1. April: 250 units
    2. May: 300
    3. June: 400
    4. July: 600
    5. August: 800
    6. September: all production
  2. The People's Commissar of Armament, comrade Ustinov, and factory #92 director, comrade Elyan, must organize production of 57 mm ZiS-2 anti-tank guns and ZiS-4 tank guns to replace 76 mm mod. 1942 divisional guns and F-34 tank guns, following this schedule:
    1. April: 50 units
    2. May: 150 
    3. June: 250
    4. July: 350
      and 500 units monthly starting in August. Of the units listed, 20% are ZiS-4 tank guns.
      TsAKB must complete blueprints by June 1st, 1943, and provide them to GAU for approval.
      Send four AT guns and four tank guns from the April production batch to GAU (comrade Yakovlev) for trials, issuing a report to GOKO within ten days.
  3. The People's Commissar of Armament (comrade Ustinov) and TsAKB chief (comrade Grabin) must provide GAU with ideas regarding a powerful new corps gun with the qualities of an anti-tank gun based on the 107 mm M-60 gun and 100 mm B-34 naval gun. Also provide ideas for a new special tank, AT, and SPG gun that can penetrate 150 mm of armour at 30 degrees at a distance of 750-1000 meters.
    GAU must examine materials provided by NKV in three days and make a decision regarding experimental prototypes, reporting to GOKO along with NKV.
  4. People's Commissar of Ammunition, comrade Vannikov, must introduce 57 and 76 mm subcaliber rounds into production, with the following production schedule:

May June July August
ZiS-2 shell 3000 10000 10000 15000
ZiS-3 shell 15000 30000 35000 40000

By May 1st, design a 122 mm HEAT shell and a simplified 152 mm AP shell. Within 10 days of the designs being ready, GAU must perform trials and create blueprints for mass production.

5. The People's Commissariat of Chemical Production (comrade Pervukhin) must provide the People's Commissariat of Coloured Metals, above current quota and with first priority, the following materials for production of subcaliber armour piercing shell cores, in tons:

April May June July August
Sodium Carbonate 15 30 50 55 70
Hydrochloric acid 75 85 180 200 270
Soot 4 6 13 15 18

and shipment of plastic ballistic caps to the People's Commissariat of Ammunition, according to the following schedule:

May June July August
ZiS-2 shells 6000 15000 15000 20000
ZiS-3 shells 20000 40000 45000 50000
6. The People's Commissariat of Coloured Metals (comrade Lomako) must provide the People's Commissariat of Ammunition with cores made from hard alloys in the following amounts:

May June July August
For ZiS-2 shells 5000 13000 13000 20000
For ZiS-3 shells 17000 35000 40000 45000
Chairman of the State Committee of Defense, I. Stalin."

Monday, 28 September 2015

Kolobanov's Battle

"August 20th, 1941
One tank company from 1st Tank Battalion, two companies from 2nd Tank Battalion, and one company from 3rd Tank Battalion received their orders.

The 1st Bank Battalion company, 5 KV tanks, sets up an ambush. Two tanks near Greater Bornitsa, 2 tanks near Voyskovitsy farm, one tank near Greater Chernitsy.
Objective: in cooperation with tank destroyer groups from the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Guards Division, delay the progress of enemy tanks towards Vavgo-Starosta, Ilkino, and Golyadino.
2nd tank battalion, 6th company, 8 T-26 tanks as a part of a tank destroyer group, in cooperation with 3rd Infantry Battalion and an AT gun squadron, move along the Lesser Bornitsa-Ilkino-Greater Tyaglino route, flank the enemy group at Greater Bornitsa, and destroy it.
5th company, 7 T-26 tanks, in cooperation with a tank destroyer group from 3rd Battalion, moves along the Repuzi-Nedlino-Mochino-Mutalova route with the objective of flanking and destroying the enemy group at Vokhonovo.

3rd Tank Battalion company, 6 T-26 tanks, set up a guard
  • Two tanks in Aropakkozi
  • Two tanks in Tikhvinka
  • Two tanks in Greater Verevo
with the objective of preventing small enemy groups from reaching Krasnoye Selo.

The KV tank ambush at Greater Bornitsa encountered a column of up to 40 enemy tanks. As a result of the battle, the KV tank of the company commander, Senior Lieutenant Kolobanov, destroyed 22 enemy tanks. The enemy column, taking heavy losses, stopped its progress towards Ilkino and retreated in the opposite direction. Senior Lieutenant Kolobanov's tank, having exhausted its ammunition, retreated to Lesser Paritsa and later to Gatchino to restock.

From 16:00 and until the end of the day of August 20th, 1941, Lieutenant Sergeev's tank from the 1st Tank Battalion contained the enemy offensive near the forest at Greater Boyaritsa. He destroyed 4 tanks near Vyselka and 4 tanks near Ryabisy. Lieutenant Sergeev's tank was damaged by a direct hit from a large caliber shell; the machinegun ball was knocked out, the recoil mechanism compressor was damaged, another shell disabled the engine. The crew left the tank on the battlefield.

A KV tank commanded by Jr. Lieutenant Lastochkin from the 1st Tank Battalion was fighting alongside Lieutenant Sergeev, and suddenly met with 4 enemy tanks that flanked him at a very close range. Seeing that the tanks must be destroyed by ramming, driver [Starshina] Iovlev rammed two enemy tanks at a high speed. The rest were destroyed by cannon fire. All enemy tanks burned up.

The gunner from Lieutenant Yevdokimenko's crew, Red Armyman F.S. Kutsevich, carried out the orders of his commander. Seeing a passenger car, a tankette, and several enemy motorcyclists, he snuck up to them and pelted them with grenades, killing all of them.

Yevdokimenko's driver, comrade Sidikov, rammed and destroyed one enemy tank when returning from the battlefield.

A KV tank commanded by Jr. Lieutenant Degryar from the 1st Tank Battalion destroyed three enemy tanks, a flamethrower battery, and a large amount of enemy infantry.

In total, Lieutenant Kolobanov's company destroyed 42 enemy tanks that day with 5 KV tanks, plus one tankette, one passenger car, a flamethrower battery, and up to a company of infantry. One motorcycle was captured."

The knocked out KV was later recovered and repaired.

Here is an aerial reconnaissance photo of the battlefield, taken the day before.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Cavalry at Smolensk

When an army goes on the offensive, the most important objective is to penetrate enemy defenses as deeply as possible with a powerful blow. This does not always happen, and the battle turns into a slow and bloody affair, a battle of attrition.

In the middle of September of 1943, the Red ARmy had a chance to not only free Smolensk from the Germans, but develop the offensive further, towards Orsha. In order to do this, the commander of the Western Front created a mobile group, including the 2nd Guards Tank Corps and 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps. It was expected that the group would enter a breach made by the infantry and artillery of the 21st Army. However, by September 15th, their success was negligible. The tank corps received orders to breach German defenses.

The 2nd Guards Tank Corps fought fiercely for several days. Their enemies included Tigers from the 505th battalion, as well as Marders and StuGs. By September 19th, at the cost of tens of tanks, Soviet forces penetrated German defenses. The mobile group entered the breach.

Battle for the railroad

The Germans pulled their forces back to new positions. Powerful rear guard units covered their retreat, fighting stubbornly for every trench. German infantry supported by SPGs counterattacked at every opportunity. It was vitally important for the Germans to hold the Smolensk-Roslavl railroad until the retreat was complete. The enemy committed all possible forces to this task, including engineering units and an armoured train.

Forces from both sides were drained from past battles. Infantry divisions of the 12th Army had 3-5 thousand men left by September 20th, out of fully authorized strength of 10 thousand. The fresh cavalry corps that entered the battle was not only a mobile unit, but, given the circumstances, a powerful means of attack.

Acting as infantry, the cavalrymen took the load off weakened infantry divisions. Additionally, the cavalry brought infantry and tanks. Each of the three divisions of the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps had a tank regiment, and the corps also had a regiment of SU-76 SPGs. On September 20th, the corps had about 120 tanks and SPGs under its command. This was three times as much as in the 2nd Tank Corps. The cavalry became a ram that broke through the German defenses.

