It’s time again to do a round up of the Russian language articles translated to English at the Archive Awareness blog. Click on the article title to read the full article.
Difficult battles of the Soviet-German front in 1941-1942 negated the advantages of light tanks. Equipped with relatively weak weapons and mostly bulletproof armour, light tanks as a class were becoming obsolete. The Germans were the first to see the end of the pre-war concept of a light tank, ceasing production in 1942. In the USSR, engineers were still trying to boost the combat performance of the T-70. The result of this work was the T-80 tank, but it came too late. Meanwhile, proposals for radically new light tanks arrived. A proposal for the MT-25 tank was sent by Chelyabinsk engineers to Stalin on February 24th, 1943. Unlike many proposals, this one contained interesting ideas and was well thought out, and piqued the interest of the Main Armoured Directorate. What were these ideas, and why was the tank never built?
In the late summer and early fall of 1944, F. Leclerc’s 2nd Armoured Division was confidently leading the Allied offensive in Lorraine. Colonel Paul de Langlade was the leader among leaders. His decisive actions threatened German units south of Nancy with encirclement. The Germans decided to deliver a counterattack to correct matters. Now de Langlade, having scorned his enemy, had to deal with the consequences of his success.
Ready for defense: The Germans sent elements of the 112th Tank Brigade into battle, commanded by Horst von Usedom. The brigade was well equipped: 45 of its 109 tanks and SPG were the picky but deadly Panthers. Various sources count 600-800 infantrymen. The artillery department was lacking: von Usedom only had six AT guns and five howitzers at his disposal.
Sometimes fairly good designs of military hardware don’t reach their true potential because they appeared in the wrong time or in the wrong place. Light tanks, widely in use on all theaters of WWII, disappeared rather quickly from the Eastern Front, freeing up the space for their heavier brothers. The Hungarian Toldi tank, the first mass produced tank for the country, was one of them. The consequences of the First World War were disastrous for Hungary. The Treaty of Trianon of 1920 which cost Hungary 72% of its territory, 64% of its population, and its access to the sea was seen as a national disgrace. The state of mourning declared after the treaty was signed was one of the longest in world history: state flags remained at half mast until 1938 when Hungary returned some of its lost territory after the First Vienna Award. Some schoolchildren begin the day with singing the national anthem, while Hungarian students began with reading a prayer for the reunification of their country.
The Wehrmacht offensive towards the Caucasus in 1942 had two goals. The secondary was to cut the line of Lend-Lease supplies, but the primary goal was to reach the local oil supply. At the time, Caucasian wells accounted for 70% of the USSR’s oil. It’s not hard to imagine what a loss of these wells would mean for the USSR, which was already doing poorly in 1942, or what a godsend it would be for the fuel-starved German army.
On September 2nd, 1942, the Germans crossed the Terek river and wedged themselves into the Soviet defenses. Fierce battles were fought around Malgobek. This village and others nearby cut off the Germans from the Alkhanchurtskaya Valley, from where the precious oil was a stone’s throw away. The Germans picked the Sagopshin settlement (modern day Sagopshi), just south of Malgobek, to deliver their decisive strike. The elite 5th SS Motorized Division “Viking” was chosen to attack here.
Having fought its last war in 1814, Sweden ended up one of the few European countries that avoided participating in either World War. Nevertheless, the Swedes always paid careful attention to their army’s weapons. Despite its neutrality, Sweden often preferred weapons of German origin. This applied to tanks as well. Even the Strv fm/21, the first Swedish tanks, were really German LK.IIs. Ten of these tanks were built at AB Landsverk in Landskrona, which became the Swedish tank development center for decades to come. The Landsverk L-60 was born here, some elements of which were a real revolution for tank development in the 1930s. Sweden’s neutral status, its developed industry, and well maintained connections were very useful for the Germans. The Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from developing new types of weapons and military vehicles. However, this prohibition did not stop the Germans from secretly re-launching tank development programs in 1925. They also did not miss out on the opportunity to develop tanks in other countries.
No one could have guessed on September 15th, 1916 that many military theory books would become obsolete in an instant. The first tank entered its baptism by fire, and an unnamed German’s cry “The devil is coming!” announced the coming of the new god of war.
French and German tanks came after British ones, but the “rhombus” was the first of the first. Nine tanks belonged to this family. Some of them made it in time for the war, others remained prototoypes. Episodes collected in this article will briefly describe the “rhomboid” family.
