Thursday, July 19, 2012

WWII Myths - T-34 Best Tank of the war

The Soviet T-34 tank is well known by anyone who has an interest in WWII history. Books, articles, documentaries present it in triumphant terms.  It was superior to everything the Germans had, it had revolutionary sloped armor, unprecedented mobility and was one of the reasons the Soviet side won in the Eastern front.

How realistic are these statements? Was the T-34 really a war winning weapon? How did it compare to German and Western tanks? How did it perform during the war? If we try to answer these questions by looking at actual data then things start to change. Instead of a mechanical marvel we get a poorly designed and built combat system that suffered horrific losses against ‘inferior’ German tanks.
Let’s start with debunking some of the most common statements.

The revolutionary design of the T-34

The T-34 was supposed to be the first tank that employed sloped armor. This characteristic meant that the armor protection was significantly enhanced, compared to straight armor. However French tanks of that period like the SOMUA S35 and the Renault R35 also had sloped armor.
Moreover there were several problems created by the sloped armor in the front, the rear and the back of the vehicle. This choice seriously diminished the internal space of the T-34. Tanks are always crowded on the inside. The T-34 however had a huge problem when it came to internal space.

The limited space not only affected crew performance but turned the T-34 into a deathtrap. A US study from the Korean War (based on the T-34/85 that was roomier than the T-34/76) concluded that due to the limited internal space a penetration by an A/T round usually led to the destruction of the tank and loss of 75% of the crew. In the Sherman the figure was only 18% (1).
German tanks like the Pz III and Pz IV had a conventional hull design but they also used slope in the middle part of their front hull armor. The new Panther tank was the first German tank to have a fully sloped hull front and sloped sides however the armor layout did not limit internal space like in the T-34.
The turret also suffered from a lack of space. It was so cramped that it affected movement.
American experts who examined a T-34 at the Aberdeen testing grounds in 1942 had this to say:
The main weakness is that it is very tight. The Americans couldn't understand how our tankers could fit inside during a winter, when they wear sheepskin jackets

Serious design flaws
Apart from the limited internal space there were two more serious design flaws.

One was the lack of turret basket (a rotating floor that moves as the turret turns) for the loader. This meant that the person loading the shells had to follow the movement of the gun and at the same time keep an eye on the floor so he doesn’t trip on the spent casings.

The other major issue was the two-man turret which forced the commander to also act as the gunner. This drastically limited combat performance as the commander could not focus on leading the tank but instead had to engage targets.

A three-man turret was finally introduced with the T-34/85 in March ’44.

Armor spalling

The armor of the T-34 had a high Brinell rating, meaning it was very hard. This was advantageous in defeating antitank rounds of caliber equal or lower to the armor’s thickness but had the disadvantage that it could lead to spalling. Combined with manufacturing flaws in the construction of the tank this meant that the T-34’s crew was often in danger even when hit by tank rounds that did not penetrate the armor.
The study ‘Review of Soviet ordnance metallurgy’, p3-5 says:

‘The armor components of the T-34 tank, with the exception of the bow casting which was unheat-treated, were heat-treated to very high hardnesses (430-500 Brinell), probably in an attempt to secure maximum resistance to penetration by certain classes of armor-piercing projectiles even at the expense of structural integrity under ballistic attack.’

‘The quality of the armor steels ranged from poor to excellent. Wide variations in production technique were indicated; some rolled armor components were well cross-rolled while others were virtually straightaway rolled………The bow casting of the T-34 tank was very unsound and would have been rejected under American standards.’
Shallow penetration, poor fusion, severe undercutting, porosity, and cracking was observed in most of the welds and probably resulted from improper manipulation of electrodes which might not have had suitable operating characteristics….. These obvious defects, together with low strength and pour metallurgical structure of ferritic weld deposits, indicate that the welded joints would have poor resistance to severe shock.’

‘The results obtained from the metallurgical examination of these early world war ii Soviet tanks have been described in some detail since they are exactly the same as have been obtained from all examinations performed since then of Soviet tanks which were recovered in Germany after the end of world war ii, and on Soviet tanks which were captured in Korea during 1950-52. The Ordnance Corps has examined several Soviet JS-II which were found in Germany and several Soviet T-34 tanks from both Germany and Korea.’

'Some of the armor steels have surprisingly high toughness considering the very high hardness levels but many of the armor steels, even the softer ones, are very brittle.’
‘The very high hardness encountered in most Soviet tank armor has caused much unnecessary concern regarding the relative ballistic performance of the hard Soviet armor and the softer American armor. Many people associate high hardness with high resistance to penetration. Although this is true, within limits, in the case of attack of armor by undermatching projectiles (i.e. caliber of shot is less than the tnickness of the armor) particularly at low obliquities of attack, it definitely not true when the armor is attacked by larger caliber shot at higher obliquities of impact’

Automotive performance
Christie suspension

The Christie suspension used on the T-34 had the advantage that it allowed for high speeds on road. Its disadvantages were that it took a lot of internal space and it had poor stability in rough terrain.

A German test of tank pitching motion at the Kummersdorf testing facility (1km undulated track) showed that the T-34 had the worst stability compared to the Pz IV, Tiger, Sherman and Panther (2).





According to the study ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’ the main problem was the lack of shock absorbers.(3)
 The Christie suspension was a technological dead-end and the Aberdeen evaluation says: ‘The Christie's suspension was tested long time ago by the Americans, and unconditionally rejected’. It was replaced in postwar Soviet tanks with the torsion bar system, same as the T-34M and T43 prototypes intended to replace the T-34 during the war.
 

Problematic gearbox

Another major problem was the unwieldy gearbox. It had poor reliability and it needed excessive force to change gears, leading to driver fatigue. The study ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’ says (4):
'There is rough steering due to the use of clutch and brake steering control and difficulty in shifting due to the use of a spur gear clash-shift transmission and multi-disc dry-clutch, making driving this tank a difficult and very fatiguing job.’

Initially the powerful V-2 engine (500hp) could not be used to the fullest due to the 4-speed gearbox (5). Changing gears required excessive force on behalf of the driver. The T-34 could use the 4th gear only on a paved road, thus the max speed over cross-country was theoretically 25 km/h but in practice it was only 15km/h because changing from 2nd gear to 3rd required superhuman strength.

On later modifications there was a 5-speed gearbox which allowed for a cross country speed of 30 km/h.


Powerful gun?
The T-34 had a large caliber gun. The initial version was the L-11 76mm of 30.5 calibers. This was quickly replaced with the F-34 76mm of 42 calibers and the T34/85 had the ZiS S-53 85mm of 54.6 calibers.

The caliber numbers look impressive. After all the main German tank of 1941-43 Pz III had a 50 mm gun and that of 1943-45 Pz IV had 75mm. However Soviet tank guns suffered from low velocity leading to poor penetration and accuracy at long ranges.

For example the initial round velocity (m/s) for the Soviet guns (6) (using the standard A/T round) was:  L-11 - 612, F-34 - 655 (a German test with Pzgr39 ammo showed 625), ZiS S-53 - 792. The comparable German stats (7) were: KwK 38 L/42 - 685, Kwk 39 L/60 - 835, Kwk 40 L/43 - 740, Kwk 40 L/48 - 790, Kwk 42 – 925.

The KwK 40 75mm used by the Pz IV and Stug from mid 1942 had far better penetration performance and accuracy than the F-34 and the Panther’s KwK 42 was also superior to the ZiS S-53 85mm in the same areas.
 
Lack of radio
Initially only the unit commander’s tank had a radio. In the course of the war radio was used more widely but even in 1944 many tanks lacked a radio set. The lack of radio meant that Soviet tank units operated with little coordination.

Visibility problems

German combat reports show that T-34 tanks had serious difficulties in navigating terrain and identifying targets. The problem was that the vision devices made it hard for the driver and the gunner to see what was happening.


This problem was partially addressed during the war.
The T-34 ‘1941 version’ lacked the vision cupola found on German tanks. This equipment gave the commander a 360o view of his surroundings. Also the optics were of poor quality.

The T-34 ‘1943 version’ had a larger turret and a German style cupola.
The T-34/85, introduced in March ’44, had a new large turret and the German style cupola.

However the quality of Soviet optics combined with the limited visibility from inside the tank affected combat performance. A German unit that used the T-34/76 model ’43 in combat noted (8):
The gun sights in Russian tanks are far behind the German designs. The German gunners need to be thoroughly accustomed to the Russian telescopic gunsights. The ability to spot a hit through the gunsight is very limited.’

In a Russian tank it is difficult to command a Panzer or a unit and at the same time serve as the gunner Therefore fire direction for the entire Kompanie is hardly possible, and the concentrated effect of the unit’s firepower is lost. The commander's cupola on the T 43 makes it easier to command and fire at the same time; however; vision is very limited to five very small and narrow slits.

Safe driving and sure command of both the T 43 and SU 85 can't be achieved with the hatches closed. We base this statement on our experience that on the first day in combat in the Jassy bridgehead, four Beute-Panzer got stuck in the trench system and couldn't get free with their own power, resulting in the destruction of German defensive weapons during the attempt to retrieve them. The same thing happened on the second day.

Reliability problems

The T-34 was supposed to be a simple and rugged vehicle that seldom broke down. Authors like to compare it to the more complex German tanks that supposedly broke down often. The concept of the T-34 as a reliable tank is another myth of WWII.
The majority of vehicles in 1941 were lost due to equipment malfunction. The same reliability problems continued during the period 1942-44. The evacuation and relocation of industrial facilities combined with the loss of skilled workers could only lead to the fall of reliability. 

In 1941 T-34 tanks often had to carry a spare transmission strapped on the back to counter equipment failures (9). In 1942 the situation worsened since many vehicles could only cover small distances before breaking down. In the summer of 1942 the following Stalin order was issued to units (10):
‘Our armored forces and their units frequently suffer greater losses through mechanical breakdowns than they do in battle. For example, at Stalingrad Front in six days twelve of our tank brigades lost 326 out of their 400 tanks. Of those about 260 owed to mechanical problems. Many of the tanks were abandoned on the battlefield. Similar instances can be observed on other fronts. Since such a high incidence of mechanical defects is implausible, the Supreme Headquarters sees in it covert sabotage and wrecking by certain elements in the tank crews who try to exploit small mechanical troubles to avoid battle.’

Henceforth, every tank leaving the battlefield for alleged mechanical reasons was to be gone over by technicians, and if sabotage was suspected, the crews were to be put into tank punishment companies or "degraded to the infantry" and put into infantry punishment companies.'
The situation continued to be problematic even in 1943-44.

There were constant problems with the gearbox and the engine filters. The Aberdeen evaluators noted:

On the T-34 the transmission is also very poor. When it was being operated, the cogs completely fell to pieces (on all the cogwheels). A chemical analysis of the cogs on the cogwheels showed that their thermal treatment is very poor and does not in any way meet American standards for such mechanisms.’
The deficiency of our diesels is the criminally poor air cleaners on the T-34. The Americans consider that only a saboteur could have constructed such a device

The same problems were identified in a T-34/85 built in 1945. The US study ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’ noted (11):

Wholly inadequate engine intake air cleaners could be expected to allow early engine failure due to dust intake and the resulting abrasive wear. Several hundred miles in very dusty operation would probably be accompanied by severe engine power loss.

The same study says in page 451 about the transmission:
The transmission had by American standards already failed, although with extreme care it could have been used further. Teeth ends on all gears were battered as the result of clash shifting. Many pieces of gear teeth had been broken off and were in the transmission oil. The failure is due to inadequate design, since excellent steel was used through the transmission.

The mental image of the T-34 travelling hundreds of kilometers without stopping is fantasy.

A German unit that used the T-34/76 model ’43 in combat noted (12):
Regardless of our limited experience, it can be stated that the Russian tanks are not suitable for long road marches and high speeds. It has turned out that the highest speed that can be achieved is 10 to 12 km/hr. It is also necessary on marches to halt every half hour for at least 15 to 20 minutes to let the machine cool down. Difficulties and breakdowns of the steering clutches have occurred with all the new Beute-Panzer. In difficult terrain, on the march, and during the attack, in which the Panzer must be frequently steered and turned, within a short time the steering clutches overheat and are coated with oil. The result is that the clutches don't grip and the Panzer is no longer manoeuvrable. After they have cooled, the clutches must be rinsed with a lot of fuel.

The V-2 engine had serious reliability problems (13). Depending on the source in 1941 it supposedly lasted for 100 hours on average (14). This figure went down in 1942 since some T-34’s could not travel more then 30-35 km.

The T-34 tested at the Aberdeen centre was built at the best factory using materials of superior quality but its engine stopped working after 72.5 hours. This was not due to American interference as there was a Soviet mechanic (engineer Matveev) charged with maintaining it. Still it was much better than the standard tanks since it covered a distance of 343km.
According to the head of the Armored Directorate of the Red Army N.Fedorenko, the average mileage of the T-34 to overhaul during the war, did not exceed 200 kilometers. This was considered adequate since the T-34’s service life at the front was considerably less. For example in 1942 only 66km.
In that sense the T-34 was indeed ‘reliable’ because it was destroyed before it had a chance to break down on its own!
Still there are examples of T-34’s breaking down during assaults even late in the war (15). For instance the 5th Guards Tank army in 1943 lost as much as 15% of its tanks during its march to Prokhorovka. In August ’43 the 1st Tank army lost 50% of its tanks due to malfunction. As late as the second half of 1944 tank units tried to replace engines with more than 30 hours of operation before a major attack.

All WWII tanks had a hard time when travelling and they needed repairs and maintenance or they broke down.

There is also the question of standardization. The T-34 was produced at several factories. Each factory produced a slightly different variant. Could spare parts from Nizhny Tagil be used on a T-34 from Gorky? Doubtful.

The cheap T-34

One of the major characteristics of the T-34 was its low cost. This supposedly was the reason the Russians were able to build so many, while the Germans insisted on building expensive and thus limited numbers of tanks. Let’s take a look at these two statements.

Price
The concept of ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ has no meaning in a command economy. The reason being that the pricing mechanism is controlled by the government. If Moscow wanted a weapon to cost x amount of roubles it would cost x amount. Command decisions were made at the top and did not take into consideration free market concepts like return on investment, opportunity cost etc etc

The same issues affected, in a lesser way, the German, US and British war economies.
This makes it impossible to directly compare weapon systems by looking at the official prices. In general trying to compare the costs of weapon systems built in different countries under a command economy is very hard and prone to errors. Even using other indicators such as man-hours and input of raw materials can be misleading.

Just to give an example the ‘cheap’ T-34 had an aluminum engine. The Germans with more industrial assets than the SU and significantly higher aluminum production reached the conclusion that they could not provide their own tanks with an aluminum engine. It was simply too costly for them. This shows the different capabilities and priorities that countries have.
A better way is to compare prices of products in the same economy. This shows that the T-34 was much cheaper than the KV-1 and IS-2 tanks.

Also production costs and man-hours went down during the war. In 1941 8.000 man hours were needed to produce one T-34, this was reduced to 3.700 in 1943 (16). Price in rubles went from 430.000 in 1940 to 168.000 in 1944 (17).

Note that the manhours figure for the T-34 probably refers only to the construction of the hull and turret, not a finished tank (18).

Regarding the price, the study ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’, p5 says that:
it is believed, that the cost at the time of manufacture, converted to USA currency, would exceed 50.000 dollars.

This was the same price as the M4 Sherman, an overall better vehicle, so it is not clear of how the T-34 was ‘cheaper’ than the competition (19).
 
Mass Production
The second major issue is whether the mass production of the T-34 was due to its imaginary low cost.

The reality is that the T-34 was built in huge numbers because the SU had built (with American assistance prewar) huge production facilities. These gigantic facilities in the Urals were the reason for the mass production.
The Germans also took advantage of gigantism when they built the Nibelungenwerk factory in Sankt Valentin, Austria. This greatly expanded Pz IV production.

They also built the ‘expensive’ Panther in huge numbers (for their standards) in the period 1943-45. It was not the ‘cost’ of the Panther that allowed them to do so but the industrial assets assigned to it.
The Americans built staggering numbers of M4 tanks in their tank arsenals, not because the M4 was intrinsically cheap but because gigantic facilities were provided for its construction.

Quantity vs quality

When looking into whether a weapon system is cheap or expensive the price is only one factor. The other one and I think the more important one is its performance. Is it better to build 100 cheap tanks or 50 expensive ones? The price difference might be significant but that about the other costs?
100 cheap tanks will need twice the crews and twice the fuel as the 50 expensive ones. They will also need twice the spare parts. If 50 tanks require 25 supply trucks then the 100 will need 50. You get the idea.

Then there is the aspect of losses. A cheap but poorly designed tank system will suffer more losses than an expensive but well armed and armored one. Machines can be mass produced but what about trained crews? A tank force that has limited crew casualties will have many tank aces and even the rest will be able to perform well in combat. On the other hand a country that builds large numbers of inferior tanks will lose them quickly, together with their crews. This will create a downward spiral as inexperienced crews will make up the majority of crews and thus severely limit the capability of the armored force.