Under a storm of fire, the corps engineers built bridges for infantry and vehicles. Many earned orders and medals for this frightening work. Thanks to them, all tanks and SPGs of the corps reached the battlefield on time.

Tanks and SPGs advanced, helping each other. SU-76 SPGs knocked out AA and AT guns, clearing the road for tanks. On September 21st, a loader from one of the SPG crews, P.O. Soshenkov, destroyed five enemy AA guns and stole an enemy SPG. This cleared the path for the 104th Tank Regiment of the 5th Cavalry Division. Tankers swiftly moved forward and occupied the Dolgomostye farmstead. The Smolensk-Roslavl railroad was cut off.

Fighting Tigers

The 104th Tank Regiment played an important role in the fighting for settlements next to the railroad. Lieutenant A.G. Chelyshev's tank squadron (tank units assigned to cavalry had cavalry names) showed itself especially well, dealing great damage to the Germans. Chelyshev himself destroyed one SPG and one AT gun. For skilful command and personal successes, he was awarded with the Order of the Patriotic War 1st Class.

On the morning of September 22nd, elements of the 2nd Guards Tank Corps and 21st Army reached the railroad.

The Germans were not content with losing the railroad. They pulled up reserves and attempted several counterattacks. Our forces endured enemy attacks under powerful artillery fire and bombs. The 32nd Cavalry Division had the toughest time, as it had to fight not only StuGs, but Tigers.

According to documents, the division knocked out only one enemy tank on September 22nd, but it was a Tiger. Destroying such a vehicle was still a difficult task in the fall of 1943. In total, during the Smolensk-Roslavl operation, the Germans suffered three total Tiger losses, two of which could not be evacuated. As a result, one was blown up and one was abandoned as is. Another Tiger was knocked out from a hit to the turret and abandoned. The tank was not a total loss, but the attack stalled, and the enemy tried to evacuate the tank. Most likely, this beast was slain by the artillery of the tank destroyer regiment included in the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps.

The Germans did not manage to win back the railroad or stop the Soviet forces. The mobile group from the Western Front continued to advance and crossed the Sozh river on September 24th, surrounding Smolensk from the south. Realizing that the city cannot be held, the German commanders ordered their forces to retreat.

On the next day, Smolensk and Roslavl were liberated by the Red Army. For success in battle, the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps received a letter of gratitude from the Supreme Commander I. Stalin, and the 32nd Cavalry Division earned the title of Smolensk.

Original article available here.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Adna Chaffee

The creator of the American armoured forces did not fight in a single large armoured battle. He was born on September 23rd, 1884, when tanks were far from the drawing board, and died on August 22nd, 1941, before the United States took an active part in the Second World War. However, Adna Romanza Chaffee Jr. did have combat experience.

He participated in the police action of American cavalry in Cuba in 1909, served in the Philippine occupational forces in 1914-1915, then transferred to France where he fought in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Here, Chaffee first encountered tanks, a new weapon that has not yet reached its full potential. Soon, this weapon would become Chaffee's life.

Anti-tank trenches of bureaucracy

The experience of WWI was carefully studied by militaries of the world. Did senior American commanders understand the significance of the tank as an independent mobile fighting unit? They did, but not fully, and not unanimously. Many senior officers considered that the horse was still viable.

These disagreements were enhanced by the National Defense Act of 1920, which assigned tanks only one role: infantry support. Cavalry, where Chaffee served, was not supposed to have tanks. There was no talk of armoured forces as an independent branch, either. In order for it to appear, Chaffee and his allies would have to overcome the inertia of the American bureaucratic machine.

It was important to obtain authorization for at least a small mechanized unit and prove its usefulness in practice. This idea could be pushed through by a high ranking and respected field commander, whose opinion had weight to it in a discussion at any level. For instance, in the Soviet Union, Budyonniy was a proponent of total army mechanization. Americans that fought for the same thing did not have such a trump card. Major-General Chaffee, the main supporter of these reforms, earned his reputation only during peace time.

The American "tank lobby" won one small but significant victory over the bureaucrats: ordering a Combat Car for cavalry units. Even though it was a tracked vehicle with a rotating turret, it was not formally a tank, therefore Chaffee's opponents did not complain. This victory would soon become the foundation of the American tank program.

A willful general's theories

In 1928, Adna Chaffee managed to get his four year plan for the creation of a mechanized unit approved. However, Congress only allotted $284,000 for this task after two years, out of the required four million.

The foundation was laid, but the question of how to properly use these vehicles remained. The Americans could not follow the experience of other nations, as the doctrines of the leading tank-building nations, Britain, France, and Germany, varied wildly. Chaffee had to carefully analyze worldwide experience.

One of the first conclusions was that "with combined arms support, tank forces are the most powerful offensive force known today". WWII would confirm Chaffee's theory in less than 10 years.

His other theories also proved true. Indeed, the most effective way to use tanks turned out to be en masse, in corps or armies. Tanks without infantry, artillery, and air support turned out to be ineffective at cementing their success in battle. Chaffee's prediction that the coming years would see the increase in gun calibers and armour thickness was correct as well. Finally, the general remarked that the success of tanks on the battlefield was decided by "training and professional experience of specially selected and trained personnel. This training will take a large amount of time and cannot be replaced with any accelerated program".

In the end of 1934, Chaffee became the Budget and Law-making Coordinator in the Staff of the United States Army, giving him a real possibility of influencing the creation of independent tank and mechanized units with their own doctrine. He had one important thing left to do: confirm his assumptions in practice. This possibility arose in five years.

How to defeat regressives in two strikes

The Plattsburgh military exercise were held in the summer of 1939. Adna Chaffee participated as the commander of the 7th Cavalry (mechanized) Brigade and the "blue" side. His subordinates' actions against the "black" side were so successful that the exercise was stopped early, as the advantage of an aggressive tank offensive over traditional static defense was made very clear.

Chaffee widely applied speedy maneuvers, rapid change in the direction of attack, deep penetration into the enemy rear. In this way, he manages to paralyze the "black" team's attempt to adequately react to the changing situation. A combined arms attack with a concentrated fist of armour proved much more effective than infantry tactics with tanks pulled apart by battalion.

As the Plattsburgh exercises happened before the start of WWII, it is incorrect to state that he copied German Blitzkrieg. His strategy obviously was based on European experience, but it was independently created.

Despite the success of this doctrine, Chaffee decided that it needs serious improvements. In order to reach peak effectiveness, the tank "fist" needed infantry to hold ground and engineers to provide vital support. Chaffee worked on his mistakes and applied his new doctrine to large scale exercises in Louisiana a year later.

This time, the task was harder. Aside from standard objectives, Chaffee's 7th Cavalry Brigade was assigned the 66th Infantry-Tank Brigade as reinforcements. In 48 hours, these two units were supposed to join into one, march for 120 km, and deliver an attack against an enemy.

Despite the fact that this strike unit was formed ltierally on the march, it successfully penetrated organized defenses and reached operational depth. Here is where the exercise ended.

Adna Chaffee's stunning success allowed him to decide the future of the American armoured forces. Senior officers, including Brigadier General George Patton, formed the tank forces as an independent branch of the armed forces with its own doctrine. Conservative infantry and cavalry officers were no longer permitted to make these decisions. Chaffee himself died in 1941 and never saw his creation in action, but he did the most important thing, just in time.

Original article available here.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

PzB 39 Evaluation

"To the Chair of the State Committee of Defense, comrade I. Stalin

Trials of the German PzB 39 7.92 mm rifle by the Red Army Small Arms Scientific Research Proving Grounds showed the following results:
  1. Muzzle velocity: 1189 m/s
  2. Mass: 12.12 kg
  3. Bullet mass: 14.8 grams
  4. Chamber volume: 17.06 cm^3
The rifle penetrates a 20 mm surface hardened plate at a 20 degree angle from 500 meters and a 30 mm surface hardened plate at a 20 degree angle from 300 meters. Further trials were not performed as only 7 rounds were available for testing.