Romania joined WWII with a very marginal tank force, both in numbers and capability. The first battles on the Eastern front showed that their tanks were incapable of engaging Soviet medium tanks, let along heavy ones. The Romanian army was in desperate need of new more powerful anti-tank means. In a very short amount of time, they could only be built on captured platforms.
Romania only have one tank unit in the summer of 1941: the 1st Tank Division. It consisted of the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments, reinforced by two regiments of motorized infantry, a motorized artillery regiment, a recon battalion, and a sapper battalion. The 1st Tank Regiment was equipped with Czechoslovakian S-II-aR (an export variant of the LT vz. 35), 126 of which were purchased in 1938-1939. These tanks served in the Romanian army under the index R-2. The 2nd Tank Regiment consisted of French Renault R35 tanks.
The main purpose of new IS-2 heavy tanks that appeared in the Red Army in 1944 was the destruction of German pillboxes with their 122 mm guns. Fighting enemy tanks was not a priority. However, plans and forecasts rarely work in war. The IS tanks got a chance to test themselves against enemy armour soon after they arrived on the battlefield.
This happened in the spring of 1944, during the Proskurovo-Chernovtsy operation. In addition to their other objectives, the Soviet forces had to surround the German 1st Tank Army. Colonel-General Chernyakhovskiy’s 60th Army participated in this task. One of the first targets in its path was Tarnopol (modern day Ternopol). Hitler declared it a Festung: a city-fortress that German forces had to hold until the last man. On April 11th, it was time for the defenders to carry out that order.
In the days of the Second World War, heavy self propelled guns played an important part on the battlefield. It is not surprising that after the end of the war, heavy SPGs, including tank destroyers, remained a priority for designers from all nations. It’s surprising that only a handful of these vehicles were ever built in metal, and none were mass produced. The Soviet Union and its Object 268 was no exception.
Weight Limit: As with heavy tanks, prospective Soviet heavy SPGs were well protected vehicles with long 152 mm guns. The first requirements for these vehicles were ready in 1945, but work began only a year later. They were designed on the chassis of the Object 260 (IS-7) and Object 701 (IS-4) tanks.
The Germans understood that the summer offensive against the Kursk salient will not be an easy one. German commanders took their time planning Operation Citadel, moving the start date several times. Meanwhile, the Red Army was digging in, wrapping the terrain in barbed wire and sowing mines. The Germans were also preparing, knowing that their units will be warmly received. Their hopes rested on new types of tanks: Tigers and Panthers, Ferdinand tank destroyers and Brummbar assault tanks.
On April 15th, 1942, the plenary assembly of the Artillery Committee of the GAU met to discuss further development of self propelled artillery. The decisions worked out in this meeting became key in wartime development of Soviet SPGs. Among others, requirements were confirmed for a heavy SPG that would replace the 212 bunker buster. Work began on this SPG on the KV-7 chassis at UZTM, headed by L.I. Gorlitskiy. By the fall of 1942, the U-18 project was ready, but by that point, a competitor was developed at Sverdlovsk.
In February of 1942, artillery production from the Ural Heavy Machinebuilding Factory (UZTM) was transferred to factory #8, which was evacuated in the fall of 1941 from Kaliningrad (modern day Korolev) to Sverdlovsk. The factory director was B.A. Fradkin, same as before the evacuation. F.F. Petrov was appointed chief engineer of the new factory.
By the end of the Second World War, T-34-85 tanks became one of the most common type of tank in the Czechoslovakian army. The first tanks of this type were received by the Czechoslovakian corps in early 1945, and up to 130 tanks of this type were received in total. They took part in the liberation of Prague and later became the backbone of the post-war Czechoslovakian army. Shipments continued after the war. Photos show tanks that were clearly made after May 9th, 1945. T-34-85 tanks became the first to receive the famous tricolour insignia.
The T-34-85 was a very modern tank at the end of WWII, but it was no secret that the tank would soon be obsolete. The Czechoslovakian military realized this too. On October 17th, 1945, a meeting of the General Staff was held where its commander, Divisional General Bohumil Boček approved the tactical-technical requirements for the Tank všeobecného použití (TVP), a main battle tank. The requirements were clearly inspired by the T-34-85, but the implementation details varied significantly.