Once Again About the T-34

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Once Again About the T-34
Boris Kavalerchik
Published online: 16 Mar 2015.

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To cite this article: Boris Kavalerchik (2015) Once Again About the T-34, The Journal of Slavic Military
Studies, 28:1, 186-214, DOI: 10.1080/13518046.2015.998132
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Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 28:186–214, 2015
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1351-8046 print/1556-3006 online
DOI: 10.1080/13518046.2015.998132

Once Again About the T-341
BORIS KAVALERCHIK

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The T-34 was the most mass-produced tank of WWII. No wonder
that it has become one of the most famous and well-known tanks
of that period. Numerous authors have repeatedly described it as
the finest combat vehicle of its time. But, as is usually the case, this
tank had both values and weaknesses. Many of them were revealed
in 1942–1943 when one of T-34s was comprehensively tested
by American military experts on Aberdeen Proving Ground in
Aberdeen, MD. Some Soviet officers were present there as well. They
collected and recorded the Americans’ statements and conclusions
about the tank. In August 1943 an official report summarizing the
Americans’ evaluation was sent to Moscow. Its contents startlingly
differ from the common opinion about T-34 and can surprise many
readers. This article analyzes that report in detail, item by item,
and explains the reasoning behind each. It also briefly outlines the
history of T-34’s engineering and production and the roles of the
people involved. As a result it makes it perfectly clear why this tank
was the way it was, what were its real values and weaknesses, and
why it had become so important for the Red Army during its struggle
with the Wehrmacht in 1941–1945.

It is commonly known that the famous Soviet T-34 tank was the mostproduced combat vehicle of the Second World War. It would be difficult
to find a person who has not heard of it; not only can it seen in films and
in countless illustrations, but also in reality it has been rendered on numerous monuments built on the sites of former battles. Mountains of literature
1

‘Eshche raz o T-34’, translated by Dr. Harold S. Orenstein, Leavenworth, KS.

Boris Kavalerchik was born in 1957 in Gomel (the former USSR and now the Republic
of Belarus). In 1979 he graduated from the Belorussian Polytechnic Institute and worked in
Minsk as a mechanical engineer. After completing a military course in college, and some
additional military training, he became a tank platoon commander in the reserve with the
rank of First Lieutenant. In 1989 he emigrated to the USA with his family. He currently lives
in New Jersey and works there as a senior mechanical engineer at ECI Technology, Inc.
Address correspondence to Boris Kavalerchik. E-mail: boris_knj@yahoo.com

186

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have been devoted to the legendary T-34; however, as a rule, it has been
described only from a positive aspect and for good reasons: It possessed
powerful armaments for its time, heavy armor, and a high degree of mobility. Even more important was the fact that these qualities were harmoniously
combined in it, and not one of them was developed to the detriment of the
others.
The principal weapon of the T-34 was the 76 mm long-barreled gun,
which made it possible for the tank to destroy practically any target, including armored ones, that appeared on the battlefield during the first years
of the war. After the new, thickly armored heavy tanks appeared in the
Wehrmacht and the armor of German medium tanks was reinforced, the
T-34 was equipped with the new, even more powerful 85 mm gun.
The reliable protection of the T-34 was ensured not only by the thickness of its armor, but also its efficient slope angle and the advanced method
of automatic welding together of the armor plates. This latter made it possible to obtain not only high labor productivity, but also a stable quality of
seams independent of the qualifications, health, and mood of the welder.
The T-34 possessed a high degree of mobility because of a powerful
diesel engine and wide tracks. The diesel was distinguished not only by
its power, rapidity, and high torque; it was also more economical and less
flammable than gasoline engines, with which the majority of tanks were
equipped at that time. The wide tracks provided this tank with a low specific
pressure on the ground and made it possible for it to have excellent crosscountry capability, especially in view of Russia’s lack of good roads.
All these virtues of the T-34 have been described numerous times and
are well known. It must only be emphasized that it was not only a few
unique and super-expensive tanks that had these qualities, but rather tens of
thousands of mass-series vehicles. More than 52,000 T-34 tanks with various
modifications and around 6,000 self-propelled artillery guns on its base were
produced in the pre-war period and during the war. However, far from all
of them survived until the victory. The Red Army’s losses in medium tanks
during the Great Patriotic War exceeded 80 percent, and the T-34 comprised
the lion’s share of this (Krivosheev, p. 479). How did it happen that the
exalted T-34 suffered such heavy irrecoverable losses? There are more than
a few reasons for this; however, an analysis of all of them goes far beyond
the framework of this article. Some of them, however, are purely technical,
and we will examine them here.
Any piece of equipment, including tanks, has its own virtues and shortcomings. One and the same tank can be described as both a masterpiece
of world engineering and a pile of iron garbage. It is very important that
the approach to the issue not be one-sided, but it is difficult to expect
complete objectivity from any author. After all, he is influenced by many
different factors. During the time of the USSR and the total censorship by

