“I could. I held out. Routed five buried tanks. "They could not do anything because they were T-III, T-IV tanks, and I was in the" thirty-four ", whose frontal armor their shells did not penetrate."
Few tankers of the countries participating in the Second World War could repeat these words of the commander of the T-34 tank, Lieutenant Alexander Vasilyevich Bodnar, with regard to their combat vehicles. The Soviet T-34 tank became a legend in the first place because it was believed by those people who sat behind the levers and to the sights of his cannon and machine guns.
In the memoirs of tank crews, the thought expressed by the well-known Russian military theorist A. A. Svechin is traced: “If the value of material resources in a war is very relative, then faith in them is of tremendous importance. Svechin was an infantry officer of the 1914-1918 Great War, saw a debut on the battlefield of heavy artillery, airplanes and armored vehicles, and he knew what he was talking about. If the soldiers and officers have faith in the equipment entrusted to them, they will act bolder and more decisively, making their way to victory. On the contrary, mistrust, willingness to throw a mentally or really weak sample of weapons will lead to defeat. Of course, this is not about blind faith, based on propaganda or speculation. Confidence in people was instilled by design features strikingly distinguishing the T-34 from a number of military vehicles of the time: the inclined arrangement of sheets of armor and the B-2 diesel engine.
The principle of increasing the effectiveness of tank protection due to the inclined arrangement of sheets of armor was understandable to anyone who studied geometry in school. “The T-34 armor was thinner than the Panthers and Tigers. Total thickness approx. 45 mm. But since it was located at an angle, the leg was approximately 90 mm, which made it difficult to break through, ”recalls tank commander, Lieutenant Alexander S. Burtsev. The use of geometric constructions in the protection system instead of brute force by simply increasing the thickness of the armor plates gave the T-34 crews an indisputable advantage over their tank over the enemy. “The Germans had worse armor plates, mostly vertically. This, of course, a big minus. Our tanks were located at an angle, ”recalls the battalion commander, Captain Vasily Bryukhov.
Of course, all these theses had not only theoretical, but also practical justification. German anti-tank and tank guns in caliber up to 50 mm in most cases did not break through the upper frontal part of the T-34 tank. Moreover, even the sub-caliber 50-mm shells of the PAK-38 anti-tank guns and 50-mm guns of the T-III tank with 60 barrel lengths of calibers, which by trigonometric calculations had to pierce the T-34 forehead, in reality they ricocheted from inclined high-hardness armor without causing any harm to the tank. The 1942 research institute 48 conducted in September-October * a statistical study of the combat damage of the T-34 tanks that had been repaired at repair bases No. 1 and 2 in Moscow showed that 109 hit the upper frontal part of the 89% was safe, and dangerous defeats fell on tools caliber 75 mm and above. Of course, with the appearance of a large number of 75-mm anti-tank and tank guns among the Germans, the situation became more complicated. The 75-mm projectiles were normalized (deployed at right angles to the armor when hit), punching the inclined forehead armor of the T-34 hull at a distance of 1200 m. The 88-mm anti-aircraft cannons and cumulative ammunition were just as insensitive to the slope of the armor. However, the proportion of 50-mm guns in the Wehrmacht until the battle of the Kursk Bulge was significant, and the belief in sloping T-34 armor was largely justified. Any noticeable advantages over the T-34 armor were noted by tankers only in the armor protection of the British tanks, "... if the pig pierced the turret, then the English tank commander and gunner can remain alive, since there are practically no fragments, and the armor has crumbled in Thirty-Four. and there was little chance of surviving among those in the tower, ”recalls V.P. Bryukhov.
This was due to the exceptionally high nickel content in the armor of the British Matilda and Valentine tanks. If the Soviet 45-mm armor of high hardness contained 1,0 - 1,5% nickel, the medium-hardness armor of British tanks contained 3,0 - 3,5% nickel, which provided a slightly higher viscosity of the latter. At the same time, no modifications were made to the protection of the T-34 tanks by the crews in the units. Only before the Berlin operation, according to Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Petrovich Schwebig, the former deputy commander of the 12 Brigade of the Guards Tank Corps on the technical side, metal bed nets were welded onto the tanks to protect against faustpatrons. Known cases of screening "thirty-five" - is the fruit of creativity repair shops and manufacturing plants. The same can be said about the painting of tanks. From the factory, the tanks came in painted green inside and out. In preparing the tank for winter, the task of the deputy commanders of tank units for the technical part was painting the tanks with whitewash. The exception was the winter of 1944 / 45, when the war was on the territory of Europe. None of the veterans remember that camouflage was applied to the tanks.
An even more obvious and inspiring detail on the T-34 was the diesel engine. Most of those trained as a driver, radio operator, or even the commander of the T-34 tank in civilian life somehow encountered fuel, at least gasoline. They well knew from personal experience that gasoline is volatile, flammable and burns with a bright flame. Quite obvious experiments with gasoline were used by engineers whose hands created the T-34. “In the midst of a dispute, designer Nikolai Kucherenko at the factory yard did not use the most scientific, but a clear example of the benefits of new fuel. He took a lighted torch and brought it to a bucket of gasoline - a bucket instantly enveloped in flames. Then he lowered the same torch into a bucket of diesel fuel - the flame went out, as in water ... ”* This experiment was projected on the effect of a projectile entering the tank that could set fire to fuel or even its vapor inside the car. Accordingly, the crew members of the T-34 belonged to the enemy tanks to a certain degree. “They were with a gas engine. It’s also a big flaw, ”recalls sergeant Peter Ilyich Kirichenko, radio operator shooter. The same attitude was with Lend-Lease tanks (“Many died because the bullet hit him, and the gas engine and armor weren’t there,” recalls the tank commander, Junior Lieutenant Yuri Maksovich Polyanovsky), and Soviet tanks and self-propelled guns equipped with a carburetor engine (“Once the SU-76 came to our battalion. They were with gas engines — the lighter was real ... They all burned down in the very first battles ...” recalls V.P. Bryukhov) . The presence of a diesel engine in the engine compartment of the tank gave the crews the confidence that they had far less chances of accepting a terrible death from fire than their adversary, whose tanks were filled with hundreds of liters of volatile and flammable gasoline. The neighborhood with large volumes of fuel (tankers had to estimate the number of buckets each time they refuel the tank) was concealed by the thought that it would be more difficult to set fire to anti-tank gun shells, and in case of fire tankers would have enough time to jump out of the tank. However, in this case, the direct projection of experiments with a bucket on tanks was not entirely justified. Moreover, statistically tanks with diesel engines did not have fire safety advantages in relation to vehicles with carburetor engines. According to statistics from October 1942, diesel T-34s burned even slightly more often than refueling aviation gasoline tanks T-70 (23% against 19%). The engineers at the NIIBT training ground in Kubinka in 1943 came to the conclusion directly opposite to the household assessment of the potential for ignition of various types of fuel. “The Germans' use of a carbureted engine, rather than a diesel engine, in a new tank, launched in 1942, can be explained by: [...] a very significant percentage of tank fires with diesel engines in combat conditions and the absence of significant advantages over carbureted ones in this regard engines, especially with the competent design of the latter and the availability of reliable automatic fire extinguishers. " Bringing the torch to a bucket of gasoline, designer Kucherenko set fire to a pair of volatile fuel. Favorable for igniting a torch vapor over a layer of diesel fuel in a bucket was not. But this fact did not mean that diesel fuel would not erupt from a much more powerful means of ignition - shell hit. Therefore, the placement of fuel tanks in the fighting compartment of the T-34 tank did not increase the fire safety of the “thirty-four” in comparison with peers in which the tanks were located in the rear of the hull and were hit much less frequently. V.P. Bryukhov confirms what was said: “When does the tank catch fire?” When the projectile enters the fuel tank. And it burns when there is a lot of fuel. And at the end of the fighting there is no fuel, and the tank is almost not burning. ”The tankers considered the noise to be the only advantage of the engines of German tanks over the T-34 engine. “A gasoline engine, on the one hand, is flammable, and on the other hand - quiet. T-34, he not only roars, but also claps with caterpillars, ”recalls tank commander junior lieutenant Arsenty Konstantinovich Rodkin. The power plant of the T-34 tank did not initially provide for the installation of silencers on the exhaust pipes. They were led to the stern of the tank without any sound-absorbing devices, rattling the exhaust of a 12-cylinder engine. In addition to noise, the powerful engine of the tank raised dust with its exhaust muffler-free exhaust. “The T-34 raises terrible dust because the exhaust pipes are pointing down,” recalls A.K. Rodkin.