In the period 1941-44 the production difference in AFV’s was 2-1 in favor of the Soviets (slightly higher if we add Lend Lease) but the exchange ratio was 3.5-1 in favor of the Germans. This means that if the Germans could concentrate all their production in the East the Soviets would run out of tanks.

The endless stream of T-34 tanks

Another myth is that there were hordes of T-34’s attacking the German formations. A simple look at the Soviet tank strength at various points in the war shows that the T-34 was not the most important tank. The light tanks T-60 and T-70 and the tank-destroyer SU-76 made up the majority of AFV’s in 1941-42 and even in 1943-45 the T-34 comprised roughly half of the Soviet frontline AFV force. In summer 1941 there were only 967 T-34’s in the total strength of 22.000 tanks. For the rest of the war:

Operational forces
AFV
1-Dec-41
1-May-42
1-Nov-42
1-Jul-43
1-Jan-44
1-Jun-44
1-Jan-45
Tanks
Heavy
212
660
922
893
349
467
976
Medium
322
1,291
2,714
5,492
2,609
3,766
6,059
Light
1,393
2,025
3,542
3,447
1,438
1,147
564
Sum
1,927
3,976
7,178
9,832
4,396
5,380
7,599
SPG
Heavy
104
139
314
504
Medium
174
244
152
758
Light
86
523
1,565
3,399
Sum
0
0
0
364
906
2,031
4,661
Total  AFV
1,927
3,976
7,178
10,196
5,302
7,411
12,260
T-34 % of total
0.17
0.32
0.38
0.54
0.49
0.51
0.49


Source: Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voina 1941-45. Dejstvuyushchaya Armiya’ via Axis History Forum

Production and losses during the war

T-34 production and losses
1941
1942
1943
1944
1945
Total
Production
2,800
12,553
15,812
13,949
12,110
57,224
Losses
2,300
6,600
14,700
13,800
7,500
44,900


Source: ‘Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century’
Just a bit under 45.000 lost during the war! War-winning indeed…
Total Soviet AFV losses in 1941-45 were 96.600. That’s not a typo. Almost one hundred thousand vehicles.

For comparison’s sake a German report found in ’Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933 - 1945’ (20) lists tank losses in the East from 1941-44 as 15.673 and total AFV losses (tanks, Stug, self-propeled guns etc) as 23.802.

 

Comparison with German and Western tanks

The German models Tiger and Panther were greatly superior to the T-34 in armor and firepower.
At the other end of the spectrum the outdated models PzI, PzII, Pz35 and Pz38 that were used in numbers in 1941-42 were completely outclassed by it.

The T-34 was superior in mobility as its 500hp engine gave it an excellent power weight ratio. Also its wide tracks minimized ground pressure and allowed movement in soft ground. However its stability over rough terrain was not better than the German tanks.
 
T-34 vs PzIII

The main German tank in the period 1941-43 was the PzIII. It weighed roughly 22 tons and was armed (in that period) with a 50mm gun.
The PzIII made up 28% of German tank strength at the start of operation Barbarossa. Roughly 72% of these had the new 50mm gun, the rest the 37mm (21). These guns could only penetrate the T-34 from the sides at close ranges while the Soviet tank could destroy the PzIII from long distances from all aspects.

By summer ’42 it made up 51% of German tank strength. At that time it had received a longer 50mm gun that could destroy the T-34 from 500m frontally (with special ammunition). It also received more basic armor (50mm from 30mm) plus 20mm bolted on parts. The extra armor negated the performance of the F-34 at long ranges.

Despite its theoretical inferiority the PzIII was able to fight against the T-34.
What it lacked in armor and firepower it made up by having a better internal layout, better reliability and optics, a commander’s cupola and radio in every vehicle.

It is not clear whether some PzIII models had a turret basket (different authors support different views).

T-34 vs PzIV
The PzIV was the main German tank in the period 1943-45. It weighed 25 tons and was equipped with a 75m caliber gun. During the war it was upgraded with more armor and a better gun.

The PzIV made up 13% of German tank strength at the start of operation Barbarossa (22). The model used was equipped with a low velocity 75mm gun effective against infantry but not armored targets. From mid 1942 the PzIV was equipped with the longer 75mm gun KwK 40 that could destroy the T-34 from 1.000m. The basic armor was also increased to 50mm (from 30mm) plus 30mm bolted on and in 1943 80mm standard (for the front hull).

The upgraded PzIV was superior to the T-34 in internal layout, firepower, turret basket, optics, commander’s cupola, radio in every vehicle and its frontal hull armor could withstand the F-34 rounds. A Soviet study in 1943 (23) admitted that the Pz IV was superior to their tank, assigning it a combat value of 1.27 to the T-34’s 1.16 (with the Pz III being the base 1.0).


The T-34/85 that appeared in mid 1944 was a harder opponent due to its new gun but the PzIV still had an edge in the ‘soft’ factors mentioned above. Moreover the heavier 85mm rounds limited the number that could be carried to 56 compared to the Pz IV’s standard load out of 87. The 85 mm rounds were not stored in a safe manner (24) since 16 of the 56 rounds were in the turret This allowed the loader to use them quickly but it had the downside that a penetration of the turret led to the explosion of the shells and loss of the tank.

T-34 vs M4 Sherman
The main US tank in 1942-45 was the Sherman. It weighed 30 tons and was armed with a 75mm gun. The late war version M4 76 had a more powerful 76mm high velocity gun.
There are many similarities between the T-34 and the M-4 Sherman. Both tanks were built in huge numbers and they are comparable in weight and gun caliber. Even their updated version T-34/85 and M4 76mm are very close.

As a weapon system however the M4 was superior. It had the same good ‘soft’ qualities as the German tanks (internal layout, optics, radio), It had significantly better stability over rough terrain plus it was very reliable mechanically. In armor and firepower it was the same as the T-34.

Conclusion

The T-34 is the victim of Soviet and German wartime propaganda. The Russians had every reason to build it up as the best tank of WWII. The Germans also overstated its performance in order to explain their defeats.
If the T-34 was as good as propaganda made it out to be then it should have led to great Soviet victories in 1941-42. Instead what we see in that period is the poor performance of Soviet armored formations. In 1943-45 the T-34 was becoming outdated as the Germans used updated versions of the Pz IV and Stug III equipped with the powerful Kwk 40 75mm gun and of course they introduced the Tiger and Panther.

The ‘best tank of WWII’ suffered horrific losses against those tanks and even the updated version T-34/85 could not bridge the gap.



The T-34 looked good on paper but in the battlefield its ‘soft’ flaws led to huge losses. Meanwhile Western tanks like the M4 Sherman and Pz IV may have lacked sloped armor or wide tracks but they were better combat systems overall.

Effect in the design of postwar Soviet tanks

Postwar Soviet tanks like the T-55, T-62, T-64, T-72 and T-80 all followed the same design principles as the T-34:
 
 
1.     Very low profile which meant limited internal space and poor gun depression.

2.     Limited weight which led to good speed performance but put limits on the level of armor protection.

3.     Simple and rugged construction which meant that they were capable of being mass produced by Soviet factories but at the expense of crew comfort.

Soviet models from the T-64 onwards tried to deal with the limited internal space by automating the ammo loading operation. However their autoloader was problematic and often led to accidents.
Western models like the M-48, M-60 and Centurion were taller and heavier but they provided their crews with a better environment. They also carried more ammunition (25%-51% more).

On paper the Soviet types looked superior but on the field it was the US and British types that won the battles. During the wars between Israel and the Arabs small numbers of Western made tanks wiped out numerically superior Arab forces equipped with the T-55 and T-62 tanks.
One of the most famous episodes is the Battle of the Golan heights in 1973. The Israeli Centurion tanks of the 7th Brigade faced a huge Syrian force but managed to inflict horrific losses on them as they tried to overcome the tank barrier. The Centurion was much heavier (52t) than the T-55 and T-62 (36-40t) and powerfully armed and armored. It also carried 51% (65 vs 43) more ammo.

That battle was a repeat of WWII when the T-34’s charged the field only to be slaughtered by German tanks from a distance.



The performance of the T-72 which was supposed to be the tank that would win a hot war for the Russians was similar. In the Gulf Wars Iraqi T-72’s were easily destroyed by modern M1 Abrams tanks from great distances. As Tom Clancy put it ‘It was a death trap like everything else the Russians built’.
The T-34 legacy led the Russians to invest in quantity over quality. A mistake that their Allies paid dearly.

Notes:

(1). ‘T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing’, p75
(2). ‘Panther & Its Variants’, p71

(3). ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’, p8
(4). ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’, p8

(5). ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’, p392
(6). Zaloga and ‘Kursk 1943’, p212

(7). Panzertruppen last pages
(8). ‘Panzer tracts no. 19-2: Beute-panzerkampfwagen’, p98

(9). ‘T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-45’, p9
(10). ‘Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East’, p363

(11). ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’, p9
(12). Panzer tracts no. 19-2: Beute-panzerkampfwagen’, p97

(13). ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’, p371-2
(14). ‘T-34: Mythical Weapon’, p123

(15). ‘T-34: Mythical Weapon’, p161
(16). ‘Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defense Burden, 1940-1945’, p226

(17). ‘T-34: Mythical Weapon’, p160
(18). ‘Combat vehicles of the Uralvagonzavod: T-34’ by Ustyantsev & Kolmakov via AHF discussion. According to the authors the figure for a complete T-34 in January 1943 was 17.600 labor hours.

(20). ’Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933 – 1945’, p278

(21). Panzetrtruppen
(22). Panzetrtruppen

(23). ‘T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing’, p10
(24). ‘T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing’, p24

Sources:T-34: Mythical Weapon’ by Michulec and Zientarzewski, ‘T-34/76 Medium Tank 1941-45’ , ‘T-34/85 Medium Tank 1944-45’ and ‘T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing’ by Steven J. Zaloga, ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’, Panzertruppen vol1 and vol2 by Jentz, Panther & Its Variants by Spielberger, Evaluation of tanks T-34 and KV by workers of the Aberdeen testing grounds of the U.S , operationbarbarossa.net , ‘Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defense Burden, 1940-1945’, ‘Kursk 1943: A Statistical Analysis’, Axis History Forum, Wikipedia, ‘Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century’, ‘Engineering analysis of the Russian T34/85 tank’, ‘Panzer tracts no. 19-2: Beute-panzerkampfwagen’, ‘Moscow to Stalingrad: Decision in the East’, ’Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933 – 1945’, ‘Review of Soviet ordnance metallurgy

Pics: Kummersdorf test from ‘Panther & Its Variants’, destroyed T-34 pics from ‘T-34: Mythical Weapon’. 

132 comments:

  1. This is an excellent analysis and certainly busts the myth; couple of comments. Crew size has always been an issue with Soviet tanks, up to the latest versions of the T-72 when automatic loaders appeared, soviet tank crews where normally 3 people overloading the tank commander with tasks.
    I also agree with the cheap/command economy point, however I think we should probably look more at the advantage of simple, yet rudimentary, manufacturing methods. While Germans would use fine welding Russians would just assembly it all together with bolts. The simplicity of manufacturing probably contributed to another factor, the easier induction of non-skilled recruits into "tractor" like tanks. I suspect controls inside were very spartan and simple and optics will probably be very very basic...would not require any calculation on the part of the gunner.German crews had a better, and longer, training as they used more sophisticated mechanics and optics. At the end of the day they found themselves in a war of attrition.
    I believe that the slope armor/gun power of the T-34 was actually true in the right context, when they met each other during the German invasion of Russia. At that point the std German tank gun would the 50 mm gun and the short barrel/low speed 75 mm. There would still be a significant amount of Zcech T-38 and PzII as well as 37 mm and 50 mm antitank guns with few long bore 75 mm around; under these conditions light tanks and light pak would have meet a heavy tank for that year standards, having the PzIV as the only, medium tank in this case, to oppose.
    I loved the post. It would be very interesting to see similar comparison for a soviet aircraft. Incidentally I saw 1 US report of a German BF-109 evaluation and it did not do very well as oppose to its myth.
    Excellent! I really enjoyed it.

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    1. I should write something about the Bf-109 as its been misrepresented by Anglos (who hate it) and FW-190 fans (who feel the Butcherbird was the best). Are you referring to the Carson report? That was so ridiculous it has been debunked in several forums.

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    2. You would be referring to me, as the people who favor the FW-190 as their fave axis fighter plane. But seriously its been repeatedly shown that pilot skill is overwhelmingly the decisive factor in dogfights, but picking a fave is incredibly difficult too (btw I specifically prefer the model D 190) if the 262 was an option id pick it too

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  2. It's all relative. When it was developed the T-34 was a great tank, way ahead of any other country's tanks. Then the Germans upgraded their tanks, developed new ones, and the T-34 wasn't so great. So the Soviets created the T-34/85 and again had a decent tank. All tanks involve compromises, and of the two or three tanks that would be on anyone's list for "best tank of WWII" (whatever "best" means to you), the T-34 should always one of them.

    Gary

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    1. do you know, that for the period of 1941 to 1945 are produced about 60 000 T-34 tanks of all modifications ( including "great" T-34/85). Most of them are destroyed by not so dreat German tanks (more than 50 000 T-34 destroyed, some captured). By the way, for WWII war period the total number of German tanks produced is less than 30 000. Only 6000 "Panthers", about 1400 "Tigers", and less than 500 "King Tigers". This is the best example for "quantity vs. quality". Maybe the German tank-guys are "supermen"

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    2. T-34 was designed in early 39 and produced since 1940. It's aluminum engine - already tested design of aircraft engine (like shermans, but of different type?).
      I think comparing german, USA and USSR production of hat time was like comparing blacksmith, steel mill and ant hill. Payment? if you will not finish this tank till tomorrow, one of you be sorry? Standardization of parts doubted by author? All plants in USSR were following state or production standards.if nut from this pant will not fit bolt from other - measure overseer will get shot next morning. No comparison is possible with private designing of german corporations, or with enthusiast, but still currency-based economy of USA. Cost in rubles was used to equalize resources.. Main resource es were manpower and food, rest was added to calculation So needed for aluminum electricity in USSR was cheaper than oil (and is still cheaper in Russia - electricity in Moscow now cost about four times les than in Denver, with no progressive scale, or power limits - though they want apply some).progressive. Every house had aluminum utensils in that time, and during war, people were encouraged to spare some for scraps.
      Why so clunky controls? To save on training of driver.. every 5th young man in USSR at that time knew how to drive tractor,or scraper, or similar vehicles - controls were same.

      Simple answer: what you think was expensive at that time, people of that time were considered cheap. I'm not saying that is right.. just.. there are still people who believe in that scale of costs, probably sadly., but its what allowed to sustain first blow along with resource help later in war from Allies

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    3. "Most of them are destroyed by not so great German tanks "

      And also by Stukas, 88s, and just better tactical training and leadership on the part of the Germans. That's what makes it hard to compare loss ratios. The German small-unit tactics and battle plans gave them a big advantage over Russia and a small advantage over even the US and Britain.

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  3. Glad I’m not the only one who recognizes the T-34 for the death trap it was.
    Soviet armour suffered horrific losses during the war and “the best tank of the war” was a major contributor to that.
    A problem you don’t mention is the large amount of internal space its Christy suspension occupied, another contributor to its cramped interior.
    The Christy suspension made the T-34 fast, but not without mangling its crew during cross-country dashes, it wasn’t used anymore on the T-34’s successors.
    Another T-34 related myth is the Panther being a copy of it while the only thing a Panther has in common with a T-34 is that it is also a tank.

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    1. Good point. I'll have a look at my sources and add this.

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    2. Another point worth looking at might be combat losses.
      In armoured warfare possession of the battlefield after the battle has a huge impact on losses.
      Simply said; for the “loser” every destroyed/damaged/immobilised tank becomes a loss while for the “winner” only tanks that brewed up and/or exploded are lost, everything else getting repaired.
      With the Soviets controlling the majority of the battlefields from mid/late 1943 onwards I have a feeling the number of T-34 “knocked out” in combat was actually much higher than official “losses” imply.
      This would then work in the opposite direction for the Germans of course with everything repairable becoming a “loss” instead.
      So I think the already appalling combat effectiveness of the T-34 the “losses” imply is really only the tip of an iceberg of combat uselessness….

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    3. Well how exactly did the Soviets win if the T-34 was so horrible? And don't say it was numbers because it is far easier to destroy a tank than build it.

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    4. It was numbers. Not just tanks but most importantly infantry.

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    5. I would also add, the simple fact Germany took on far too many enemies with far too many useless Allies. Had Hitler bitch slapped the Duce into compliance and simply ignored the U.S. and let it and Japan duke it out, he would have been able to send far more divisions to the USSR to hold the flanks.

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    6. I would encourage you to look in to the factor that the officer corps of both countries exhibited during the war. The Red Army was fresh out of Stalin's purges and had little time or training to work out the German's deduction that armor concentration was paramount in a tank vs tank engagement. The Russians became notorious for their piecemeal delivery of t-34's early in the war, and while German reports indicate their impressed views of the tank, even they recognized the futility of spreading them so thin along the Russian lines.

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  4. Count me in as another who thinks the T-34 is over-rated as the "best" tank of the war. "Of the war" means until Aug. 1945, and with the rapid changes in technology war brings, there is no way that a 1939-1940 design tank (or plane or even ship for that matter) designed in 1943 or later.