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B. Kavalerchik

Glavlit,2 the T-34 was among those sacred cows that could not be criticized.
Moreover, official Soviet propaganda searched everywhere and tirelessly disseminated confirmation of its thesis that the T-34 was the best tank in the
world during the Second World War. It is interesting that former enemies
provide arguments for this. In their post-war memoirs, beaten German generals attempted to find justification for their defeat. Most often they used
the standard set: Hitler’s incompetence, impassable Russian roads, ‘General
Frost’, etc. In this series one could also find the statement that the T-34 had
overwhelming superiority over German tanks and anti-tank artillery. It was
much more convenient and honorable to list these as the reason for their
failures rather than pointing out their own mistakes and blunders. Moreover,
to objectively assess the strong and weak aspects of tanks is not easy for a
common man.
When attempting to determine which combat vehicle is better than
another, the majority of people begin with a comparison of their basic tactical and technical characteristics. Of course, these figures, which reflect tank
weight, gun caliber, armor thickness, engine power, maximum speed, and
other such indicators, are very important. However, they are only the tip of
the iceberg, and after all, one cannot form a true opinion about an iceberg
by observing only the small part of it that can be seen above the water.
A much fuller and more accurate picture of reality is contained in reports
from tank trials that were conducted according to an extensive program by
the appropriate specialists on proving grounds. To the great disappointment
of the numerous armored vehicles’ dabblers, such reports are accessible only
to a narrow circle of people, and these devotees do not, as a rule, have the
right to disclose such information to the general public.
One can judge what these reports represent from one example. In May
1943 the British captured in Tunis a completely operational German Tiger
heavy tank. Only in 1986 was a book published in London that represented
mainly a report on the study of this war prize. The book contained more
than 200 large-format pages with dozens of tables, photographs, drawings,
and sketches (Fletcher).
The US and Great Britain conducted similar tests of the T-34 and KV3
tanks, carefully studying models and compiling similar reports about them.
How did they fall into the hands of these countries? Everything began with
the widely known Lend-Lease, a program where during the Second World
War the United States lent or rented combat equipment, weapons, ammunition, strategic materials, food, and various other goods and services to
America’s allies in the anti-Hitler coalition. Much less is known about the
2

Translator’s note: Main Directorate of Literature and Publications (Glavnoe upravlenie po delam
literatury i izdatel’stvam).
3
Translator’s note: The KV tank was a heavy Soviet tank named after Marshal of the Soviet Union
Kliment Voroshilov.