The designers of the T-34 tank gave their offspring two features that distinguished it among the fighting vehicles of allies and opponents. These tank features added confidence to the crew weapons. People went into battle with pride in the equipment entrusted to them. This was much more important than the actual effect of the tilt of the armor or the real fire hazard of a tank with a diesel engine.
Tanks appeared as a means of protecting the calculations of machine guns and guns from enemy fire. The balance between the protection of the tank and the capabilities of the anti-tank artillery is quite fragile, the artillery is constantly being improved, and the newest tank cannot feel safe on the battlefield. Powerful anti-aircraft and corps guns make this balance even more fragile. Therefore, sooner or later, a situation occurs when a shell hit the tank pierces the armor and turns the steel box into hell.
Good tanks solved this problem and after death, having received one or several hits, opening the way for salvation to the people inside themselves. Unusual for tanks of other countries, the driver's hatch in the upper frontal part of the T-34 hull turned out to be quite convenient in practice for leaving the car in critical situations. The mechanic-driver sergeant Semyon Arovich recalls: “The hatch was smooth, with rounded edges, and it was not difficult to get in and out of it. Moreover, when you got up from the driver’s seat, you were already sticking out almost to the waist. ” Another advantage of the hatch of the mechanic-driver of the T-34 tank was the possibility of its fixation in several intermediate relatively “open” and “closed” positions. Arranged the mechanism of the hatch was quite simple. To facilitate the opening, the heavy cast hatch (60 mm thick) was supported by a spring, the stem of which was a rack rail. By rearranging the stopper from the prong to the prong of the slat, it was possible to fix the hatch rigidly, without fear of its breakdown on the bumps of the road or the battlefield. Drivers of this mechanism willingly used and preferred to keep the hatch ajar. “When it is possible, it is always better with an open hatch,” recalls V. AP Bryukhov. His words are confirmed by the company commander, Senior Lieutenant Arkady Vasilyevich Maryevsky: “The mechanic always opens the door to the palm, firstly, everything is visible, and secondly, the air flow when the upper manhole is open is ventilated by the fighting compartment”. This provided a good overview and the ability to quickly leave the car when a projectile hit it. In general, the mechanic was, according to tankers, in the most advantageous position. “The mechanic had the greatest chance of surviving. He was sitting low, in front of him was oblique armor, ”recalls the platoon commander, Lieutenant Alexander Vasilievich Bodnar; according to P. AND. Kirichenko: “The lower part of the body, it is usually hidden behind the folds of the terrain, it is difficult to get into it. And this towers above the ground. Mainly it got into. And more people died in the tower than those below. ” Here it should be noted that we are talking about dangerous for the tank hits. Statistically, in the initial period of the war, most of the hits fell on the tank hull. According to the above-mentioned NII-48 report, the corps accounted for 81% hits, and the turret accounted for 19%. However, more than half of the total number of hits were safe (non-through): 89% of hits on the upper frontal part, 66% of hits on the lower frontal part and about 40% of hits on the board did not lead to through holes. Moreover, from hitting the board 42% of their total number fell on the engine and transmission compartments, the defeats of which were safe for the crew. The tower, on the other hand, made its way relatively easily. The less solid cast armor of the turret weakly resisted even the 37-mm projectiles of automatic anti-aircraft guns. The situation was aggravated by the fact that heavy guns with a high line of fire, such as 88-mm anti-aircraft guns, as well as hits from long-barreled 75-mm and 50-mm guns of the German tanks, entered the T-34 tower. The terrain screen, about which the tanker spoke, was about one meter at the European theater of operations. Half of this meter falls on the ground clearance, the rest covers about a third of the height of the hull of the T-34 tank.
If the driver’s hatch is unanimously assessed by veterans as convenient, the tankers are equally unanimous in their negative assessment of the early-release T-34 tank tower hatch with an oval tower, nicknamed the “pie” for its characteristic shape. V.P. Bryukhov speaks of him: “The big hatch is bad. It’s heavy, and it’s hard to open it. If it sticks, then everything, no one will jump out. ” The tank commander Lieutenant Nikolai Evdokimovich Glukhov echoed him: “The large hatch is very uncomfortable. Very heavy". The combination of one manhole for two adjacent crew members, a gunner and a loader, was uncharacteristic for world tank construction. His appearance on the T-34 was not due to tactical, but technological considerations associated with the installation of a powerful gun in the tank. The tower of the T-34 predecessor on the conveyor of the Kharkov plant - the BT-7 tank - was equipped with two hatches, one for each of the crew members located in the tower. For its characteristic appearance with open hatches, the BT-7 was nicknamed by the Germans “Mickey Mouse”. The Thirty-Fours inherited a lot from the BT, but instead of the 45-mm gun, the tank received the 76-mm gun, and the design of the tanks in the fighting compartment of the hull changed. The need for dismantling during the repair of tanks and the massive cradle of the 76-mm gun forced the designers to combine two tower hatches into one. The body of the T-34 gun with anti-recoil devices was removed through a bolt-on cover in the aft recess of the tower, and the cradle with a vertical gear sector was through the tower hatch. Through the same hatch, fuel tanks were also removed, fixed in the fenders of the T-34 tank hull. All these difficulties were caused by the side walls of the tower, beveled to the mask of the gun. The cradle of the T-34 gun was wider and higher than the embrasure in the frontal part of the tower and could only be removed back. The Germans removed the guns of their tanks along with its mask (the width of which was almost equal to the width of the tower) forward. It must be said here that the T-34 designers paid much attention to the possibility of repairing the tank by the crew. Even ... ports for firing personal weapons on the sides and aft of the tower were adapted for this task. The port plugs were removed, and a small prefabricated crane was installed in the holes in the 45-mm armor to dismantle the engine or transmission. For the Germans, the devices on the tower for mounting such a “pocket” crane - the “pilts” - appeared only in the final period of the war.