    Clearly, the late model Panthers and Tigers, despite reliability issues - some of which were caused by lack of quality materials as much as design, were better tanks than the T-34 or improved T-34/85. The Korean war showed the superiority of late war tanks such as the M-26 Pershing and British Comet (possibly the best all around produced tank of WW II).

    You make some good points. For example, The T-34 was not as reliable as many believe. From Drabkin, Artem & Oleg Sheremet's "T-34 in action" (2006) "A.V. Bodnar, who was in combat in 1941–42, recalled: 'From the point of view of operating them, the German armoured machines were more perfect, they broke down less often. For the Germans, covering 200 km was nothing, but with T-34s something would have been lost, something would have broken down.'" Production quality for the T-34 was simply not very good to say the least.

    You're also correct to criticize the two man turret layout. That along with poor gun optics hindered rate of fire. The Germans noted the T-34 was very slow to find and engage targets while the Panzers could typically get off three rounds for every one fired by the T-34 (S. Zaloga , P. Sarson, "T-34/76 Medium Tank" page 40).

    The problem for the Germans was that before May 1942 with the arrival of the Panzer IV Ausf F, F/2 and soon after Ausf G, it didn't matter if they got off 3 or 30 rounds per one for the T-34. "Remarkably enough, one determined 37 mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank, only managing to jam the tank’s turret ring” (S. Zaloga , P. Sarson, "T-34/76 Medium Tank" page 12).

    At the start of the Russian campaign, the T-34 was simply the best tank in the world. There was nothing even close. The "best" German tank was the Panzer IV Ausf A-D which featured a low velocity, short barreled 75mm. The Panzer III, like the majority of other tanks at that time, featured a 37mm canon too weak to penetrate the T-34s armor at combat range. The T-34 was revolutionary in it's use of sloped armor. It's 450hp engine was more powerful than most if not all other contemporary tanks. The Panzer IV, for example, had a 300HP engine. The T-34's engine also used diesel rather than more flammable gasoline.

    Given it's competition at the early part of the Russian Offensive, it's easy to see why the T-34 gained a legendary reputation - it was simply much better than the competition. But as I mentioned, it was inevitable that it began to be outclassed by later designs such as the Panther. The exact same thing can be seen with the AM-6 Zero fighter. Up until 1943, it outclassed anything in the Pacific and was the terror of the skies. However, with the introduction of the F-6 Hellcat and F4U Corsair, it became something for target practice.

    To be clear, I agree 100% that while the Panther & Tiger tanks were superior, they were simply overwhelmed by the massive numbers of T-34s which was why Germany was unable to regain any momentum on the Eastern Front post 1943. It should also be mentioned that poor German leadership at the top didn't help much either. Even the best tank can't overcome poor tactical and strategic planning.

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    1. I agree that the T-34’s paper characteristics were excellent in 1941. The problem was that the performance in the field was poor because of the soft flaws (two-man turret, lack of radio, poor vision, poor reliability etc). Just think about the part you quoted: ‘Remarkably enough, one determined 37 mm gun crew reported firing 23 times against a single T-34 tank’. For you it means the T-34 could withstand any German gun. For me it is amazing that the T-34 crew could not engage and destroy a target that had already hit them 23 times! Talk about fighting blind…
      Also a correction. The PzIII force in 1941 had primarily the 50mm gun. In 1942 it received the longer 500mm L/60 and the PzIV and Stug the Kwk40. The Pz IV F2/G was superior to the T-34 as it also received extra armor. So keep in mind that even the ‘paper’ superiority of the T-34 was defeated by mid ’42.

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  5. Sorry, but forgot to add two things:

    (1) The Aberdeen evaluations must be taken with quite a bit of salt. Sadly, US military "planners" and high ranking officials let bias and ego unduly influence their judgement. Anything made and designed in America was automatically superior to the competition.

    German testing proved that the F-34 gun had superior penetration compared to the M4 Sherman's M3 75mm. The 85mm T-34 gun was also superior to the Shermans 76mm M1 gun unless HVAP rounds were used. The 85mm could penetrate the Panther's mantlet at 500m, while standard 76mm M1 rounds could only do so at 100m or so. With the limited supply HVAP rounds, the M4's 76mm M1 could still not penetrate the Panther's front glacis, but could penetrate the gun mantlet at 800m+

    Even worse, assuming you quoted correctly, the Aberdeen evaluators statistics are ludicrous "...the muzzle velocity of AP round is significantly inferior to the American 3" gun (3200 feet versus 5700 feet per second).’"

    I don't think there's every been a traditional gun (i.e not a "rail" gun or similar) in the history of the world with a muzzle velocity of over 5000 ft/s. A few modern hunting rounds (e.g. Weatherby Magnums, Remington Ultra Mag, etc.) approach 4000 ft/sec. A special round for the M1 Abram's 120mm canon has muzzle velocity of roughly 4600ft/s. That's the fastest I found (though admittedly it wasn't an exhaustive search).

    The M3 75mm muzzle velocity was 2300 with AP rounds, and with HVAP rounds, 76mm M1's was 3400ft/s (2600 otherwise). I can't think of any WWII gun (small or large caliber) with a muzzle velocity of 4000ft/s or more.

    (2) Thank you for an enlightening post. I truly enjoyed reading it.

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    1. It seems that the whole sentence is wrong. From ‘Mythical weapon’ I get for initial velocity (m/s): USSR: F-34 gun -680, D-5 gun - 792, USA: M1- 1,036, UK: 17 pdr- 1,204, Germany: KwK40 -990, Kwk42 - 1,125.

      There is also the question of accuracy at long ranges. German and Western guns had much higher theoretical accuracy against a target of a given size compared to Soviet ones. For example at 1,500m 85mm has 63% theoretical while Kwk42 100% theoretical and 72% actual.

      I’ll rewrite that part when I have time.

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    2. I had a look at my sources and also checked google. The basic stats for standard A/T ammo were:

      USSR: L-11 – 612, F-34 – 680 (German test says 625), D-5 – 792, USA: M3- 619 , M1- 792?, UK: 17pdr – 880, Germany: KwK 38 L/42 – 685, Kwk 39 L/60 – 835, Kwk 40 L/43 – 740, Kwk 40 L/48 – 790, Kwk 42 - 925

      For special ammo: USSR: L-11 – ?, F-34 – 965 , D-5 – 1,200, USA: M3- 701 , M1- 1,036, UK: 17pdr – 1,204, Germany: KwK 38 L/42 – 1,050, Kwk 39 L/60 – 1,180, Kwk 40 L/43 – 920, Kwk 40 L/48 – 990, Kwk 42 – 1,120

      There is also the question of how available were the special ammo types in Soviet service.

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  6. I don't know about the "best tank" as that is so subjective based on time, location, battlefield conditions, etc., but given the German reactions to its appearance, no matter what tests show, it shocked the hell out of the Germans. One thing to consider in the number of T-34s destroyed is the superior German anti-tank guns. As far as the Sherman, it was such a scandal that even Patton testified to Congress about its short comings. The only way Shermans took on Panthers (and Tigers) was through side and rear ambushes. One thing for certain, any article that claims the T-34 was crap compared to these other tanks based on tests at Aberdeen has clearly lost sense of the reality of their use in the real war. When German tanks were frozen in the winter, they were running.

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    1. ‘I don't know about the "best tank" as that is so subjective based on time, location, battlefield conditions, etc’
      Yet countless WWII books constantly refer to the T-34 as the best tank of the war.

      ‘As far as the Sherman, it was such a scandal that even Patton testified to Congress’
      The Sherman was a better tank than the T-34 (M4 vs T-34 and M4 76mm vs T-34/85).

      ‘any article that claims the T-34 was crap compared to these other tanks based on tests at Aberdeen’
      The problems noted by the Aberdeen evaluators have also been mentioned in Soviet army reports and even a US study from the Korean War points out the unbelievably poor air filter on the T-34/85. I could also write about German tests showing the T-34 had the worst stability of any tested production tank etc The T-34 just wasn’t designed and built well.

      ‘When German tanks were frozen in the winter, they were running’
      Yes in 1941 that was true. Then the Germans learned to keep their equipment running in very low temperatures (usually from Soviet prisoners).

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  7. Your comment about the sloped armor on the panther is wrong. The sides of the panther are sloped; you can tell that just by looking at it.

    Your comparisons of the tank cannons also don't take into account the HE shells of the tanks. A study by the US Army conducted about the fighting in North Africa showed that about 75% of all the shells fired by US tanks were High-Explosive rounds. In fact the HE performance of the gun on the M4 76mm was so poor General Patton refused to accept the first shipments of them for service in the D-Day invasions.

    In this the T-34 had an advantage over the Panther and the Tiger since it fired shells with more high-explosives in them. The same compares to the 76mm cannon on the Sherman. The 75mm cannon did have the same HE performance but inferior AP.

    As for the reliability;
    No-one has ever said the T-34 never broke down. Reliable is a relative term: compared to the Tiger and Panther the T-34 was far more reliable. It broke down less often and consumed much less fuel which was an important advantage. The losses to break-downs in 1941-42 were due to a shortage of mechanics trained to maintain the then-new tank.


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    1. 'Your comment about the sloped armor on the panther is wrong'
      The Panther also used slope on the sides, however my point concerned the loss of internal space due to the slope. It was the front that 'cut' into the internal space. In the T-34 front and sides were so sloped that they limited internal space considerably. It seems that i need to explain this in more detail.

      ‘Your comparisons of the tank cannons also don't take into account the HE shells of the tanks’
      I compared tank with tank so A/T performance was what mattered. HE shells aren’t going to help you in tank combat. I’ll add something when I update this piece.

      ‘Reliable is a relative term: compared to the Tiger and Panther the T-34 was far more reliable’
      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

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  8. The aim of the article is good, but there are a large number of inaccuracies. Michulec book is extremely biased and the way the author uses references to point out data is unacceptable. Its much better to use information from authors like Jentz or Svirin.

    The limited space not only affected crew performance but turned the T-34 into a deathtrap. A US study from the Korean War (based on the T-34/85 that was roomier than the T-34/76) concluded that due to the limited internal space a penetration by an A/T round usually led to the destruction of the tank and loss of 75% of the crew. In the Sherman the figure was only 18%.[/i]

    Yes, but in Korea Shermans received fire from 76/85mm rounds, and T-34-85 from 90mm mounted on Pershings.

    German tanks like the Pz III and Pz IV had a conventional hull design but they also used slope in the middle part of their front hull armor

    The slope was very limited. If it was ok Panther and Tiger-II would not have had slopes like T-34.

    The new Panther tank was the first German tank to have a fully sloped hull front and sloped sides however the armor layout did not limit interior space like in the T-34.

    And this resulted in a tank which was overweight by 10tons. Expected weight fro transmission was 35tons, Panther reached 45. This caused side armour to be limited taking into account the weight of the tank.

    The Christie suspension used on the T-34 had the advantage that it allowed for high speeds on road. Its disadvantages were that it took a lot of internal space and it had poor stability in rough terrain.

    Yes, but Soviet industry was well versed into the building techniques, and they could use machinery from locomotive industry. Torsion bars suspensions needed more complex machinery, and in some cases it had to be imported. By keeping the Christie suspension T-34 was easier to build in largue quantities. The same goes with turret rings. There were very few machines that could machine a turret with a large turret ring (+1.8 meters). This is one aspect of lend-lease largely forgotten.

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  9. The caliber numbers look impressive. After all the main German tank of 1941-43 Pz III had a 50 mm gun and that of 1943-45 Pz IV had 75mm. However Soviet tank guns suffered from low velocity leading to poor penetration and accuracy at long ranges.

    The 76mm gun was excellent, but the strengths need to be found in more specific reports. Manufacturing was very simple, as it had few components. More importantly was the good performance of both HE and AP rounds. 37mm and 50mm guns were way behind in it. Lets see the US report on the T-34 sent to Aberdeen:

    Armament

    The F-34 gun is a very good. It is simple, very reliable and easy to service. Its weakness is that the muzzle velocity of AP round is significantly inferior to the American 3" gun (3200 feet versus 5700 feet per second).

    Note that the report is from the end of 1942, so T-34-76 had been in service for a while. Germans were also very impressed:

    "Characteristics of the T34.

    The T-34 is faster, more maneuverable, has better cross-country mobility than our Pz.Kpfw.lll and IV. Its armor is stronger. The penetrating ability of its 7.62 cm cannon is superior to our 5 cm KwK. and the 7.5 cm KwK40. The favorable form of sloping all of the armor plates aids in causing the shells to skid off.

    Combating the T-34 with the 5 cm KwK tank gun is possible only at short ranges from the flank or rear, where it is important to achieve a hit as perpendicular to the surface as possible. Hits on the turret ring, even with high-explosive shells or machine gun bullets, usually result in jamming the turret. In addition, armor-piercing shells fired at close range that hit the gun mantle result in penetrations and breaking open the weld seams. The T-34 can be penetrated at ranges up to 1000 metres with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 as well as the 7.5 cm Hohlgranate (hollow-charge shells)."

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  10. This is a report from May 1942. This other from October 1941:

    "For the first time during the campaign in the East, in these battles the absolute superiority of the Russian 26 tons and 52 ton tanks over out Pz.Kpfw.III and IV was felt.

    The Russian tanks ususally formed in a half circle, open fire with their 7.62 cm gun on our Panzers already at a range of 1000 meters and deliver enormous penetration energy with high accuracy.

    Our 5 cm Kw.K. tank guns can only achieve penetrations under very special favourable conditions at very close range under 50 meters. Our Panzers arealready knocked out at a range of several hundred meters. Many times our Panzers Were split open or the complete commander's cupola of the Pz.Kpfw.lll and IV flew off from one frontal hit. This is proof that the armor is insufficient, the mounting for the commander's cupola on our Panzers is deficient, and the accuracy and penetration ability of the Russian 7.62 cm tank guns are high.

    In addition to the superior weapons effectiveness and stronger armor, the 26 ton Christie tank (T34) is faster, more maneuverable, and the turret traverse mechanism clearly superior. His wide tracks allow wading of fords that can't be crossed by our Panzers. The ground pressure is somewhat better than ours, so that in spite of the larger weight of the Russian tank the same bridges can be crossed as by our Panzers."

    By the way, on of the suggestions by the author of the report -the commander of 4 Panzer Dvision- was to install 76mm T-34 gun in Panzer-IV. I guess Michulec missed that one!

    The KwK 40 75mm used by the Pz IV and Stug from mid 1942 had far better penetration performance and accuracy than the F-34 and the Panther’s KwK 42 was also superior to the ZiS S-53 85mm in the same areas.

    Panther’s KwK 42 was way superior in armour penetration, but weight was comparable to IS-2. ZiS S-53 was comparable to 75L48. I would consider it superior because of availavility of subcaliber rounds.

    Apparently the air filter problem was never fixed. A US study of a captured T-34/85 from the Korean War (built in 1945)

    It ws fixed in late 1943. Cyclon filters were installed. I don't know what the US reports refers to

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  11. The mental image of the T-34 travelling hundreds of kilometers without stopping is fantasy. The 5th Guards Tank army in 1943 lost as much as 15% of its tanks during its march to Prokhorovka. In August ’43 the 1st Tank army lost 50% of its tanks due to malfunction.

    After 1943 this mental image was very clear, and 15% is more than acceptable in tanks. V-2-34 engines were much better built and allowed several hundred hours of operations. In Kursk the Soviets did not have much experience on this type of maneouvers but still performed quite well. 29 Tank Corps only lost 12 tanks and 8 Su-76 out of 220 combat vehicles in the first 150 kms (out of 300-400kms). Later in the war T-34 could manage 500kms in 3 days. In January-February 1944 the % of T-34 produced that sucessfully went through a 300kms circuit was around 80%.

    There is also the question of standardization. The T-34 was produced at several factories. Each factory produced a slightly different variant. Could spare parts from Nizhny Tagil be used on a T-34 from Gorky? Doubtful.

    Quality of T-34 varied during the war because of tooling and facilities, but later in the war the finishing was ok. You can see many pictures of T-34 with different roadwheels. See below:

    Just to give an example the ‘cheap’ T-34 had an aluminum engine. The Germans with more industrial assets than the SU and significantly higher aluminum production reached the conclusion that they could not provide their own tanks with an aluminum engine.

    This is because Soviet aircraft industry did not need aluminium to mass produce the aircraft. Soviet Union took into account availability of resources when designing weapons. T-34 was conceived for mass production and low cost. The steel used was of just 3 different gauges to simplify production. Refinement was only applied where needed. Semiautomatic welding -created by Paton- saved a large amount of time when manufacturing tanks.

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  12. It also received more basic armor (50mm from 30mm) plus 20mm bolted on parts. The extra armor negated the performance of the F-34 at long ranges.

    Yes, but as war progressed T-34 received new ammunition which negated the Panzer-III improved armour.

