Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

Happy 2016 to all my readers!

T-34-85 Stabilizer

"State Committee of Defense Decree #5595s
April 11th, 1944
Moscow, Kremlin

Introduce a partial change to GOKO directive #3826s issued on July 27th, 1943:
  1. The NKSP (comrade Nosenko) and the NKSB design bureau (comrade Rozanov) must produce a stabilizer for the S-53 85 mm gun in the T-34-85 tank with a widened turret ring by May 1st, 1944, instead of the D-5 gun in the IS tank.
  2. Commander of the Armoured Forces comrade Fedorenko must provide one T-34-85 tank to the NKSP design bureau for the installation of an experimental stabilizer by April 15th.
  3. NKV (comrade Ustinov) and NKTP (comrade Malyshev) must provide one set of blueprints of the 85 mm S-53 gun and T-34-85 tank with a widened turret ring to the NKSP design bureau by April 15th.
Deputy Chair of the State Committee of Defense
V. Molotov."


"State Committee of Defense Decree #6723s
October 14th, 1944
Moscow, Kremlin

On the installation of large caliber DShK machineguns on IS tanks and SPGs.

The State Committee of Defense decrees that:
  1. The NKTP (comrade Malyshev) and Kirov Factory director comrade Zaltsmann must install large caliber DShK AA machineguns on IS tanks and SPGs according to Kirov Factory blueprints.
    1. In October of 1944: on 25 ISU-122S SPGs with D-25S guns.
    2. In November of 1944: on 25 ISU SPGs with D-25S guns and 25 IS tanks.
    3. In December of 1944: on 125 ISU SPGs and 125 IS tanks.
    4. Starting in January 1945: on all IS tanks and SPGs.
  2. NKV (comrade Ustinov) and GAU (comrade Yakovlev) must provide the Kirov Factory with DShK machineguns (without mounts) with K-8T collimating sights, belt boxes, and ammunition belts.
    1. In October and November of 1944, monthly: 
      1. 150 DShK machineguns.
      2. 150 K-8T collimating sights.
      3. 5 belts and 5 boxes per machinegun.
    2. In December of 1944: 
      1. 400 DShK machineguns.
      2. 400 K-8T collimating sights.
      3. 5 belts and 5 boxes per machinegun.
    3. Stating in January 1945:
      1. Enough machineguns for the full production of the Kirov factory.
  3. NKV (comrade Ustinov) and GAU (comrade Yakovlev) must supply USA GBTU with 1000 rounds of ammunition per DShK machinegun starting in October 1944 to supply IS tanks and SPGs produced at the Kirov Factory.
  4. Armoured and Mechanized Forces commander comrade Fedorenko and GAU chief comrade Yakovlev must, in cooperation with the NKTP and NKV, perform trials of the mass production DShK mounted on IS tanks and SPGs in the fourth quarter of 1944.
  5. The People's Commissariat of External Trade must deliver to the NKTP the following in the fourth quarter of 1944, at the cost of other commissariats:
    1. 2 turret lathes
    2. 6 horizontal milling machines
    3. 6 vertical million machines
    4. 6 radial drilling machines
Chair of the State Committee of Defense, I. Stalin"

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Kharkov Slackers

"To the Central Committee of the VKP(b), comrade Malenkov
To the People's Commissar of Quality Control, comrade Mekhlis

According to GKO decree #219ss issued on July 20th, 1941, the Kharkov Tractor Factory was supposed to produce and send to the NKO 2000 armoured STZ-NATI with a 45 mm gun and coaxial DT machinegun: 50 in July, 850 in August, and 1100 in September.

As of September 9th, 1941, only 31 tractors are ready, of them 28 are made from mild steel for training units and 3 have armoured hulls. The GKO assignment was not completed in time.

Trials of the experimental tractor showed the following results:
  1. Maximum speed: 19 kph
  2. Off-road speed: 8 kph
  3. Range: 119 km
  4. Range off-road: 60 km
    In difficult conditions, the speed may be as low as 4.5 kph.
At the same time, the Kharkov Tractor Factory was supposed to begin production of T-60 tanks, producing 50 tanks in August, 500 tanks in September, and switching all production to T-60 tanks starting on October 1st, producing 3500 tanks before the end of the year. 

As of now, the factory has not built a single T-60 tank.

In order to completely fill the program for armoured tractors, the factory must produce 2000 tractors in September, which is impossible and will certainly throw off the T-60 production schedule.

With this situation at the factory where two new types of vehicles have to be built in large numbers, I consider it reasonable to use up whatever tractor hulls were already produced as of October 1st, 1941. At the same time, speed up preparations for the T-60 to start mass production on October 1st.

Send your instructions to the People's Commissariats.

Deputy Chief of GABTU, Major-General of the Technical Forces, Lebedev
Military Commissar of GABTU, Army Commissar Biryukov"

Monday, 28 December 2015

Battlefield Repairs

"Award Order
  1. Name: Stankevich, Gamen Mikhailovich
  2. Rank: Junior Lieutenant
  3. Position, unit: tank platoon commander, 1st tank battalion, 111st Novgorod-Volyn Red Banner Order of Suvorov Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1925
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: VLKSM member
  7. Participation in the Civil War and subsequent action in defense of the USSR (where, when): 1st Ukrainian Front since November 30th, 1944
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War: none
  9. In the Red Army since: 1943
  10. Recruited by: Frunze recruitment office, Tashkent
  11. Previous awards: none
Brief and specific description of personal heroism or achievements: during the combat actions from the Vistula to Neise (1200 km), tank platoon commander Jr. Lieutenant Stankevich Gamen Mikhailovich led his tank and platoon into fierce battle many times, crossing rivers, fighting in the front of his battalion, skilfully destroying the enemy in every fight.

In battles for Freistadt, his tank was the first to burst into the city, shooting up the enemy on the move and sowing fear among the enemy, reaching the western outskirts of the city.

In fierce battles for the city of Guben, the tank crew of Jr. Lieutenant Stankevich penetrated the German defenses over 4 days and reached the center of the city. No fascist defenses stopped the tank. The enemy counterattacked multiple times, never successfully, falling back after leaving the corpses of hundreds of soldiers and officers on the battlefield. During these battles, comrade Stankevich destroyed 3 SPGs, 3 tanks, 4 heavy guns, 3 mortars, 3 AT guns, and up to 180 fascists.

While deflecting enemy counterattacks in the center of Guben, Jr. Lieutenant Stankevich's tank was lit aflame with a Panzerfaust. Despite the difficulty of his situation, the fearless commander ignored impending death and continued firing at fascists from his burning tank. The crew, realizing the danger of dying to their own exploding shells, put out the fire under a hail of enemy bullets. The tank was still immobile.

The tank commander ordered his crew to restore the tank while he took up defenses. The fascists tried to approach the tank, but the fearless crew dispersed them without leaving their tank, continuing their work. By morning, the tank was restored.