One should not think that when installing a large hatch, the T-34 designers did not take into account the needs of the crew at all. In the USSR, before the war, it was believed that a large hatch would facilitate the evacuation of wounded crew members from a tank. However, the combat experience, complaints of tankers on the heavy turret hatch forced the team of A. A. Morozov to switch to the two hatches of the tower during the next modernization of the tank. The six-sided tower, nicknamed "nut", again received "Mickey Mouse's ears" - two round hatches. Such towers were placed on T-34 tanks, produced in the Urals (ChTZ in Chelyabinsk, UZTM in Sverdlovsk and UVZ in Nizhny Tagil) since the fall of 1942. The Red Sormovo plant in Gorky until the spring of 1943, continued to produce tanks with a “pie”. The task of extracting tanks on tanks with a "nut" was solved with the help of a removable armor jumper between the hatches of the commander and gunner. The gun was removed according to the method proposed for the purpose of simplifying the production of the cast tower as early as 1942 at Krasnoye Sormovo plant No. 112 - the back of the tower was raised with talis, and the weapon formed between the hull and the tower was opened.
Tankers, in order not to get into the situation “with their hands without a skin they were looking for a latch”, preferred not to lock the door, securing it with a ... trouser belt. A.V. Bodnar recalls: “When I went on the attack, the hatch was closed, but not on the latch. I hooked one end of the trouser belt by the hatch latch, and the other end wrapped around the hook holding the ammunition on the turret a couple of times, so that if something hit my head, the belt would come off and you would jump out. ” The same techniques were used by the commanders of the T-34 tanks with the commander's turret. “There was a double-wing hatch on the commander’s turret, locked with two latches on the springs. Even a healthy person could hardly open them, but the wounded man definitely could not. We have removed these springs, leaving the latches. In general, we tried to keep the hatch open - it is easier to jump out, ”says A. S. Burtsev. It should be noted that neither the design bureau, either before or after the war, used in one form or another the achievements of the soldier's ingenuity. The tanks were still equipped with latches of the hatches in the tower and the hull, which the crews in battle preferred to keep open.
The thirty-four crew daily service abounded in situations where the same load was placed on the crew members and each of them performed simple but repetitive operations that differed little from their neighbor’s actions, such as opening a trench or filling a tank with fuel and projectiles. However, the battle and the march immediately singled out the people in overalls of two crew members, on whom the main responsibility for the tank rested, were being built out of those who were being built in front of the tank at the command “By car!” The first was the commander of the vehicle, who in addition to managing the battle on the early T-34 was acting as the gunner of the gun: “If you are the commander of the T-34-76 tank, then you yourself shoot, you command yourself on the radio, you do everything yourself” (V. P. Bryukhov). The second man in the crew, on whom the lion's share of responsibility for the tank, and therefore, for the lives of his comrades in battle, lay, was the driver. The commanders of tanks and tank divisions rated the driver in battle very high. “... An experienced driver is half the success,” recalls N. E. Glukhov. This rule knew no exceptions. “The mechanic driver Kryukov Grigory Ivanovich was 10 older than me. Before the war he worked as a driver and had already managed to make war near Leningrad. Was injured. He perfectly felt the tank. I believe that it was only thanks to him that we survived the first battles, ”recalls tank commander Lt. Georgy Nikolaevich Krivov.
The special position of the driver in the "thirty-four" was due to the relatively complex management, requiring experience and physical strength. This was particularly true of the T-34 tanks of the first half of the war, which had a four-speed gearbox that required the gears to be moved relative to each other and the necessary gears and drive shafts were brought into gear. The change of speed in such a box was very difficult and required great physical strength. Recalls A. AT. Maryevsky: “You cannot turn on the gearshift lever with one hand, you had to help yourself with your knee.” To facilitate gear changes, gear boxes were developed with gears that were constantly engaged. The gear ratio was changed not by moving gears, but by moving small cam clutches sitting on shafts. They moved along the shaft on the splines and linked with it the desired pair of gears that were already meshed from the moment the gearbox was assembled. For example, the pre-war Soviet motorcycles L-300 and AM-600, as well as the M-1941 motorcycle produced from 72, a licensed copy of the German BMW R71, had a transmission of this type. The next step in the direction of improving the transmission was the introduction of synchronizers into the gearbox. These are devices that equalize the speeds of the cam clutches and gears, with which they are engaged when a gear is engaged. Shortly before the low or high gear was engaged, the clutch entered into friction with the gear wheel. So it gradually began to rotate at the same speed with the selected gear, and when the transmission was engaged, the coupling between them was carried out silently and without impacts. An example of a gearbox with synchronizers is the Maybach type gearbox of German T-III and T-IV tanks. Even more perfect were the so-called planetary gearboxes of Czech-made tanks and Matilda tanks. Not surprisingly, the Commissar of Defense of the USSR Marshal S. TO. Timoshenko 6 of November 1940 of the year, according to test results of the first T-34, sent a letter to the Committee of Defense under SNK, which, inter alia, said: “In the first half of 1941, the plants should develop and prepare a planetary transmission for T-34 and KV This will increase the average speed of the tanks and ease the management. " None of this was done before the war, and in the first years of the war T-34 fought with the least perfect gearbox of those existing at that time. Thirty-fours with a four-speed gearbox required very good driver training. “If the driver is not trained, then he can insert the fourth instead of the first gear, because it is also back, or instead of the second - the third, which will lead to a breakdown of the gearbox. It is necessary to bring the skill of switching to automatism so that it can switch with closed eyes, ”recalls A. AT. Bodnar. In addition to the difficulties in shifting gears, the four-speed gearbox was characterized as weak and unreliable, often failing. Gears of gears that collided during switching broke, there were even breaks in the crankcase of the box. The engineers of the NIBT landfill site in Kubinka in the lengthy 1942 report of the year on joint testing of domestic, captured and lend-leased equipment gave the early series T-34 gearbox a mere derogatory assessment: “Transmission gear boxes of domestic tanks, especially T-34 and KB, are not they fully meet the requirements of modern combat vehicles, yielding to gear change boxes of both allied and enemy tanks, and at least a few years behind the development of tank-building technology. ” As a result of these and other reports on the deficiencies of the Thirty-Four, a decree of the State Defense Committee of 5 June 1942 of the year “On improving the quality of T-34 tanks” was issued. As part of the execution of this resolution to the beginning of 1943. The design department of Plant No. 183 (Kharkov Plant, evacuated to the Urals) developed a five-speed gearbox with permanent gearing, which tank crews who expressed their respect for T-34 expressed with such respect.
