On the day of the national holiday in Moscow and a number of other Russian cities, the restored T-34 tanks will be held in parade, recalling how 70 more than a few years ago brought fear on the Nazi invaders, breaking through enemy defenses and smashing their fortified points.
But in June 1941, General Guderian, who proceeded from the decisive role of tank armies in the land war, believed that the successes of the armored vehicles led by him on the fields of Poland, France, Holland, Belgium, Yugoslavia would be repeated on Soviet soil. However, telling in his memoirs about the October 1941 battles of the year in the Moscow direction, the general had to admit:
“A large number of Russian T-34 tanks were thrown at the battle, causing great losses to our tanks. The superiority of the material part of our tank forces, which has taken place so far, has been lost and has now passed to the enemy. Thus, the prospects for quick and continuous success disappeared. ”
Guderian decided to immediately draw conclusions from what happened: “In this report, I wrote about this new situation for us to the command of army group, in which I described in detail the advantages of the T-34 tank compared to our T-IV tank, pointing out the need to change the design of our tanks in future. I finished my report with a proposal to send a commission to our front, which should include representatives from the armaments department, the ministry of armaments, tank designers and representatives of tank-building companies. I also demanded to speed up the production of larger anti-tank guns capable of penetrating the armor of the T-34 tank. The commission arrived at the 2 Tank Army of November 20. ”
However, the conclusions of the commission members did not encourage Guderian. He recalled: “The proposals of front-line officers to produce exactly the same tanks as the T-34, in order to rectify the extremely unfavorable situation in the shortest possible time, did not meet with any support from the designers. The designers were embarrassed, by the way, not by aversion to imitation, but by the impossibility of releasing with the required speed the most important parts of the T-34, especially the aluminum diesel engine. In addition, our alloy steel, the quality of which was reduced by the lack of necessary raw materials, was also inferior to the Russian alloy steel. ”
How was created T-34
Over the 14 years before the October battles of 1941, the armored forces and military production in the USSR were in disrepair. Speaking in December 1927 at the Fifteenth Congress of the Party, the People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs K.Ye. Voroshilov reported that the number of tanks of the USSR (less than 200, along with armored cars) was not only lagging behind the advanced countries of the West, but also from Poland. Not enough metal for the production of armored vehicles. The People's Commissar reported: "70,5% of cast iron, 81% of steel, 76% of rolled products compared to the pre-war level is, of course, not enough for the needs of a widely developed economy and defense ... Aluminum, this necessary metal for military affairs, we are not at all we produce. "Speaking of the" archaic remnants of the times of Ivan Kalita "at defense enterprises, Voroshilov said that" when you see them, it takes aback. "
At the end of the 20, alloyed steel was not smelted in the USSR. To study the process of its production, Soviet metallurgists were sent abroad. Among them was my father, Emelyanov Vasily Semenovich (on the photo), a graduate of the Moscow Mining Academy. During the long overseas business trips to Germany, France, Italy, England, Norway, he managed to learn a lot about foreign steelmaking, especially about smelting ferroalloys. Shortly after returning to his homeland, he was appointed chief engineer of the ferroalloy plant in Chelyabinsk. This plant was one of three such plants, which allowed our country as a whole to solve the problem of the production of alloyed steel.
Such steel was especially needed in the production of weapons. Therefore, the experience and knowledge of the father were in demand in the military industry. In 1937, he was appointed deputy head of the main board for the production of armor for the defense industry of the USSR. Meanwhile, the Spanish Civil War, during which the Soviet Union supplied weapon Republicans, showed the weakness of Soviet tanks: enemy 37-millimeter guns easily hit them. Therefore, the Soviet military demanded the creation of tanks protected by solid armor.
These requirements began to be realized. Under the guidance of designer J.I. Kotin created heavy tanks from the KV and IS series. Even earlier, work on designing the high-speed T-185 tank with anti-bulking armor protection began at the Leningrad Plant No. 29. Soon, a similar tank was created at the Kharkov plant number 183. By order of the People's Commissar of Heavy Industry G.K. Ordzhonikidze December 28 1936 Deputy Chief Designer of the Leningrad Plant No. 185 Mikhail Ilyich Koshkin was sent to the Kharkov Plant, where he headed the design bureau. Together with a team of young designers, Koshkin was able to design the tank, which later became known as the T-34.
31 March 1940. The Defense Committee ordered the serial production of T-34 tanks.
On May 17, 1940, two such tanks, along with other Soviet armored vehicles, entered the Kremlin’s Ivanovo Square, where they were examined by Stalin and other members of the Politburo. Stalin especially liked the T-34 tank, and he called it the “first swallow”.