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so-called ‘reverse lend-lease’. Within the framework of this program, those
who obtained assistance through Lend-Lease in turn assisted the US, to the
degree possible, of course. In particular, during the war the USSR delivered to
the US timber, furs, chrome and manganese ore, platinum, and gold. Military
technical information, both captured and their own, was also exchanged, as
were models of combat equipment. For example, in 1945 the USSR received
the newest (at that time) American tank, the M-26 Pershing. Among Soviet
models sent to the allies were T-34s.
On 3 June 1942 lieutenant-colonel Kozyrev, who was a military representative at the Ural Tank Factory (UTF) in Nizhny Tagil, received a written
order from Moscow to prepare three T-34 tanks for shipment within a month.
One of the tanks was going to be sent to the United States. The destination
of the others had to be determined later (TsAMO D. 936, pp. 52–53). That
the UTF was selected as the supplier was in no way by chance. At that time
it was namely this factory that was producing T-34s with noticeably better
quality than all other tank makers. The fact that in autumn 1941 the Kharkov
Locomotive Factory—the cradle of the T-34—had been evacuated to Nizhny
Tagil and combined with the local train car factory contributed to this in no
small way. The UTF arose on this solid base, inheriting its number (183) from
the Kharkovites. The factory, of course, did not want to lose face before its
allies and picked three of the best tanks out of those that successfully passed
the acceptance test. They belonged to the latest production batch with all
the changes and improvements made by that time. Particular attention was
paid to their preparation for a future long journey. Vehicles were thoroughly
cleaned inside and out, filled with fuel and fresh oil. To prevent corrosion
they were coated with three layers of paint. Spots on the bottom portion
where water could get into were protected with a thick layer of grease,
and all hatches, holes, and chinks were thoroughly sealed. Gauze bags with
desiccant were placed inside. Each of the three T-34s was furnished with
detailed operating and maintenance instructions. They were added with separate manuals on the engine, armament, and the radio set, as well as a full
set of assembly drawings, spare parts, and tool kits. At the end of August
1942 one of these T-34s, along with a KV heavy tank, was sent to the US.
Another, also paired with a KV, was shipped to England from Arkhangelsk in
June 1943, after a 10-month delay (TsAMO D. 1744, pp. 58, 64). The last one
remained at the disposal of the People’s Commissariat of the Tank Industry
(Narodnyi komissariat tankovoi promyshlennosti or NKTP). Today it can be
seen in the courtyard of the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow.
Testing began in the United States on 29 November 1942 and continued for a year. They were conducted in Maryland, just north of Baltimore,
at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the best testing area at that time in the
US Army. A KV that had been produced at the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory
was also tested there. After tests on both tanks were completed voluminous
reports were made, copies of which the USSR received. The Brits also sent

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B. Kavalerchik

a copy of their T-34 testing report. Unfortunately, however, these materials
have not yet been published in their entirety. There is only fragmentary information about their content. The most widely disseminated among armored
vehicles’ dabblers was ‘Assessment of T-34 and KV Tanks by Workers from
the US Aberdeen Proving Ground, Business Representatives, Officers, and
Members of Military Committees Who Conducted Tests of the Tanks’, signed
by General-Major of Tank Troops V. E. Khlopov, Chief of the 2nd Directorate
of the Red Army’s Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoe razvedyvatel’noe
upravlenie or GRU), in August 1943 (TsAMO D. 1712, pp. 91-99). Many
accept this document as a brief summary of the results of the testing of the
Soviet tanks in America, but this is not so. From the text and the responsibilities of the man who attested to it, it is immediately obvious that this is not
at all an American report, not even the extracts from it. After all, at the time
the ‘Assessment’ appeared, tests had still not been finished.
So what is it, really? This question was clarified by General-Lieutenant
I. I. Il’ichev, Provisional Chief of the GRU, who distributed copies of the
‘Assessment’ to Stalin, Head of the NKTP V. A. Malyshev, and GeneralColonel Ia. N. Fedorenko, Commander of the Red Army’s Armor and
Mechanized Forces. In an accompanying letter Il’ichev reported to the
addressees that the attached document was a summary of a conversation
between a GRU officer and one of the workers from the Aberdeen Proving
Ground. This American expressed not only his personal opinion, but also
assessments by others of his colleagues, as well as those of officers, specialists, members of military committees, and representatives of concerned US
companies he had heard during the tests (TsAMO D. 1712, p. 90a). Let us try
to determine how objective they were. For this, let us take the ‘Assessment’
point by point (in italics) and then comment on each.
Condition of the Tanks
The medium T-34, after driving 343 kilometers, irreversibly broke down
and could not be repaired.
Reason: a great deal of dirt built up in the motor because of the
extremely poor air cleaner on the diesel, and a breakdown occurred, as a
result of which the pistons and cylinders were damaged to such a degree
that it was impossible to fix.
The tank was withdrawn from the tests and firing was scheduled with
the KV tank’s gun and the M-10 tank’s 3-inch gun, after which it will be
sent to Aberdeen, where it will be studied and put on display.
The KV heavy tank is still operational and tests on it are continuing,
although there are very many mechanical problems.