The PzB 39 7.92 mm rifle can be considered an effective weapon against 20 mm armour at 500 meters and 30 mm armour at 300 meters. Considering the army's need of anti-tank rifles, we consider it necessary to produce at least 30,000 rifles similar to the German one annually. As it is not possible to solve this problem using the resources of the People's Commissariat of Armament without reducing production of other weapons, we ask that the "Avtotraktordetal" factory in Saratov be transferred to the NKV.

People's Commissar of Armament, D. Ustinov."

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

IS Tanks

"To comrade Stalin I.V.
To comrade Molotov V.M.

During the course of the Patriotic War, the German Army acquired new anti-tank artillery that is capable of penetrating even T-34 and KV tanks at a distance of 1000 meters. The Kirov factory developed a design for a new tank with improved armour, capable of resisting German anti-tank artillery.

Due to its layout, the new tank is different from any tank currently used by the Red Army, with main armour groups that are 120-100-90 mm thick (KV only has armour 85-60 mm thick, T-34 has 60-45 mm), smaller weight than a KV tank, faster speed, and more powerful armament (a 122 mm gun is installed).

Having been to the Urals and personally examined all materials regarding the design of this new tank, I consider it necessary to immediately produce 2 experimental prototypes for state and military trials with the aim of starting mass production at the Kirov factory immediately after obtaining state approval.

Extensive preparatory work performed at the Kirov factory allows for these new tanks to be ready in two weeks.

I ask for your approval.

I. Zaltsmann. February 23rd, 1943"

RGASPI 644-2-138

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Special Worker Tank Brigade

The Worker and Peasant Red Army wasn't called that for nothing. So many factory workers wanted to fight that special measures had to be taken.

"State Committee of Defense
Decree GKO-98ss issued on July 11th, 1941
Moscow, Kremlin

On the formation of a special tank brigade from specialist tankers from NKSM factories.

The State Committee of Defense approves the proposal of the People's Commissar of Medium Production comrade V.A. Malyshev and GABTU chief comrade Ya.N. Fedorenko to form a volunteer tank brigade of specialist tankers from the Kirov factory, factory #183, and other NKSM factories, and decrees that:
  1. Comrade Malyshev and comrade Fedorenko must form the Special Tank Brigade according to the list in attachment #1 by August 25th, 1941.
    The Special Tank Brigade will be filled with volunteer specialist tankers (mechanic-drivers, gunners, radio operators) from NKSM factories. The commanding and political staff will be provided by the People's Commissariat of Defense, by the GABTU suggestion.
    The Special Tank Brigade will be gathered at the factories, and must be in Moscow by August 25th, 1941.
  2. The proposal of comrade Malyshev that the vehicles for the Special Tank Brigade will be produced above quota is approved.
  3. GAU must supply all the necessary armament and optics to the NKSM for this purpose. Commissar of Armaments comrade Ustinov must ensure that they are produced above quota.
  4. Produce above quota and send to NKSM, as requested:
    1. People's Commissariat of Shipbuilding: armoured hulls, turrets, armoured components.
    2. People's Commissariat of Electronics: radios and communication devices.
  5. Name the Special Tank Brigade established as a result of this decree "NarKomSredMash Special Tank Brigade".
Chair of the State Committee of Defense
I. Stalin"

What a creative name. Let's see what's inside this tank brigade.

"Units of the NarKomSredMash Special Tank Brigade of the Reserve of Supreme Command
  1. Organization
    1. Brigade command
    2. Regular units
      1. Command company
      2. Motorcycle company
    3. Special units
      1. Heavy tank battalion
      2. Medium tank battalion (2)
      3. AT gun squadron
      4. AA squadron
    4. Supply units
  2. Personnel
    1. Senior commanders: 114
    2. Intermediate commanders: 102
    3. Junior commanders: 423
    4. Soldiers: 844
    5. Total: 1483
  3. Materiel and Transport
    1. Materiel
      1. Heavy tanks: 22
      2. Medium tanks: 63
      3. Armoured cars: 16
      4. T-34 with 57 mm gun: 12
      5. 37 mm AA gun: 12
      6. Mounted machineguns: 10
      7. DP machineguns: 34
      8. AA machineguns: 3
      9. 5-AK radios: 4
      10. RB radios: 11
    2. Transport
      1. GAZ-61 cars: 2
      2. Light cars: 5
      3. "Pickup" cars: 3
      4. "Pygmy" cars: 10
      5. GAZ-AA trucks: 8
      6. GAZ-3A trucks: 3
      7. ZiS-5 trucks: 171
      8. ZiS-32 trucks: 15
      9. ZiS-3A staff cars: 1
      10. ZiS-3A entertainment cars: 1
      11. GAZ-AA ambulances: 4
      12. ZiS-5 gasoline cisterns: 32
      13. ZiS-6 oil and water transports: 4
      14. ZiS-5 mobile refrigerators: 1
      15. A-GAZ-3A mobile workshops: 7
      16. Type B ZiS-6 mobile workshops: 3
      17. GAZ-AA PZS mobile recharge stations: 3
      18. Disinfection GAZ-AA: 1
      19. Compressor mounted on ZiS-5: 2
      20. Stalinets-2 tractors: 6
      21. Voroshilovets tractors: 6
      22. Motorcycles with sidecar: 49
      23. Motorcycles without sidecar: 7
      24. Car trailers: 6
      25. Kitchen trailers: 10"
Well, that's quite the list there. Among the many vehicles, you may have noticed one of my favourites, the T-34-57 tank destroyer, a whole 12 of them. If these tanks were actually built, that increases the number of these rare tanks to 27 in total.

Monday, 21 September 2015

The One with the Rifle Shoots

Somehow, the scene from Enemy at the Gates is considered real by some people, but the situation in real life was rather different. Even in blockaded Sevastopol, nobody sent soldiers to the front lines with no rifles.

"Order #03 for the second defense sector, November 19th, 1941
  1. By order of the commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment, 43 rifles were confiscated from rear servicemen of the regiment. 43 soldiers were armed and sent to the front.
I approve of the initiative of the commander of the 31st regiment and order that:
  1. Immediately take inventory of all weapons in the rear forces, leave 1-2 rifles per squad and send the rest to arm the front line troops.
  2. The commandant of the sector HQ must confiscate weapons from rear servicemen, political department, operations department, prosecution, and tribunal.
  3. Immediately confiscate all submachineguns from HQs, regimental and divisional rear servicemen, political department, operations department, prosecution, tribunal, medical units and drivers, send them to:
    1. Regiments: to front line companies and reconnaissance units.
    2. Divisions; to the chief of artillery armament, comrade Oskin.
  4. I must ask commanders and commissars to pay attention to some soldiers that, when the enemy pressures them, retreat and throw down their rifles and even machineguns.
    I demand the strictest responsibility of soldiers and commanders for the weapons given to them. Those that abandon their weapons will be brought before a military tribunal. Form small squads headed by a brave unit commander to retrieve weapons from the dead and heavily wounded in each company. Each rifle and especially machinegun must be saved no matter what."
Via gistory.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: General Frost's Battle Sled

In the winter of 1941, a donation drive started in Germany gathering winter clothing for the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front, including ladies' coats and muffs. At the same time, around Moscow, Tula, and Mtsensk, countless products of the German war machine stalled, froze, and broke down. "General Frost" fought not only against the Germans; the Red Army faced no less grief from him. However, the Soviets were more experienced at winter combat than the Germans. This is clearly seen from the most successful operations in the first half of the Great Patriotic War being conducted in the winter.

A significant amount of military inventions were focused on fighting in the cold. This theme gained a lot of popularity as a result of the Winter War, fought in a harsh climate. As a result, the 1940s saw a large amount of interesting and unusual projects, many of which have not been published to this day.

From motorized skis to a snow glider

In May of 1941, a Kharkov sanitation technician named H. Sleptsov sent a letter to the Commissar of Defense S. Timoshenko. He proposed a vehicle with three skis, one controllable front one and two rear ones. This vehicle would be propelled by a motorcycle engine, connected by a roller chain to a spiked front wheel. The steering column would also house the armament, a Maxim machinegun.