The heroic crew took its place in the tank and continued destroying fascists. For the bravery and courage demonstrated in battle with fascist invaders, comrade Stankevich is worthy of the government award Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-45

Sunday, 27 December 2015

World of Tanks History Section: Bastogne, a Tough Nut to Crack

Why was the small Belgian town of Bastogne a stick in the wheels for the Germans in December of 1944? The town was the last obstacle in their way before bridges across the Meuse river and success of the Ardennes offensive, codenamed "Watch on the Rhine".

The Fuhrer's Ardennes Adventure

Hitler, who envisioned this operation, expected success to change the course of the war. He was not wrong: defeat of 25-30 Allied divisions pushing to Germany would stabilize the Western Front for a long time, allowing Germany to move significant forces east, against the Red Army. The biggest problem was that this plan was a gamble from the beginning. There was no other way: the state of Germany in 1944 left few reliable problem solving options.

The goal of this offensive was an assault on the Allies' supply lines, followed by a breakthrough to the Netherlands, to Antwerp. Two main German tank groups were key instruments in achieving this: the 6th SS Tank Army commanded by Sepp Dietrich and 5th Tank Army commanded by Hasso von Manteuffel. Army generals weren't too keen on being neighours with the SS, but Hitler insisted. He assumed that competition between the Wehrmacht and the SS would be key to success, but in reality poor coordination between the two groups played a more negative role.

On paper, the participants in "Watch on the Rhine" looked menacing indeed, but these numbers lost meaning by late 1944. For example, the 5th Tank Army had 56 PzIV vehicles, 72 Panthers, and 59 SPGs, with 19 Jagdpanzer IVs and 19 StuGs in reserve. To say the least, there were few tanks, and even these had problems with fuel supplies. This was going to be remedied by capturing Allied supplies.

Hitler almost left luck to fight Allied air superiority, relying on expectations of bad weather and short days. In optimal these conditions, airplanes would be stuck on their airstrips until it was too late.

German generals knew that luck alone can't win battles, but Hitler was demanding, and insubordination wouldn't end well.

A City in the Way

At first, things were going well for the Germans. Allied commanders repeated the mistake of 1940, considering the Ardennes to be impassable for large tank forces, especially in the winter. The front line here was held by only a few infantry divisions with almost no chances of stopping a tank attack. The Wehrmacht had better luck here than the SS: while the 6th army was stuck in battle, the 5th was confidently moving forward. However, Manteuffel didn't know what awaited him, same as the citizens of Bastogne, who didn't know that their city was about to become a turning point in the war.

Bastogne was necessary to both sides. The Germans needed it as a transportation center, since seven roads through the Ardennes converged here, a priceless luxury in "unpassable" terrain. According to German plans, tank forces were supposed to move forward as fast as possible, bypassing centers of resistance, but the capture of Bastogne would make supplying their forces significantly easier. The Germans made an exception to take the city as quickly as possible.

The Allies needed Bastogne as a defensive line. By morning of December 17th, only Bastogne and St. Vith separated Manteuffel's tanks from the Meuse. The same thing happened in 1941 where, having encircled a large amount of Soviet forces at Vyazma, the Germans rushed to Moscow. Then, their path was blocked by tank brigades and paratroopers from the 5th Airborne Corps. The Americans reacted in the same way: several battle groups were sent to Bastogne composed of tank divisions and soldiers from the 18th Airborne Corps, two divisions from which (82nd and 101st) were in Northern France at the time.

The first unit to fight for the defense of Bastogne was the 9th Armoured Division. In the evening of December 18th, it was attacked by the 2nd German Tank Division commanded by Meinrad von Lauchert. After a brief battle, remaining American soldiers and tanks retreated to Bastogne, The Germans did not pursue, von Lauchert thought it was more important to reach the bridges across the Meuse and the city could be taken by the 26th Volksgrenadier division and the Panzer Lehr.

Lucky for the Americans, trying to somehow spread their forces out between the roads to Bastogne, the commander of the Panzer Lehr, Fritz Bayerlein, decided to be careful and not rush into the city. Instead, he bypassed Bastogne using secondary roads, not the best solution in winter Ardennes. Meanwhile, the Americans feverishly pulled everything they could into the city, prepared their defenses, placed minefields. In the night from December 18th to December 19th, the advance guard of the 101st "Screaming Eagles" Airborne Division arrived at the city after a 100+ km march from Reims.

Stalled Offensive

The first attack direction on Bastogne was carried out on December 19th. The delay stemmed from heavy losses suffered by the 902nd Panzergrenadier Regiment, which was caught in an ambush. The Germans partially compensated the bitterness of that defeat, attacking and defeating an American tank column. Their prize was 23 undamaged Sherman tanks, 15 guns, 50 Jeeps, and rear echelons of the 10th Infantry Division.

That night, Bastogne was semi-encircled. Instead of attacking the city from three sides, the Germans tried to reach the Meuse. Soon, the offensive stalled, even though only one engineering battalion separated the Germans from the river.

By then, Bastogne was home to the 101st Airborne Division, a battle group from the 10th Armoured Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion and seven gun batteries. While von Lauchert awaited fuel for his tanks, the Allies started constructing defenses on the western shore of the Meuse. Montgomery's last insurance was the 43rd Wessex Infantry Division, blocking to road to Antwerp.

In these conditions, the commander of the German 47th corps didn't want to lose any precious tanks in street fighting and tried to bluff his way to victory. He sent an envoy to the city, offering the Americans and honourable surrender. If not, he threatened to wipe the city off the map with artillery, and the Americans with them.

The reply of the American commander consisted of only one word. Since none of the Germans spoke enough English to understand slang, the envoy enquired if the answer was affirmative or negative. Colonel Joseph Harper who delivered this message was happy to explain that the answer was as negative as humanly possible.

The problem the Germans faced was that they had no way of carrying out this threat. Their artillery was hopelessly stuck somewhere in the rear. Pleas to superiors had no effect, as anything that could be issued would also get stuck. The only thing that could help was aircraft, but German aviation was in a pretty sad state by 1944. The only thing the Luftwaffe could achieve was weak bombing runs in the following four days, which did not impact the defenders of Bastogne.

German forces fruitlessly attacked the city for several days. By December 22nd, they had less than one day's worth of fuel for their tanks. Their worst fears came to life on the next day: the weather improved. The American side of the scales was joined by the heavy weight of Allied aircraft. On the first day of good weather, 140 tons of cargo was delivered to the defenders. Especially valuable among it was ammunition for the howitzers of the 463rd squadron, whose crews nearly spent their last shell repelling German tanks. The guns fell silent, keeping the last few shells in reserve for potential attacks. While supplies fell on Bastogne, bombs fell on its attackers.

While it was obvious that the offensive has failed, the Germans attempted to storm the city several more times. The last strong attack happened at dawn on December 25th. Manteuffel later wrote: "While elements of the 5th Tank Army still tried to move forward, Bastogne was akin to a whirlpool, sucking in German forces, including those meant for breaking through to the Meuse."

In a critical moment, Bastogne tied down nine German divisions. German offensive plans fell apart. While it seemed certain that Bastogne would fall, the city held, while also ending the enemy offensive.