Soon these tanks were tested on the Karelian Isthmus, where the fighting had recently ended. Tanks successfully overcame escarpes, dolbybol, anti-tank ditches and other fortifications of the “Mannerheim Line”.
Unfortunately, the chief designer of the T-34 M.I. Koshkin became seriously ill with pneumonia during the driving of tanks from Kharkov to Moscow. The doctors removed one lung from him, but this did not help the patient. 26 September 1940, the talented designer passed away.
Meanwhile, the transition to mass production of tanks revealed a number of unforeseen difficulties. In his memoirs, his father wrote: “It was still not entirely clear what technology to adopt for mass production of armor protection, especially tank turrets. On light tanks, the towers were welded from individual parts cut from armored sheet steel. Some parts had a convex shape, and they were stamped on presses. The same technology was adopted for the production of heavy tanks. But thick armor demanded more powerful pressing equipment for the manufacture of tower parts. Such presses were available at the plant, but in insufficient quantities. Well, if the program is increased, how to be then? Pressing equipment will become a bottleneck. But the case clearly goes to war, and heavy tanks will not be needed for parades, they will need thousands. How to be?
My father had the idea: cast tank turrets. He decided that in almost any metallurgical plant in any steel mill it would be possible to cast towers. The difficulty was to convince other people of this.
According to the father, “a reasonable and brave military representative, Dmitrusenko, turned out to be at the plant. He immediately agreed with the proposal to try to make cast tank towers.
The towers were cast, and then were tested along with welded towers. The father wrote: “In most of the welded towers, after four or five shells hit them, cracks appeared in the welds, while the cast ones did not reveal any defects.” Similar results were achieved with repeated tests.
Soon the father was summoned to a meeting of the Politburo. After reviewing the draft resolution, in which it was proposed to move to the production of casting towers, Stalin asked the head of the Avtobronevy Directorate, Ya.N. Fedorenko: “What are the tactical and technical advantages of the new towers?” Fedorenko explained that they can be made in foundries, whereas for the production of old type towers, powerful presses are required for stamping individual parts. “I did not ask you about this,” Stalin interrupted him. - What are the tactical and technical advantages of the new tower, and you tell me about the technological advantages. Who is involved in military equipment? ” Fedorenko called General I.A. Lebedeva.
“Is he here?” Asked Stalin. Lebedev rose from his seat. Stalin repeated his question to him. According to the father, “Lebedev hesitated and began, in essence, to repeat what Fedorenko said. Stalin frowned and angrily asked: “Where do you serve: in the army or in industry? The third time I ask a question about the tactical and technical advantages of the new tower, and you tell me about what opportunities open up before the industry. Maybe you should go to work in industry? ” The general was silent.
I felt that the decision to move to the casting towers might not be made, and, raising my hand, I asked for the floor. Turning in my direction, Stalin repeated once again: “I ask about tactical and technical advantages.”
The father replied: “I want to say this, Joseph Vissarionovich,” and handed the cards with the results of polygon shelling of armored towers to Stalin. The father explained: “The old tower, welded from individual parts, has weak spots - welds. The new tower is a monolith, it is of equal strength. Here are the results of tests of both types at the site by firing. "
Stalin carefully examined the cards, returned them to his father and said: "This is a serious consideration." He paused, walked around the room, and then asked a new question: “Tell me, how does the position of the center of gravity change when moving to a new tower? Is the machine designer here? ”
One of the designers of the tank got up from the spot, whose father’s name was not mentioned in the memoirs. The designer said: "If it changes, Comrade Stalin, it is insignificant."
“Slightly is not an engineering term. Did you think? ”Stalin replied harshly. “No, I didn't,” the designer quietly answered. "And why? After all, this is military equipment ... And how will the load on the tank's front axle change? ”
The designer also quietly said: “Slightly.” “What do you keep saying all the time“ insignificantly ”and“ insignificantly ”? Tell me: did you do the calculations? ”-“ No, ”the designer answered even quieter. "And why?". The question hung in the air.
Stalin put a leaflet with a draft decision in his hands and said: “I propose to reject the proposed draft resolution as unprepared. Tell the comrades that they are not part of the Politburo with such projects. To prepare a new project, allocate a commission to which Fedorenko should be included, he pointed out to S.A. Akopov, - and his. Stalin pointed to his father.