The letter was written in pencil on scraps of paper. The author's grammar was lacking: "The speed of the motor skis is equal to a motorcicle". Nevertheless, the military passed the proposal to the RKKA Engineering Vehicle Research Institute, and then to the GABTU department of inventions, where it was carefully studied by experts. Having received a rejection with a description of the proposal's drawbacks, Sleptsov was not satisfied. Just a day before the start of the Great Patriotic War, he wrote another letter. He asked to reconsider his idea and bring him to Moscow to aid in the direction of the work. Despite the difficult times of the early war, even this letter was given a due response. Of course, Sleptsov did not get his way.

In July of 1941, the People's Commissariat of Defense received a proposal from engineer A. Grandilevskiy titled "Winter Raider". The author envisioned a vehicle that could jump on a snowy surface at high speed and conceal itself in a snow screen, similar to a smokescreen. The raider would be equipped with an auxiliary rocket engine and a signal flare launcher. "I am convinced that units of these vehicles operating in the region of the lakes (northern regions and Finnish front) would guarantee the enemy's defeat" - he wrote.

The idea that a fighting vehicle could traverse not only land was popular. Muscovite V. Morozov wrote a letter in September of 1941, starting it with a poetic phrase "The famous Russian winter begins..." For Red Army units fighting in the snows, the author proposed "an aerodynamic parabolic wing on skis, armed with machineguns and ports for grenade launchers". The author insisted that "the snow glider cannot be compared to a clumsy aerosled". The vehicle was propelled with a GAZ truck engine. Morozov listed the advantages of his device: simplicity in both use and production. He did not attach a blueprint, only a pencil sketch. That is all that remains of his invention.

Salamander against fascism, pedal power, and winged skis

In February of 1942, two engineers from the Nevyansk, A. Kuznetsov and P. Alp, sent a letter titled "Salamander against fascism" directly to Stalin. The title was explained thusly: "A salamander is an animal that can adopt the colour of its surroundings, is poisonous, swiftly attacks its prey after silently approaching, is low to the ground in shape".

The armoured hull on two pairs of skis would fit one Red Armyman, capable of firing from a machinegun. The vehicle would also be equipped with rails that could fire rockets. A similar device later made a British army unit famous, Coldstream Guards Battalion S, where Sherman Firefly tanks carried launchers for 76 mm rockets. However, GAU rejected the Salamander, rockets and all.

Fighting while prone in a steel tube is not very comfortable. However, in December of 1942, engineer-designer V. Lokai proposed a motorized sled design where its two crewmembers lay on both sides of the engine. The author's reasoning was that using armoured vehicles or motorcycles in the winter becomes difficult, and a regular aerosled is poorly protected and gives away its position with the sound of its engine and propeller. Lokai considered a low to the ground vehicle on skis a solution to this problem. He considered that its motorcycle engine, if necessary, could be replaced with a pedal drive or pneumatics for travelling short distances when penetrating the front lines.

One can only be jealous of the creators' imaginations. Lokai was not the only one with his pedal drive. In 1944, inventor D. Galagan conceived the "Autohorse" aerosled, consisting of two hulls on skis, driven not by a propeller on the back, but by paddle-wheels on the sides.

Finally, in the victorious spring of 1945, machinist K. Klobukov surpassed all his predecessors. He proposed mechanical skis of his own design, adding "I also want you to include collapsible wings, so that any inconvenient obstacle could be flown over".

Despite their strangeness, these projects were not just fantasies of lazy inventors. This was a way of understanding and summarizing combat experience and an honest attempt by civilians to help the Red Army. Extreme climate conditions are just one source of inspiration.

Original article available here.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Avalanche on the Beaches of Italy

In August of 1943, the Western Allies captured Sicily. The next step in the war was a landing in Italy. In order to distract the enemy from Salerno, where the landing would take place (Operation Avalanche), the British performed a decoy landing at Reggio Calabria, on the sole of the "Italian boot". However, this deception was not successful, and parts of the Wehrmacht were ready to face the main invasion.

The invasion was not Germany's only problem. On September 8th, 1943, Italy announced that it was dropping out of the war. Germany's response was sudden and harsh: Italian forces were disarmed and the country was occupied. The German army was left to defend Italy alone.

On the night from September 8th to September 9th, Allied vessels neared the shore.

Hot morning on the Italian beach

The German 16th Tank Division covered a significant portion of the Salerno bay. There were not enough forces for an uninterrupted defensive perimeter. Instead, the Germans created several defensive positions near beaches that were convenient for a landing and populated them with infantry and artillery. The 16th division itself was split up into mobile groups of tanks and trucks or APCs with infantry. These groups were supposed to rapidly drive to any landing site and stop the invaders.

The Allies did not expect the Germans to know they were coming. American commanders even considered that an artillery barrage should be omitted to increase secrecy. In reality, the Germans were getting ready for battle while their ships were just approaching the bar.

In the British sector, landing ships came under fire on their way into the bay and took losses. It was obvious that the element of surprise was gone. When their soldiers managed to reach the shore, they encountered stiff resistance.

The American sector had even bigger problems for its attackers. The 36th Infantry Division landed in two places: north and south of the city of Paestum. The Germans did not open fire prematurely. Only the sounds of the ships' engines broke the silence. However, as soon as the Americans were close to shore, they were met with deadly artillery and mortar fire. Those that made it to shore found themselves facing German tanks.

1:0 for Infantry

At 7:00, the stunned attackers were counterattacked by 15 German tanks without infantry support. 7 vehicles drove forward while the rest fired from concealment. The American infantry found itself in a challenging situation. They were on a beach with no cover, artillery didn't set up yet, and the Americans included no armour in the first wave of the landings.

The only things the advance guard of the infantry had were bazookas and one 37 mm gun. One German PzIV approached to 800 meters and opened fire from its machineguns. Two infantrymen rushed to their gun and returned fire. Of course, a 37 mm shell could not do much to a PzIV from that range, but it was enough to force the tank to withdraw.

The Germans kept the Americans pinned down, but divisional scouts came to the rescue. They deployed a .50 cal machinegun and opened fire on one of the forward tanks. While the crew was distracted by the large caliber bullets, two Americans snuck up to the tank and fired on it with bazookas and rifle grenades. With support from other infantry, one PzIV was destroyed. The other six pulled back.

Soon, 4 more German tanks went on the offensive, but American artillery was already set up. The Germans were met with fire from two 105 mm howitzers, which forced them to break off the attack and retreat. Two more tanks were driven away by AA guns.

The landing was still in grave dancer. German snipers and machineguns kept the beach under constant fire. The Americans were taking losses, the number of wounded grew. German tanks kept coming back.

Establishing a foothold

An artillery observer arrived with a landing wave, who could correct fire of ships' guns. The Germans could no longer think about continuing their attacks and hurriedly withdrew. Two tanks were not very lucky that day and suffered hits from 127 and 203 mm shells. The surviving tanks left the shoreline and retreated into cover.

By noon, the German commanders understood that it is fruitless to keep attacking in the south, as the chance to push the invaders back into the sea was gone. Ground gained in successful counterattacks could not be held due to a lack of forces. Tanks that attacked without infantry support were vulnerable in close combat and could not hold positions on their own.

The attacks north of Paestum started later than at southern beaches. At around 11:30, 13 German tanks moved out towards the HQ of the American 142nd regiment. A 105 mm howitzer crew noticed the approaching enemy. They turn the gun and engaged. The gun was set up in the open and the crew was at great risk, but luck was on their side that day. Soon, five tanks were knocked out and the rest withdrew.

The last attack was around noon. Everyone who could fight engaged the 10 PzIVs: infantry with bazookas, 105 mm howitzers, SPGs that managed to land by then, and a 37 mm gun. The Germans lost more than half of their tanks, the rest retreated to initial positions.

While infantry and a few artillerymen fought off German tanks, more and more forces reached the beaches. Soon, the Americans gathered enough strength to advance, capture a few German positions, and widen their foothold. Operation Avalanche was free to continue into Italy.