Original article available here.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Light Tank M2A4: Catching Up

The American M2A4 light tank surpassed the stereotype that American interbellum tank building lagged behind European levels. It was mobile, well armed, and well protected. Work on this vehicle began more than a year before WWII and resulted in one of the best light tanks of its time.

Return of the cannon

There is an opinion that the Americans missed out on tank development in the interbellum years and were not ready for war. In reality, American tank designers kept track of what was happening in the world while they went their own way. Their specific theater of war needed specific vehicles. They had to be fast, and instead of a cannon, use two coaxial machineguns, one of which was high caliber. This was enough in order to fight light tanks and armoured cars of the era. The Americans embraced this concept in the mid 1930s. Price was another important factor. One of the reasons why Christie's proposal was rejected was because a light tank with the same armament, speed, and armour cost half as much.

Serious changes in American tank building were triggered by the same events as changes in Soviet tank building: the Spanish Civil War. This was the first war that saw the full spectrum of anti-tank measures, including high caliber machineguns. The 16 mm of front armour on American tanks reliably protected them from rifles, but was useless against high caliber machineguns. The M2A3 that appeared in 1938 had 22 mm of front armour, but the military knew that it was a band-aid solution.

The first person to raise the question of changing the definition of a modern tank was Lieutenant Colonel Gladeon M. Barnes, a key figure in American tank building. Barnes had many inventions to his name. He started in artillery, but began working on tanks in the 1930s. Barns worked on perfecting the Christie suspension: the idea of positioning the springs at an angle belonged to him. In 1936, Barnes patented the torsion bar suspension, which would appear on American tanks 7 years later.

After John Walter Christie lost the army's favour, Barnes became the main competitor of Harry Knox and Major John Christmas, who held a monopoly on suspensions for American tanks. Barnes was a serious adversary for Knox and Christmas since he, unlike Christie, was a high-ranking military man (Major General by 1943). In 1938, he also headed the design bureau at the Bureau of Ordnance.

Barnes thought that a new generation light tank should be armed with a 37 mm gun and have 38 mm (1.5 inches) of front armour. If such a tank used automotive components and was produced in large amounts, it could cost $20,000. The potential tank was designed with no turret, but the overall direction was correct. This happened in April of 1938, almost a year and a half before the start of WWII, so accusing the Americans of doing nothing until the start of the war is rather improper.

Christmas and Knox

The ball was in Christmas and Knox's court. In July of 1938, Christmas proposed two draft projects. The first was more of a conceptual vision of what a tank that used automotive components could look like. Two 8-cylinder Buick engines were proposed, with a combined power of 280 hp. The engines would be placed in parallel, connected with individual drivetrains with the frontal transmission. This layout forced the removal of the hull gunner, and the driver was positioned in the center.

Despite the fact that this design had obvious drawbacks, Christmas managed to get it produced in metal. The tank, indexed Light Tank T6, was produced in June of 1939. It is notable that this was the first American tank to use large-scale casting. The transmission cover and final drive covers were both cast, this later became a signature solution of American medium tanks. As for the layout with two engines, it was later used on the M5 and M24 light tanks, as well as the M3A3, M3A5, and M4A2 medium tanks.

The second draft was far more interesting. As the first variant, it had a suspension with three road wheels per side, but the rear idler was lowered to the ground, effectively increasing that number to 4. As with the Light Tank T6, this design was equipped with horizontal springs. The engine of the 10.5 ton tank was the same as that of the M2 light tank, a radial Continental W-670 engine with aircraft ancestry. The main feature was a one-man turret with a 37 mm gun and a coaxial Browning M1919 machinegun. This layout seemed a lot more promising.

A lecture hall for American tankers

The reality was a lot more practical than any drafts. According to the decree of the OCM #14844 issued on December 29th, 1938, the new tank was not built from scratch. Instead, the last built M2A3 was used, with serial number 321. The conversion was made at Rock Island Arsenal, where American tanks were made before the war. No changes were made to the suspension. The hull of the tank was minimally changed, with only a change to the engine compartment and the addition of a machinegun by the driver.

The turret was made from scratch. The idea of a one-man turret was discarded, and it was enlarged to fit two people. There were no seats in the turret, the commander and loader had to stand. A driveshaft connected the rear engine and front transmission, which the tank crew had to step over. The armour of the turret was 25 mm thick, same as the hull. This reliably protected the tank from high caliber automatic weapons.

The first prototype of the M2A4 light tank was sent to Aberdeen on May 11th, 1939. After a series of trials, a series of corrections was composed by the Bureau of Ordnance. A commander's cupola was added  with observation devices along its perimeter. The idea of an additional hull machinegun was approved, and another one was added on the right.

The gun, a tank version of the 37 mm AT gun designed by Gladeon Barnes, also demanded changes. The barrel was shortened by 13 cm to reduce the risk of damaging it while driving in a forest. Another significant change was the addition of an armoured cover for the recoil mechanism. Brackets were welded onto the front of the tank to cause bullets and small fragments to ricochet. A vehicle with all these changes returned to the proving grounds in October of 1939. As a result of these trials, the M2A4 was approved for service.

The first mass production M2A4 was produced in May of 1940. It's worth noting that before the M2A4, American tanks were built at the Rock Island Arsenal. The main producer of this new vehicle was American Car & Foundry Company. The majority of M2A4 tanks were assembled here, 365 in total. Another 10 were built in April of 1941 at Baldwin Locomotive Works. Late production vehicles received an improved gun mantlet, and a portion of the tanks were equipped with Guiberson T-1020 diesel engines.

The age of the Light Tank M2A4 was not long. In March of 1941, production of the superior Light Tank M3 began, better known by the name "Stuart", given to it by British tankers. Nevertheless, despite falling in the shadow of its younger brother, the M2A4 was an important step for American tank building. The characteristics of the tank were among the best in its class. They were close to those of the Czechoslovakian LT vz. 38, while superior in mass and speed. Due to its powerful gun, the M2A4 could fight almost any tank of the era. All tanks of this type were equipped with radios, a very important feature. Additionally, like other members of the M2 family, the M2A4 was very fast, reaching a speed of 58 kph. Few tanks of the era could manage such a feat.

Like other M2 series tanks, the M2A4 was somewhat of a learning instrument for American tankers. It was the main participant in large exercises held to work on combat action. In summer of 1941, these tanks began being replaced with the superior Light Tank M3, but the M2A4 remained in training until until the end of 1942.

These tanks were the first that the United States sent out as a part of the Lend-Lease program. In early 1941, 36 tanks were sent to Great Britain. Since code names were given in the spring of 1941, the M2A4, unlike the Medium Tank M3, did not receive a proper name. This tank was used, in part, by the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers while the regiment was located in England in the summer-fall of 1941. These tanks did not see combat, as the first Stuart I tanks started arriving in the spring of 1941. There is information that the 7th Tank Brigade received these tanks in 1942 and used them in Burma, but it has not been confirmed.