    The upgraded PzIV was superior to the T-34 in internal layout, firepower, turret basket, optics, commander’s cupola, radio in every vehicle and its frontal hull armor could withstand the F-34 rounds. A Soviet study in 1943 admitted that the Pz IV was superior to their tank, assigning it a combat value of 1.27 to the T-34’s 1.16 (with the Pz III being the base 1.0).

    this only appplies in Kursk and a few months after. When T-34-85 was introduced the Soviet model was again ahead.


    The T-34/85 that appeared in mid 1944 was a harder opponent due to its new gun but the PzIV still had an edge in the ‘soft’ factors mentioned above. Moreover the heavier 85mm rounds limited the number that could be carried to 56 compared to the Pz IV’s standard load out of 87.

    In 1944 T-34 received many improvements which are not that well known: better steel for armour, increased thickness in the turret, subcaliber ammunition, better turret ventilation. On the other hand Panzer-IV was simplified to make up for German problems. The electric engine for the turret was removed. PzGr40 rounds were not available and increased armour affected reliability. It also had more space in the turret for crew, and loader had a periscope for battlefield observation. Finnish also compared T-34-85 favourably with late Panzer-IV.

    Also, increased armour and firepower affected Panzer-IV much more than T-34. The front turret was still ~50mm, which is comparable to... T-34-85 turret side armour. The vehicle also became nose heavy and had problems in suspension and final drives.

    [quote]As a weapon system however the M4 was superior. It had the same good ‘soft’ qualities as the German tanks (internal layout, optics, radio),[/quote]

    They were comparable. Optics were better in T-34-85. In the Aberdeen report they were very impressed with T-34-85 optics. Observability is better in Sherman. Yugoslavia compared T-34-85 and M4A3E4 and found them comparable.

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  13. In 1943-45 the T-34 was becoming outdated as the Germans used updated versions of the Pz IV and Stug III equipped with the powerful Kwk 40 75mm gun and of course they introduced the Tiger and Panther.

    In reality Panzer-IV and StuG-III were considered obsolete. T-34 turret was 90mm thick and provided reasonable protection from 500 meters in a 40° arc. If you look at Peter Muller and Wolfgang Zimmerman book on StuG-III (Volume 1), you can find excerpts of report written in the middle of 1944 that considered StuG far inferior to t-34-85 in frontal, side and rear hits (page 204).

    Postwar Soviet tanks like the T-55, T-62, T-64, T-72 and T-80 all followed the same design principles as the T-34:

    The designs were completely different. T-55/62 derived from T-44. T-64/72/80 shared few designfeatures with T-34-85.

    1. Very low profile which meant limited internal space and poor gun depression.

    T-34 profile was not that low.

    2. Limited weight which led to good speed performance but put limits on the level of armor protection.

    Protection was comparable (T-55/62) or superior (T-64/80) to Western counter parts. Soviet Union was the first country to introduce a tank with composite armour.

    Soviet models from the T-64 onwards tried to deal with the limited internal space by automating the ammo loading operation. However their autoloader was problematic and often led to accidents.

    Not really. USSR took very seriously the possibility of fighting a war in NBQ environment. An automatic loader will not be affected by these conditions. Ask any tanker about loading guns with mask and protection kit... also, increasingly large calibers meant more effort for loader, who would struggle to keep pace. Finally, you save space which you can use for extra armour. All modern tanks fielded recently mount autoloaders.

    During the wars between Israel and the Arabs small numbers of Western made tanks wiped out numerically superior Arab forces equipped with the T-55 and T-62 tanks.

    This had more to do with training. Iraqui crews had the upper had against Iranian's, and in this case the training was more comparable.

    One of the most famous episodes is the Battle of the Golan heights in 1973. The Israeli Centurion tanks of the 7th Brigade faced a huge Syrian force but managed to inflict horrific losses on them as they tried to overcome the tank barrier

    Which isthe normal thing when you charge in a field with limited mobility against tanks in preset positions. Jordanians used American tanks and were beaten by mighty Super Shermans.

    Also, Israelis got their hands in as many T-55/62 as they could and kept them in service for decades. If they are worst than own vehicles it does not make sense to keep them.

    This is probably one of the best description of the T-34 I have read. It comes from a British report:

    The design shows a clear-headed appreciation of the essentials of an effective tank and the requirements of war, duly adjusted to the particular characteristics of the Russian soldier, the terrain and the manufacturing facilities available. When it is considered how recently Russia has become industrialized and how great a proportion of the industrialized regions have been over-run by the enemy, with consequent loss of hurried evacuation of plant and workers, the design and production of such useful tanks in such great numbers stands out as an engineering achievement of the first magnitude.

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  14. Comments overload! Alejandro I’ll answer some of your comments:

    ‘Michulec book is extremely biased…’
    Too bad since most of the information is from Zaloga!

    ‘Yes, but in Korea Shermans received fire from 76/85mm rounds, and T-34-85 from 90mm mounted on Pershings’
    Nope it’s not a matter of caliber size but having limited interior space filled with ammo and fuel.

    ‘By keeping the Christie suspension T-34 was easier to build in large quantities’
    Is that why they planned to stop production of the T-34 in 1941 and switch to the T-34M with torsion bar suspension (same thing in 1943 with T-43) ?

    ‘the muzzle velocity of AP round is significantly inferior to the American 3" gun (3200 feet versus 5700 feet per second’
    I deleted this part because it does not make sense. Either the report is wrong or someone made a mistake copying the values.

    ‘76mm gun was excellent’
    The L-11 was crap for its caliber. The F-34 was a good gun but inferior in A/T performance to the KwK40 by a very wide margin. The KwK 39 L/60 had comparable A/T performance to the F-34.

    ‘The penetrating ability of its 7.62 cm cannon is superior to our 5 cm KwK.’
    True

    ‘and the 7.5 cm KwK40’
    Not even close comrade!

    ‘I don't know what the US reports refers to’
    Captured T-34 built in 1945, so quality was superior to those built during the war.

    ‘allowed several hundred hours of operations’
    Sure it did, that’s why the engine had a life of 100-150 hours.

    ‘Later in the war T-34 could manage 500kms in 3 days’
    They drove to Mars and back before breaking down. Communist engineering FTW!

    ‘T-34 was conceived for mass production and low cost’
    Yep that’s why it had an aluminum engine.

    ‘this only applies in Kursk and a few months after. When T-34-85 was introduced the Soviet model was again ahead’
    Pz III and IV received new guns and armor in 1942. T-34/85 entered service in limited numbers in March ’44. It’s not a few months…

    ‘In 1944 T-34 received many improvements’
    Same vehicle with new turret for new gun. Last main tank to finally get a three man turret…

    ‘The front turret was still ~50mm, which is comparable to... T-34-85 turret side armour’
    Yes but T-34/85 had 45mm hull and it was the hull that is the bigger target… Never upgraded that part did they?

    All in all I see that you took a lot of time to write this all down but this isn’t a forum. Don't spam the comments.



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  15. "Yes but T-34/85 had 45mm hull and it was the hull that is the bigger target… Never upgraded that part did they?"

    No because priority was the turret. Also, the 45mm plate was sloped.

    "Pz III and IV received new guns and armor in 1942. T-34/85 entered service in limited numbers in March ’44. It’s not a few months…"

    This has nothing to to with the design but with priorities and decisions of Soviet industry/leadership.

    Is that why they planned to stop production of the T-34 in 1941 and switch to the T-34M with torsion bar suspension (same thing in 1943 with T-43) ?

    This is inaccurate. Production of T-34 was supposed to take place in Factory 183, but it was not the only one producing T-34. The May 1941 production plan included the manufacture of 2800 T-34 with Christie suspension.

    "They drove to Mars and back before breaking down. Communist engineering FTW!"

    Lack of arguments perhaps? I was expecting something else, as you do use primary documentation for your messages on intelligence.

    Too bad since most of the information is from Zaloga!

    Yes, but he does not have access to ll Soviet documentation released after 1991.

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    1. Here we go again!

      ‘No because priority was the turret’
      No because the vehicle couldn’t take any more weight. Considering the areas that were hit most it would be better to add armor to the hull since it was hit more often.

      ‘This has nothing to to with the design but with priorities and decisions of Soviet industry/leadership’
      Country A does something in early 1942 country B in March ’44. What is there to talk about? Why do I care if it was ‘priorities and decisions’? Sure the SU leadership built the T-34 I masses BUT it had to refrain from making any improvement at least till the T-34/85.

      ‘This is inaccurate’
      The Russians planned to phase out the T-34 as a failure and build the T-34M that fixed the obvious problems. Same thing in 1943 with the T-43. In the first case the war intervened and the T-34 deathtrap was allowed to go into mass production. In 1943 they again had to choose the T-34 since the changeover to a new tank would limit production for the first year at least.

      ‘Lack of arguments perhaps?’
      If you think the T-34 or any WWII tank could travel hundreds of km without breaking down (or needing serious repairs) I have a Parthenon I’d like to sell you. Trust me mate with the crisis now I’ll give you a good price!

      ‘Yes, but he does not have access to ll Soviet documentation released after 1991’
      Hahaha, no the Russians hid them under the bed and he couldn’t find them! Are you serious? I’m not saying Zaloga is infallible but he has changed his mind on the T-34. Compare his first book ‘T-34/76’ with ‘T-34/85 vs M26’ and you’ll see he went from T-34=best tank in universe to T-34/85=serious problems, easily handled by Sherman and M26.

      Delete
  16. "No because the vehicle couldn’t take any more weight. Considering the areas that were hit most it would be better to add armor to the hull since it was hit more often."

    This is always a problem. Factory 183 produced a few T-34-85 with increased armour in the front hull. The thickness reached 75mm and 100mm in the driver's hatch. The weight was compensated by reducing armour is less vulnerable areas and installing lighter wheels and chassis components. The new setup was tested against 88L71 gun and found vulnerable, so it was not put into production.

    "Hahaha, no the Russians hid them under the bed and he couldn’t find them! Are you serious? I’m not saying Zaloga is infallible but he has changed his mind on the T-34."

    You probably did not read the book properly. Otherwise you would have added to the Korean data:

    "This imbalance was in part due to the US tankers' practice of hitting a tank repeatedly until it burned to make certain that it was knocked out. In general, the study concluded that the T-34-85 was an excellent tank, but that the North Korean crews were not as well trained as their American opponents."

    The concluded it was an excellent tank... I thought it was a deathtrap! Von Kleist also considered it to be the best tank in the world in 1941. Why is that?

    "Sure the SU leadership built the T-34 I masses BUT it had to refrain from making any improvement at least till the T-34/85."

    You just don't grasp the whole thing. There were improvements to T-34-76, which included hexagonal turrets, better ammunition, radios and commander cupola.

    One thing to be criticized which you could include in the article was the insistence on dead ends when designing improving the gun. 57mm was not suitable, valuable time was wasted trying to improve T-34-76 turrets. T-34-85 could have been brought into service much earlier.

    "I have a Parthenon I’d like to sell you. Trust me mate with the crisis now I’ll give you a good price!"

    Not interested, the best parts are in London anyway :-D This also applies to Panzer-III/IV.

    Le's see:

    Page 74:

    The M26 and M46 were indeed a clear overmatch for the T-34-85, with thicker armor and heavier firepower. The T-34-85 and the M4A3E8, however, were on fairly equal terms.

    Which is what you would expect. M26/46 is a more modern design, Sherman is from the same period.

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    1. I wonder why you don’t actually sit down and read the books I sourced. Just read them and write down the important parts. I’ve done that several times to get to the truth. Right now you are wasting my time by simply finding a quote and posting it here. For example:

      ‘Characteristics of the T34 - The T34 is faster, more maneuverable, has better cross-country mobility than our Pz.Kpf lll and IV. Its armor is stronger The penetrating ability of its 7.62 cm cannon is superior to our 5 cm Kw.K. and the 7,5 cm Kw.K.40. The favorable form of sloping all of the armor plates aids in causing the shells to skid off.’

      But you forgot this statement: ‘T34: The T34 that was far superior to the German Panzers up to the beginning of the Spring of 1942 is now inferior to the German long 5 cm Kw.K. L/60 and 7.5 cm Kw.K.40 L/43 tank guns. After the Russians attacked the German Panzer forces in several battles with the T34 and received heavy losses, they didn't send the T34 tank against the German Panzers so long as they had a chance to with-draw’

      Which one is correct? That’s the problem they’re both statements without any deeper explanation. That’s why I focus on specific tests and statistics!

      Now you said : ‘"This imbalance was in part due to the US tankers' practice of hitting a tank repeatedly until it burned to make certain that it was knocked out. In general, the study concluded that the T-34-85 was an excellent tank, but that the North Korean crews were not as well trained as their American opponents."

      Yes it says in part. IN PART. Do you understand why? Let’s see what the book says: ‘Armor data provides only part of the picture of a tank's protection. Other factors in assessing the vulnerability of a tank include the internal arrangement of fuel and ammunition. The T-34-85 is a clear example of the trade-off between the benefits and drawbacks of steeply angled protective armor. Although the T-34's sloped sides reduced the likelihood of the tank being penetrated by enemy projectiles, it also led to a decrease in internal hull volume. In the event that the T-34 was penetrated, the projectile was far more likely to produce catastrophic damage among the fuel and ammunition stored in such a small space. The side sponsons of the T-34's fighting compartment in particular contained fuel cells that if penetrated could lead to fire and the destruction of the tank. In contrast the US tanks, with their larger internal hull volumes, allowed segregation of the fuel cells in the rear of the tank where they were less likely to be hit and less likely to lead to crew casualties……In this respect, the T-34-85's ammunition layout also decreased the survivability of the tank. The larger size of the 85mm ammunition forced the designers to place a significant portion of the tank's ammo load, 16 of 55 rounds, in the turret, where there was a high probability of being hit.’

      As for the excellent part: According to the US evaluation: reliability-poor, armor-poor, internal layout-poor, driving characteristics-poor etc but yeah it was excellent, it was all the Koreans fault.

      I’m tired of responding to you. Let me state again that this is not a forum! Read the books mate!

      Delete
  17. looks like one of the main ideas is T-34 had "limited internal space". That was very uncomfortable for americans.

    Soviet veterans say Shermans were good at parades rather than in the battlefield.

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    1. That may be a cold war exaggeration. The book ‘Commanding the Red Army's Sherman Tanks: The World War II Memoirs of Hero of the Soviet Union, Dmitriy Loza’ seems to rate the Sherman highly. Unfortunately I haven’t read it so I’m simply going by the reviews.

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    2. They are both technically justified,

      for the Russian, the situation was so desperate at some parts of the war that ANY tank capable of engaging the enemy is better than none. There is no time to design a completely new design and mass produce them at some part of the heaviest fight of the war where defeat was not a distinct possibility.

      The T-34 and it's successor T-34-85 which is improved and many other Russian compact tank design of the time suffer from various issues aside of the cramped interior which led to their slower reaction time, reload, etc.. (this is part of the reason why their practical rate of fire for even the smaller guns seems low)

      The russian however mitigated the problem to an extent by tactical decision, for example some of their tank and assault guns or tank destroyer have a VERY slow rate of fire (due to cramped interior, excessively heavy shells, etc) they then compensates this by focus firing a single target at a time with massed fire to maximize chance of hit (their sights were also poor) and the chance to knock it out.

      In essence, the Russian were expert during the war in the art of utilizing the best of what they had (which was limited or poor) for maximum effect.

      As far as TANK design is concerned however, the T-34 design limitation IS indeed a serious drawback and limitation... that is why it's REMOVED from subsequent design or improved. Because ultimately, you don't really want to make specific tactical choice for nothing else than to compensate a weakness in your hardware if you can help it.

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    3. Very impressive. Let's assume that T-34 was the best tank. I have one simple question. If so, why the Russians have so big, so huge loses. T-34 loses are sligtly less than 50 000 (about 45000). I don't count another tans and SPG - the figure will arrise to 90-100 000. Half of them - T-34. All German tank produced in WWII are less than 32 000. Loses about 25 000. Not onli on Easten front. About one year Germany fights on two fronts.
      If T-34 is the best tank with so huve loses, I'm wondering what it will happened if Germans had enough Panther when the war begins. By the way Germany started "barbarossa" oparation with 3200 tanks and 1600 Stugs, aginst 22 000 Soviet tanks. About 1000 T-34 and 800 KV, The rezult? By the end of the 1941 teh Soviets had less than 1600 tanks. including new produced in second half 1941. 20 000 destroyed tanks for only half year. Not bad, isn't it?
      what about 11 000 T-34 destroydet in 1943? Or huge numbers destroyed tanks in 1944? This is statistics. Simple statistics.
      The best tank T-34! Bull shets.

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    4. At the start of Barbarossa the Germans had roughly 3.600 tanks (German models plus captured French ones) plus 250 Stug III plus 135 Panzerjager I.

      Delete
  18. It's a decent article, but at least a few things that I find to be over-simplified come to mind:

    1. Nobody would claim that T-34 is best in 1945 in terms of overall individual-tank performance. The only legit meaning of discussing T-34 as "best tank of WW2" is in terms of its overall contribution compared to other tanks -- (performance x ease of wartime manufacturing) = value. And in this sense it's a very strong contender.