Another element of the T-34 transmission, which made the combat vehicle dependent on the driver’s training, was the main clutch linking the gearbox to the engine. Here's how A.V. Bodnar describes the situation, after being injured, trained T-34 driver mechanics: “A lot depended on how well the main friction clutch was adjusted for free running and shutting down and how well the driver could use it when pulls away. The last third of the pedal must be released slowly, so as not to tear, because if it is to tear, the car will slip and the clutch will twist. The main part of the main friction of the dry friction of the T-34 tank was a package of 8 leading and 10 slaves (later, as part of improving the transmission of the tank, received 11 leading and 11 slaves), pressed against each other by springs. Improper shutdown of the friction clutch with disks against each other, their heating and warping could lead to the failure of the tank. Such a breakdown was called "burn clutch", although formally it lacked combustible objects. Ahead of other countries in implementing solutions such as the 76-mm long-barreled cannon and the inclined arrangement of armor, the T-34 tank still lagged behind Germany and other countries in the design of the transmission and turning mechanisms. On German tanks that were the same age as the T-34, the main clutch was with discs working in oil. This made it possible to more efficiently remove heat from the friction discs and made it much easier to turn the friction clutch on and off. The servomechanism, which was equipped with the main friction off pedal based on the experience of the T-34 combat use in the initial period of the war, somewhat improved the situation. The design of the mechanism, despite the servo prefix that inspires some degree of piety, was rather simple. The clutch pedal was held by a spring which, in the process of depressing the pedal, passed the dead center and changed the direction of the force. When the tanker just pressed the pedal, the spring resisted pressing. At a certain moment, on the contrary, she began to help and pulled the pedal toward herself, providing the necessary speed of movement of the backstage. Before the introduction of these simple but necessary elements, the work of the second in the hierarchy tank crew was very hard. “During a long march, a driver was losing two or three pounds in weight. All was exhausted. This, of course, was very hard, ”remembers P. I. Kirichenko. If on the march, the driver’s mistakes could lead to a delay in the journey due to repairs of a certain duration, at least to the crew leaving the tank, then in a battle the failure of the T-34 transmission due to the driver’s mistakes could have fatal consequences. On the contrary, the skill of the driver and energetic maneuvering could ensure the survival of the crew under heavy fire.
The development of the design of the T-34 tank during the war proceeded primarily in the direction of improving the transmission. In the above-cited report of the engineers of the NIIBT test site in Kubinka 1942, the following words were said: “Recently, due to the increase in VET means, maneuverability is at least not less a guarantee of machine invulnerability than powerful armor. The combination of a good car reservation and the speed of its maneuver is the main means of protecting a modern combat vehicle against anti-tank artillery fire. ” The armor protection advantage lost to the final period of the war was compensated for by the improved performance of the thirty-fours. The tank began to move faster both on the march and on the battlefield, it is better to maneuver. Two features that tankers believed in (tilting armor and a diesel engine) added a third speed. A. K. Rodkin, who fought on the T-34-85 tank at the end of the war, put it this way: “The tank crew had this saying:“ Armor is bullshit, but our tanks are fast. ” In speed, we had an advantage. The Germans had petrol tanks, but their speed was not very big. ”
The first task of the X-NUMX-mm F-76,2 tank guns was “the destruction of enemy tanks and other mechanized equipment” *. Tank veterans unanimously called German tanks the main and most serious opponent. In the initial period of the war, the crews of the T-34 confidently went to a duel with any German tanks, rightly considering that a powerful gun and reliable armor protection would ensure success in battle. The appearance on the battlefield of "Tigers" and "Panthers" changed the situation to the opposite. Now the German tanks got a “long arm” that allows them to fight without worrying about disguise. “Taking advantage of the fact that we have 34-mm guns, which can take their armor from the 76 meters in the forehead, they stood in the open,” recalls platoon commander Lt. Nikolai Yakovlevich Zheleznoye. Even snapping projectiles to the 500-mm cannon did not give an advantage to a duel of this kind, because they punched only 76 mm of homogeneous armor at a distance of 90 meters, while the frontal armor T-VIH Tiger had a thickness of 500 mm. The transition to 102-mm gun immediately changed the situation, allowing the Soviet tank crews to fight with new German tanks at distances over a kilometer. “Well, when T-85-34 appeared, it was already possible to go one on one here,” recalls N. Ya. Zheleznov. The powerful 85-mm guns allowed the T-85 crews to fight with their old acquaintances T-IV at a distance of 34-1200 m. We can find an example of such a battle at the Sandomierz springboard in the summer of 1300, in N. Zheleznov’s memoirs. The first T-1944 tanks with the X-NUMX-mm D-34T gun went off the assembly line at the 85 Red Sormovo plant in January, 5. The mass production of the T-112-1944 already with the 34-mm ZIS-S-85 gun was launched in March 85, when new-type tanks were built on the flagship of the Soviet tank construction during the war, plant No. 53 in Nizhny Tagil. Despite a certain rush in the re-equipment of the tank on the 1944-mm gun, the 183-mm gun that was included in the mass series was considered to be reliable crews and did not cause any complaints. The vertical guidance of the thirty-four tool was carried out manually, and an electric drive was introduced to turn the turret from the very beginning of the tank's production. However, tankers in battle preferred to rotate the tower manually. “The hands lie cross on the mechanisms of rotation of the turret and the guidance of the gun. The tower could be turned by an electric motor, but in a battle you forget about it. You twist the handle, ”recalls G. N. Kryvov. This is easily explained. On the T-85-85, about which G. N. Krivov speaks, the handle of the turn of the tower manually simultaneously served as a lever for the electric drive. To go from a manual drive to an electric one, it was necessary to turn the handle of rotation of the tower vertically and move it back and forth, forcing the engine to rotate the tower in the right direction. In the heat of battle, this was forgotten, and the handle was used only for manual turning. In addition, as V. P. Bryukhov recalls: “You must be able to use the electric rotation, otherwise you will jerk it off, and then you have to turn it around.”
The only inconvenience that caused the introduction of 85-mm guns, was the need to carefully ensure that the long barrel does not touch the ground on the bumps of the road or battlefield. “The T-34-85 has a barrel four meters long or more. On the slightest ditch, a tank can bite and grab the ground with a barrel. If, after this, to shoot, the trunk opens with petals in different directions, like a flower, ”recalls AK Rodkin. The full barrel length of the 85-mm tank gun model 1944 of the year was more than four meters, 4645 mm. The appearance of 85-mm guns and new shots to it also led to the fact that the tank stopped exploding with the collapse of the turret, "... they (the shells. - A. I.) do not detonate, but explode in turns. On T-34-76, if one projectile blew up, then the entire combat pack detonates, ”asserts AK Rodkin. This somewhat increased the chances of the thirty-four crew members for survival, and the picture that sometimes flashes on 1941 - 1943's frames - T-34, which lies next to the tank or turned over after falling back to the tank, disappeared from the photo and newsreels of the war. .
