A bit in stories wars of so mysterious and contradictory pages as the use of Soviet tanks new types in the summer of 1941. In epic tales, the T-34 and KV receive hundreds of marks from shells without a single penetration, the KV tank alone stops the tank group, the 26-ton T-34 tanks rush about, barely touching the ground and crushing everything in its path
The flip side of the epic tales was the persistent view that beautiful cars became the victims of their own commanders and that they were massively abandoned without a fight. If used correctly, the wonder tanks would have had to crush the enemy before the German tank groups reached the Dnieper.
In the dark ...
The first riddle is the fact of the complete lack of information about the new Soviet tanks in the Wehrmacht. The T-34 and KV have entered tank units in border districts since the end of 1940. By June, 1941-th account was already on the hundreds. In Alytus, they stood in open parks not far from the railway, on which there were trains from East Prussia. Moreover, in Leningrad, the KV tanks drove to factory tests in public. You could even estimate the volume of their production. Nevertheless, the pocket guide for the Wehrmacht on Soviet armored vehicles, published in June 1941, was not mentioned in the T-34 and KV tanks. In addition to T-38, T-26, T-28, T-35 and BT, there is only an experienced heavy SMK tank called T-35C. Information about this car came to the Germans from the Finns - in December 1939, the QMS was blown up on a land mine in the depths of the Finnish defense. In the documents OKH / FHO (Department for the Study of Eastern Armies OKH) there is a tank T-32, not included in the directory. As we know, in the USSR one of the prototypes was called “thirty-four”. However, the performance characteristics of the T-32 tank, according to OKH / FHO, have nothing in common with the T-34 and the present A-32. The same T-35 appears before us: one 76,2-mm cannon, two 45-mm cannons, five machine guns, and an 30 mm armor. At the same time, the mass is markedly underestimated for the five-tower giant - 35 t.
... but fully armed
However, ignorance does not always mean unpreparedness to meet with new enemy tanks. It is not even about the experience of the French campaign and the meetings of the Germans with heavy B1bis. In addition to reference books on Soviet tanks in the Wehrmacht, there were secret schedules of armor penetration of anti-tank, tank and anti-aircraft cannons. The lines of charts began much higher than the thickest armor that the Germans could meet in the USSR, according to their pre-war data. They evaluated the armor T-35C (QMS) in 60 mm. The 88 mm anti-aircraft gun took 100-mm armor even with 1 km. A sabot to the 50-mm anti-tank gun PAK-38 punched on 100 m twice as much - 120 mm armor. Accordingly, 50-mm tank gun with a short barrel on the 100 m when firing a sabot projectile turned out to be in the teeth armor thicker than 90 mm. However, it is necessary to emphasize that there were few tanks with weaver guns in the Wehrmacht.
Without much emotion
So, early in the morning of 22 June 1941, the troops of the three German army groups crossed the Soviet border. Where did the Germans first meet with the T-34 and HF? Most of the new tanks were in the Kiev Special Military District, but the first German meeting with them occurred not in Ukraine, but under Alytus in the Baltic States and in the Grodno area.
In the afternoon of June 22, near Alytus (Olita), a tank battle took place between the 5 Tank Division of Colonel FF Fedorov and the 7 and 20 Tank Divisions of the German 3 Tank Group. The Soviet version says that the division of Colonel Fedorov met the enemy in defense, but the study of documents leads to a different conclusion. The Germans captured the bridgeheads on the Neman, and then followed a counterattack of Soviet tanks on the bristling with anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank guns. In the evening report of the 3 tank group, the battle near Alytus was rated as “the largest tank battle during the period of this war” (that is, World War II) for the 7 tank division. Own losses, according to the report of the 3 th TGr, amounted to 11 tanks, including four "heavy" (Pz.IV). According to Soviet data, from 24 T-28 tanks that participated in the battle 16 was lost, from 44 T-34 - 27, from 45BT-7 - 30. As we can see, almost three dozen T-34 were lost at a time. Moreover, the German command did not cause any special emotions in the collision with the “thirty-four” under Alytus.
German soldiers inspect the wrecked tank KV-2 with a weapon in the installation of MT-1. On the turret and the mask of the gun one can see at least a dozen traces of shell projectiles. A tank from the 2 Tank Division of the 11 Army. Baltic, summer 1941 of the year.