    2. The cramped conditions and lack of radios is a traditional Western argument that misses the point. Cramped conditions is something that undoubtedly has a certain effect on overall performance, but suffice it to say, I can't recall a single Russian tanker's memoir in which he complains about lack of space hampering operation in combat. Guns, sights, armor those are all mentioned, never "being cramped". So whatever the effect is, it is a miniscule fraction of a real drawback, such as lets say inferior optics.. so for all intents and purposes its not worth mentioning.

    Radios.. well T-34s had radios that worked just fine! The problem was the doctrine, in which the Red Army decided that non-commander T-34s did not need a transmitter, and only had a receiver. But this is completely a doctrinal issue, if you take a good tank and decide not to put a piece of equipment on it, it doesn't mean that the tank design is bad, lol. Like if Germans decided to put 50mm gun on half of Tigers, whose fault is that, the tank or the commanders??

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  19. 3. T-34 losses.. like most other terrible Russian losses, these were IMO (and an opinion shared by many others) overwhelmingly caused by extremely poor quality of commanders especially early on on divisional up to front level, and undertrained tank crews throughout. Countless tanks were lost in gigantic pockets, senseless frontal assaults, or unsupported urban fighting -- where it literally made almost no difference whether you had BT-2s, T-34s or ISs. It's the same with any equipment -- La-5FNs were a match for any late-war German fighter, but the kill ratios were still probably 3-1 (at least) in favor of the Germans even for those planes. Better commanders, better doctrine, better trained pilots. So.. you give T-34s to the Germans, and I shudder to think what they might have accomplished with it.

    4. You make a mention about T-34 ease of manufacture being a key issue, but you don't really shed any light on it. And it is, in fact, key. Because throughout the war designers had improved T-34 variants ready to go, but any improvements that could decrease production volume were forbidden! So the tank was in fact simplified as much as possible which went a long way to ensure that by '44 the volume of decent tanks available to Red Army was such that the Germans could not hold the front anywhere -- somewhere a massed assault would break through, and the Germans had to retreat to avoid encirclements by large quantity of T-34s that could only be dealt with serious equipment that the Germans couldnt build enough of.. and thus they kept retreating non-stop to Berlin.

    Anyway, you mention that Shermans also had great mass-production pedigree, but you know what, Americans also didn't have to pack up and relocate their heavy industries to Alaska to be operated in many cases by women and teens as the men fought on the front. It sounds like Shermans were a good fit for mass production, but time constraints and shortages of tools and labor force were on a whole different order in Russia, and still the T-34s came rolling out in huge numbers. How would any other Western tank production hold up in those kinds of conditions, one can only guess, and my guess is -- with poor tools, unskilled workers and makeshift facilities, it's unlikely it would match anywhere close the potential to crank out T-34s. And for Russian doctrine (which I am not an admirer of, btw) it was an absolutely ideal tank. Simple enough for unskilled workers & crew, and still powerful enough to require very significant weaponry to stop -- which the Germans again, could not produce nearly enough.

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  20. Verdict:

    T-34 was nowhere close to being the best "1-on-1" tank in later stages of WW2 (though it was best early on in that regard, too). However, the soundness of the basic design that allowed it to fight effectively throughout the war, multiplied by ease of manufacturing in terrible conditions, probably gives it a very strong argument for being the best "pound-for-pound" value of any tank in the war.

    Incidentally, I think the Stug is probably another very strong competitor for that title. Not quite a tank per se, but why should that matter? It was cheaper than Pz III with better frontal armor, much better gun, smaller profile, and destroyed Russian tanks like no other German SP system, while also giving excellent support to advancing or defending German infantry. Coupled with advanced doctrine and skilled commanders/crews, the lack of turret was probably much less of a hindrance, esp. in East Front conditions. If Germans concentrated on stamping out Stugs in Panzergrenadier divisions and supporting Pz IVs (and then Panthers) in maneuver operations, they would ve gotten far better results than messing with Ferdinands and Tigers and w/e else, like still producing Pz IIIs.

    The Panther is probably another strong contender. It apparently cost barely more than Pz IV, and it completely outclassed the principal Allied tanks. It came too late for Germany and teething issues give it an unfair reputation, but overall, it seems to have been a great tank -- both extremely deadly and hard to kill and capable of being produced in large numbers.

    Pz IV is a decent contender, too. Like T-34, its upgrades made it a match for principal Allied tanks until the end of the war, while it was one of the best tanks early on (at least as soon as Germans upgraded it to compete with prev. unknown T-34 threat). But for being the principal German tank, its production numbers are not very impressive, so either the Stug III or Panther seem to have given the Germans better value.

    The Sherman.. I don't know, the only thing it has going for it is great manufacturing numbers in the most industrially developed and least-touched-by-war of all major tank-producing WW2 opponents. That's not much to go by -- it was neither an early-war war beater nor has a record of being produced in tough conditions.

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    1. Sherman also had stabilized gun, in the vertical plane. That permitted a 70% probability of hit at 500 meters. Throw in multiple rounds and multiple US tanks breaking cover and rushing a German or North Korean defender, you get 10s of hits.

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  21. Vlad thanks for your comments but keep in mind that this isn’t a forum. Now about some things you said:

    ‘And in this sense it's a very strong contender’
    I don’t see it.

    ‘I can't recall a single Russian tanker's memoir in which he complains about lack of space’
    It’s hard to complain if you‘ve never used a tank other than the T-34. It’s also hard to complain when you’re dead, which most T-34 crews were at the end of the war.

    ‘Radios.. well T-34s had radios that worked just fine’
    Actually Soviet radios had poor reception. This is mentioned in ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’.

    ‘T-34 losses.. like most other terrible Russian losses, these were IMO (and an opinion shared by many others) overwhelmingly caused by extremely poor quality of commanders’
    T-34 losses are mostly due to the introduction of the Pak40/Kwk40. Without more armor it could be destroyed from long distances.

    ‘You make a mention about T-34 ease of manufacture being a key issue, but you don't really shed any light on it’
    Actually I said the exact opposite. A weapon system isn’t built in huge numbers because it is ‘cheap’ whatever that means. It is produced if the necessary facilities, machinery, raw materials and workforce are available. If the USA wanted to produce only Tigers they’d make tens of thousands without a problem as they had the necessary industrial resources.

    ‘by '44 the volume of decent tanks available to Red Army was such that the Germans could not hold the front anywhere’
    In 1944 half the German Army is in France. That’s the only way the SU could win…

    ‘Americans also didn't have to pack up and relocate their heavy industries to Alaska to be operated in many cases by women and teens as the men fought on the front’
    Agreed, I mentioned that in the reliability part. However if you want to be 100% honest you have to look into the reliability of Soviet equipment built prewar. T-26, BT, T-34, KV all had problems in 1941 even though they were produced at peacetime conditions.

    ‘which the Germans again, could not produce nearly enough’
    The Pak40/Kwk40 was produced in large numbers.

    ‘However, the soundness of the basic design that allowed it to fight effectively throughout the war’
    When did that happen? Every year they lose huge numbers...

    ‘If Germans concentrated on stamping out Stugs in Panzergrenadier divisions and supporting Pz IVs (and then Panthers) in maneuver operations, they would ve gotten far better results than messing with Ferdinands and Tigers and w/e else, like still producing Pz IIIs’
    Tigers were built and used in small numbers as a ‘special’ vehicle. Only 90 Ferdinands were produced. Pz III was outdated since it couldn’t take the long 75mm gun. Pz IV was also not capable of further upgrade. The Germans correctly assessed the situation and built the vehicles they needed.

    ‘It came too late for Germany and teething issues give it an unfair reputation’
    Yes, I see many disparaging statements regarding reliability which is funny since Jentz has published the rates for Tiger, Panther and Pz IV from 31 May ’44 to end of war. They are all very close and if you calculate the average without using the data for 15 March ’45 it comes to: Eastern Front- Tiger 72%, Panther 65%, Pz IV 71%. Western Front- Tiger 71%, Panther 68%, Pz IV 71%.

    ‘it was neither an early-war war beater’
    Reliable, radio in every vehicle, enough space for the crew, automotive performance good, stability n rough terrain very good, adequate armor and firepower, three man turret and turret basket. Way better than the T-34 and only threatened by Pz IV with Kwk 40 gun. Looks like a war winner to me!

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    1. "Radios.. well T-34s had radios that worked just fine’
      Actually Soviet radios had poor reception. This is mentioned in ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’."

      Weren't the radios AM as opposed to FM for the Germans? AM radios have a lot of static when they're near large amounts of metal, which unfortunately the tank is.

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  22. I am not sure what you mean by "this is not a forum". I just made some comments on your article in the comments section, seemed like a reasonable enough thing to do.

    'It’s hard to complain if you‘ve never used a tank other than the T-34.'

    -- I think you don't understand my point, as Russian tankers have complained about other things, indeed confirming issues like lack of radios or 2 man turret being a major problem, but being cramped is never one of them. So the conclusion is, it was a very secondary issue.

    'Soviet radios had poor reception'

    -- Indisputable that Western radios were better. But I highly doubt that they were in fact so bad as to affect performance. Again, I've never read a statement like "Our T-34 radio gave out and we couldn't hear our platoon commander". AFAIK, they were inferior but got the job done just fine when they were installed. Radio is not like armor, where every % of a difference makes a difference. There is a level beyond which a better radio is nice, but not really needed, and for tank warfare I think Russian radios passed the test. Notice that situation was quite different for air combat, where distances were much greater and indeed good radios in P-39s made a definite difference as acknowledged by Russian pilots who complained about crap Russian radios. But this is was not a big issue with tanks where the effective communication distances were far smaller.

    'T-34 losses are mostly due to the introduction of the Pak40/Kwk40'

    -- Completely disagree. On the surface, yes, probably these weapons destroyed more T-34 than anything else. But, don't forget, Russians always had an advantage (and eventually huge advantage) in terms of number of AT guns that could deal with opponent's main tanks. However, for some reason, it was only at Kursk that Russian were able (barely, in some sense) to stop German panzer thrust despite being unbelievably well entrenched, anticipating and pre-empting the strike, and holding big numerical advantage in a defensive position! Whereas Russian tank offensives were for the longest time brutally beaten back even when numerically superior and Germans having far fewer comparably effective AT weapons. The issue was commanders and crews. Russian always had more AT and other weapons to dispose of Pz IVs than Germans had Pak40s and whatever else to kill T-34s. But Germans were far better at massing all resources at critical points, more mobile, more flexible, far better combined arms doctrine. That's why looking at say T-34 losses compared to Pz IV losses is almost completely meaningless. You give Pz IV to Russians, losses would be basically the same, and the opposite is true as well.

    ' If the USA wanted to produce only Tigers they’d make tens of thousands without a problem as they had the necessary industrial resources.'

    -- Yes, but if it wanted to produce T-34s, then still for every Tiger it might ve produced 3-5 T-34s, and you still have to deal with the issue of which one you'd rather have. And in Russian case, this is a lot more relevant because Tiger production might become almost impossible in war time, while you can still stamp out crude but effective T-34s.

    'In 1944 half the German Army is in France. That’s the only way the SU could win'

    -- This is not a serious statement. Red Army seized initiative far before Normandy and had no problems throwing out Germans out of Ukraine in late '43 /early '44, and by that time was breaking through German defenses at will, really. Of course, without Normandy finishing off Germans would ve taken significantly more time and blood, but by early '44 it was clear that the Red Army was going to parade through Berlin. If we're gonna talk about Allies' contribution, far more significant were the resources and trucks through Lend Lease, then anything the Allies did on the ground.

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    1. Soviet tankers were selected for being short. Like 5 foot 3 or shorter. One of the minor advantages of a command economy.

      Delete
  23. 'T-26, BT, T-34, KV all had problems in 1941 even though they were produced at peacetime conditions'

    -- In '41, T-26 and BTs were old tanks about to be decommissioned with spare part shortages; T-34s and KVs were brand new designs that went through their own teething problems. Not sure what point you're trying to make here.. T-34 reliability on the whole increased during the war even as it became cheaper to produce with worse tools & labor.

    'The Pak40/Kwk40 was produced in large numbers'

    -- Wasn't enough. On the whole Germans/Hitler were obsessed with expensive weaponry and were unable to focus their efforts on the most effective weapons that the army really did need. Russians actually did a far better job at focusing their industrial efforts, and it basically won the war for them, despite the army leadership/training never quite catching up to the Germans until perhaps the very final stages of the war.

    'When did that happen? Every year they lose huge numbers... '

    -- Again, this has no relevance to anything. USSR lost huge numbers of all kinds of first-rate equipment throughout the war. USSR also lost huge numbers of superior equipment when fighting the Finns for example. So I don't know what to tell you, the conclusion is obvious. Once again, you give Russian equipment to the Germans, and they would ve done just as well (or very likely better) as they did.

    'The Germans correctly assessed the situation and built the vehicles they needed.'

    Ferdinands and Tigers, like V-2 rockets, bomber 262s and many other items were an expensive distraction and a tremendous waste of German war resources. It's not always about production numbers, either -- those same designers could've been working on perfecting the actual effective weaponry.

    'adequate armor and firepower'

    -- Not when the Shermans went into production. T-34-85s were basically just as good late war, with additional qualities of being much more of a factor early in the war, and also a proven track record of high volume production in terrible conditions.

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    1. am not sure what you mean by "this is not a forum".
      It means that comments should be short and to the point. Then again I continue to respond in a forum style format…

      ‘Completely disagree. On the surface, yes’
      You can’t destroy a tank if your weapons don’t penetrate. But I agree that the way the Soviets used their tanks and men was responsible for the lopsided losses.

      ‘Yes, but if it wanted to produce T-34s, then still for every Tiger it might ve produced 3-5 T-34s’
      I understand your point in general but that’s a strange argument. Did the Tiger have 3-5 engines? Did it have 3-5 turrets? 3-5 guns? 3-5 radios? Nope

      ‘This is not a serious statement’
      Oh I’m serious. Even in 1942 half the Luftwaffe is in theaters other than East and things got worse each year. In 1943 the Germans had to use manpower for the Italian front and for garrison duties once Italy surrendered. Luftwaffe was used almost exclusively against Anglo-Americans. In May 1944 there are more tanks in France than in the East etc etc etc

      ‘by early '44 it was clear that the Red Army was going to parade through Berlin.’
      Sure. A result of the Anglo-Americans drawing German forces from the East and of Lend –Lease. The SU alone could not deal with Germany.

      ‘T-34 reliability on the whole increased during the war’
      Depends on what you call reliability

      ‘Wasn't enough’
      Ehm it was more than enough for use against the SU(check Soviet vs German AFV production and losses). Against all the Allies yes.

      ‘you give Russian equipment to the Germans, and they would ve done just as well’
      Hmm did you check the report of a German unit that used T-34 model 43 and SU-85? They would disagree with you…

      ‘Ferdinands and Tigers, like V-2 rockets, bomber 262s and many other items were an expensive distraction and a tremendous waste of German war resources’
      90 Ferdinands were a tremendous waste? As I said before Tigers were built and used in small numbers as a ‘special vehicle’. Pz III, IV and V and Stug were built in large numbers. I think the Americans call this High-Low mix.
      V-2 etc is a separate discussion.

      ‘T-34-85s were basically just as good late war’
      The T-34 was not up to Western standards of functionality and reliability in any version. Zaloga has published some comments from the US evaluation of captured T-34/85 from Korean war. They were built in 1945-6 so no more excuses about wartime. If you check it you’ll see their opinion.

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  24. I haven't finished reading this post yet but I just want to point out that sloped armor does not in fact offer weight-reducing benefits.

    (The wikipedia article you cited states this in a more exact mathematical way that I wont bother copy-pasting)

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    1. good point. I fixed that.

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    2. Although to be fair to the T-34 crowd it depends on how you define ‘savings’. Effective protection of 45 sloped at 60 degrees from vertical is equivalent to much higher flat armor so in that sense you have saved weight.

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    3. 60 degree from vertical mathematically doubles the thickness. The angle though increases the length of the sheet necessary to cover the same vertical space. Have to do a calc to see how this goes for weight savings, although even tanks with vertical armour had three pieces (Comet, Churchill).

      Obvious to anyone though is that simply an angled surface gives more likelihood of a basic deflection.

      Have to remember that the cosine effect is negated when the diameter of the shell is double the real thickness of the armour. Thus the 50 & 75 german guns would have been affected, whilst the 85mm was not considered to have been.

      Arguments in other posts above about turret and hull armour thicknesses considered that the hull was larger thus hit more often. As far as I've ever heard it was found that statistically there were far more turret hits than hull hits. You can see this reality in action in that as tank warfare details were experienced basically every tank was given increased turret protection. Any sensible tanker would know to present the smallest target, and just uneven terrain would make the turret the target more often. But being smaller you could add armour without adding as much weight as well.

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    4. ‘As far as I've ever heard it was found that statistically there were far more turret hits than hull hits’
      According to ‘Panther Vs T-34: Ukraine 1943’ (I don’t have the page because I copied it from google books some time ago, it’s in chapter Losses):

      ‘Soviet analysis indicated that 81 percent of hits on T-34s were on the hull and only 19 percent on the turret.’

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    5. The one exception I was thinking of making was if you were in Saskatchewan. OK, Ukraine works as well.