If the German tanks were the most dangerous enemy of the Thirty-Fours, then the T-34 themselves were an effective means of defeating not only armored vehicles, but also the weapons and manpower of the enemy, hindering the advancement of their infantry. Most tankers whose memories are listed in the book have, at best, a few enemy armored vehicles, but the number of enemy infantrymen shot from a cannon and machine gun is estimated to be in the tens and hundreds. The ammunition of the T-34 tanks consisted mainly of high-explosive fragmentation projectiles. Regular ammunition "thirty" with a tower "nut" in 1942-1944. consisted of 100 shots, including 75 high-explosive fragmentation and 25 armor-piercing (of which 4 are snapping from 1943 of the year). The standard ammunition of the T-34-85 tank included 36 high-explosive fragmentation shots, 14 armor-piercing and 5 sub-caliber. The balance between armor-piercing and high-explosive fragmentation projectiles largely reflects the conditions in which the Thirty-Fours fought during the attack. Under heavy artillery fire, tankmen, in most cases, had little time for aimed shooting and fired on the move and short stops, counting on suppressing the enemy with a mass of shots or hitting a target with several projectiles. G. N. Kryvov recalls: “Experienced guys who were already in battles, we are told:“ Never stop. Beat on the move. Heaven is the land where the projectile goes - hit, squeeze ”. You asked how many shells I fired in the first bout? Half ammunition. He beat, beat ... "
As is often the case, practice prompted techniques that were not provided for by any statutes and methodological manuals. A typical example is the use of a lockable clanging shutter as an internal alarm in a tank. V. Bryukhov says: “When the crew is well coordinated, the mechanic is strong, he himself hears what kind of projectile is driven in, the click of the wedge of the bolt is heavy, more than two pounds ...” The guns mounted on the T-34 tank were equipped semi-automatic opening the shutter. This system worked as follows. When fired, the gun rolled back, after absorbing the recoil energy, the reamer returned the body of the gun to its original position. Just before returning, the lever of the shutter mechanism ran into the copier on the gun carriage, and the wedge went down, the ejector legs connected with it knocked out an empty shell shell from the breech. The loader sent the next projectile, knocking the bolt wedge on its legs. Heavy detail, under the influence of powerful springs, abruptly returning to its original position, produced quite a sharp sound, blocking the roar of the engine, the chanting of the chassis and the sounds of combat. Hearing the clanging shutter, the driver, without waiting for the command “Short!”, Chose a fairly flat stretch of terrain for a short stop and an aimed shot. The location of ammunition in the tank did not cause any inconvenience to the loaders. Shells could be taken both from stacking in the tower and from the “suitcases” on the floor of the combat compartment.
The goal that did not always appear at the crosshairs was worthy of a cannon shot. The T-34-76 commander or gunner T-34-85 fired from a machine gun that was paired with a cannon that ran or appeared in the open space of German infantrymen. A machine gun, mounted in the hull, could only be effectively used in close combat, when enemy infantrymen with grenades and incendiary bottles surrounded the tank immobilized for one reason or another. “This is a melee weapon when a tank was shot down and he stopped. The Germans are suitable, and they can be mowed, be healthy, ”recalls V. P. Bryukhov. In movement, it was almost impossible to fire a machine gun because the machine gun's telescopic sight provided insignificant opportunities for observation and aiming. “And I actually had no sight. I have such a hole there, not a damn thing in it, ”remembers P. I. Kirichenko. Perhaps the most effective exchange rate machine gun was used when shooting from a ball mount and was used for firing from a bipod outside the tank. “And it began. They pulled out a frontal machine gun - they came at us from the rear. The tower unfolded. With me the machine gunner. The machine gun on the parapet was set up, we are firing, ”recalls Nikolay Nikolayevich Kuzmichyov. In fact, the tank received a machine gun, which could be used by the crew as the most effective personal weapon.
Installing the radio on the T-34-85 tank in the turret next to the tank commander had to finally turn the radio operator into the most useless member of the tank crew, the “passenger”. Ammunition of machine guns of the T-34-85 tank in comparison with tanks of early releases was reduced more than twice, to the 31 disc. However, the reality of the final period of the war, when the German infantry had faustprony, on the contrary, increased the usefulness of the arrow machine gun. “By the end of the war, he became needed, protecting him from the“ faustnik ”, clearing the way. So what, what is not clear, he sometimes prompted the mechanic. If you want to see, you will see, ”recalls A. K. Rodkin.
In such a situation, the space freed up after moving the radio into the turret was used to place ammunition. Most (27 of 31) drives to the DT machine gun in the T-34-85 was located in the control compartment, next to the shooter, who became the main consumer of machine gun cartridges.
In general, the emergence of faustpronov increased the role of the thirty-four small arms. Began to practice even shooting at the "Faustnik" from a pistol with the hatch open. The crew’s personal weapons were TT pistols, revolvers, captured pistols, and one PPS submachine gun, for which a place was provided for laying equipment in the tank. The submachine gun was used by the crews when leaving the tank and in battle in the city, when there was not enough angle of elevation of the cannon and machine guns.
As the German anti-tank artillery intensified, visibility became an increasingly important component of tank survival. The difficulties that the commander and driver of the T-34 tank experienced in their combat work were largely due to the scant possibilities of observing the battlefield. The first "thirty-four" had mirror periscopes at the driver and in the turret of the tank. Such a device was a box with angle-mounted mirrors at the top and bottom, and the mirrors were not glass (they could crack from the shells), but from polished steel. The image quality in such a periscope is not difficult to imagine. The same mirrors were in periscopes on the sides of the tower, which was one of the main means of monitoring the battlefield at the tank commander. In the letter cited above by S. K. Timoshenko from November 6 of 1940, there are such words: “To replace the instruments of the driver and radio operator with more modern ones”. The first year of the war tankers fought with mirrors, and later instead of mirrors they installed prismatic observation devices, i.e. the entire height of the periscope was a continuous glass prism. However, a limited overview, despite the improvement in the characteristics of the periscopes themselves, often forced the T-34 driver to drive with open hatches. “The triplexes on the driver's hatch were completely ugly. They were made from a disgusting yellow or green Plexiglas, which gave a completely distorted, wavy image. It was impossible to disassemble something through such a triplex, especially in a jumping tank. Therefore, the war was fought with hatches ajar in the palm of the hand, ”recalls S. L. Aria. A. V. Marievsky agrees with him, who also points out that the driver's triplexes were easily splashed with dirt.