Original article available here.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Novelties on the Baltic Front

"New armament of the German army

Interrogations of prisoners and captured documents demonstrate that the enemy forces opposing the Front have new types of armament. For example:
  1. New electrically fired 88 mm anti-tank gun used by anti-tank gun companies. The gun can penetrate a T-34 at 3000 meters.
  2. There is a new subcaliber HEAT shell for the 75 mm AT gun. The 37 mm AT gun was removed from AT units and transferred to infantry units.
  3. Prisoners and defectors say that the German army designed a new type of submachinegun with a side magazine, but the submachinegun was not issued yet.
  4. Many soldiers state that the MG-42 is impractical as it needs too much ammunition and jams often. Soldiers prefer the MG-34.
  5. The Tiger uses additional 3 mm spaced armour placed some distance in front of the main front armour. This additional armour is meant to reduce the effectiveness of AP shells and to detonate HEAT and HE shells before they hit the main armour.
  6. The 75 mm gun in new assault guns is movable, which makes aiming easier compared to earlier assault guns with an immobile gun.
  7. Fully rubber gas masks, introduced in 1943, were taken away from all soldiers on March 15th, 1944, and replaced with old masks made from rubberized fabric. Soldiers without filters marked "April 1943" had their filters replaced with a filter with these markings. New filters have a large opening in the bottom covered with a mesh instead of many small openings."
Via biserg.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

American Steel

"State Committee of Defense Decree #3056s
March 19th, 1943
Moscow, Kremlin

On the use of American armour plates in production of T-70, T-80, SU-12, and armoured trains
  1. Allow the NKTP (comrade Zaltsmann) to:
    1. Use 6, 10, and 15 mm armoured plates, equivalent in armoured resistance to domestic plates, for general purposes according to existing standards for armour in 1943.
    2. Allow 35 mm thick armour that spalls in an area less than 5 calibers in diameter to be used in manufacturing.
    3. 35 mm thick plate with carbon content of up to 0.26% can be used for T-70, T-80, and SU-12 hulls.
    4. 35 mm thick plate with carbon content of over 0.26% can be used as armour for trains and for T-70 and T-80 turrets welded in high tempering mode.
  2. The NKTP (comrade Zaltsmann) must establish a technological process for preparation and welding of components from American armoured plates that guarantees quality according to presently established standards.
Deputy Chair of the State Committee of Defense, V. Molotov"

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Friendly Competition

"Order #0178
November 19th, 1941, 13:00 Map 50.000

In order to destroy enemy tanks, armoured cars and vehicles, as well as burning settlements occupied by the enemy, the commander orders:

Combine bottles filled with incendiary fluid and anti-tank grenades with all types of anti-tank defenses, for which:
  1. Check the presence of bottles and prepare them for battle.
  2. Pick out the best soldiers from tank destroyer units formed by order #013 (preferably volunteers), form them up into groups (5-7 per group) and after studying tank-accessible directions, position them in an echelon order declaring a competition for who can destroy the most tanks.
  3. Tank destroyer positions should be immune to grenades thrown from enemy tanks, but the tank destroyers can maneuver both along the front and in depth of the defenses.
  4. To avoid significant dispersion of the infantry units, it is acceptable to take sappers and soldiers from chemical defense units for these tasks.
  5. The regimental commander and commissar are responsible for the combat readiness of tank destroyer groups.
Report on the completion by November 23rd, 1941."

Via gistory

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Planes vs Tanks

"On March 19th, 1943, 26 tanks from the 18th Guards Tank Brigade were knocked out by an enemy air raid, 19 of them T-34s. Near Stanova, 3rd Guards Tank Brigade lost the following from aircraft fire:
  1. T-34 commanded by Jr. Lieutenant Borisov. The vehicle was completely destroyed by a bomb that hit the engine deck.
  2. T-34 commanded by Guards Lieutenant Gorbatov, burned up from a shell that hit the engine.
  3. T-34 commanded by Guards Lieutenant Smirnov, burned up from a direct hit by a shell.
  4. T-34 commanded by Lieutenant Saakyan, hull armour was deformed by direct hit from a bomb, the vehicle is unusable.
  5. T-34 commanded by Lieutenant Froman, oil system punctured by cannon shell, engine destroyed. The vehicle is unusable.
  6. T-34 commanded by Lieutenant Zorkin, knocked out by a shell that hit the engine group.
  7. T-34 commanded by Lieutenant Gres, burned up from a cannon shell hit.
  8. T-34 commanded by Lieutenant Meschankin, burned up from a direct hit from a shell.
  9. T-34 commanded by commander Gladush, cannon damaged by shell."
Via biserg.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Long Living KV-2

The KV-2 was a tank needed for a very particular purpose, to attack heavy fortifications. Since there were no enemy fortifications to attack in 1941, production was ceased, and relatively few KV-2s survived the first months of the war. However, this particular vehicle seems to have made it quite far.

"July 6th, 1942. The 34th Independent Tank Brigade is in the previous positions. The personnel of brigade elements were busy with preparing for battle and political instruction. One KV tank with a large turret (152 mm gun) was received. The HQ company is in the same place wit 3 T-60 tanks operational. Personnel are repairing wheeled transport, preparing for battle, and undergoing political instruction. The rear of the brigade and second echelon of the HQ moves to the forest east of Natalyevka in the night of July 7th. No changes in brigade armament and supply chain."

This KV-2 saw combat in August, and then was transferred to the 145th Tank Brigade in September. The tank survived the winter and returned to fight in 1943.

"The KV-2 tank blocked the path for German tanks with its hull by driving on the crossing and engaging in a firefight. The KV-2 crew destroyed two enemy tanks. An enemy counterattack with infantry and tanks was destroyed by our tanks in ambush. In total, 8 enemy tanks knocked out, 2 burned up."

"Award order
  1. Name: Grabelniy, Iosif Semyonovich
  2. Rank: Guards Sergeant
  3. Position, unit: Breech operator of a KV-2 heavy tank, 1st Tank Battalion, 43rd Guards Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the Order of the Red Star.
  4. Year of birth: 1921
  5. Nationality: Ukrainian
  6. Party affiliation: VLKSM
  7. Participation in the Civil War and subsequent actions in defense of the Soviet Union (where, when): in the Patriotic War since June 1941 (Western Front)
  8. Wounds and concussions in the Patriotic War: wounded three times: November 4th, 1941, November 16th, 1941, September 16th, 1942
  9. In the Red Army since: 1941
  10. Recruited by: Sheptovskiy recruitment office, Kamenets-Podolskiy oblast
  11. Prior awards: none
Brief and specific description of heroism or achievements: Participated in an attack building on the success of penetrating enemy defenses on July 13th, 1943 near Otvershek village, north of the Fomin river valley. In battle, he acted bravely and with initiative. His crew destroyed two enemy tanks and the rest turned to flee, allowing our units to advance.

July 16th, 1943, in battle for Kireykino village in Orel oblast, his tank destroyed two cannons, three pillboxes, three machineguns, and up to 56 enemy soldiers.

He is worthy of the Order of the Red Star."

Sunday, 13 September 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Soviet Blitzkrieg in Manchuria

In May of 1945, the USSR invalidated the neutrality agreement with Japan. On August 9th of that year, the Red Army and Mongolian forces attacked Japanese forces in Manchuria. This was the fulfilment of a promise given at the Yalta conference to the Western Allies, a promise to declare war on Japan within three months of the defeat of Germany.

The enemy of the Soviet forces was the Kwantung Army, once one of the most prestigious land units of Japan. By 1945 it was heavily weakened and its technical situation left much to be desired. Nevertheless, the Japanese forces in Manchuria numbered 600-700 thousand men. The Transbaikal Front delivered a strike to the north-western part of the Manchurian state (Manchukuo).  The 6th Guards Tank Army was a part of the main offensive.

March Across the Gobi

The main component of the armoured forces were T-34s and American Shermans. Additionally, the army was reinforced with obsolete T-26 and BT tanks that were used by individual units whose main opponents were border guards.