      But I wouldn't want one battle/area/report be the sole guide to tank design for the world. For an individual country you work with what you've got. My anecdote was from a long time ago when I read many books on military and tanks and played all kinds of games. Maybe not a detailed study, but it was considered a basic tenet by myself and friends.

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  25. Well, alright, if you prefer short comments, that's fine.

    The overarching issue of whether USSR would've defeated Germany without Allies is... unknowable really, you can make strong arguments both ways. But you made a specific statement -- 'In 1944 half the German Army is in France. That’s the only way the SU could win…' -- and it's that statement that I don't consider serious. By '44 Allies contribution no longer had any effect on the final outcome, only to the speed/cost of that outcome.

    As far as T-34, the generic criticism centers usually either on secondary effects (e.g. cramped turret) or superficial evidence (e.g. equipment losses in the hands of inept Soviet commanders, esp. early war). Those were the main points I disputed.

    As far as functionality and reliability, those arguments are quite tenuous, as well, IMO, because reliability of T-34s is not reported as a serious issue on the Russian side, and as far testing of foreign equipment, well, there are many instances of Russians testing German equipment for example, and also coming away not impressed. Without proper spare parts and native technical knowledge, you're not gonna get foreign equipment to perform as intended.

    On the whole, T-34 was a tank that allowed astounding war time production in very difficult conditions, was a monster early war in good hands, and late war had the right combination of firepower, mobility and reliability to allow USSR to punch holes in German defense at will, and to advance at rates that frankly the Western Allies could not dream of. And that's why it has a very strong argument for being the best tank in the war.

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    1. ‘The overarching issue of whether USSR would've defeated Germany without Allies is... unknowable really’
      Well I don’t have a time machine but by looking at the losses of each side it’s pretty clear that something has to give. The SU could not continue to lose so many men and equipment against a Germany that did not have other fronts to worry about. With no Anglo-American interference I don’t see how the SU could survive.

      ‘As far as T-34, the generic criticism centers usually either on secondary effects (e.g. cramped turret) or superficial evidence (e.g. equipment losses in the hands of inept Soviet commanders, esp. early war).’
      Why did the Russians plan on stopping production of the T-34 and moving to the T-34M? What characteristics did the T-34M have that were different from the T-34? Just by looking into that you can see why the T-34 had so many problems…

      ‘reliability of T-34s is not reported as a serious issue on the Russian side,’
      They were destroyed quickly so there was no sign of problematic reliability. It is stated in ‘Tankovy udar. Sovetskie tanki v boyakh. 1942-1943’ that reliability was low but since it was higher than life at the front the Russians were happy.

      ‘And that's why it has a very strong argument for being the best tank in the war’
      Well I think we have to agree to disagree on that one. If the Russians were not unlucky and they had introduced the T-34M i would agree that it would be one of the best tanks of the war.

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  26. Well, the main advantage of the T-34 is the simple design and that made it possible to produce in far greater numbers than any German PZ III or IV, or Panthers, Tigers, etc. The Germans had superior tanks, but the Russians had far more tanks, not just the T-34, but also their Tank destroyers and other tanks.
    By the way, I am no expert, just someone interested it tanks.

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  27. I enjoyed reading your analysis, much of which complements Paul Kennedy's analysis of Russian Army tactics in his recent book, ENGINEERS OF VICTORY (2013). Kennedy summarizes the U.S. Army’s Aberdeen critique of the T34/76 as well. He contends that until 1944, the Red army had little choice but to “continue with the existing flawed machine.” Technical upgrades along with improved battlefield tactics in 1944 finally turned the T34 into a truly formidable war machine. Even then, Kennedy writes, “this much-improved tank was only one of a mix of Soviet weapons systems” that defeated the German army.

    To be fair to the Russians, however, ENGINEERS’ point is that ALL the Allies had serious technical problems that weren’t solved until 1943-1944 (Kennedy makes interesting comparisons between the Russian land war, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the Anglo-American bombing campaign).

    I would encourage you to read Dmitriy Loza’s fascinating account, COMMANDING THE RED ARMY’S SHERMAN TANKS (1996) (you can request an inter-library loan copy through your local library). Loza and his colleagues liked the Shermans once they learned how to take advantage of the M4’s unique characteristics (compared to the T34). Loza includes a heart-touching anecdote of his M4 brigade rolling into a destitute Russian village and hooking up ploughs to the Shermans to till their fields. I’ve yet to read of any army trying THAT with another tank. (Loza wrote a similar book on the much-maligned P39 fighter plane, ATTACK OF THE AIRACOBRAS).

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  28. If anything this whole blog post sounds biased, where is my evidence you ask? Well it seems you get your evidence from American reports. Imao, don't bullshit me, America is known to label anything inferior if not made in US of A.

    Second evidence is you brought up the T-55, T-62 and the T-72. Actually they where monkey models aka export models and had inferior everything compared to the real deal.

    The T-72 you speak of that lost to Abrams was mostly monkey models and Iraqi local produced copies of the monkey model with freaking civilian sheet armor.

    Also 2 M1 Abrams where destroyed by those shitty Iraqi local produced T-72M copies with training ammo.

    Hilarious

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    1. I don’t like to block comments so I decided to post yours even though I doubt it contributes anything.

      ‘Well it seems you get your evidence from American reports’
      The report on the T-34 stability is German. Combat losses are the official Russian data. If you like the T-34 so much check the report of a German unit that used it in combat: http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.gr/2013/01/german-evaluation-of-captured-soviet.html

      ‘Second evidence is you brought up the T-55, T-62 and the T-72. Actually they where monkey models’
      Is that what they tell you in Russia? The first two were annihilated by the M-48, M-60 and Centurion. All three were comparable to them in every category and still combat losses were very lopsided. Must be my bias….

      As for the T-72 read Zaloga’s ‘M1 Abrams Vs T-72 Ural: Operation Desert Storm 1991’. Also google ‘Battle of al Burqan’. Who knows you might learn something…

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  29. A good read and it debunks the myths propagated on the History and Discovery channels.

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  30. A very interesting article, but one that sidesteps an important issue when evaluating overall performance:

    Simply put: The Red Army won the war - not only won it; but _annihilated_ their opponents (by most accounts 75-80% of German losses were on the Eastern front) - and they did it mainly with the T-34. Production numbers for other types pale by comparison.

    One can argue the toss about the relative merits of quality versus quantity, but the simple fact is that most battles in history have been won by the larger army and, from Kursk onwards, there was hardly a major battle in which the Soviets couldn’t field at least twice as many men, tanks, artillery and aircraft (that last, a fact often forgotten in discussions like these) as their opponents - and in many cases the ratios were much higher.

    The Red Army, after the disasters of 1941/42, is a masterclass in terms of recruitment (29 _million_ soldiers during the period 1941-45), re-equipment and re-education of both officers and enlisted men; to the point that, despite losing anywhere between ten and fifteen million men, it had more combat-hardened soldiers, officers and general staff than all other armies in the world combined on VE day.

    Furthermore, whatever you may think of its disregard for the lives of its own soldiers, it had a huge cadre of officers educated in the art of fluid, mobile warfare on a massive scale (Operation Bagration cleared an area twice the size of France in less than two months). Hasn’t the T-34 earned some kudos in that respect?

    However fanciful it may seem, it was widely expected near the end of the war, and for many years afterwards, that the Red Army would simply sweep across the whole of Western Europe; and one wonders if, short of nuclear retaliation, there was actually anything to stop it. It’s interesting to note that, within 3 months of the Battle of Berlin, the SU was able to transfer six armies 7,000 miles eastwards and retake Manchuria _in 11 days_ against a Japanese army of over a million men; taking more Japanese POWs in that single operation than the US and all their allies had in four years of Pacific campaigning.

    So: maybe not the technological or cost-efficient marvel it’s been claimed to be; but undoubtedly a factor in winning the war.

    Next: Did the Spitfire win the Battle of Britain? :-)

    Winston Gutkowski, Brussels, Belgium.

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    1. Let me briefly address some of your points:

      ‘The Red Army won the war - not only won it; but _annihilated_ their opponents’
      Throughout the period 1941-44 they suffered a ratio of 4-1 of losses against the Germans in manpower (similar ratios for armored vehicles and aircraft). These kind of losses would not be sustainable if the Germans could concentrate all their forces in the East. So next time you present this argument take a minute to think of the N.Africa, Italy, Battle of the Atlantic, Bomber Offensive, Normandy invasion and NW Europe campaigns.

      ‘from Kursk onwards, there was hardly a major battle in which the Soviets couldn’t field at least twice as many men, tanks, artillery and aircraft’
      Yes but that is a direct result of the growing involvement of the Anglo-Americans and the collapse of Italy.

      ‘it had a huge cadre of officers educated in the art of fluid, mobile warfare on a massive scale’
      I would disagree here. I could talk about this more but I’ll point you to the article ‘Analyzing World War II Eastern front battles’ in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies.

      ‘Hasn’t the T-34 earned some kudos in that respect?’
      In my case the answer is no. However the Soviets thought differently since they continued to build this vehicle even in the postwar years. It’s up to you to pick sides.

      ‘it was widely expected near the end of the war, and for many years afterwards, that the Red Army would simply sweep across the whole of Western Europe; and one wonders if, short of nuclear retaliation, there was actually anything to stop it’
      Yes, I thought so too when I started reading on WWII. Unfortunately the more I read the worse my opinion on the Soviet military becomes!

      ‘Next: Did the Spitfire win the Battle of Britain? :-)’
      I think I’ve covered this: http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.gr/2012/02/battle-of-britain-1940-strength-reports.html

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    2. "Throughout the period 1941-44 they suffered a ratio of 4-1 of losses against the Germans in manpower (similar ratios for armored vehicles and aircraft). These kind of losses would not be sustainable if the Germans could concentrate all their forces in the East. So next time you present this argument take a minute to think of the N.Africa, Italy, Battle of the Atlantic, Bomber Offensive, Normandy invasion and NW Europe campaigns."

      First: I take issue with your figures: It's certainly possible that during the first (and worst) 12 months, when the Eastern front was pretty much the only front there was, and the Red Army absorbed a series of disasters, losses were as you describe - although this chart (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World-War-II-military-deaths-in-Europe-by-theater-year.png) would suggest otherwise - the overall casualty figures of around 2:1 on both fronts would tend to refute that claim.

      Second: North Africa was a sideshow for the Germans, who didn't even put as many soldiers into the campaign as they had in Finland until after El Alamein and Operation Torch. The fact that the Allies took as many prisoners at Tunis as the Russians did at Stalingrad says more about Wehrmacht hubris than anything else, and bares no relation to the number of men involved or the brutality of the fighting. And Italy was a limited campaign that ran up against bad luck and bad terrain; and a commander (Kesselring) who proved a far better defensive general than offensive Air Marshall.

      Third: D-Day didn't start until halfway through the last year of the period you state, during which time the Red Army had marched from Moscow and Leningrad to Warsaw and from Stalingrad almost to the gates of Budapest, and liberated an area three times the size of Western Europe.

      As for the Battle of the Atlantic and the bomber campaign: they were not land battles, and the efficacy of the latter, particularly in the period you describe, is still a matter of debate.

      I will concede that winning the first of those was a major fillip to the Soviets, a large part of whose military transport system (400,000 vehicles; not to mention 17,000 tanks and almost 2 million tons of food) was provided via the British Merchant Navy and Lend-Lease.

      As to the rest - I'm not quite sure what you're saying: Are you disputing the fact that Red Army won the war? Or that they wouldn't have won it without "the second front"? Or that, by the end of the war, they didn't have at least a dozen field generals with experience of operations not only bigger, but _5 times bigger_, than any ever undertaken by a Western general (including D-Day and Okinawa)?

      I'd remind you that, in Russia, 1944 is known as "the year of 10 victories" - against the cream of the best army in the world at the time.

      And hey, I'm half-Polish and so no friend of the Soviets; but credit where credit's due.

      Winston

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    3. Please keep in mind that this isn’t a forum. I think some of your questions can be answered by looking at other essays I’ve written here.

      ‘First: I take issue with your figures…’
      I’m sorry but those are the facts. Keep in mind that I refer to combat losses that include killed, missing and wounded in action. Sources are Krivosheev for the Soviet side and the official German reports available from several sources.

      ‘North Africa was a sideshow etc etc’
      Nope those campaigns swallowed a large part of Axis resources. Just the Bomber offensive forced the Germans to build flak ammunition which took up a large percentage of their overall weapons budget.

      ‘As to the rest - I'm not quite sure what you're saying’
      That the Soviet losses were not sustainable. This isn’t a forum so I won’t write an essay to answer your questions. Check the article I mentioned and search this site for data.

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    4. That's because Soviet losses were overstated. The 4:1 manpower loss ratio is based on bad accounting.

      If you use _comparable_ figures, the Soviets lost about 15 million men killed, missing, or captured. The Germans and their allies meanwhile lost 10 million killed, missing, or permanently disabled. Effectively, the ratio if 1.5:1, not 4:1, which is a much more realistic figure.

      However, most "kill ratio" comparisons very dishonestly count only the figure of Germans killed in action - 4 million - thus arriving at the fabled 4:1 or higher kill ratio.

      Moreover, it is worth noting that the militarly population of the Soviet Union only outnumbered the Germans by a factor of 2:1. This is why any figure above 4:1 is silly or the result of bad accounting (another common dishonest accouting tactic is to add _civilians_ to the Soviet death toll, while counting German military losses only). If the Germans truly were inflicting 4:1 losses, then the Soviets actually lost double the number of men they could have conscripted during the war!

      That said, the Germans man for man were indeed better than their Soviet counterparts, and some studies estimate that one German soldier was the equivalent of 1.5 Allied soldiers (jiving with the honest kill ratios). However, it pays no honor to the German army to exaggerate their effectiveness beyond historical realities; especially given how poorly people understand what made the German army so effective (hint: It was not their heavy tanks, "superior" equipment, or glory-hog SS units. It boiled down to a superior General Staff and outstanding junior officer initiative).

      - Zinegata

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    5. 'That's because Soviet losses were overstated. The 4:1 manpower loss ratio is based on bad accounting'

      In my piece I thought I was clear in that losses= killed, wounded, missing in action. It’s not just killed. And yes the ratio was slightly over 4-1 for period 1941-44. This doesn’t include roughly 1mln Soviet losses of 1941 that Krivosheev admits he didn’t cover (not to mention other problems with some of his figures).

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    6. I just wanted to add that, notwithstanding the relatively small numbers of troops devoted to fronts other than the East by the Germans, they were hardly a "sideshow." Even when Rommel had just 3 German divisions in North Africa, he enjoyed disproportionate share of motor vehicles, aircraft, and other costly support arms and logistics, as well as tanks! (Martin van Creveld makes this point, although I can't remember the cites, and I did some back of envelope calculations myself, based on the limited numbers I had.) While I suspect that SU could have stood a realistic chance of winning if it were alone fighting Germans (this is just my hunch--nothing more), the odds would have been quite long indeed.

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    7. Well I have a few stats on hand:

      1). Regarding tanks: According to ‘Panzertruppen’ they had 314 with Pz Regt 5 and 8 in early ’41 and in May ’42 there are 363 in Pz Regt 5 and 8.

      2). Regarding aircraft: the Germans had an entire Air Fleet in the Med (Fliegerkorps X then Luftflotte 2) with 535 planes in June ’41 and 926 in July ’42. [Source: ‘Luftwaffe data book’]

      3). Regarding trucks in ‘Supplying War’, p193 it says about early ‘42 ‘…he demanded another 8.000 trucks for his supply columns. This was out of the question since at the time all four German armored groups operating in Russia could muster only 14.000 lorries between them.’

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  31. Very good read, never really believed all the "glorious and reliable T-34" BS. Could you also make an article about the Joseph Stalin tank?

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    1. I’m not really that interested on the KV/IS tanks to write a separate essay on them. I think that the KV was considered to be more or less a failure while the IS had a huge gun but only carried 28 rounds. It was useful against fixed positions but not really in tank warfare.

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  32. While the article makes some good points - most particularly the oft-forgotten fact that the T-34 was not actually the most numerous tank in the Soviet tank park until 1944 (before then it was the light tanks that dominated) - it makes the classic mistake of thinking that WW2 tanks engaged primarily in tank vs tank combat.

    This is simply not the case. The vast majority of T-34s lost to enemy fire was due to towed anti-tank guns, not the Wermacht's Panzers. The simple fact of the matter is that WW2 tanks were primarily either infantry support weapons or exploitation forces. Actual tank vs tank battles were exceedingly rare, but that has been largely forgotten because recent wars (e.g. The Gulf War, Arab-Israeli War) featured mostly tank vs tank battles.

    Hence, any analysis of WW2 tanks must actually revolve first and foremost around a) Their ability to support infantry attacks and b) Their ability to sustain forward advances by not breaking down. Piddling differences between crew comforts of a Panzer IV and T-34 (which, in reality, actually offer mere inches in differences in terms of crew space alloted) or the penetration values of the 75mm L48 vs the T-34's 76.2mm gun are honestly not great measures of judging a tank, because these factors actually do not matter for 90% of the battles fought by these tanks.