Experts of the Research Institute-48 in the fall of 1942, according to the results of the analysis of armor protection lesions, made the following conclusion: “A significant percentage of dangerous defeats of T-34 tanks on the side parts, and not on frontal ones, can be explained either by the weak acquaintance of tank teams with tactical characteristics of their armor, or poor review of them, so that the crew cannot detect the firing point in time and turn the tank to the position that is least dangerous for penetrating its armor. It is necessary to improve the acquaintance of tank crews with the tactical characteristics of booking their cars and to provide a better overview of them. ”
The task of providing a better overview was solved in several stages. “Mirrors” of polished steel were also removed from the commander’s and loader’s surveillance devices. Periscopes on the cheekbones of the tower T-34 replaced by cracks with glass blocks to protect against fragments. It happened during the transition to the tower “nut” in the fall of the year 1942. New devices allowed the crew to organize, circular observation of the situation: “The driver is looking ahead and to the left. You, commander, try to observe the circle. And the radio operator and the loader are more to the right ”(V. P. Bryukhov). On the T-34-85, MK-4 observation devices were installed at the gunner and loader. Simultaneous observation of several directions made it possible to promptly notice the danger and adequately respond to it with fire or maneuver.
The problem of providing a good overview for the tank commander was solved the longest. The item on the introduction of a commander's turret on T-34, which was present in the letter of S. K. Timoshenko 1940 of the year, was carried out almost two years after the start of the war. After long experiments with attempts to squeeze the freed tank commander into the “nut” tower, the turrets on the T-34 began to be installed only in the summer of 1943. The commander remained the function of the gunner, but now he could lift his head from the eyepiece of the sight and look around. The main advantage of the turret was the possibility of a circular view. “The commander's turret revolved around, the commander saw everything and, without firing, could control the fire of his tank and keeping in touch with others,” recalls A.V. Bodnar. To be precise, it was not the turret itself that rotated, but its roof with a periscope observation device. Prior to that, in 1941-1942, the tank commander had, in addition to the “mirror”, a periscope on the tower’s cheekbone, formally called a periscope sight. Rotating his vernier, the commander could provide himself an overview of the battlefield, but very limited. “In the spring of 42, the commander’s panorama was on the KB and on the Thirty-Fours. I could rotate it and see everything around, but still it is a very small sector, ”recalls A.V. Bodnar. Commander of the T-34-85 tank with a ZIS-C-53 gun, relieved of his duties as a gunner, received in addition to the commander's turret with slots around the perimeter its own prismatic, rotating periscope in the hatch - MK-4, allowing you to even look back. But among the tankers there is also such an opinion: “I did not use the commander’s turret. I always kept the hatch open. Because those who closed them, they burned. They did not have time to jump out, ”recalls N. Ya. Zheleznov.
Without exception, all the tankers interviewed admire the sights of German tank guns. As an example, let us give the memoirs of V. P. Bryukhov: “We have always noted the high-quality Zeiss optics of sights. And until the end of the war, it was of high quality. We did not have such optics. The sights themselves were more comfortable than ours. We have an aiming mark in the form of a triangle, and from it to the right and to the left are risks. They had these divisions, corrections for wind, for distance, something else. ” Here it must be said that there was no fundamental difference in informational content between the Soviet and German telescopic sights of the gun. The gunner saw the aiming mark and, on either side of it, the “small fences” of amendments to the angular velocity. In the Soviet and German sight, there was a range correction, only it was introduced in various ways. In the German sight, the gunner rotated the pointer, exposing it opposite the radially located distance scale. For each type of projectile there was a sector. This stage was taken by the Soviet tank builders in the 1930's, a T-28 three-turreted sight had a similar design. In the “thirty-four” the distance was set by a string of sight moving along vertically located distance scales. So functionally, the Soviet and German sights did not differ. The difference was in the quality of the optics itself, which especially deteriorated in 1942 year due to the evacuation of the Izyumsk optical glass factory. Among the real disadvantages of telescopic sights of the early thirty-fours can be attributed to their alignment with the bore of the gun. Pointing a weapon vertically, the tankman was forced to raise or lower in his place, keeping his eyes on the eyepiece moving with the gun sight. Later, on the T-34-85, a “breaking” sight, characteristic of German tanks, was introduced, the eyepiece of which was stationary, and the objective followed the barrel of the gun due to the hinge on the same axis with the gun trunnions.
Deficiencies in the design of surveillance devices adversely affected the habitability of the tank. The need to keep open the hatch of the mechanic-driver forced the latter to sit behind the levers, “besides, a stream of chilling wind sucked by a fan turbine roaring behind his back” (S.L. Aria). In this case, the “turbine” is a fan on the motor shaft that sucks air from the crew compartment through a flimsy engine wall.
A typical claim to Soviet-made military equipment from both foreign and domestic specialists was the Spartan situation inside the car. “As a disadvantage, we can single out the complete lack of comfort of the crew. I climbed into American and British tanks. There the crew was in more comfortable conditions: the tanks from the inside were painted with light paint, the seats were semi-mild with armrests. On the T-34, none of this happened, ”recalls S. L. Aria.
The armrests on the crew seats in the T-34-76 and T-34-85 turrets really did not exist. They were only on the seats of the driver and radio operator. However, in themselves, the armrests in the crew seats were a detail mainly characteristic of American technology. Neither the British nor the German tanks (except for the "Tiger") crew seats in the tower had no armrests.
But there were real design flaws. One of the problems faced by the creators of tanks 1940-s, was the penetration into the tank of gunpowder gases guns of ever-increasing power. After the shot, the bolt opened, threw out the cartridge case, and gases from the gun barrel and the discarded cartridge went into the fighting compartment of the vehicle. "... You shout:" armor-piercing! "," Fragmentation! "You look, and he (loader. - A. I.) lies on the ammo pack. Gone from the powder gases and lost consciousness. When a tough fight, rarely could anyone stand it. Still, you get angry, ”recalls V.P. Bryukhov.
Electric exhaust fans were used to remove the powder gases and the ventilation of the fighting compartment. The first T-34 inherited from the BT tank one fan in front of the tower. In the tower with an 45-mm gun, it looked appropriate, since it was practically above the breech of the cannon. In the T-34 tower, the fan turned out to be not above the breech smoking after a shot, but over the gun barrel. Its effectiveness in this regard was questionable. But in the 1942 year, at the peak of a shortage of components, the tank even lost this - the T-34 came out of the factories with empty caps on the tower, there were simply no fans.
During the modernization of the tank with the installation of the tower “nuts” the fan moved to the rear of the tower, closer to the area where the powder gases accumulated. Tank T-34-85 has already received two fans in the stern of the turret, a larger caliber of guns required intensive ventilation of the crew compartment. But during the intense battle, the fans did not help. Partially, the problem of protecting the crew from powder gases was solved by blowing the barrel with compressed air (the “Panther”), but it was impossible to blow the sleeve that spreads the asphyxiated smoke. According to the memoirs of G. N. Krivov, experienced tankers advised to immediately throw the sleeve through the loader's hatch. Radically, the problem was solved only after the war, when an ejector was introduced into the design of the guns, “pumping out” gases from the gun barrel after the shot, even before the shutter was opened by automatics.