Father and designer in a depressed condition left the meeting room. Along the way, they were caught up by General Shcherbakov, an employee of the Committee of the Defense Committee. He and another employee of the Committee Saveliev suggested that his father should urgently prepare a new draft resolution, taking into account Stalin’s comments and with the necessary certificates.
Father worked on this for the rest of the day and all night. By the morning all the necessary documents were ready. Akopov and Fedorenko signed them with their father.
A few hours later, Stalin reviewed these materials and signed the decision to launch the production of casting towers. Two years later, my father received a second-degree Stalin Prize for participating in the development of casting towers for the T-34 tank.
After the start of the war
By 22 June 1941, the country produced X-NUMX T-1100 tanks. They accounted for 34% of all tanks manufactured by Soviet industry in six months. However, the retreat of the Soviet troops threatened the country's tank production. Tank factories were hastily evacuated to the Urals. The father also went there, having a mandate with him, signed by I.V. Stalin, who said that he, Vasily Semelyan Yemelyanov, "is authorized by the State Defense Committee at the tank factory," and that "he is obliged to ensure that the program for the production of tank hulls is overfulfilled."
At the Ural factory, to which the father was sent, the installation of equipment for tank production was just beginning. Under normal conditions, such an installation should have taken four to six months. My father went to the installers and explained to them: "The Germans are near Moscow. We need tanks. We need to know exactly when the workshop will be mounted." Installers asked for twenty minutes to think.
When the father came back to them, their brigadier said: "Order us to have several sunbeds put ... You will not have to sleep, we will rest when we cannot hold tools. Tell me that food from the dining room was also brought here, but that time a lot will be lost. If you do what you ask, we will complete the installation in 17 days. "
According to the father, people worked as a single human body. The installation was completed in 14 days. The workers didn’t meet the impossible due to technical standards for the installation of equipment at the cost of an incredible strain of their strength. However, as my father recalled, then such work in the rear was the rule rather than the exception.
Meanwhile, the emergence and successful actions of the T-34 and other heavy Soviet tanks forced Hitler to decide on the production of an already developed model of a tiger tank weighing 60 tons, and then a lighter tank, the panther. However, according to Guderian, in January 1942, Hitler decided that a new cumulative grenade, "possessing a very high penetrating ability of armor, in the future will reduce the value of tanks." Tests of "tigers" in combat took place only in the autumn of 1942, in the Leningrad region. All the tigers moving in the column were destroyed by Soviet anti-tank artillery. This circumstance led to a new delay in the production of these tanks.
However, the Germans tried to exploit vulnerabilities in the T-34 tank. They found that if the projectiles were sent to the joint between the turret and the tank hull, the turret could jam and it would stop rotating. In the padded German tanks, our fighters found sketches of T-34 tanks indicating where to aim.
My father recalled: “It was necessary to quickly eliminate this weak spot. I do not remember who the first thought occurred to me how to eliminate this shortcoming. The offer was surprisingly simple. Armored details of a special form were attached to the tank hull in front of the turret, allowing the turret to rotate and at the same time eliminate the possibility of its jamming. Immediately, all the corps began to be produced with these additional details, and we sent sets of parts to the front for their installation on combat vehicles. ”
The Germans continued to strike with projectiles at the junction between the tower and the hull, exactly following the instructions. They probably wondered why their shots did not bring the desired result.
Meanwhile, the tank factories continued to improve the production process. In his memoirs, the father wrote: “In the armored body of the tank there was one small, but important detail with a long narrow slit, called“ reticle ”. Through it, using a system of mirrors, the driver could view the terrain. Machining this part was very difficult. It was necessary first to drill out high-strength steel, and then thoroughly process the inner surface of the gap with a long milling cutter of a special shape, called “fingertip”. Before the war, this cutter was manufactured by the Moscow plant “Frezer” and even then belonged to the category of a scarce tool. And then a new difficulty arose: “Frazer” was evacuated from Moscow, and at the new place they had not yet had time to mount all the equipment and start production. We had only two finger mills at the plant, and one of them was essentially unusable. Tank corps cannot be made without a part with a “reticule slot”. It was obvious to everyone. How to be?".
My father recalled that after a long discussion, “someone was in favor of trying to cast these details. If we make exact forms and try to improve the casting technique, then maybe we can manage to keep within the specified sizes ... There were excellent foundry workers at the factory. ” After consulting with them, it was decided: “Cast, only cast!”.
The first cast parts were successful. But doubts arose: “Will the parts withstand the ground tests?” Father wrote: “Immediately sent several cast parts to the landfill. The landfill was located near the plant. Shot the details of all the established rules. The results are great! Hence, finger mills are no longer needed. Everyone cheered up, as if everyone at once stopped the tedious toothache. ”
My father recalled that “from the front there were continuously various requests and information about which parts of the tank should be improved or changed.