Where did the HF go?
Under Grodno, tanks of the 11 th mechanized corps of General D.K. Mostovenko 22 June were used in a counterattack against the German infantry advancing on the city. Tankmen managed to prevent the immediate collapse of the defense of rifle units, but at the cost of heavy losses. In total, according to German data, in battles on the outskirts of Grodno on the first day of the war 180 Soviet tanks were destroyed.
On the very first day of the war, the fate of all three tanks of the 11 KV of the mechanized corps was decided. One fell over and sank in the swamp. The second was immobilized by hits in the chassis. It was the first KV tank that the Germans faced in battles. Oddly enough, no reports of this collision followed. Apparently, the tank was disabled before it showed its invulnerability. The third HF remained in the workshops due to a malfunction, and later it was blown up during the departure. This episode answers the question of where the HF and T-34 went in the summer of 1941.
As a result of the battles, the Germans noted that Soviet tankers acted "energetically and stubbornly in groups of 20 – 40 combat vehicles.” On the other hand, it was stated that "the effectiveness of the 3,7-cm anti-tank gun is sufficient against all types of tanks encountered."
New fast tanks
Following the results of the battles near Grodno with parts of the Mostovenko corps, the Germans received the first reliable information about the newest Soviet T-34 tanks. Tankers captured reported that they had “two types of tanks in service: T-26 with 4,5-cm anti-tank gun and two machine guns, booking - 15mm, and T-34 with 7,62-cm gun and two machine guns. Reservations - minimum 30 mm. In service with the 11 th mechanized corps were really T-26 and T-34 (28 units). The latter had family ties with BT. The exact number of Thirty-Fours lost 22 June is unfortunately unknown.
On the second day of the war, the Kiev Special Military District, which became the South-Western Front, joined the process of acquiring Germans with the new Soviet armored vehicles. At the town of Radzekhov, near the border, a clash of Soviet forward detachments and the German 11 Panzer Division occurred. The result of the battle was the loss of the Soviet side 37 tanks, including at least six T-34, the German side recognizes the irretrievable loss of seven tanks. Under the Radzekhov, the thirty-four Germans noticed and appreciated: “There were very fast heavy enemy tanks with 7,62-cm guns that shoot perfectly from long distances. Our tanks are clearly inferior to them. " It was indicated that at close range 37-mm guns still hit "fast tanks". In general, the picture "a typical battle of new tanks" loomed more and more clearly. The most important participant in the fighting from the German side was artillery, both field and anti-aircraft. Its fire hit the tanks, cut off the infantry from them, and in fact disrupted the Soviet attacks. The Soviet artillery did not keep pace with the tanks - standard STZ-5 tractors for the mechanized corps were not suitable for a maneuverable battle.
Much more dramatic was the meeting of the Germans with KV tanks in quantities of more than one. They engaged in battle on different sectors of the front and actually caused shock to the enemy. The first was again the Baltic States. The vanguard of the 6 Tank Division of the 4 TGr in the morning of 24 June captured a bridgehead on the Dubissa River near the town of Raseiniai. Soon the bridgehead was under attack by tanks of the Soviet 2 tank division, including heavy KV-1 and KV-2. It quickly turned out that they were “completely invulnerable to anti-tank weapons in caliber up to 3,7 cm.” The Soviet counterattack rolled through Dubiss and the tank attack struck the main forces of the Zekendorf battle group of the 6 Panzer Division. She did not have any saving anti-aircraft guns, and conventional artillery and rocket launchers were used to combat the new tanks. In 13: 00, the first KV in the Baltics was hit by an 150-mm field howitzer shell. Nevertheless, KV crushed artillery positions, shot and rammed light tanks 35 (t) of Czechoslovak production.
In 17: 30, the Acht-Comma-Akhty arrived in the area of operations of the Zeckendorf battle group - 88-mm anti-aircraft guns. The Germans managed to stop and even reverse the Soviet tank attack and destroy several steel giants. The study of the remaining Soviet tanks on the battlefield and the interrogation of captured tankers gave them a fairly complete picture of the technical characteristics of the KV-1 and KV-2.