The T-34 tank was in many ways a revolutionary design, and like any other transitional model, it combined novelties and forced, soon outdated, solutions. One such decision was the introduction of a radio operator to the crew. The main function of the tanker sitting at the ineffective exchange machine gun was maintenance of the tank radio station. In the early thirty-fours, the radio station was installed on the right side of the control section, next to the gunner-radio operator. The need to keep in the crew of a person engaged in setting up and maintaining the efficiency of the radio, was a consequence of the imperfection of communication technology of the first half of the war. The point was not that it was necessary to work with a key: the Soviet tank radio stations that were on the T-34 did not have a telegraph operation mode, could not transmit dashes and dots to the Morse code. The radio operator was introduced because the main consumer of information from neighboring machines and from higher levels of command, the tank commander, was simply unable to maintain the radio. “The station was unreliable. The radio operator is a specialist, and the commander is not such a big specialist. In addition, when hit by armor, a wave was lost, the lamps failed, ”recalls V. P. Bryukhov. It should be added that the commander of the T-34 with the 76-mm gun combined the functions of the tank commander and gunner, and was too heavily loaded to even engage in a simple and convenient radio station. Allocation of an individual to work with the radio was typical for other countries - participants of the Second World War. For example, on the French tank "Soma S-35" the commander served as a gunner, loader and tank commander, but there was also a radio operator, freed even from servicing the machine gun.
In the initial period of the war, the Thirty-Fours were equipped with 71-TK-3 radio stations, and not all the cars. The latter fact should not be embarrassing; such a situation was usual in the Wehrmacht, the radioification of which is usually greatly exaggerated. In reality, the transceivers were from the commanders of units from the platoon and above. According to the February 1941 state, in a light tank company, Fu.5 transceivers were installed on three T-II and five PG-III, and on two T-II and twelve T-III only Fu.2 receivers were installed. In a company of medium tanks, transceivers had five T-IV and three T-II, and two T-II and nine T-IV - only receivers. Fu.1 transceivers were not installed at all on the T-5, with the exception of special commanding kIT-Befs. Wg.l. In the Red Army there was a similar, in fact, the concept of "radio" and "linear" tanks. Crews "linear"; tanks were to act, watching the maneuvers of the commander, or receive orders flags. The space for the radio station on the “linear” tanks was filled with discs for shops of machine guns DT, 77 discs with a capacity of 63 cartridge each instead of 46 on the “radio”. On 1 June 1941, the Red Army had a 671 "linear" T-34 tank and 221 - "radial".
But the main problem of communication means of T-34 tanks in 1941-1942. there was not so much their quantity, as the quality of the 71-TK-3 stations themselves. Tankers rated its capabilities as very moderate. “On the move, she took about 6 kilometers” (P. I. Kirichenko). The same opinion is expressed by other tankers. “The 71-TK-W radio station, as I remember, is a complex, unstable radio station. It very often failed, and it was very difficult to put it in order, ”recalls A.V. Bodnar. At the same time, the radio station to some extent compensated for the information vacuum, since it allowed listening to the reports transmitted from Moscow, the famous “From the Soviet Information Bureau ...” with the voice of Levitan. A serious deterioration of the situation was observed during the evacuation of radio equipment plants, when, from August 1941, the production of tank radio stations was practically ceased until the middle of 1942.
As the evacuated enterprises returned to service by the middle of the war, there was a tendency towards 100-percentage radioing of tank forces. The crews of the T-34 tanks received a new radio station, developed on the basis of the RSI-4 aviation, the 9Р, and later its upgraded versions, the 9PC and 9РМ. It was much more stable in operation due to the use of quartz frequency generators in it. The radio station was of English origin and was produced for a long time using lend-lease components. On the T-34-85, the radio station migrated from the control section to the combat compartment on the left wall of the tower, where the commander, who was relieved of his duties as a gunner, was now engaged in servicing. Nevertheless, the concept of "linear" and "radion" tank remained.
In addition to communication with the outside world, each tank had equipment for internal communications. The reliability of the early T-34 intercoms was low, the main means of signaling between the commander and the driver was the boots mounted on the shoulders. “Intercom worked ugly. Therefore, the connection was carried out with the legs, that is, I had boots of the tank commander on my shoulders, he pressed on the left or on the right shoulder, respectively, I turned the tank to the left or the right, ”S. Aria recalls. The commander and the loader could talk, although more often the communication took place with gestures: “He put his fist under the nose, and he already knows that it is necessary to charge the armor-piercing, and his outstretched palm - fragmentation”. The TPU-34bis intercoms mounted on T-3 of the later series worked much better. “The internal tank intercom was mediocre on the T-34-76. There we had to have boots and hands to command, and on T-34-85 it was already excellent, ”recalls N. Ya. Zheleznov. Therefore, the commander began to give orders to the mechanic-driver in an intercom voice — there was no longer any technical opportunity to put his boots on the shoulders of the commander T-34-85 — he was separated from the management department by the gunner.
Speaking about the means of communication tank T-34, it is also necessary to note the following. From movies to books and traveling back история about a call by the commander of the German tank of our tanker to a duel in broken Russian. This is completely untrue. All Wehrmacht tanks from 1937 used the 27 - 32 MHz band, which did not intersect with the range of radio stations of the Soviet tank radio stations - 3,75 - 6,0 MHz. Only a second shortwave radio station was placed on the commander’s tanks. It had a 1-3 MHz band, again, incompatible with our tank radio stations.
The commander of the German tank battalion, as a rule, had something to do besides calling for a duel. In addition, commanders often had tanks of obsolete types, and in the initial period of the war they were completely unarmed, with mock guns in a fixed turret.
The engine and its systems practically did not cause complaints from the crews, in contrast to the transmission. “I will tell you frankly, the T-34 is the most reliable tank. Happens, stopped, something is wrong with him. Oil struck. The hose is loose. For this, a thorough inspection of tanks was always carried out before the march, ”recalls A. S. Burtsev. Caution in controlling the engine required a massive fan mounted in the same block with the main friction clutch. Errors of the driver could lead to the destruction of the fan and the failure of the tank. Also, some difficulties caused the initial period of operation of the received tank, getting used to the characteristics of a specific instance of the T-34 tank. “Each machine, each tank, each tank gun, each engine had its own unique features. They can not be known in advance, they can be identified only in the process of everyday use. At the front, we were on unfamiliar cars. The commander does not know what kind of fight at his gun. The mechanic does not know what can and what can not his diesel. Of course, in the factories, tank guns were shot and 50-kilometer mileage was carried out, but this was completely not enough. Of course, we tried to get to know our cars better before the fight and used every opportunity to do this, ”recalls N. Ya. Zheleznov.
Significant technical difficulties for tankers arose during the docking of the engine and gearbox with the power plant during the repair of the tank in the field. It was. In addition to replacing or repairing the gearbox and the engine itself, the gearbox was removed from the tank when dismounting the side clutches. After returning to the site or replacing the engine and gearbox was required to install in the tank relative to each other with high precision. According to the repair manual for the T-34, the installation accuracy should have been 0,8 mm. To install units that moved with the help of 0,75-ton hoists, such accuracy required time and effort.