Unlike the British, the Americans used the M2A4 in battle. The Marine Corps, traditionally equipped with hand-me-downs, received 36 M2A4s. The 1st Tank Battalion attached to the 1st Marine Division fought at Guadalcanal. The battalion had a rather heterogeneous composition: A company had M2A4 and M3 tanks, while C company managed to receive new M3A1 tanks.

The battalion landed in Guadalcanal in August of 1942. During battle, the light tanks showed themselves equally well. The M3 and M3A1 were superior designs and had improved armour, but in practice, the M2A4 proved equivalent. The battle of Guadalcanal was very unusual in the sense that American and Japanese tankers did not fight each other, but enemy AT guns and infantry. The 1st Battalion fought here until January of 1943.

One M2A4 light tank survived to this day, from the A company of the 1st Tank Battalion. This tank was bogged down in a swamp during the battle for Henderson Field in October of 1942. The M2A4 spent nearly 70 years there, until a private collector recovered it in 2009. According to available information, the tank is partially restored, and might one day be functional again. Since the M2A4 has a significant number of parts in common with the much more common M3 and M3A1, this is a very possible outcome.

The Light Tank M2A4 ended up in the shadow of its more numerous brother, the Light Tank M3. Nevertheless, it became the first truly modern American tank, matching or even surpassing foreign competitors. Only luck pulled it off the stage so quickly.

Original article by Yuri Pasholok.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Double Barrels from Perm

In December of 1942, Soviet tank designers had the idea of creating a multi-barreled SPG on a modified T-34 chassis. One of the projects was developed at the Perm OKB-172, an unusual dual howitzer indexed SU-2-122. The project didn't move past the blueprint stage, and remained in the archives. What was it like?

The idea of multi-barreled artillery systems that could fire a salvo occupied the minds of tank designers from many countries. In one case, a design made it to mass production and even to battle: the light Marmon-Herrington MTLS-IGI4, armed with two 37 mm guns. 145 tanks were built, used in combat in the Pacific.

In the USSR, the most famous multi-barreled tank was the KV-7.An experimental prototype of the assault tank (it was never called an SPG) was designed in November of 1941 in Chelyabinsk on Stalin's orders. The KV-7 was armed with two 45 mm guns and one 76 mm ZiS-5 gun. The KV-7 could fire all three guns at the same time. A prototype was finished in December of 1941, and mass production was expected. Archive data reveals that KV-7 hulls were ordered before trials even began, and 20 of them were made. Trials in January of 1942 showed the poor execution of the simultaneous firing idea. The KV-7 was converted to use a pair of 76 mm guns, but the results were largely the same.

While the KV-7 was being worked on, a project on the T-34 chassis was developed in Nizhniy Tagil at factory #183. The tank, indexed T-34-3, had two 45 mm guns and one 76 mm gun in a rotating turret. Unlike the KV-7, this tank did not make it to metal. Activity on this topic ceased, but not for long.

In the middle of December of 1942, the Technical Council of the People's Commissariat of Armament composed tactical-technical characteristics for an SPG with two 122 mm M-30 howitzers. This request was a project of personal initiative, since it did not receive high priority. It was proposed by Major-General of the Artillery Engineering service, A.A. Tolochkov, who was the chief of the experimental designs department. The requirements were as follows:
  • The armament must consist of two 122 mm howitzers, using barrels and breeches from the M-30.
  • The guns must have the same mount, but have separate recoil brakes, as similar as possible to those on the M-30.
  • The mount and recoil mechanisms must be protected by armour.
  • The vertical traverse must be from -5 degrees to +15 degrees, horizontal traverse of 15-20 degrees.
  • The front armour must be 70 mm thick, side armour 30 mm, roof and rear 15-20 mm.
  • T-34 components must be used as much as possible.
  • The ground pressure must not exceed that of the T-34.
  • The guns must be able to fire individually or simultaneously.
  • 1 or 2 additional DT machineguns must be available as additional armament.
On May 12th, 1943, the GAU Artillery Committee received a letter from the city of Molotov (the name of Perm from 1940 to 1957). The letter, sent by OKB-172 chief, NKVD Lieutenant-Colonel N.A. Ivanov, contained two projects. One was a heavy 203 mm SPG on the KV-1S chassis, the other a medium SU-2-122 SPG, the same one that requirements were created for in 1942. Both projects were supervised by A.F. Smirnov.

It's worth mentioning what OKB-172 was. It was none other than a prison. The majority of its staff were imprisoned engineers that used to work in Leningrad. In 1941, they were evacuated to Perm. A wide variety of projects were created within the walls of OKB-172, including the 45 mm mod. 1942 gun. Smirnov, the supervisor of the SU-2-122 project, also worked on the MU-2 and B-2-LM naval guns. A part of the prisoners were pardoned due to their excellent work on June 19th, 1943, by decree of the State Committee of Defense #3612. The decree was proposed by Beria himself. As free men, Smirnov and others continued work in OKB-172.

The unusual requirements led to an unusual, yet very well thought out project. Aside from 12 pages of description, it had 5 pages of blueprints with overall views of the vehicle as well as the artillery system. It was obvious that the stock T-34 chassis was not enough for two 122 mm guns. The hull had to be lengthened by 890 mm, and an extra road wheel added. Remembering that T-34 parts had to be used as much as possible, the designers left the engine compartment and the driver's compartment without changes. Unlike the SU-122, where the driver's seat changed and the machinegun operator was done away with, the SU-2-122's front was the same as on the T-34. This was one of the things that lengthening the hull allowed to achieve. The longer hull also improved balance. Unlike the SU-122, the SU-2-122 did not increase pressure on the front road wheels.

The turret was replaced with a casemate (or, in terminology of the day, an immobile turret). In order to increase the available space, the sides of the casemate were wider than the top of the hull. The casemate sides were sloped to improve protection. As was specified in the requirements, the front armour was thickened to 70 mm.

The guns were mounted on a frame, attached to the front of the casemate. This solution, common for Soviet medium and heavy SPGs, had many advantages. A frame did not require a massive floor mount, which decreased complexity and freed up space in the fighting compartment. The artillery system was designed very well. The oscillating part of the M-30 (which, by the way, was produced at factory #172, where the design bureau was based) remained unchanged. Both howitzers were covered by one mantlet. The aiming mechanisms and sights were to the left of the guns. The gunner's seat was also placed on the left, and moved with the guns. The DT machinegun was to the right of the guns, the ball mount and mantlet borrowed from the T-34.

The crew of the SU-2-122 consisted of 6 men. The crewmen could move about freely, due to the size of the casemate, and even stand up fully. Each M-30 had its own loader. The SU-122 had one loader and one breech operator, working in much more cramped conditions. Here, loading was much simpler. The ammunition rack consisted of 70 shells, placed along the rear of the fighting compartment. This placement eased the work of the loaders. The estimated rate of fire of this gun would be 4-5 salvos per minute.