They also began to receive tanks for repair. Somehow, carefully examining such a tank, which arrived from the front, we saw a soldier’s medal “For Courage” at the driver’s seat. On the ribbon, a small spot of blood was dried. Everyone standing near the tank, as if on cue, took off their hats and silently looked at the medal.
Their faces were solemnly severe. ”
Zverev, the senior master of the span for machining parts, said with some anguish: “If I were shot right through now, it would have seemed easier. Shame burns everything from the inside, only you think that you don’t do everything you need. ”
The reaction of Zverev and other workers was explainable. Although they worked hard to do everything “right” and tried to make the tanks invulnerable to the enemy’s bullets and shells, they knew that for many tankers their products turned into steel coffins.
The data, which subsequently led in his study, Lieutenant-General V.V. Serebryannikov, testified: the tankman could survive no more than 1,5 battles. But such battles did not stop throughout the war.
The victory of Soviet tanks on the Kursk Bulge
22 January 1943. Hitler published an appeal to all tank building workers to increase efforts to produce new armored vehicles, the appearance of which was to prove Germany’s advantage in modern weapons technology and ensure a change in the war. Guderian wrote that "new powers to expand the production of tanks, granted to Minister of Armaments A. Speer, testified to the growing concern about the declining combat power of the German armored forces in the face of the constantly increasing production of the old but beautiful Russian T-34 tank." In accordance with the plan "Citadel", developed by Hitler, the main power of the 1943 summer offensive of the year was to make up the new "tiger" and "panther" tanks.
Describing the first day of the battle on the Kursk Bulb 5 July 1943, Lieutenant General N.K. Popel recalled: “Perhaps, neither I nor any of our other commanders saw such a number of enemy tanks at once. Colonel General Got, who commanded the Nazi tank army 4, was betting everything. 10 operated against every company in 30 tanks - 40 German. "
A week after the start of the German offensive, 12 July, the largest tank battle of World War II near Prokhorovka unfolded. It involved up to 1200 tanks and SPGs. A participant in the Battle of Prokhorovka, Lieutenant Colonel A.A. Golovanov recalled: “I don’t find words or colors to describe the tank battle that took place near Prokhorovka.
Try to imagine how about 1000 tanks colliding in a small space (about two kilometers along the front), showered each other with a hail of shells, burning fires of already wrecked tanks ... There was a continuous roar of engines, metal clanging, crashing, explosion of shells, wild iron screech , tanks went to the tanks.
It was such a roar that squeezed the membrane. The bitterness of the battle can also be represented by casualties: more than 400 of German and no less than our tanks were left to burn out on this battlefield or lay in piles of twisted metal after an explosion of ammunition inside the car. And it all lasted all day. "
The next day, Marshal G.K. Zhukov and lieutenant-general of tank forces P.A. Captain drove past the battlefield. Rotmistrov recalled: “A monstrous picture presented itself to the gaze. Everywhere wrecked or burned tanks, crushed guns, armored personnel carriers and cars, piles of shell sleeves, pieces of caterpillars. Not a single green bylaid was on the blackened ground. to cool down after extensive fires ... "That's what a tank attack means," quietly, as if to himself, Zhukov said, looking at the broken "panther" and our tank T-70 crashing into it.
Here, at a distance of two dozen meters, the “tiger” and the thirty-foursomers seized as if firmly grabbed.
Marshal shook his head, surprised by what he saw, even took off his cap, apparently paying tribute to the deep respect of our dead tank heroes who sacrificed their lives in order to stop and destroy the enemy. "
According to Marshal A.M. Vasilevsky, "the nearly two-month Kursk battle ended in a convincing victory for the Soviet Armed Forces."
Guderian stated: “As a result of the failure of the Citadel offensive, we suffered a decisive defeat. The armored forces, replenished with such great difficulty, due to large losses in people and equipment, were put out of action for a long time. Their timely restoration to conduct defensive actions on The Eastern Front, as well as to organize the defense in the West in case of a landing which the Allies threatened to land next spring, was called into question. Needless to say, the Russians hurried to use their success. there were no more calm days on the Eastern Front. The initiative was completely transferred to the enemy. "
So Hitler's plans were buried - to achieve a breakthrough in the war, relying on the technical superiority of "civilized" Europe.
Having broken off the German offensive, the heroic crews of the T-34 and other Soviet tanks proved the advantage of Soviet armor over the German one.