Of the entire complex of components and assemblies of the power plant, design flaws that required serious improvement had only an engine air filter. The old-type filter installed on the T-34 tanks in 1941-1942 did not clean the air very poorly and interfered with the normal operation of the engine, which led to rapid wear of the B-2. “The old air filters were inefficient, they took up a lot of space in the engine compartment, they had a large turbine. They often had to be cleaned, even if you are not walking along a dusty road. And “Cyclone” was very good, “- says A.V. Bodnar. The Cyclone filters performed well in 1944-1945, when Soviet tankers fought hundreds of kilometers. “If the air cleaner was cleaned according to the standards, the engine worked well. But during fights it is not always possible to do everything correctly. If the air cleaner doesn’t clean enough, the oil doesn’t change at the right time, the booster is not washed and the dust passes, then the engine wears out quickly, ”recalls AK Rodkin. "Cyclones" allowed even in the absence of time for maintenance to pass the whole operation before the engine fails.
Invariably positive tank crews speak of a duplicated engine start system. In addition to the traditional electric starter, there were two 10-liter compressed air cylinders in the tank. The air launch system allowed the engine to be started even when the electric starter failed, which often occurred in a battle from shells.
Tracked chains were the most frequently repaired element of the T-34 tank. Trucks were the spare part with which the tank even went into battle. The caterpillars sometimes burst on the march, were broken by shell hits. “The tracks were torn, even without bullets, without projectiles. When the ground gets between the rollers, the caterpillar, especially when turning, stretches to such an extent that the fingers and the tracks themselves do not stand up to themselves, ”A.V. Maryevsky recalls. Repair and tension caterpillars were the inevitable companions of the combat operation of the machine. In this case, the tracks were a serious unmasking factor. “Thirty-four, she not only roars with diesel, she also clicks on the tracks. If the T-34 is approaching, you will hear the caterpillars, and then the motor. The fact is that the teeth of the working tracks must exactly fall between the rollers on the drive wheel, which, while rotating, captures them. And when the caterpillar stretched, developed, became longer, the distance between the teeth increased, and the teeth hit the roller, causing a distinctive sound, ”recalls A. Rodkin. The forced technical solutions of wartime, primarily skating rinks without rubber bandages around the perimeter, contributed to the increase in the noise of the tank. “... Unfortunately, the Stalingrad Thirty-Fours came, whose track rollers were without bandages. They rumbled terribly, ”recalls A.V. Bodnar. These were the so-called rollers with internal depreciation. The first skating rinks of this type, sometimes called “locomotives,” began to produce the Stalingrad Plant (FCZ), even before the really serious interruptions in the supply of rubber began. The early onset of cold weather in the fall of the 1941 year led to a standstill on the ice-bound rivers of barges with skating rinks that were sent down the Volga from Stalingrad to the Yaroslavl Tire Plant. The technology provided for the manufacture of a bandage on special equipment already on the finished rink. Large batches of finished rollers from Yaroslavl were stuck in transit, forcing STZ engineers to look for a replacement for them, which became a solid cast roller with a small shock-absorbing ring inside it, closer to the hub. When rubber supply shortages began, other factories took advantage of this experience, and from the winter 1941-1942 until the autumn 1943, T-34 tanks descended from the conveyors, the chassis of which fully or mostly consisted of rollers with internal cushioning. Since the fall of 1943, the problem of a shortage of rubber has finally become a thing of the past, and the T-34-76 tanks have completely returned to the skating rinks with rubber bands. All T-34-85 tanks were manufactured with rubber tires. This significantly reduced the noise level of the tank, ensuring relative crew comfort and making it difficult for the T-34 to detect the enemy.
It is worth mentioning that during the war years the role of the T-34 tank in the Red Army has changed. At the beginning of the war, "thirty-four" with an imperfect transmission, which could not withstand long marches, but well armored, were ideal tanks for direct support to infantry. During the war, the tank lost its advantage in booking at the time of the outbreak of hostilities. By the fall of the 1943 - the beginning of the 1944, the T-34 tank was a relatively easy target for 75-mm tank and anti-tank guns, clearly hit by the 88-mm Tiger guns, anti-aircraft guns and the PAK-43 anti-tank guns.
But they steadily improved and even completely replaced elements that were not given due importance before the war or simply did not have time to bring to an acceptable level. First of all, it is the power plant and transmission of the tank, from which they have achieved steady and reliable operation. At the same time, all these elements of the tank retained good maintainability and ease of operation. All this allowed T-34 to do things that were unrealistic for the T-34s of the first year of the war. “For example, from near Jelgava, moving along East Prussia, in three days we passed more than 500 km. The T-34 maintained such marches normally, ”recalls AK Rodkin. For the T-34 tanks in 1941, the 500-kilometer march would be almost deadly. In June, 1941, the 8 th mechanized corps under the command of DI Ryabyshev, after such a march from permanent locations to the Dubno district, lost almost half of its equipment on the way due to breakdowns. A. Bodnar, who fought in 1941 - 1942, assessed T-34 in comparison with German tanks: “From the point of view of operation, German armored vehicles were more perfect, it failed less often. For the Germans, 200 km did not cost anything; you will definitely lose something on the thirty-three, something will break. The technological equipment of their cars was stronger, and the combat equipment was worse. ”
By the fall of 1943, the Thirty-Fours had become an ideal tank for independent mechanized formations designed for deep breakthroughs and detours. They became the main armored vehicle of tank armies - the main tools for offensive operations of colossal proportions. In these operations, the main type of T-34 operations were marches with the open hatches of driver-mechanics, and often with headlights on. The tanks traveled hundreds of kilometers, intercepting the withdrawal paths of the surrounding German divisions and corps.
Essentially, the 1944 blitzkrieg, when the Wehrmacht reached Moscow and Leningrad on tanks with armor protection and the best of the time, but very mechanically reliable, mirrored the 1945-1941 years. Similarly, in the final period of the T-34-85 war, hundreds of kilometers passed through deep embraces and detours, and the Tigers and Panthers trying to stop them massively failed due to breakdowns and were thrown by crews due to lack of fuel. The symmetry of the picture violated, perhaps, only weapons. In contrast to the German tankers of the blitzkrieg period, in the hands of the crews of the Thirty-Fours, there was an adequate means of dealing with the enemy tanks, superior to their armor protection - the 85-mm gun. Moreover, each commander of the T-34-85 tank received a reliable, sufficiently perfect radio station for that time, which allowed the team to play against the German "cats".
T-34, which entered the battle in the first days of the war near the border, and T-34, which broke into 1945 in April on the streets of Berlin, were called the same, but they differed significantly both externally and internally. But both in the initial period of the war, and at its final stage, the tankers saw in the “thirty-four” machine that could be trusted.
At the beginning it was the slope of armor reflecting enemy shells, diesel resistant to fire and a non-destructive weapon. In the period of victories - this is high speed, reliability, stable communication and allowing you to stand up for yourself a gun!