No further work was done on the SU-2-122. The design of a tank is a difficult process, and any decision has a drawback. In this case, it was the size and weight of the vehicle. The longer hull and roomy fighting compartment did not come for free. In this case, the mass of the SPG was estimated to be 34.5 tons, while the SU-122 weighed only 29.6 tons. The ground pressure increased, and average offroad speed decreased to 15 kph. The height was also an important parameter: the SU-2-122 was 2940 mm tall (the roof was 2740 mm off the ground), which was taller than the SU-152.

The main problem with the SU-2-122 was not the height or the weight. In the spring of 1943, production of the SU-122 was underway, and it did not require the T-34 chassis to change. Even the SU-122 was not enough for the military in May of 1943, as a captured Tiger was already tested, and showed that an SPG should have an 85 mm gun with AA 52-K gun ballistics. Nobody needed this double barreled tank, especially after the experience with the KV-7. As a result, this project remained in the archives, where it was discovered very recently.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Captured Tiger Hero

I already wrote about a few captured Panther crew receiving awards, now it's time for a Tiger.

  1. Name: Kadenev, Mikhail Ivanovich
  2. Rank: Guards Starshina
  3. Position, unit: T-VI (Tiger) tank gunner, 2nd Tank Battalion, 28th Lioznen Independent Guards Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the state award of the Order of the Patriotic War 2nd class.
  4. Year of birth: 1900
  5. Nationality: Russian
  6. Party affiliation: none
  7. Participation in the civil war, subsequent action in defense of the USSR, Patriotic War: in the Patriotic War since November of 1943
  8. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War: none
  9. In the Red Army since: June 1941
  10. Recruited by: Kal recruitment office, Chita oblast
  11. Prior awards: Order of the Red Star
Brief and specific description of heroism or achievements: in battles from June 24th to June 27th, 1944, for the Vitebsk-Lepel highway in order to encircle the Vitebsk group of the enemy, comrade Kadenev and his crew destroyed up to 25 enemy soldiers and officers, 4 machineguns, 1 pillbox, and two carriages with military cargo.

For courage and bravery demonstrated in battle against German occupants, he is worthy of the state award of the Order of the Patriotic War 2nd class."

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Engine Surplus

"To the Chair of the Committee of Defense of the SNK
Marshal of the Soviet Union, comrade K.E. Voroshilov

For the last three years, Factory #183 has been under-delivering friction clutches for M-17 and M-5 engines, 1086 in total. Of those: 327 in 1938, 267 in 1939, and 492 in 1940. 

Due to the shortage and the additional transfer of 1000 M-17 engines from the Air Force to GABTU, GABTU now has 2500 engines (2000 M-17 and 500 M-5) without friction clutches that cannot be used to repair the BT park or fill up spares stores. 

Factory #183 is the only producer of these friction clutches, and the plan for 1941 is to produce 200 friction clutches for GABTU for the M-5 engine and 270 for the M-17 engine, which satisfies the demand by only 20%.

I ask that you instruct the People's Commissariat of Medium Machinebuilding to include production of 2500 fiction clutches in the quota of factory #183 for 1941. 

Marshal of the Soviet Union
G. Kulik."

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Experimental Heavy SPGs

"122 mm A-19 SPG on the chassis of a SU-152 SPG
Kirov factory and factory #172
  1. History of the project: when the production of the SU-152 began, the Artillery Committee decided to produce a 122 mm SPG by installing an A-19 gun in the SU-152 mount. In order to do this, the regional engineer of factory #172 was allotted one oscillating part of an A-19 gun with a 122 mm barrel, in accordance with the request made by the Kirov factory.
  2. Progress: currently the Kirov factory is installing the oscillating part of the gun into a SU-152 SPG and is working on an ammunition rack. A prototype should be ready by May 10th of this year.
203 mm self propelled howitzer on the KV-1S chassis
Kirov factory and factory #172
  1. The plenum of the Artillery Committee decided on April 15th, 1942, to develop a technical project for a self propelled Br-2 gun on the KV-1S chassis. Based on experience in constructing SPGs in 1942 and 1943, it was discovered that it's possible to install the B-4 howitzer into a semi-enclosed SPG on the KV-1S chassis.
    Kirov factory and factory #172 made an agreement with the 16th Department of the Artillery Committee to develop this project. Both factories are working in parallel."

Monday, 21 December 2015

Raid through the Rear

"Award Order
  1. Name: Svyashenko, Yuri Grigoryevich
  2. Rank: Guards Lieutenant
  3. Position, rank: tank platoon commander, 3rd tank battalion, 1st Guards Chertkov Order of Lenin, Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov, Order of Bogdan Khmelnitskiy Tank Brigade
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1920
  5. Nationality: Ukrainian
  6. Party affiliation: none
  7. Participation in the Patriotic War: since 1941
  8. In the Red Army since: 1939
  9. Prior awards: Order of the Red Banner in 1944, Order of the Patriotic War 2nd class in 1944, For Courage medal in 1941, For Combat Performance medal in 1941
  10. Wounds or concussions in the Patriotic War: killed on January 20th, 1945
Brief and specific description of heroism or achievements: On January 16th, 1945, the company commander was wounded, and Guards Lieutenant Svyashenko took command of the company with the following objective: "penetrate the enemy rear to a depth of 340 km, take the city of Uneiuv by the end of January 18th, and capture the crossing of the river Varta in the vicinity of the city.

Bypassing the enemy's resistance and destroying defending garrisons, crushing communications and important centers of resistance, Guards Lieutenant Svyashenko performed a 340 kilometer raid behind enemy lines, capturing the cities of Aleksandruv, Kshevenitsa, Nove Myasto, and reached Uneiuv by January 18th, 1945. With a sudden attack, he captured the crossing across Varta and held it until the approach of main forces, dying the death of a hero on the crossing.

The enemy, seeing his hopeless situation, rushed to destroy the crossing and hold off the attack of our forces, leaving behind a screen of 6 SPGs, two artillery batteries, and up to a battalion of infantry. Comrade Svyashenko's tank took on this uneven battle with superior enemy forces, drawing fire. In a fierce battle, the tank destroyed four SPGs, crushed a battery of 3 guns, and killed up to 35 soldiers and officers. The crossing across the Varta was captured, providing unimpeded access for the 8th Corps and a successful completion of the 1st Guards Tank Army's offensive operation.

For enormous damage dealt to the enemy, capturing the crossing, and the cities of Aleksandruv, Kshevenitse, and Nove Myasto, Guards Lieutenant Svyashenko is worthy of the posthumous title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-42

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christie's Victim

The 1920s were a dark time for tank builders worldwide. The rapidly changing role of tanks and a harsh cut in finances meant that less than a thousand tanks were built worldwide. The majority of these tanks were MS-1s, all while the Soviet Union was still reeling from WWI and the civil war. Britain saw the creation of the successful Medium Tank MkI and MkII, as well as tankettes, but a low budget was a significant hurdle. The French limited themselves to modernizations of the Renault FT, and these tanks, known as Renault NC, were built for export, instead of the French army. Germany quietly worked on their tanks. The US was the least lucky of all. Despite a wide program for new tanks, not a single vehicle designed in the 1920s in the United States was put into mass production.