    In this regard, the T-34 is a tank that was simply adequate for the task at hand, and is equal to the Sherman or the Panzer IV. It is certainly better than the oft-praised Panther or Tiger, which was actually utterly bad at infantry support or exploitation attacks. Being good at anti-tank warfare at the expense of everything else when it comprises less than 10% of your workload is the very definition of foolish over-specialization.

    - Zinegata

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    1. This isn’t a forum so don’t spam the comments.

      ‘Actual tank vs tank battles were exceedingly rare’

      Read ‘Furor Teutonicus: German offensives and counter-attacks on the Eastern front, August 1943 to March 1945’ in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies.

      ‘Their ability to support infantry attacks’

      Hmm so what happens when the enemy decides to play by different rules and uses his armored force against yours? Oh right your armor will be slaughtered. Kind of what happened in WWII.

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    2. First off the 1.5-1 ratio of allied soldiers for germans is largely due to the fact that the Allies were usually attacking, the attacking force will usually take greater losses no matter how good the preparation is since their enemy has multiple advantages offered by the simple fact that they have everything scouted out and prepared. The few times the Germans actually attacked later in the war, such as the Battle of the Bulge, ended in massive losses comparable to what the Allies were suffering.
      Furthermore, the slaughter of Russian armor is and isn't a myth, it once again depends on who gets the first shot, and there are plenty of cases where Russian tanks managed to wreck German tanks in plain armored warfare. However, they were far better suited to infantry support which is far more important then fighting tanks. All the Soviet tanks could fight enemy tanks with reasonable efficiency but were truly good for backing the infantry. And of course there were plentiful tank vs tank battles, noone denies that, however, in the grand scope of things they were rare. The idea of german tanks rampaging through allied armor with nothing able to stop them is very unkind to the allies and could, and potentially did happen to all combatants due to the shock and awe of an attack. Its just that the Germans get more recognition. Nonetheless, your analysis is definitely thorough and a good read, so props to you.
      -Wyvern

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    3. There was no ratio of 1.5-1 between Germans and Soviets. Using tanks for infantry support is a dumb idea when it is cheaper to build self propelled guns. The idea that a defending force will inflict heavier losses on the attacker is wrong and not confirmed by the results of WWII. Who suffered more casualties at Kursk? The Germans or the Soviets? Let me give you a hint the ratio was 3-1…

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  33. I found the text interesting in some points, nevertheless, I dislike the "anger tone" used on it and in all further discussions. I would like to propose a similar analysis at the same perspective of other tanks which are not classified as the "Best of WWII" such as the American M4 Sherman. It would be particularly interesting to see which would be the explanation found to its other nicknames as: Ronson by the Brits based on a popular ad. of a cigarette lighter in UK at that time - "Ronson (M4) - lights up first time, every time", or the Purple Heart by the Americans themselves, the Burning Grave by the Poles, and others many others, indeed, funny names. Additionally, some explanation about the figures on Harmon´s book related to the level of replacement in the 3rd Armoured under Patton which was around 580%, or why only one original tank commander has survived from Normandy to the end of the war on a regiment of the 11th Armoured. Of course, on this analysis should be included the opinions and figures not only from the American Army but also the British, France and other armies.

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    1. The problem is that it took an unbelievable amount of work to get all this information for the T-34, so I don’t want to do the same thing for another tank.

      As for the M4 Sherman according to Zaloga’s ‘T-24/85 vsM26’, p24: ‘The American tanks, however, benefited from US armored combat experiences in 1942-43, which showed the vulnerability of the Sherman to catastrophic damage due to ammunition stowed in the hull sponsors. This situation led to a 1943 program that removed the majority of the ammunition from the sponsors and placed it into lightly armored stowage bins in the floor. This location reduced the likelihood of the ammunition being hit during a penetration, and so also reduced the possibility of devastating tank fires, which were usually caused by ignited ammunition. The lightly armored ammo bins were not well enough protected to prevent penetration by a direct hit, but they were adequate to reduce the vulnerability of the ammunition to ignition by spall or shrapnel from a penetration.’

      Regarding casualties the problem for the M4 was that its armor could be penetrated from long distances not only by the Panther and Tiger but also from the PzIV and Stug III with their KwK 40 gun. Same thing was true for the T-34 yet people only talk about the M4 losses (‘Deathtraps’ book etc)

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    2. Comparing the T-34 to the M4 is a natural. Not just because of the similarity in mass production but also of the relative equality in gun, mobility, armour and of course the natural rivalry between the US and USSR post WWII.

      Despite any changes to shell storage in 1943 it was in Normandy that the Pak 40 gunners had a field day blowing up Shermans. The tankers weren't overly impressed with how many of their buddies got toasted and wondered why they were stuck with a tank that was so easy to kill while Tigers and Panthers were much tougher and had such better guns. But they liked that there was always a replacement tank if theirs was damaged. To go hand in hand with one of the "myths" of the T-34's speed, some old M4 tank drivers said that the M4 could only hit its supposed top speed if it was going down a grade. A little myth seeps in everywhere.

      Personally you'd think that the Allies could have landed in Normandy with a better tank than the M4 ( as well as Churchills and Cromwells), given that they must have known what was going on out east as well as their own experiences in Italy. At least they could have mounted a stronger gun like the Brits managed to do with the Firefly, but didn't with their others above. I guess they may have been affected re-tooling in mid fight or just figured other factors, like air power and numbers would overcome any technical deficiencies. Sort of like the Russians perhaps. Like the T-34 another decent tank, not the one you'd probably want to be in for any one battle, but probably one you'd build if you were trying to win a war, but didn't have to fight it yourself.

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    3. Well I never said that the M4 was a perfect tank. In 1944 its armor was obsolete against practically all the German weapons (same as the T-34). However I always find it strange that people obsess over its failings and how it was a ‘Tommy cooker’ but the T-34 gets a free pass! I think that as a tank it was definitely better than the T-34 (not exactly a triumph of engineering when one thinks of the many faults of the T-34…)

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  34. There is a reason people like to slag the M4. It was American and the americans like to go on about how they won both world wars. So anyone with any anti-american sentiments would never consider to admit anything as quintessential to the USA as the M4 could possibly be any good. The alternative is something opposite to the USA. And of course not being the perfect tank the M4 was ripe for criticism.

    Both the T-34 and the M4 did their job. Neither was perfect. They had some features better than the other. Gyro in the M4 a good tech. Diesel in the T34 prevented too many fires. The very important command control was better with a 5 man crew and radios and optics/vision. T34 a smaller target and faster to exploit breakthroughs, but as you point out hard to fire accurately on the move while the M4 gyro would have been a big advantage. Both started life as pretty competitive tanks. The T34 had better armour, firepower, mobility over German tanks at the start of Barbarossa, but there were few of them, and KV's. But the Germans mounted the L60 and the L43 and that got them to pretty much a draw with the T34, but they had better command control, tactics and training. Soviets also made improvements as they discovered the need. Radios, different turret hatches, turret shapes all the while fighting a brutal war.

    The M4 when it got to North Africa suddenly gave the Allies a tank that was sound all around and could compete or better the III and IV. They also upgunned, just not quick enough for me. Too bad they didn't just mount the 17 lber on all tanks prior to D-Day. That was probably a logistical issue.

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  35. Happy Medium6/11/13, 4:32 AM

    The trouble is by mid-war onwards, almost all tanks are vulnerable to 75mm Pak and 88mm guns, even the Panther and Tiger! Think the British conceded this, and by '44 were looking for a "sensible" level of armor, rather than an invulnerable one.

    Firefly was a good answer to German cats, especially because it added almost no extra strain to logistics - M4 and 17pdr. were already common Allied inventory. A30 Challenger maybe too, but don't know because Brit tanks are scandalously under-researched.

    U.S. should have licensed 17pdr. + prioritised HE shell. All nations had problems developing AFV's, mostly idiosyncratic. Some give Germans too much of a free pass - Panther had huge problems in Normandy. Some give too much credit to Russians. Not surprised by criticisms of T-34 in this article - commanders even preferred Valentines, according to reports!

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    1. ‘Think the British conceded this, and by '44 were looking for a "sensible" level of armor, rather than an invulnerable one’

      Are you sure about that? The new Centurion tank was quite heavy and well protected/armed. If you look at its statistics it is similar to the Panther.

      Delete
  36. Good read, the articles as well as the discussion!

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  37. I know it's months old, but I enjoyed the article and ensuing discussion very much. Thanks!

    I suspect part of the praise is due to expectations - anyone starting to read about the Red Army learns about its low quality, high quantity reputation, so equipment that's good (if not great) is a pleasant surprise. Not to mention things would've been far worse for the USSR with it.

    But criticizing the T-34's reliability has to include discussion of the reliability of other tanks. Didn't the Panther break down all the time too? Final drive, I think.

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    1. 'Didn't the Panther break down all the time too?'

      For 1943:

      http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.gr/2013/03/lies-damned-lies-and-statistics-case-of.html

      For 1944:

      Jentz in ‘Tiger I and II combat tactics' gives the operational rates for Pz IV, Panther and Tiger for May 44, Sept-Jan 45 and March 45. If you calculate the average without March 45 (due to collapse of Germany) you’d get Eastern Front: Pz IV-71 , Panther -65 , Tiger-72 – Western Front: Pz IV-71 , Panther -68 , Tiger-71 .

      Different vehicles, same stats. Foreign Military Studies P-040 ‘Tank Repair Service in the German Army’ – 1951, says that the Panther was sent to the front without adequate spare parts.

      Delete
  38. http://forum.worldoftanks.com/index.php?/topic/281666-historical-sch-lol-arship-t-34/
    you might want to read this, cuz unfortunately, despite EE's occasionally crude humor, he is one of the better Soviet tank researchers online, and i have to say, he points out many of the issues with your article here
    Personally, i'd say the contest is between M4, T-34 and StuG III for best AFV of the war, but thats just me...

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    1. Thanks for wasting my time!

      ‘EE's occasionally crude humor, he is one of the better Soviet tank researchers online’

      I guess that could be true but I can’t say I see any proof of that in what he wrote at that thread. He doesn’t even address the obvious issues reliability, survivability. He just repeats all the usual fairytales T-34 is best tank hoorah.

      Some of the things he wrote are simply dumb. For example:

      ‘We already covered how the Soviets classified anything stuck in the mud as "lost’

      ‘We already covered how the Soviets classified anything stuck in the mud as "lost".
      That's a pretty good figure’


      Both Germans and Soviets counted destroyed tanks the same way. During a battle there are tanks that are knocked out and can be repaired but yearly statistics include vehicles that are completely destroyed.

      I can’t go through every point but you get the idea. Most of his comments are either dumb or beside the point. In cases where statistics come up he doesn’t understand what they mean, which is something I’ve also seen in other internet forums.

      Russia stroooooooong party you can do better than this!

      Delete
    2. Ah, yes, the classic "McCarthy" debating tactic. My opponent is a dirty commie/russian. I WIN.

      Sorry, no. Losses were in fact recorded differently in the German and Soviet armies.

      German only counted total, irrevocable losses which cannot be recovered. This is why Nicklas Zetterling's unparalleled work on German tank losses in Normandy showed the vast majority of German losses being reported in September, instead of August when the fighting happened - because September was when they declared all those tanks as irrevocable losses.

      Soviets tended to count any tank sent back to the factory as a loss. Meaning the same tank could be sent counted as "lost" several times.

      The US had a different accounting method, counting unrecoverable losses, losses which had to be sent to the factory, and losses which could be repaired in the field.

      Delete
    3. ……………………………………………..

      My dear friend , you can WIN (hoorah) as much as you like but the loss statistics for various Soviet equipment are available from ‘Soviet Casualties and Combat Losses in the Twentieth Century’.

      For the German side there are various sources as I have pointed out. The only one that gives AFV losses by type and by year in the East specifically is a report in ’Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933 – 1945’, p278.

      These are y-e-a-r-l-y statistics.

      I pointed out before that during an operation some vehicles will be non-operational. These were not counted as destroyed unless of course they had to be abandoned. This is something that can affect the comparison of casualties in an operation not the final numbers.

      My advice is to read the books in the sources section. That way you’ll finally learn something and you’ll be able to WIN even more.

      Delete
  39. I am amazed by how casually you mention that the T-34 only required 8000 man-hours (in 1941, less later on). A Tiger tank required some 100000 man-hours, even though industrial labour productivity in the USSR was only roughly half that of Germany (that's not even hourly productivity; the Soviets worked longer hours). Of course the T-34 is not, individually, the toughest opponent you might face. But it was very nearly the best tank that could be produced by a second-rate industrial power at more than 1000 units per month.

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    1. Where did you get the 100.000 man-hours figure? What does it include? In the case of the T-34 I don’t know if it refers to assembly only or also the individual components.

      ‘it was very nearly the best tank that could be produced by a second-rate industrial power at more than 1000 units per month.’

      Nope with the facilities, workforce and raw materials they had they could produce much better vehicles.

      Delete
  40. The T34 in the hands of the Finnish army had a much higher kill rate when fighting T34 maned by russians. It was a bad tank, and since the russian crews had no training it made it a complete death trap

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  41. Tiger was the best tank of the war.

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  42. Thank you for posting the truth!

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  43. Apart to T34 defects, such huge losses are due to the way the soviets use them.
    As usual they simply do not care about losses... a general preferes to lose all his men and tanks with a series of suicidal attacks than face NKVD.
    Soviets wan the war simply because they could affort such losses much better than the germans ..... In an attrition war numbers are better than quality.
    Germans developped their blitzkrieg as they know that their only hope is a fast war.... In a long war the winner is the one who has more resources .... so the Soviet with their T34 and milions of infantries

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  44. Guderian as inspector of armored troops wanted to concentrate almost entirely on 3 models: Panther, Tiger and an assault gun with a " high velocity " weapon. I can't recall the exact date but want to say 1943.
    ( from panzer leader ).

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    1. Well had the war gone well for the Germans they would have replaced the Pz IV with the Panther. So in 1943-45 they would have Tiger, Panther and probably Stug IV/Pz IV 70 in large numbers.

      Delete
  45. Great article Christos! Everyone is always mouth-breathing the whole "T-34 was the herald of MBT's" but I prefer to see the Panzer III as the true ancestor because of its layout. Although the 3 man turret on the Mark III may have drawn influence from the Vickers Medium Mark I here's a link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_Medium_Mark_I sorry for Wikipedia but I doubt people would lie about that. Its sad to see the British did not seem to understand that advantage at the time.

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  46. Yet, still, T-34 fighting in 21st century in some "hot spots" around the globe and rest of the "competition" - rests. I think its THE bottom line of this discussion...

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    1. Is that by choice or by necessity?

      Delete
    2. Yes exactly its not like there's a lot of spare/leftover Panzer IVs and Panthers around and the nations that were lucky to use some in the 50s have gotten newer tech. The T34 is everywhere and therefore accessible for all poor 3rd world military groups for ground support and I'm hoping it has long since over come its mechanical problems.

      Delete
  47. Interesting mythbuster article. I would say the T-34 had its advantages, like small size (making it less easy to spot) and speed, but what worked for the Russians were the numbers rather than the mechanical facets of the tank. Same principle as the Sherman, which was more reliable. On a ranking list, i would still vote the Sherman above it because of reliability.

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  48. Interesting read but miss based and assumptions galore.
    You assume the Russians place the same emphasis on comfort and survivability as the USA. Wrong.
    Also 50 expensive versus 100 cheap?
    Based off the German WW2 model it was more like 5-100 bot 50-100. And that is on numbers alone not dollar per dollar cost.
    Using your completely negative account of the T-34 at every turn can you explain just how the Russians fought the Germans to a standstill using T-34's as the primary weapon even though they where tactically deficient at every level?
    The Russians lost thousands of them but still with bravery and its advantages in numbers combined with its KV partners fought the best army in the world and won.
    By the time the Sherman arrived in Europe in Jun 44 the war had already been decided.
    Tigers and Panthers great tanks but to expensive and to few.
    For all its negatives the T-34 carried the war to the Germans and defeated them maybe not on a one for one but that was never the Russians method of warfare so why compare them that way?

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    1. Next time first we read the text and then we comment (if we have to).

      ‘Also 50 expensive versus 100 cheap?
      Based off the German WW2 model it was more like 5-100 bot 50-100. And that is on numbers alone not dollar per dollar cost.’

      Whatever you say boss:

      http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.gr/2013/01/tank-strength-and-losses-eastern-front.html

      Next time keep your comments short and to the point. Also it would be a good idea to spend a few minutes trying to find data to support your argument. It took me a few seconds to link to the production and losses.

      Delete
    2. thanks, by far the most intelligent response I have read. This was a great article though and I enjoyed reading everyone's opinions

      Delete
  49. Well, everything, exept the last passage is right. T-62s suffered heavy defeat from izrael due to the stupid arab command. In iran-iraq war t-62s and t-72 slaughtered chieftans and m-60s just as well

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    1. Heavy Soviet tank losses in WWII= stupid Stalin command

      Heavy Soviet tank losses in Arab-Israeli wars= stupid Arab command

      Heavy Soviet tank losses in Gulf war I= stupid Saddam command

      Etc etc etc but yeah it’s the command, not the tanks…

      PS: You forgot the monkey-model excuse!