Soviet commanders rightfully assumed that Soviet tanks will dominate the Manchurian battlefield, both in number and in quality. One of the most important demands from all forces, including tanks, was speed: a swift offensive, defeat of Japanese forces, and capture of territory. The commanders specified that "the treatment of the Chinese population must be as benevolent as possible... Retain local governments on occupied territories with the addition of a military commandant for keeping order."

During the first stage of the offensive, the 6th Guards Tank Army encountered almost no resistance. Its greatest enemy was nature. The borders of Manchuria greeted them with 150 kilometers of dry steppe with sandy terrain, impassable for wheeled vehicles, and occasional swamps and hills that gave even tanks trouble. Once in a while, engineers had to get involved, strengthening the loose sandy ground with fascines.

Every tank carried water for two days of travel. The weather was hot, and soldiers had to be constantly reminded that water must be preserved. According to documents, this order was often ignored, but it's hard to judge people walking under the scorching sun, shaking in trucks, or sitting in red-hot tanks. During the march through the desert, several soldiers died of heatstroke.

Greater Khingan Up Ahead

The army was advancing rapidly. Infantry was moving at up to 50 kilometers per day, more mobile units covered 150. By the evening of August 10th, the 6th army reached Greater Khingan.

The Japanese had a good reason for retreating into Central Manchuria. They thought that Greater Khingan was going to stall the Red Army, and for a good reason. In the region of the offensive, the mountains of the Khingan reached 1500 meters in height, covered in forests and gorges, mountain passes even had swamps.

The assumption was incorrect. It took the 6th GTA about a day to cross the Greater Khingan. This was not an easy task. The terrain was not only difficult, but unexplored. There were no precise maps. Reconnaissance had to be done on the go. Engineers performed marvelous work, making paths through impassable terrain. A whole kilometer of hillside was removed in the path of the 5th Guards Tank Corps. Engineers spent hours waist-deep in freezing water of Khoren-Gol, laying rocks down to make sure the tanks don't get stuck.

At the Kondolmo mountain pass, Soviet units encountered a Japanese military school that was preparing saboteurs. A quick battle ensued, as a result of which the Japanese lost 20 men, and the rest dispersed through the mountains.

The descent was not any easier. Rain fell, and the ground became slippery. Tanks had to be lowered on cables in certain places. Vehicles in the rear acted as anchors for the ones in the front. Most of the army's trucks were stuck, and caught up only at Lubei, where the army stopped on August 11th.

Lubei's garrison was not large and did not put up a serious fight. The Japanese were shaken, not by the strength of Soviet weapons, but the speed at which they crossed the mountains which they considered impassable. A Japanese general that was captured a week and a half later recalled "When you reached Khingan, we were calm. We expected that you will tier yourself out, and, in the best case for you, turn back. No military force since Tamerlane was brave enough to enter those mountains. And suddenly, your tanks, artillery, infantry are at Lubei..."

In Central Manchuria

Lubei was a target for the fifth day of the operation, but the 6th Guards Tank Army was ahead of schedule by 3 days. It was over 300 kilometers ahead of other units of the Transbaikal Front. Such a powerful formation with operational freedom was a critical problem for the Kwantung Army, not giving it any time to establish defences. Kravchenko's forces now had to prevent the enemy from retreating into northern China and to the Liaodong Peninsula. Units set out on the march as soon as fuel was available. Mukden and Changchun were the targets of this offensive.

The army's progress was still quick, and resistance still weak. A good demonstration of this was the capture of Tongliao by a motorcycle battalion acting as the 5th Guards Tank Corps' advance guard.

The weather went bad again, covering Central Manchuria in rain. Soviet armoured columns stretched out for kilometers, engineers worked without rest. Only their efforts could ensure that the army moves forward. Terrain was so bad that in come places Soviet tanks and cars had to move by railroad embankments and ford rivers when the railroad hit a bridge. This was a serious trial for cars, especially heavy trucks, and many vehicles broke down. The average speed of the column dropped to 12 kph.

On August 18th, while marching across the railroad, Soviet tankers were thrice attacked by kamikaze planes. Six aircraft rammed the column, burned up one tank and one car, three men died. Near Aersan station, another plane managed to light up a tank. Another two crashed into the ground dealing no damage.

Paratroops and the Captured Emperor

Since Soviet forces had to reach the Pacific shores of China and the situation with fuel was bad, Transbaikal Front command decided to drop paratroops in strategic locations: Mukden, Changchun, Dailan, and Port Arthur. Since the Front had no paratroopers, the units were formed from the 6th Guards Tank Army's infantry. The paratrooper groups numbered 150-200 men.

Compared to Changchun's 40,000 garrison, this was nothing, but it was enough to capture key locations in the city: the telegraph, bank, train station, etc, as well as disarm the garrison. Guards Lieutenant Colonel M. Melnichenko's group succeeded within three hours. Japanese generals were among the prisoners.

Of course, a captured general is a big deal, but Guards Major P. Chelyshev, the commander of the Mukden group, performed even better. As with Changchun, the paratroopers quickly captured key locations in the city. A group of civilians was discovered on the second floor of the airport. This turned out to be Puyi, emperor of Manchukuo, and his entourage.

The Dailan and Port Arthur drops were also successful. Several days later, the cities were completely occupied by forces of the 6th Guards Tank Army, ending its 1400 km march through Manchuria. On September 2nd, 1945, Japan announced its unconditional surrender.

Original article available here.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: SIG Tank Destroyer

The search for an ideal design of a one-man fighting machine started towards the end of the 19th century. In the interbellum period, this search led to tankettes, which were adopted by all developed armies. Eventually, the popularity of vehicles with only one or two crewmen passed, as their combat performance left much to be desired.

However, inventors did not stop. Even during the Great Patriotic War, projects of single-seater mobile bunkers continued to arrive at the Department of Inventions. One of the was the "SIG Tank Destroyer", designed by S.I. Galperin from Votkinsk.

The Design of the Destroyer

Compared to other unusual and typically impossible projects proposed to GABTU, Galperin's design, submitted in December of 1942, was very well thought out.

The "SIG Tank Destroyer" consisted of a spherical hull made of 40 mm thick armour in the front, 20 mm in the sides and rear, and 16 mm on the bottom. Galperin considered this sufficient to protect from bullets and shrapnel, as well as 37 mm guns up to 100 meters.

The vehicle's suspension was made up of a 1.75m diameter wheel, wrapping the hull in the middle. A small doubled wheel in the rear was used for turning. Unaware of the design, Galperin repeated a 30 year old solution used in the Tsar Tank, as the latter was also equipped with a rear turning bogey.

Galperin considered that this vehicle will be very mobile. The maximum speed of the SIG, even on swampy ground, was estimated to be 120 kph thanks to its 200 hp engine mounted on shock absorbers in the floor. The tank destroyer could climb a 0.6 meter wall of a 50 degree slope.

Armed to the Teeth

The author wrote this about the potential of his tank destroyer: "With superior speed and tactical agility than German tanks, the tank destroyer will be able to suddenly approach the enemy from the rear and destroy them at a range of 10-30 meters". Galperin designed his vehicle to be used against enemy armoured columns, demoralization and destruction of his soldiers and horses, as well as "suppression of MG nests with fire and weight". The inventor considered a mass of 2.5 tons sufficient for this task.

Sparing no expense, Galperin armed his vehicle with an anti-tank gun, a grenade launcher, a flamethrower, and a machinegun. This abundance of armament came with some quirks when it came to design and control. For instance, Galperin proposed that the conical barrel of the AT gun would spin when fired, without mentioning a reason. The gun was aimed vertically by moving the steering wheel up and down. There was no horizontal traverse for the cannon or the grenade launcher; the driver had to rotate the entire vehicle to aim. There was also no loading mechanism described, although Galperin did write that the grenade launcher magazine would have to be switched manually.

The flamethrower consisted of a regular tank of incendiary fluid or gasoline, pumped into a barrel for projection. It was paired with the machinegun and could be aimed independently of the hull. It would be difficult to deal with this arsenal for one person, but Galperin was sure that "the amount of operations for driving and shooting has been minimized".