There was nothing unusual about the tanks breaking down so early.
At that time the T-34 tanks were given a factory guarantee of 1,000 kilometers, but in reality the overwhelming majority of them could not achieve such
mileage. According to statistics from the Proving Ground of the Scientific,

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Research, and Testing Institute for Armored Forces, as was reported to Chief
of the Red Army’s Armor Directorate Ia. N. Fedorenko, the average mileage
for the T-34 before being overhauled did not exceed 200 kilometers. The
Aberdeen T-34 surpassed this figure.
Moreover, in 1942 the situation in the Soviet tank industry became much
worse, and the quality of its products fell substantially for many objective
reasons, including difficulties associated with the organization of production
by factories that had been evacuated to new locations; the shift of a large
number of manufacturing facilities to make products that were new to them;
loss of fixed assets, industrial equipment, economic ties, and sources of raw
materials; the sharp drop in the average level of qualifications of factory personnel in consequence of the loss of many experienced workers, technicians,
and engineers; and the recruitment of a large number of novices to work,
including women and teenagers. The new personnel worked selflessly and
did all that was in their power to help the battlefront, but their knowledge,
experience, and expertise were keenly lacking. First and foremost was the
production of as many tanks as possible. This was understandable; after all,
it was necessary to replace the very severe losses from the initial period of
the war. Therefore, requirements for production quality had to be lowered.
Occasionally the quality control department accepted the tanks as long as
they could just start up. As a result, in 1942 several T-34s were overhauled
after driving only 30–35 kilometers.
This was, to some measure, justified; after all, in war tanks did not, as
a rule, outlast their serviceable life, as short as it might have been. The life
expectancy of the Soviet tank on the front line was not long—an average
of 4–10 days (not including time spent on its transport by rail and repairs),
or 1 to 3 attacks. The average mileage until a failure for combat reasons
in 1942 was 66.7 kilometers, which was three times less than the average
mileage before needing to be overhauled. Thus, the majority of tanks simply
did not have a chance to break down.
One should not forget that at that time the ‘heart’ of the tank—the B-2
diesel engine (on both the T-34 and the KV)—had still not come out of its
period of ‘teething problems’. At that time its producers were struggling to
bring its life expectancy up to at least 100 hours; however, the B-2 can occasionally work so long on the test bench under laboratory conditions. After
being put into the tanks its actual life span only rarely exceeded 70 hours.
The T-34 engine during tests at Aberdeen broke down after 72.5 hours of
operation, of which it operated 58.45 hours under load and 14.05 hours
without load. It is not surprising that the KV engine managed 66.4 hours of
operation, of which 20.02 hours were without load (Bakhmetov et al., pp.
25, 26). In addition to the short mean time between failures, among the main
shortcomings of the B-2 engine at that time were excessive fuel expenditure
(12 percent higher than normal) and especially the utterly unacceptable oil
consumption, which exceeded the existing norm by 3–8 times. Therefore, in

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autumn 1942 the operational range of the T-34 was limited not by fuel, but
rather by engine oil: According to the average figures for that time from the
Technical Department of NKTP, there was enough fuel to cover 200–220 kilometers, but only enough engine oil for 145 kilometers (Technical Manual No.
9-759, p. 32). At the same time, it usually was not necessary to constantly
refill the oil in the engines of American and German tanks. For example, on
the M4A3 Sherman, which was a peer of Aberdeen’s T-34, engine oil was
changed according to schedule every 400 kilometers (Technical Manual No.
9–759, p. 32). Their enemy the German medium tank Pz.IV had a 2,000 km
interval between oil changes after the break-in period (Perrett, p. 15).
Silhouette–Configuration of the Tanks
Everyone, without exception, likes the shape of the hull of our tanks.
That of the T-34 is especially good. All agree that the shape of the T-34’s
hull is better than that of all vehicles known to Americans.
That of the KV is worse than any of the existing American tanks.