Do It Yourself

After WWI, the American army obtained almost a thousand light 6 ton M1917 tanks and a hundred heavy Mk.VII International. The light tanks were the more important acquisition. The problem with it was that the Renault FT, the ancestor of the M1917, was built for the European theater of war. Its top speed was only 8 kph, and while a superior engine made the M1917 slightly faster, it was still inadequate for American needs.

In addition, tanks could travel a little over 100 kilometers before needing extensive repairs. They had to be transported to the battlefield on trucks. An attempt was made to solve the speed problem with the 100 hp Franklin 145 engine, which increased the speed to 14.5 kph. Further improvements were limited by the suspension. Only 7 tanks were modernized to the M1917A1 standard.

Seeing that the M1917 has little room to improve, the military put its bets on John Walter Christie. Sadly, the M1919 Medium Tank did not meet expectations. This tank that saw trials in April of 1921 was much more promising. It had a 6 pounder (57 mm) gun and could reach a speed of 20 kph on wheels, impressive for the time. A drawback was that its top speed on tracks was only 11 kph, and it only had a sprung suspension on the middle bogey. As a result, Christie altered the M1919, turning it into an SPG. The military tried to do something with this design until June of 1924, at which point it was obvious that the tank was a dead end. By time time, Christie had a falling out with the Bureau of Ordnance.

The Bureau saw that it had to make its own tank by the spring of 1922. According to the accepted norm, the 5 ton tank had to have a crew of two and be armed with a 37 mm gun and 7.62 mm machinegun. The armour had to be enough to protect it from rifle caliber armour piercing bullets. Its speed would be 19 kph and range 80 km. Nevertheless, work did not start until 1926. Until then, medium tanks were prioritized, with the expectation that once production was underway, light tanks would no longer be necessary. This cockiness was caused by early successes with the M1921 medium tank.

By early 1926, it was obvious that work on the M1921 stalled. On January 26th, 1926, the OCM recommended that a new tank be designed. Initially, work started at the Rock Island Arsenal. According to archives, it was initially supposed to have a classic layout with an engine in the rear. However, on September 1st, the department was moved to Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the Tank Department.

Harry Knox's Project

One man is worth mentioning, as he directly impacted what the new tank would look like. Harry Austin Knox is more known to automotive historians. For a quarter of a century, Knox successfully dealt in cars and trucks. Knox took up tanks in 1924, when the military had its row with Christie. Knox became the father of the new tank that was designed at Fort Meade.

He decided to discard the classic layout. The basis for his design would be the British Medium Tank Mk.I, which was initially considered a light tank. The drive wheels were in the rear, and the engine in the front. As a result, the tank was a lot shorter than the M1917, but the driver was unlikely to be very happy about this decision. The driveshaft went between his legs, and the driver was left almost spooning the engine. This also caused the tank to have a very long "nose", which negatively impacted the driver's visibility. The gearbox wasn't lonely either, as it acted as a mount for the driver's seat. The suspension was similar to a tractor's, but used skeletal tracks. The same tracks were designed for the Medium Tank Mk.I and were far superior to those of the M1917.

On September 26th, 1926, a technical committee reviewed both types of tanks and selected Harry Knox's design. The front engine resulted in better balance. By March 15th, 1927, the tank was at the stage where it was time to pick a contractor. James Cunningham & Son Co. won the tender. On one hand, the company had no prior military contracts, and its main product was light cars. On the other hand, Cunningham had serious industry experience: in 1916, it was one of the first to produce the V8 engine.

On April 12th, 1927, James Cunningham & Son Co. received a contract for the production of an experimental light tank. 120 days were allotted for this task. Work finished by August 1st, and on September 1st the newly indexed Light Tank T1 was shown at a demonstration in Rochester. At seven tons, it was heavier than the M1917, which only caused more problems with transporting the tank by trucks. The armour was even thinner than on the M1917 at less than 10 mm. This was not enough for an infantry support tank.

On the other hand, the engine was very impressive. The 110 hp V8 engine gave the tank an impressive power of 15.7 hp/ton. A powerful engine didn't help the M1917A1 due to its suspension, but this was not so with the T1. Its maximum speed was 28 kph, an impressive figure for the late 1920s. The experimental tank had a dummy turret platform and turret.

After trials at Aberdeen, the T1 tank was converted to the Cargo Carrier T1. Its trials also went well, and a green light was given to both the light tank and the cargo carrier. An order was made for 4 T1E1 tanks and 2 T1E1 cargo carriers. The fuel tanks were moved from inside the hull to containers above the tracks. In addition, the front section of the tank was shortened. The cylindrical turret got a 37 mm M1916 gun and a coaxial Browning M1919 machinegun.

Despite a series of drawbacks, the infantry was amazed by this new tank. Even before the T1E1 was built, Major General Robert Allen insisted that it be standardized under the index Light Tank M1. This index lasted from January 14th to March 30th, 1928. The Secretary of War cancelled the standardization, remarking that it would be prudent to first wait for performance data from trials.

In June of 1928, four T1E1 tanks were sent to Fort Meade for trials. Here, they were included in the 4th tank company along with M1917 tanks. Joint maneuvers proved that these tanks were superior to their predecessors.

Trials held in October of 1928 were even more impressive. Three tanks and two cargo carriers drove from Fort Meade to Gettysburg and back. The T1E1 achieved an average speed of 16 kph, unthinkable with the M1917. One T1E1 was sent to the Aberdeen proving grounds, where it travelled 3232 km over 57 days without serious breakdowns. This was a phenomenal result, as a M1917 tank would have fallen to pieces by then. It seemed that everything went smoothly and a contract for 200+ T1E1 tanks would soon follow.

Christie's Doombringer

Unexpected problems came up. On November 19th, 1928, an unusual vehicle set out from Fort Meade. It looked more like a race car than a tank. This vehicle was the Christie M.1928, an experimental tank made by Christie's new US Wheel Track Layer Corporation. The designer called his creation M.1940, implying that these tanks were the future. The main feature of the tank was an independent spring suspension, today known as Christie springs.

The route of the M.1928 repeated the route the T1E1s took a month earlier, but the result was vastly different. Christie's tank showed an average speed of 45 kph; the maximum speed on tracks was 68 kph, and on wheels 112 kph. This was a shock for the T1E1. The biggest problem was that Christie's tank didn't need trucks to transport it to the battlefield, and had a far superior range compared to its competitor.

Knox and Cunningham's tank paled in comparison. Mass production of the T1E1 was forgotten, especially since complaints about thin armour didn't go anywhere. In late November, a request was made for a modernized tank.