The author was sure of the SIG's superiority over German vehicles. "German type III and type IV tanks have manual turret traverse of up to 10 degrees per second, a fruitless attempt". The secret to success was the use of a group of such vehicles that could cover each other.

As Yuri Pasholok fairly remarks, "Aside from a progressive design and advanced armament, the vehicle had a number of drawbacks..." The driver of the tank destroyer would have to perform all crew member functions. Galperin didn't write anything about observation, but the vision slits included in the drawings were clearly insufficient for observation. Also, there was no engine of appropriate dimensions and power that could fit in the SIG. Galperin's proposal was declined.

Despite the unusual design, it does not deserve excessive mockery. This proposal, along with many others, is a product of its environment. Galperin applied his knowledge and experience to this project, and one cannot deny that the design was original. The fact that one-man fighting vehicles remained on paper was a conceptual flaw in the application of such vehicles in combat. It was identified by ABTU specialists back in the 1930s: "It is difficult for one person to both drive and observe the battlefield, not to mention firing the gun..." It was only possible to come back to the reduction of crewmen once automation technology started appearing.

Original article available here.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Repairing Captured Tanks

"State Committee of Defense Decree #2941ss
February 24th, Moscow, Kremlin
On the repair of captured tanks in Stalingrad, Voronezh, and Don regions.

On the use of captured tanks that can be repaired, the State Committee of Defense decrees that:
  1. The responsibility for restoration and repairs of captured tanks in the Stalingrad, Voronezh, and Don regions is given to the Chief Directorate of Tank Repair in the NKTP.
  2. The Chief Directorate of Tank Repair (comrade Goreglyad) must organize repair bases for captured tanks in the regions where their concentration is highest, primarily around Stalingrad (Sarepta, Zimovniki, Kotelnikovo, Kalach).
  3. Allow the Chief Directorate of Tank Repair to disassemble into assemblies, components, and individual parts tanks that cannot be restored, and then use those assemblies, components, and individual parts for repair of other captured tanks that can be restored.
  4. The Directorate of Captured Armament (comrade Shimonovskiy) must:
    1. Transfer all captured tank parts to the Chief Directorate of Tank Repair.
    2. Perform inventory of captured tanks in the vicinity of Stalingrad, Sarepta, Kotelnikovo, Zimovniki, Tatsinskaya, Surovikino, Kalach, Kachalino, and send these records to the Chief Directorate of Tank Repair by March 10th, 1943.
      All captured tanks that can be repaired are to be evacuated, concentrated in the aforementioned regions, and guarded until transferred to the Chief Directorate of Tank Repair of the NKTP.
  5. The Chief Directorate of Tank Repair of the NKTP must return 10 repaired captured tanks without armament to the Directorate of Captured Armament in April of 1943 to be used as tractors.
  6. Count every captured tank that is repaired by the NKTP as a new tank. Count every three captured tanks that are repaired by the NKTP as two new tanks.
  7. GBTU (comrade Vershinin) must send 25 men specializing in repairs of foreign tanks by March 1st, 1943 to the Chief Directorate of Tank Repair.
  8. Leave the NKTP's mobile tank repair base, formed according to GOKO decree #2887ss issued on February 14th, 1943. Leave all personnel currently assigned to that repair base. 
Deputy Chair of the State Committee of Defense, V. Molotov"

Thursday, 10 September 2015

KV's Replacements

"Decree of the State Committee of Defense #1878
June 5th, 1942

On the improvements to KV-1 tanks

The State Committee of Defense decrees that experience in using the KV-1 tank in battle revealed the following drawbacks of the KV tank:
  1. Its heavy weight at 47.5 tons reduces its combat value, and makes it more difficult to use.
  2. The gearbox is insufficiently reliable due to insufficient robustness of the first and slow gears and gearbox case.
  3. Insufficiently powerful cooling, as a result of which lower gears must often be used, which reduces the average speed and limits the full power of the diesel engine.
  4. The visibility from the tank is insufficient, due to a lack of commander's cupola and inconvenient locations of observation devices.
In order to get rid of the aforementioned drawbacks, the State Committee of Defense decrees that:
  1. The NKTP (comrade Malyshev), director of the Kirov factory comrade Zaltsmann, and chief designer, comrade Kotin, must ensure that as of August 1st, 1942, KV-1 tanks that weigh no more than 42.5 tons are being made.
  2. Allow the following measures for the NKTP (Kirov factory), Uralmash factory, and factory #200 to reduce weight to 42.5 tons:
    1. Reduce the thickness of side armour, LFP, and turret armour from 75 mm to 60 mm.
    2. Remove the driver's plate armour screen.
    3. Reduce the thickness of the floor to 30 mm.
    4. Reduce the thickness of the cast turret walls and gun mantlet to 80-85 mm, as well as reducing the volume of the cast turret, keeping the turret ring diameter.
    5. Reduce the track width to 650 mm.
      Until August 1st of this year, NKTP and Kirov factory are allowed to produce no more than 10 47.5 KV-1 tanks per day.
  3. The NKTP, Kirov factory director comrade Zaltsmann, chief designer comrade Kotin, and GABTU must complete trials of the 8-speed gearbox KV tank by July 15th of this year and begin production of tanks with this gearbox on August 1st, 3 per day, starting on August 15th, 5 per day, and starting on September 1st, build only tanks with this gearbox.
  4. Take into account the message from Kirov factory's chief designer about defects in the existing 5-speed gearbox being removed in the following ways:
    1. A more robust design and stronger materials for the case.
    2. Improved robustness of the first and slow gears due to the use of higher quality steel.
  5. GABTU and comrade Fedorenko must finish replacing defective gearboxes by June 25th with improved gearboxes.
  6. In order to improve cooling of KV-1 tanks in high temperatures, NKTP, comrade Malyshev, director of Kirov factory, comrade Zaltsmann, and chief designer of the Kirov factory, comrade Kotin must begin production of KV-1 tanks with new finned radiators, new fans with stamped blades, and machined fan cases by July 1st, 1942.
  7. NKTP (director of the Kirov factory, comrade Zaltsmann) must provide GABTU with 50 finned radiators in July and 100 in August.
    GABTU chief comrade Fedorenko must ensure that old fans are replaced with new ones during major repairs.
  8.  NKTP, comrade Malyshev, director of Kirov factory, comrade Zaltsmann, and chief designer of the Kirov factory, comrade Kotin must begin production of KV-1 tanks with commander's cupolas starting from September 1st of this year.
  9. In order to ensure further weight reduction and increased speed of the KV-1, the NKTP (Kirov factory) is allowed to produce two KV-13 tanks according to the previous proposal:
    1. Mass: no more than 35 tons
    2. Armour
      1. Sides: 60 mm rolled
      2. Front (cast): 100 mm
      3. Rear (cast): 80-85 mm
      4. Turret platform (cast): 80-85 mm
    3. Commander's cupola on the turret
    4. Speed:
      1. Highway: up to 50 kph
      2. Off-road: 20-25 kph
    5. Engine: 600 hp V2-K diesel
    6. Armament: 76.2 mm F-34 gun and 2 coaxial DT machineguns
    7. Ammunition: 60-70 76 mm shells, 2500-3000 DT rounds
    8. Crew: 4 (commander and also radio operator, gunner, loader, driver)
    9. Fuel range: 250-300 km on highway
      The rest of the requirements will be confirmed by NKTP and GABTU.
  10. NKTP (comrade Malyshev) and Kirov factory (comrade Zaltsmann) must produce two experimental KV-13 prototypes by August 10th of this year, test them by September 10th of this year with GABTU and provide a report to GOKO regarding the trials and suggestions on producing the KV-13 at the Kirov factory by September 15th."

The rest of the decree isn't all that interesting (just shuffling around some industrial resources for the new armour), but Stalin's red pencil is at it again, and the KV-13 is crossed out for the time being. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Tiger Hunger

After a rather sizeable showing of German heavy tanks at Kursk, the Red Army expected rapid re-armament of the Wehrmacht to use these new vehicles in large numbers, but reality is rather disappointing.