The Americans’ high opinion of the shape of the T-34’s hull is completely deserved. It was advanced for its time and indisputably influenced
the hull of the well-known German Panther tank. After all, the best praise
for a weapon is when enemies who have experienced its power copy it.
However, it was not on the T-34 that steeply inclined armor plates had
appeared for the first time. The prototype was the hull shape of the experimental BT-SB tank, built in 1937 under the leadership of N. F. Tsyganov,
a self-educated inventor. He, in turn, had borrowed from the FCM36 light
French tank, whose hull was welded from armor plates with a thickness
of 40 mm placed at large angles of inclination. On the other hand, while
only 100 FCM36s were made, it was namely the T-34 that was the first really
mass-produced tank with a very successful streamlined hull shape.
Armor
A chemical analysis of the armor demonstrated that on both tanks the
armor plates have superficial surface hardening, whereas the bulk of
armor plates are soft steel.
With regard to this, the Americans think that by changing the technology of the hardening of the armor plates, its thickness can be considerably
reduced while maintaining its resistance to penetration. As a result of
this, the tank weight can be lightened by 8–10 percent, with all the consequences that result from this (increase in speed, reduction in specific
pressure, etc.).

The armor protection of the T-34 hardly needed to be lightened,
although there was, of course, some room for improvement. The protection was designed, first and foremost, on resistance to the most popular

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armor-piercing shells at the end of the 1930s up to 45 mm caliber inclusive. Accordingly, they heat treated it to a high hardness. At the same time,
the armor of the T-34’s contemporary and brother-in-arms, the American
Sherman tank, with average hardness, exhibited high uniformity and excellent toughness. Therefore, as distinguished from the T-34’s redundantly hard
armor, with the Sherman secondary fragments were not created when a shell
hit it, especially if the shell penetrated. So there were, of course, flaws in the
T-34’s armor. Briefly, the American report noted the following after their
tests:
1. The hardening is only superficial and not uniform.
2. The armor’s toughness is inadequate. The armor appears to consist mainly
of soft steel plates that vary with respect to chemical composition.
3. The hardness of the armor does not correspond to the passport data and
changes on different armor plates.
4. Welding seams are uneven.
It is easy to understand that all these shortcomings were a direct consequence of the production defects resulting from aforementioned reasons.
Others having a much more objective character were, however, also added
to them. For example, the T-34’s cast turret had its own specific problems.
With respect to quality, they were noticeably inferior to welded ones because
at that time they were made out of MZ-2 steel, as all the rest of this tank’s
rolled armor. In civilian engineering it was denoted as I8-S, where the letter
S specified the area for its employment—rolled armor plates, designated for
welding.4 It was not designated for casting; therefore, the quality of the casting from it left much to be desired. And this related not only to the turret.
The T-34’s cast bow beam also suffered from irremovable cavities up to 1/2
in diameter, surrounded by shrinkage porosity, which weakened its cross
section.5 At the same time, the use of this steel to make armor for the whole
tank made it possible to substantially simplify the organization of production
(uniformity in both material and its heat treatment) and raise labor productivity. Later they began to cast the turrets for the T-34-85 from 71L armor
steel, developed specifically for this technology (Postnikov, pp. 22, 24, 26).
As a result, the quality of cast armor improved substantially; however, this
came about only in 1944.
Here it is appropriate to cite some extracts from the official report of
Watertown Arsenal from Watertown, MA, issued 24 November 1943. Its laboratory got samples of the armor of the T-34 and KV from the Aberdeen
Proving Ground for metallurgical examination:
4
Translator’s note: The Russian word for welding is svarka; hence, the designation of S in the name
of this steel.
5
Later on they started to make the T-34’s bow beams on rolling mills.

