From the Vault: US description of Soviet tanks from 1942

Today we present an article from August 13, 1942, US Army publication Tactical and Technical Trends #5.  The technical information is relatively accurate although the illustrations leave a bit to be desired.  This article gives a good impression of how well informed the US military was concerning armor development on the Eastern Front in 1942.  It is interesting to note that the longest paragraph in this report deals with aspects of the T-34 design intended to allow infantry to ride on the tank or to prevent enemy soldiers from climbing aboard.

Tank warfare has taught the Russians lessons which have influenced their tank design.  The turret is located well forward to permit tank infantrymen (desyanti, see tactical and Technical Trends No. 3, page 44) to use it as a shield while riding atop the tank.   Every provision has been made to prevent unwelcome riders from getting aboard.  There is a lack of external fittings, tools, sharp projections, etc.: this meets the double purpose of eliminating hand grips for enemy hitch-hikers and the chance that a fire bomb or other missile could lodge on the tank.  The fender of the tank is very narrow so that “tank hunters” who seek to jump aboard run the risk of being caught in the track.  The newer American sponson-type tanks have no fenders as such and have solved these problems largely through basic design.  As a further protective measure for the tank crew, the hatch in the top of the turret is so constructed that it cannot be opened from the outside.  A special tool is required to open the hatch from the inside.

From the Vault: An Israeli view on Soviet tanks

Today we present another article from ARMOR, the official journal of the armor branch.  This piece is an evaluation of Soviet tanks by Lieutenant Colonel David Eshel of the Isaeli Defense Forces and it appeared in the May-Jun 1988 issue.  In this article, the author focuses primarily on the T54/55 and the T62, since both of these vehicles were captured in large numbers by the IDF and pressed into service.  Col. Eshel notes the many modifications that the IDF made to these vehicles as well as listing some of the problems they encountered with the Soviet designs.  While Eshel makes many critical comments about these vehicles, he ends the piece with the following remarks:

In short, Israeli experience in tank combat reveals shortcomings in Soviet tank designs. However, Soviet tanks are, in principle, excellent fighting machines, combat proven and viable under field conditions.  If manned by determined and highly-trained crews, they can be a most dangerous and deadly opponent.