"To the HQ Chief of the Bryansk Front
#01092, September 27th, 1943

I report that:
  1. There were no Tiger or Panther tanks among captured enemy tanks, nor were there Ferdinand SPGs.
  2. Out of 20 captured tanks and 3 SPGs, none are combat capable, a part have burned up, others need repairs.
HQ Chief, 11th Army, Major-General Korneev
11th Army HQ Operations Department Chief, Lieutenant-Colonel Lototskiy"

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

IS-3 Prototype Usability Problems

Some people insist that Soviet tank designers paid no attention to comfort and usability, but that is far from the case. For instance, this report on early IS-3 prototype trials is almost entirely concerned with comfort of the crew.

"Report on results of trials of the Kirovets-1 #2 prototype by the military representative, performed on February 16th, 1945

The vehicle travelled 50 km on a dirt road. The average movement speed was 27.3 kph.
  • Maximum water temperature: 75 degrees
  • Maximum oil temperature in the engine: 60 degrees
  • Ambient temperature: -14 degrees
Complaints regarding various components of the vehicle and their location:
  1. The driver's compartment is cramped. The driver is constricted by the machinegun disk magazine holders to the left and right, propellant casings, shells, and toolbox.
    When driving with the hatch open, the observation device carrier impedes switching gears.
  2. The driver's seat needs to be improved, as it lowers itself on bumps. It must be more robust.
  3. The driver's hatch is too small. Entering and exiting while wearing warm clothing is difficult.
  4. The hatch needs padding on the perimeter, as the driver can be injured while driving with the hatch open.
  5. There are two propellant casings on the wall between the fighting compartment and engine compartment that make access to the engine difficult.
  6. The placement of the 10-RK radio station is difficult, as its size makes it stick out of the turret bustle.
  7. The new turret makes installation and removal of the engine difficult in field conditions.
The turret covers the engine. When taking out the engine, one must remove the gearbox, radiators, 2-4 torsion bars, and then carefully lift the engine around the turret."

Monday, 7 September 2015

Cheating at Statistics 11: Bix and his Tricks

I will be the first to admit that I'm very unfair on Tiger battalions when it comes to challenging kill claims, mostly because of how easy it is. However, today let's pick on a different target, a tank ace named Hermann Bix, specifically his brief period of time fighting in a Jagdpanther in 1945. The book Jagdpanther vs. SU-100: Eastern Front describes many of his alleged feats in the region, but only one has a date associated with it: he knocked out 16 tanks on February 25th, 1945 "near Stargard in Pomerania". However, you all know what we think of claims around these parts, so let's take a closer look.

"Pomerania" and "1945" are enough to get a sense of where the action was happening. Here is a fragment of the map of the creatively named "East Pomerania and Silesia Offensive, February 8th to April 4th 1945", showing off the northern action. Stargard Szczeciński appears on the map as Штаргард (Shtargard), outlined with a yellow rectangle, in the path of the 61st Army.

Let's take a look at what the 61st Army was doing on this day.

"Forces of the Army reinforced fortifications on the line from the previous day, performed reconnaissance and had shootouts with the enemy. Forces on the left flank regrouped, replacing elements of the 2nd Guards Tank Army."

Oh, what's this? I wonder what happened to all of their tanks. Perhaps the records of the 2nd GTA will tell us more.

"On February 25th, elements of the 2nd GTA transferred their positions to elements of the 61st Army, motorized infantry was marching to new locations, the other part was fighting over Piritz."

Let's dig a little deeper into the situation. The book claims that Bix destroyed 4 "American Lend-Lease tanks". The only Lend-Lease tanks around at the time were the Shermans of the 1st Mechanized Corps so, let's check up on them too.

"Acting under directive #00346/OP from the 1st Baltic Front HQ issued on February 23rd, 1945, the 1st Mechanized Corps of the 2nd Guards Tank Army was transferred under the operative subordination to the 47th Army as of 6:00 on February 25th, 1945, and was concentrated in the regions of Kerkov, Linde, (particularly) Rufen."

That's it. No glorious battle, nothing, just concentration in reserve. Naturally, no tanks are recorded in the "losses" section for that day. The next day, the tanks remain in the forest, with the HQ established at Kerkov. 

It would appear that the tanks Bix claimed to have destroyed indeed disappeared, but he had nothing to do with it. Perhaps the presence follows by the absence of tanks was good enough for his commanders to record these kills, perhaps they were desperate to write down some victories and didn't particularly care. Either way, that's another reason why blindly trusting unverified claims is a good way to make a fool of yourself.

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: Moving Fortress

The saying "the best defense is a good offense" is well known, but not indisputable. If it was true, there would be no fortresses. People weathered sieges and assaults behind their walls for thousands of years. When the 20th century came and brought internal combustion engines with it, some people thought "why not bring a fortress into motion?"

Guards Major Derkach (initials unknown) was a pilot in the 7th Guards Rzhev Fighter Air Division or the 2nd Fighter Air Corps, but he decided to design a land-based giant with colossal firepower. Its design was sent to ABTU in the fall of 1943.

Absolute firepower

First, Derkach described the properties of his "moving fortress". He started with:

"Due to its large internal volume, it can fit powerful armament inside, equal to one artillery and one infantry regiment, or, taking its invincibility into account, the power of one infantry division."

The inventor armed his creation with 16 medium caliber guns and 35-40 machineguns, as well as "active offensive chemical weapons". The moving fortress was designed to break through enemy defensive lines. Enemy fire would be unable to harm this all-crushing monstrosity.

"Due to its shape, it is impervious to all types of weapons, except maybe a direct hit from a heavy shell... aside from the tracks that can be destroyed with a powerful explosive."

The moving fortress could be a reliable weapon for delivering soldiers behind enemy lines and crushing his supply lines. Derkach lauded its absolute terrain passability: "its sharp nose will uproot all trees (aside from century-old ones) and bend them around the hull". And, finally, "will have a crushing effect on enemy morale, as no human spirit can stand before such a monster."

Derkach's design reached 600 tons in weight. The surface area of the main tracks was 100 square meters. Additionally, the front and rear parts of the fortress would have extra tracks that helped it travel over soft terrain and ditches. "Additional tracks can be activated to loosen and flatten any slope or dirt wall."

The vehicle was crewed by 105 men, which isn't exceptional, considering the number of guns planned. Even in the most vulnerable parts of the hull, the crew would be protected by triple-layered armour at least 220 mm thick. The inner part of the hull was a "whole metallic egg-like shape". The second layer, made of rubber, would be right up against the inner layer. The surface of the moving fortress would be composed of "independent convex scales that would overlap each other, like the scales of a fish". That's not all. Derkach planned to add 10-12 volute springs between each scale and the hull to soften the blow when a shell hit.

Four diesel engines would bring the monster to life. Derkach wanted to use crude oil, theorizing that this would make accidental fires almost impossible.

In the end, the inventor honestly admits that he does not have the necessary knowledge to fully flesh out his design. He was already proud enough of his idea and sketches of the "moving fortress".


Engineers from the inventions department examined Derkach's proposal. Their reply, a secret, like all materials on the topic, was as brief as the inventor's list of features.

First, Engineer-Colonel Frolov wrote, such a design would result in colossal manufacturing difficulty, and would come at a great material cost. During the Great Patriotic War, this was enough to put an end even to a much more reasonable design. Second, it would not be possible to transport this moving fortress by rail. It would not be able to move across bridges. Water hazards would be impassable for Derkach's design.

The armour that was so hyped up by the inventor became worthless due to the tank's suspension. If such a superheavy tank was immobilized, it would be impossible to recover from the battlefield, and would not be easy to fix in the field. The immobilized tank would be an easy target for enemy artillery and bombs. "Tactically speaking, the use of such types of tank will have no effect in combat. Due to aforementioned reasons, the proposal is declined", specialists wrote.

To be fair, Guards Major Derkach was not alone with his enthusiasm and imagination. The German 1000 ton Ratte project is well known. It duplicated many of the drawbacks of the "moving fortress". Such ideas came up in the USSR both before and after, but the ideal method of attack and defense during the war, a traditional tank, did not change.

Original article available here.