Playing Catch-up

Work on the T1E2 dragged on, and it only appeared at the Aberdeen proving grounds on June 3rd, 1929. Thickening the armour to 15 mm was not enough. The mass grew to 8.8 tons, and it was time to change the suspension. The tracks became an inch wider. The engine was upgraded to 132 hp, raising the effective power to 15 hp/ton and the maximum speed of 29 kph. These were good characteristics, but even the new T1E2 was not up to par with the Christie tank. On the other hand, Christie's design was more of a testbed, and the T1E2 was a complete tank. The new modification had a new turret with a 37 mm semi-automatic Browning gun.

Major General Allen insisted on standardization of the T1E2, but the Commander of the Land Forces Major General Summerall was against the idea. First of all, he received troubling news from infantry and cavalry representatives who were watching Christie's demonstrations. Second, the T1E2 was simply not the tank that Summerall wanted in his army. The tank was cursed with mechanical problems. The suspension was a big contributor, as the increase in mass made itself known. Strong vibrations made aiming and firing on the move difficult. Additionally, the idea of a front mounted engine was declared unsatisfactory.

A modernization of the second T1E1 prototype, known as the T1E3, attempted to resolve these problems. The new suspension had four bogeys, the first three with hydraulic suspensions, and the last one with a spring. The tank received an engine and armament equivalent to the T1E2. The maneuverability and smoothness increased, but it was too late. It was April of 1931, and already three months since Christie personally drove his M.1931 in front of numerous photographers and cameramen. The T1 family compared poorly.

The last chance for the T1 was abroad, especially due to the Great Depression that started in 1929 that dispelled all hopes of hundreds of tanks. This chance arrived in 1930, when a Soviet commission arrived in the United States, led by UMM chief I.A. Hhalepskiy. However, the deal failed, which Halepskiy recorded in his report, dated June 6th, 1930.

"According to the approved program, we were to buy samples and obtain technical assistance for the T-1, E-1, and Christie tanks.

The T-1 and E-1 tanks produced by Cunningham appear to be small tanks. The design of the T-1 and E-1 tanks is worse than the same type of tank we already bought from Vickers, namely their speed if 8 kph less, armour is ordinary, engine is water cooled (Vickers is air cooled), the final drives heat up, the track is so massive that it impedes required speed.

At the same time, the tanks cost 17.5 thousand roubles each, more than Vickers tanks. This is completely unacceptable financially. The company demands 50% up front and 50% on delivery, and demands that at least 50 tanks of one type be purchased. The company refuses to provide any kind of technical assistance or to let our engineers into their factories.

The aforementioned details make it impossible to purchase this type of tank."

What happened next is well known: the commission examined Christie's tank and ordered two vehicles, as well as the patents and a production license. Later, these tanks became the foundation for the BT-2 tank.

SPGs on the T1 chassis deserve a special mention. In 1928, one T1E1 cargo carrier was converted to a platform for a 107 mm (4.2 inch) mortar. A carrier on the T2 chassis, which used T1 components, proved superior. After trials of the chassis made as a laboratory for various suspension components, it was adapted as a carrier for the new 75 mm M1 howitzer.

The vehicle, created in 1930 and indexed T1 HMC, was superior to its light SPG predecessors. It weighed a little over 5 tons and was equipped with an 89 hp LaSalle engine. Its top speed reached 32 kph. Thanks to a superior suspension, its travel was smoother than the T1's. Trials showed that it was a perfectly suitable light gun carrier, superior to its tractor predecessors, but sadly, work did not continue past a prototype.

Original article by Yuri Pasholok.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

World of Tanks Armoured Fantasy: Flaming Ironclad

What's left to do when a war took everything from you, and there is no chance for revenge? One inventor channelled his grief and rage into a project of an incredible vengeance machine.

This inventor's name was Mikhail Vasilyevich Boyko, a repairman by trade. His parents, sisters, and children died in German occupied Kharkov. Boyko himself was in a hospital in Sochi at the time, undergoing treatment for a heart condition. Here is where he started his work. "I was inspired to create powerful armament for the Red Army, to destroy the fascist hordes with the most powerful of weapons", Boyko wrote to the People's Commissariat of Defense in 1944. His brainchild was the "Flaming Ironclad" with a mysterious index of "AN".

In Steel Scales

The brief project description read: "As a flaming tornado, the AN ironclad burns, torches, demolishes, and crushes, destroys, blows up, kills, as well as suppresses morally and acts on the enemy's psyche, demoralizing him, spreading demoralization deep into the enemy's deserves. The AN destroys everything, living or not, in its path." Boyko's letter kept up this tone from the first sentence to the last.

The author didn't just think of a flamethrower tank. Its chassis consisted of three tracks. This would allow the vehicle to move in any direction without turning. Boyko didn't specify how this would be achieved.

Boyko proposed to equip his ironclad with a "mine-catching pneumatic electronet". This was a precursor to explosive reactive armour. A minefield around the tank would neutralize hits without causing any damage to the tank.

Even if the "electronet" was disabled, the crew would have nothing to fear, as the shell would have to deal with the ironclad's armour. It would appear that Boyko envisioned a mythical dragon when he designed his tank, as it was protected by flexible scales instead of traditional armour. It was covered by a special fire-proof finish, the composition of which the author did not specify. He did specify its thickness: 490 mm. The author was very proud of his composite armour. If implemented, it would resist any cannon shell or bomb up to 860 kg, and be invincible even in a firestorm.

Flame Bringer

To continue the dragon analogy, the tank was not only covered in scales, but breathed fire.

The author wrote: "...armed with 22 barrels: hoses and sprinklers that can disperse up to 45,000 cubic decimeters of explosive gas per hour." This was not all. Boyko proposed the use of four 6-barreled rocket launchers and mortars, capable of firing 480 rockets or shells per hour. Compared to all this, the 14 machineguns weren't very impressive.

This tank would shock the enemy with its appearance alone: "The tank is equipped with four noise sirens and whistles. It's not only a flamethrower and explosive weapon, but its size and variety of armament is a psychological weapon that will demoralize the enemy."

The tank was manned by 40 men. According to Boyko, that was enough to control its vast arsenal and other equipment. Boyko wrote that his tank "...has a microphone communication system, a radio, 4 light indicators, and 4 signal flare launchers."

The author did not specify the size of a vehicle that could contain all that, but only the mass: 30,000 tons. Nevertheless, the tank would reach a speed of 120 kph thanks to a quartet of engines with the combined power of 6600 hp. Boyko did admit that his calculations were approximate and would need to be looked over.

Scorched Earth Machine

The use of this vehicle in combat had an epic scale: "The tank is invincible and knows no obstacles, not pits, nor minefields, nor bullets, nor shells, nor fire, nor water, nor pillboxes, nor moats, nor dugouts, nor trenches. The AN kills all, burns all, explodes, knocks over, demolishes, turns over, turns all in its way, living or dead, to coals, causing panic. The AN acts as an advance guard, moving ahead of the main forces with cover from the VVS in the sky. It moves as a firey tornado!"

Boyko's calculations showed that a single Flaming Ironclad could clear a front 0.5 km wide and 12 km deep. Ten such tanks acting in unison, even at low speeds, could burn out 30 square kilometers of enemy land. The author was sure that this would cause the enemy to not only withdraw from Soviet borders, but he would be unable to run fast enough to save himself. He compared the resulting victory to the success of Aleksandr Nevskiy in the Battle on the Ice.