      Delete
  50. As refereshing as it is to see an opinion piece supported by cites and references, the article still comes off as a bit of a strawman bashing. The author states up front that a "myth" regarding the T-34's capabilities exists, but provides no evidence of this myth. I don't think any serious student of these matters has ever mistaken television productions made for mass consumption via the History Channel to be a serious contemplation of the T-34's place in history. If that is the only evidence of the "myth," there was never a myth to begin with.

    The conclusion that the "T-34 legacy led the Russians to invest in quantity over quality. A mistake that their Allies paid dearly" seems to ignore the realities of the Second World War, as discussed very well by John Ellis in his book BRUTE FORCE. The war wasn't fought with latter battles in the Middle East in mind, it was a desperate struggle fought in a state of near catatonic shock after the Germans reeled off astonishing victories in 1939-41 against unprepared Allied nations. Despite the fact the Germans were using fairly conventional methods (if you want to write about myths, Blitzkrieg is a doozy), their technological advantages scared the Allies white, and it seemed the only way they could manage an advantage to fight back was to use their industrial power. This they did, in spades. Tank vs. tank comparisons are rather pointless - the stuff of the schoolyard. Artillery accounted for the vast majority of killing on the Second World War battlefield, and as Ellis points out, the importance of armour in the study of Second World War operations is exaggerated.

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    1. M.Dorosh I agree with you that Artillery inflicted more casualties than tanks but you have to keep in mind that vehicles wern't designed for killing while artillery was an anti infantry weapon and infantry was an easy prey in comparison to other targets. Tanks were used for breaktroughs, encircling the enemy and rapid mobile warfare. The Germans would not have defeated the allies if they had produced less tanks in favour of more artillery.
      Even an single entreched MG can cause more infantry casualties than a tank but 10 MGs are of lesser tactical value than a tank.

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    2. Germany would not win anyway. But in the case of artillery guns have a lot of parameters other than numbers.
      For example, the firing range, the area of ​​damage, the trajectory etс.
      In the Russian artillery in comparison with the German all these parameters under similar caliber all above, if we take the field artillery.
      For example, 10.5 cm leFH 18 had firing range of 10.5 km (7076 units in the wehrmacht) and 122mm A-19 - 16.6 kilometers (2,450 units in the Red Army).
      And such ratios have been around for all similar guns.

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  51. Year after the Vietnam war Robert McNamara recounted as story in "The Fog of War," recounted a story. A Vietnamese General was told by an American General that the US never lost a direct "standup" battle during the course of the war. The Vietnamese General agreed that was true but the stated that it was also irrelevant.
    OK so the T-34 suffered huge losses as did the Soviets as a whole, some estimates attribute 1/3 of all deaths during the war to people in the Soviet Union. The fact that they could and did take such loses, regardless of why they did it, helped speed the German defeat. Something that could have been a very hard fight without them. I shudder to think how D-Day could have gone if those Army Groups from the Eastern Front were in France. Germany could not absorb those types of losses at even a fraction of the rate Russian did. But in the final analysis, on the Eastern from Russian came out on top. That certainly had ramifications for the cold war, but for WWII to say they T-34 was a death trap is largely irrelevant. I get the concept of setting the record straight an I take no issue with that part, but in the end (at least in the east) one dog won the fight--regardless of how they did it.
    The fact is you can throw data at the problem and armchair general all day long but data will not show intangibles and intangibles win wars. On paper who would believe that a 5'5" 110lbs. man would be a badass. And yet Audie Murphy was the most decorated US soldier of the war.

    Not saying the thing was not a death trap, I'm sure there are the ghosts of many Soviets who would agree. But by the same toke then ghosts of a lot of Nazi's wearing their asscheecks for earmuffs would agree, that is irrelevant.

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  52. This is an interesting piece, but rather subjectively developed.

    A few technical points:
    - One of the most important elements of the T-34 (and subsequent Soviet and Russian tanks for that matter) was the low height of the vehicle. This is why it was significantly better than the M4 Sherman, which rose a whole foot higher, making it a much easier target for the enemy.
    - Similarly, the Sherman had a top speed of 40-48 KM per hour, compared to the T34's 53 KM per hour.

    A few broader points:
    - You have completely ignored the notion of training and leadership. Yes, Soviet tank men were generally worse trained and led than their German counterparts. That's key in explaining the heavy Soviet tank losses.
    - You have ignored the role of aircraft, artillery, infantry, and so on. German strengths in many of these areas also help to explain the high Soviet tank losses.
    - Your economic analysis is really weak. Command economies cannot simply manufacture as they wish, they still must use resources, which cost money, time, resources, and more.

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    1. You said:

      ‘One of the most important elements of the T-34 (and subsequent Soviet and Russian tanks for that matter) was the low height of the vehicle.’
      Well that is mostly true for postwar tanks.
      ‘This is why it was significantly better than the M4 Sherman, which rose a whole foot higher,’

      Did the Sherman suffer 45.000 losses? So it would seem that the height difference didn’t matter that much… In general such differences are meaningless over medium/long distances.

      ‘Similarly, the Sherman had a top speed…’

      Those numbers are meaningless since they refer to speed that could only be reached at a paved road. What matters for tanks is stability over rough terrain and here the T-34 was dead last. As for its speed advantage, with the standard 4-speed gearbox it would be 15km/h. Superior Soviet engineering FTW!

      ‘You have completely ignored the notion of training and leadership’

      On the contrary, I wrote an entire paragraph explaining how a ‘cheap’ deathtrap will result in horrendous crew losses and low level of performance for the hastily trained replacements.

      ‘You have ignored the role of aircraft, artillery, infantry, and so on.’

      That is true but I’m not writing a book on the Eastern front, only an essay on the T-34.

      ‘Your economic analysis is really weak’

      Ehm, okay comrade…

      ‘Command economies cannot simply manufacture as they wish, they still must use resources, which cost money, time, resources, and more.’

      Exactly, which is why I pointed out that a 30 ton vehicle with an aluminum engine could only have been called ‘cheap’ and ‘easy to produce’ by the Soviets. Everyone else understood that it was not a cheap vehicle.

      By the way if you respond add your name as I don’t like to reply to ‘anonymous’.

      Delete
  53. Jose Romero9/10/14, 7:35 AM

    Simply do not bother with trolls from a game forum who believes anything without sources or to the point to outright lie about books, like EE, Zinegata and similar.

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  54. Excellent site with great info! Thanks!

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  55. Saying that Soviet Union would have won anyway is not an argument. I always meet Russian patriots repeating that in order to make the group they associate themselves with appear superior.

    I believe Germans would have won if the Allies hadn't distracted them on other theatres considering that they built over 1000 submarines instead of 30 000 - 40 000 Panther tanks, over 3000 V worth the same as 9000 - 11 000 fighter aircrafts, a half of the Luftwaffe and many divisions being in the west. 75% of the Luftwaffe casualties were inflicted by the western allies. Germans never had any problems countering the Soviet Airforce, they simply got totally outnumbered as a result of sending their airforce to other fronts. Allied bombings also played a huge part in damaging German production resulting in less armament being sent to the front . Even the Atlantic Wall drawn much of essential menpower and ressources.

    Moreover, western Allies supported UdSSR with aviation fuel indirectly helping them in achieving air superiority. They also sent them railroad equipment and wheeled vehicles making their armies mobile. Mobility was probably the most important tactical factor in WW2 battles. Than they provided parts and gear Soviet Union couldn't produce by herself. Many T34 motors were made of American alluminium of which Soviet Union didnt produce much, that's why they bought so much from Germany before operation Barbarossa. About 40-55 % of ordnance used by the Soviets was contributed by Lend-Lease. They even sent them boots, clothes and food which was of great importance after Germans captured Ukraine. The list goes on.
    All of this made it possible to concentrate on production of more frontline armament since Soviets didn't need to care anymore about many goods while Germans had to provide everything by themselves and even support their allies.

    It is very unlikely UdSSR would have won by herself.

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    1. If you try to being reasonable, main support of Allies was political. Economic assistance was of course important, but did not play a decisive role. The main thing that has been achieved is make fulfill the promise 1941 to open a western front. Nazis felt too comfortable in Europe using the whole economy, and opportunities. tanks repaired in Reno, the troops rested in Scandinavia, France, Italy, and the movement of troops took a few days through the territory.
      Give an example of the Warsaw Uprising, when the plan of "National Army" general Komorowski consisted full-scale hostilities with the Soviet Union to divide allies after the overthrow of the nazis was to begin. United States and Britain would be forced to break the alliance with the Soviet Union. At the same time, together Komorowski and Goebbels began a campaign of Katyn propaganda in western media, although it is still not explained from where come bullets from MG machine guns in the bodies of Poles. The result would be a situation in which Germany would become an ally of Britain and the United States in the war against the Soviet Union. As Churchill planned. In 1945 his plan "Unthinkable" to the alleged attack on the Soviet Union in the spring of a joint British and German POWs.
      So I think the main thing that it was possible - is to keep alliance until the end of the war, despite the fascist policy of Churchill. It seems to me that the death of Roosevelt, who was always a friendship with the Soviet Union just before the operation "Unthinkable" was not accidental. And the appearance of the pro-fascist Truman too. Roosevelt led the United States out of the Great Depression, the economy was improved, life of people was improved. Truman - just bombed Hiroshima, Nagasaki and began the Cold War.
      Politics was more important in my opinion.

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    2. No offense but doesn’t this discussion belong in a forum? As I’ve said before please keep comments short and to the point.

      Delete
    3. Sorry, Christos T. I thought I may mention that because I saw you commenting on this issue.

      Redeploying troops is not a problem, securing other areas is. Besides, it is not as easy as it sounds. It's not like an aircraft could simply switch between Mediterranean Sea and Russia. And Germans had to feed the industires in conquered areas thats why occupied France improved German war production only slightly. Allied aid was crucial if we take into account how much it boosted Soviet industry, made their armies mobile and helped in achieving air superiority.

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    4. Regarding Lend-Lease a very interesting article is:
      The role of lend‐lease in Soviet military efforts, 1941–1945

      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13518049408430160#.VDDiM_mSygd

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    5. Interesting website. Here is my take on the Russians never winning without allied help. I had dinner with Gunther Rall (along with other aces of the war) who was the 3rd leading air ace in history at a special dinner held in San Diego back in 1990 along with other german soldiers who also paid $100.00 for the dinner to hear these aviation air aces speak. I presented general Rall with the hypothetically question that if Germany and Russia went at it will no help from any other country who would win. General Rall didn't hesitate two seconds and said that the Russians still would have won. I asked the same question to other German soldiers who fought on the ground that were present at this dinner and they echoed the same thing General Rall said. These men fought on the Russian front and know better than anyone on what happend there. Also, the T-34 may or may not be the best tank of WWII. I will say this that in time of war you try to put out the best equipment possible in numbers like the Russians did than spending too much time on technology and end up producing lower numbers dealing with a good tank. Here the Russians did a better job. Also one reason that is left out in these debates is that Stalin mass murdered most of his officer corps during the purge of the 1930s. With no leadership in the army, air force or navy will not perform very well when hostilities began but need time for "on the job training" which is why the Russians sufffered such huge losses in the beginning of Operation Barbarosa. But as Rall said the Russian people were a hardened people made so by their hard ass leader Joe Stalin, the greatest politcial serial killer in human history.

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  56. Jacek Telejko11/5/14, 12:05 AM

    Now hang on one second. You can compare the T-34 and M4 Sherman in prices. But don't go out and tell me that the Sherman was a superior tank. It was an absolute death trap, a tin can. The T-34 at least had the armor protection against lower caliber guns. That said, even the German long 75mm had problems defeating it with the first shot. after that admittedly the armor would actually crack. However the m4 Sherman was an all-round disaster of a tank, with a gun that couldn't disable a Tiger pretty much AT ALL! The t-34 could.

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    1. Dear Jacek. You said:

      ‘Now hang on one second. You can compare the T-34 and M4 Sherman in prices. But don't go out and tell me that the Sherman was a superior tank.’

      It was superior to the T-34 in every way. Stability, reliability, firepower, radio, optics, three man turret. Just so we’re clear I’m comparing the standard 75mm Sherman with the T-34/76 and the 76mm Sherman with the T-34/85.

      ‘However the m4 Sherman was an all-round disaster of a tank, with a gun that couldn't disable a Tiger pretty much AT ALL! The t-34 could.’

      The Tiger tank was well protected, especially against the 75mm gun of the Sherman and the 76mm gun of the T-34. Both guns had similar performance so I don’t get your argument. If one couldn’t penetrate chances are the other wouldn’t too. In fact if we take into account the poor quality of Soviet A/T ammunition it’s the US forces that would have had the advantage.

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    2. You are completely wrong (Omar Bradley, Svirin).
      US M3 75 mm (first Sherman) - 66 mm
      T34/76 - 70 mm
      Kwk'40/L43 (StuG, JPzIV) - 91 mm
      US M1 76 mm (later Sherman) - 93 mm
      Kwk'40/L48 (Panther)- 96 mm
      T34/85 - 108 mm
      KwK 36/L56 (Tiger) - 110 mm
      US M3 90mm - 120 mm
      JS-2 122 mm - 167 mm
      KwL 36/L71 - 186 mm

      Delete
    3. Different sources give slightly different data plus in some books they refer to vertical armor, in others at 30 degrees from vertical, sometimes the armor is face hardened, most times homogeneous etc. For the T-34 I have using standard A/T ammunition:

      L-11 gun: 62mm at 500m - 56mm at 1.000m with 0 slope.
      F-34 gun: 69mm at 500m - 61mm at 1.000m with 0 slope. At 30 degree slope it should be ~60 at 500m and ~53 at 1.000m.

      For the Sherman’s M3 75mm gun also with standard ammo it’s 70mm at 500m - 59mm at 1.000m with 30 degree slope or 66mm at 500m - 60mm at 1.000m again with 30 degree slope.

      So it’s a similar or slightly superior performance and the Sherman has better optics and three man turret so it is clearly superior.

      For the 76mm Sherman and the T-34/85 again similar statistics:

      T-34/85’s gun should be: 111 mm at 500m - 102mm at 1.000m with 0 slope and 96mm at 500m - 88mm at 1.000m with 30 degree slope.

      Sherman’s M1 76mm gun should be: 116mm at 500m - 106mm at 1.000m with 0 slope and 94mm at 500m - 89mm at 1.000m with 30 degree slope.

      Almost identical.

      Statistics can change with special ammo, which the Soviets did not have in large quantities (if at all..). As for the T-34/85 vs Sherman 76mm they fought against each other in Korea with the Sherman winning the engagements.

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    4. Also, Sherman had its gun stabilized in vertical, so it could shoot and hit on the move within 500 meters. Although T-34 could traverse slightly more quickly than Sherman, it had a very slow fine adjustment, so time to alight horizontally for a shot was higher for T-34.

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    5. Truth be told that capability was mostly theoretical. The stabilizer was practically never used in the field for firing on the move. WWII tanks had to halt and shoot if they planned to hit anything.

      Delete
  57. I know perfectly well how Steve Zaloga alter and rewriting history by lying about penetration figures. In the old wartime data and post-war historians books M1 penetration for 500 meters - 93-95 mm. But Zaloga makes it more than 110 mm. And T-34 became understated throughout in any measure, instead in Korean war involved only 280-290 T-34/85 against more than 1500 Shermans, Chaffee, T26 and M-26 Pershing. He is well known liar.

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    1. I don’t think this comment adds anything to the conversation. All the sources I’ve seen give similar performance for the Sherman’s 76mm M1 gun compared to the T-34/85’s Zis-S-53 and higher for the 75mm M3 vs the Soviet 76mm F-34.

      I don’t think the statements about Zaloga are justified. All historians have their biases but in this case it seems to me you just don’t like his conclusions so you’re attacking the person instead of the research.

      In the Korean War the 76mm Shermans demolished the Soviet built T-34/85 tanks. Zaloga explains the main reasons in ‘T-34-85 vs M26 Pershing: Korea 1950’. Maybe you should read that instead of insulting people.

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  58. As a Russian linguist, I had the opportunity to work with the prior East German Army right after the Wall fell in 1989. We were given access to a lot of Russian combat vehicles, front line quality. At the time, I was an impressive 5 11 and about 125 lbs, soaking wet, but I climbed on a t-72 and attempted to enter it, I got stuck going down the commanders hatch...once I wiggled my way through - I had to take off my field jacket to do so - I could not believe the lack of room inside. Compared to the apartment like size of the Leo 2 and the M-1, the 72 was like being an egg in an eggcrate. I remember saying, all we had to do was make the Russians sit in their tanks for 12 hours and the work would be done for us...the tankers would want to surrender, just to get out of those conditions.

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    1. Maybe this has something to do with people being smaller in the 20's, 30's, 40's? I think there's a research about it. Average height of a man in 40's was 5ft 6. Today it's 5ft 9.

      Anyway - I just read this cool article (blog post actually) on a WWII strategy game developer website. They bring up some nice points on the main differences between T-34 and Panzer 3.

      http://bitbunch.eu/world-war-ii-tank-showdown-t-34-vs-panzer-iii/

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