24 June 1941 of the year was the day of the mass entry into battle of new tanks - the time difference was a matter of hours. Soviet counterattacks followed Grodno (6 th mechanized corps), Nemirov (4 th mechanized corps). However, the attacks T-34 and KV did not become all-destructive. Later, the commander of the 4 Tank Division, which had fought under Grodno, General Potaturchev, during interrogation in captivity, said: "Light German anti-tank guns were ineffective against heavy Russian tanks (50 – 68т), with other tanks, including T-34, they fought successfully"
It was 24 of June that the diary of General Halder made an entry: “A new heavy type Russian tank appeared at the front of Army Groups South and North, which apparently had a 80 caliber mm gun (according to a report from the North Army headquarters - even 150mm which, however, is unlikely). ” In fact, it was absolutely true: KV-2 tanks with 152-mm guns operated in the MT-1 unit operated under Raseiniai.
25 – 26 June increased the use of new tanks. They counterattacked the German infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns on the Narew, on the outskirts of Lviv, near Raseinia, and under Brody, Dubno and Radzehov. The “invulnerability” of the new tanks turned out to be rather conditional. Thus, the losses of the 12 armored vehicles of the tank division in the counterstroke under the Brods 26 June amounted to the 33 tank, including five KV and eighteen T-34. 26 June was set a kind of record: under the Radzehov in one battle, nine KV tanks were destroyed at once. The maneuverable nature of the border battle also had an effect, which led to the gradual withdrawal of the T-34 and the KV from the system for technical reasons. Their reliability and service life at the time left much to be desired.
Why didn't a miracle happen?
However, one should not think that Soviet tank counterattacks were completely useless. They only did not achieve the effect expected from the wonder tanks. Even counterattacks using light tanks made the German units stop. Without this, the collapse of the defense of the border armies stretched along the front of the rifle divisions would be much faster. The constant threat of tank counterattacks forced the Germans to worry about the flanks and carefully move forward. Particularly effective were the counterattacks in which the KV tanks participated. For example, in the battle log of Army Group “South” 29 June, it was explicitly stated that the advance of German troops to Lviv was “held back by counterattacks carried out with the support of heavy tanks.”
A natural question arises: was the tactics adopted by the command of the Red Army expedient? It was more or less useless to sit and wait for the enemy in ambush in the summer of 1941, if only because it was not known where and in which direction the Germans would strike the next blow. Moreover, the Germans changed the direction of the strike literally on the move. One solution was suggested - counterattack. The weaknesses of the organization of the mechanized corps and the tactical blunders of the Soviet commanders led to attacks with a weak support of artillery and infantry. This unleashed the Germans with the use of heavy cannons against tanks, ranging from 88-mm anti-aircraft guns to 105-mm cannons and 150-mm howitzers, and also allowed them to fire on the sides of the new tanks. If for KV the direction of shooting was not decisive, then for T-34 shots into the board from the “door hammers” often became deadly.
They did everything they could
At the end of June 1941, in Belarus, the KV tanks became a battering ram for breakthroughs from encirclement in the Bialystok region. With their help, groups of encirclements managed to escape from the "boiler". In the tank battle under Dubno, the German 16-I tank division suffered heavy losses. The 88-mm anti-aircraft guns remained the main means of fighting the HF. In late June and early July, in view of the worsening of the situation, the general withdrawal of Soviet troops to the old border began. Damaged and failed KV and T-34 had to throw.
It is clear that T-34 caused much less emotion among Germans in the summer of 1941, than KV. Actually, when German memoirists in 1950 – 1960-s write about “T-34” in the first months of the war, it is in most cases about HF. In the documents as the main character are "52-ton" and "super heavy" tanks. Later in the memoirs, they became the average Soviet tank, how much of the war was the T-34-76. The nickname "door knocker" 37-mm anti-tank gun received for its impotence against the KV.
The real story is terribly far from the legends and tales of the miracle technology. Nevertheless, T-34 and KV have made a significant contribution to the disruption of the Barbarossa plan. In September, 1941-st at the gates of Leningrad, realizing the impossibility of taking the city by storm, the German staff from the 41-th motorized corps wrote a phrase that best describes the use of new Soviet tanks: “He [the enemy] does not have enough infantry, but heavy tanks an obstacle, the struggle with which takes a lot of time. "