Boyko, with all his enthusiasm, knew that his calculations and sketches were imperfect. He expected professionals to at least take the idea as worthwhile. "As a worker, I put in significant energy into creating this design, but I need help, help of great masters of science and engineering, to perfect my design. I accept that there will be changes and corrections thanks to you, scientific minds of the military sciences. Only with your involvement could I create this valuable armament to defeat the enemy."

Of course, this idea was more than a pipe dream. Its characteristics were impossible not only in 1944, but even today. First of all, a tank of such mass could not be transported to the battlefield. Second, its size would be enormous, making it an easy target for artillery and aircraft. It's doubtful that the "electronet" and scales could save it. Considering how much incendiary material was on board, the first penetration would disintegrate the colossus in an explosion of terrifying force.

The Flaming Ironclad remained in the archives for decades to appear in front of the reader as not only a fantasy born from pain and despair, but also a monument to the Great Patriotic War, will for victory and belief in it, despite loss and suffering.

Original article available here.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Trophy Report

"Description for the map of knocked out German tanks in the vicinity of Volkovyshki

20 tanks were discovered on both sides of the road and on the road itself. There is a PzV tank on the western outskirts and a SU-75 SPG on the PzIII chassis on the south-eastern outskirts. On this highway to Verzhebolovo, there is a PzIV tank and an APC shortly before lake Poyeznory.  There are two tanks near Greater Shelva: one PzV and one PzIV.

Most tanks are knocked out by artillery fire, and only 2 were destroyed by aircraft.

There are many small craters from bombs on the battlefield, which suggests that the German tanks were dispersed by bombings. Most tanks on the battlefield burned up. Three tanks were restored and passed off to other units. Another fully functional PzV tank was found stuck in a swamp.

According to data obtained by reconnaissance, it was established that a significant amount of knocked out tanks was evacuated. This can be determined by tracks where the tanks stopped and were later hauled off.

A table of examined tanks follows:

# on map Tactical number Type of tank Direction of movement Damage
1 232 APC North Penetration on the right by artillery shell.
2 None PzIV North-west Five penetrations from artillery in the right side, burned up.
3 None PzV North Penetration in the side, burned up.
4 355 SU-150 on the PzV chassis South-east Damaged by artillery fire, barrel is destroyed, left track is broken.
5 101 PzV North-west Fully functional, stuck in swamp
6 None PzIV North-west Damaged by artillery fire, left side penetrated, burned up.
7 313 PzV West Damaged by artillery fire, penetration of the left side, engine burned up.
8 None APC South-east Damaged by artillery fire, two penetration in the side.
9 None PzV West Damaged by artillery fire, penetration on the right side. Burned up.
10 A22 PzIV West Damaged by artillery fire. Penetration in the turret. Burned up.
11 A03 PzIV North-west Damaged by artillery fire. Penetration in the front, dents on the gun.
12 11 PzV North-west Damaged by artillery fire, penetration in the side. Burned up.
13 706 PzV West Damaged by artillery fire, damage to the final drive.
14 709 PzV North-west Damaged by artillery fire, penetration in the right side. Burned up.
15 124 PzV North-west Damaged by artillery fire, penetration in the right side. Burned up.
16 708 PzV North-west Damaged by artillery fire, penetration in the engine compartment. Burned up.
17 A23 PzVI West Damaged by artillery fire, penetration in the left side. Burned up.
18 221 PzV West Destroyed by aircraft, turret had been blown apart. Burned up.
19 None PzV West Destroyed by artillery. Penetrated in both sides. Burned up.
20 201 PzV West Destroyed by aircraft. Turret is destroyed, penetration of roof armour.
21 612 PzIV South-west Destroyed by artillery. Penetrated several times in the sides. Burned up.
22 None APC West Destroyed by artillery. Burned up.
23 None SU-75 South-west Destroyed by artillery, penetration of the sides. Burned up.
24 None APC South-west Destroyed by artillery.
25 None PzVI North Destroyed by artillery, penetration of the side and broken tracks.
26 None PzV North Destroyed by artillery, penetration of the side.

The table has two mistakes in it. One is that a Hummel is identified as a Panther variant, and the other is that tanks #10 and #11 (tactical numbers A22 and A03) are incorrectly identified as PzIVs instead of Tigers. They are correctly identified on the map.

Via altyn73.

Sneaking Mission

"Award Order
  1. Name: Sadovskiy, Yuri Vladimirovich
  2. Rank: Captain
  3. Position, unit: reconnaissance officer, 530 Baranovich Order of Alexander Nevskiy Anti-Tank Artillery Regiment
    is nominated for the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
  4. Year of birth: 1920
  5. Nationality: Ukrainian
  6. Party affiliation: VKP(b) member since 1943
  7. Participation in the civil war and subsequent actions in defense of the USSR and Patriotic War: in the Patriotic War since June 1941
  8. Wounds and concussions in the Patriotic War: wounded in September of 1943
  9. In the Red Army since: September 1939
  10. Recruited by: Oktyabrskiy recruitment office, Kiev
  11. Prior awards: Order of the Patriotic War 2nd class on August 20th, 1944, Order of Aleksandr Nevskiy on February 4th, 1945
Brief and specific description of personal heroism or achievements: In battles to liquidate the surrounded group of Germans south-east of Berlin on April 29th and April 30th, 1945, he demonstrated exceptional courage and heroism.

During an attack of enemy columns on our forces, he and his scouts were the first to stand in their way, drawing fire and letting the regiment's batteries set up. In this battle, comrade Sadovskiy personally killed over 70 soldiers and officers with his submachinegun and grenades. In a critical moment of the battle, when one gun's crew was killed, comrade Sadovskiy took up a position at the gun with scout Shalunov and fought for 2 hours against an attacking enemy, destroying 2 German tanks, an APC, and over 250 soldiers and officers.

At night, with two scouts, he snuck into an enemy camp, killed a sleeping tank crew, and got into their tank. At dawn, he opened deadly fire at the enemy. When the tank ran out of ammunition, comrade Sadovskiy closed his hatches and drove the tank at an enemy column at high speed, crushing the enemy's vehicles and soldiers. Leaving behind over 200 corpses, crippled vehicles, 2 guns, and 9 machineguns, comrade Sadovskiy broke through to the regiment's HQ, taking an active role in its defense. Later, pursuing the fleeing enemy, he led the soldiers from the HQ company and crews from gun batteries, showing the enemy an unseen slaughter. 230 prisoners were taken in this battle.

Comrade Sadovskiy thrice took part in hand to hand combat, fighting with grenades, a pistol, and a knife. He killed, wounded, and knocked out about 100 enemy soldiers, personally capturing 31 soldiers, 1 Major, and 2 Oberleutnants.

He is worthy of the highest government award: the title of Hero of the Soviet Union."

CAMD RF 33-793756-42