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The silicon content of the Mn-Si-Ni-Cr-Mo and Mn-Si-Mo steels is high,
ranging from 1.0–1.5% Si. All the compositions provide hardenability
adequate for satisfactory quench hardening of the sections. . . .
The armor components of the Medium Tank T-34 were heat treated
to very high hardness levels (429–495 Brinell) probably in an attempt
to obtain maximum resistance to penetration even at the expense of
structural stability6 under ballistic attack. . . .
The elongation and reduction of area7 of the rolled and cast armor
sections compare favorably with the same properties of domestic good
quality steel at comparably high tensile strengths. . . .
The quality of the rolled steel armor components covers the entire
range from poor to excellent, indicating wide variations in production
technique. Several of the plates were incompletely quench hardened
although possessing hardenability adequate to quench harden through
the section thickness (Experimental Report No. WAL. 640/91, pp. 1, 5, 9).

These words expressed not the subjective thoughts of an unknown
American, which also may have been distorted in notes or in translation,
but the official opinion of American experts. As we see, they assessed rather
highly the chemical composition and mechanical properties of the armor,
although they also mentioned the excessively unstable quality of its heat
treatment.
Hull
The main shortcoming is the water permeability of both the lower part
when overcoming water obstacles and the upper part when raining.
In heavy rain much water flows into the tank through chinks, which
results in the electrical equipment becoming disabled and even the
ammunition becoming ruined.
They like the placement of the ammunition very much.

Water was able to seep into the tank through the following areas:
1. Defects in the weld seams. As has already been mentioned, in their
report the Americans noticed that these seams were uneven. Moreover,
the excess stress in the armor, which arose as a result of its welding by
means of power seams and was not removed in time by the appropriate technological methods, could quickly lead to cracks. This sometimes
happened with the T-34 (Kolomiets, pp. 295-296, 304).
2. Leakage through the hatches, and anything that allowed the crew to get in
and out or was used for access to the tank’s components and assemblies,
as well as through roofs, covers, observation devices, etc.
6
7

That is, greater fragility.
A way to measure tensile strength.

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3. Various apertures, e.g., observation slits, gun ports, engine shutters, etc.
4. The turret ball bearing.
Naturally, the design of the T-34 provided rubber seals for the most
of these areas, but in the beginning of 1942 the USSR was experiencing a
severe rubber shortage. Factories that were producing the raw materials for
manufacturing it were located in the western regions of the country, and,
because of the German advance, were forced to evacuate and started their
production in new locations. As a result, from November 1941 through May
1942 industry operated only with prewar reserves and Lend-Lease natural
rubber. Therefore, there was an attempt to economize on rubber in every
possible way, and it was supplied only where it was absolutely necessary.
As one of the measures of this economization, from January 1942 through
August 1943 road wheels on T-34 tanks were provided with internal rubber
cushioning instead of solid tires (Zheltov et al., Neizvestnyi T-34, p. 43).
To reduce production’s labor consumption and because of the shortage of
machine tools, they stopped finish-machining parts, especially hulls, except
in those cases where it was completely impossible to manage without it. This
resulted in an increase in the clearance between the parts. As a result of such
measures the watertight integrity of the T-34’s hull also suffered.
The main part of the ammunition for the T-34’s gun was stowed on
the floor of the fighting compartment in special horizontal boxes, with two
to three shells in each. This was the best place from the point of view of
safety; therefore, the Aberdeen testers liked it this way. It did have its own
shortcomings: The height of the tank was increased, access to the shells was
inconvenient, and water that had seeped into the tank fell directly onto the
boxes with the shells. As a result, they began to rust, which the Americans
also noted.
Turret
The main shortcoming is that it is very confined. The Americans cannot understand how our tankers can fit into it in winter when they are
wearing sheepskin jackets.
The electrical turret traversing gear is very poor. The motor is weak, very
overloaded, and sparks terribly, as a result of which the rotational speed
control resistors burn out, and the gear teeth crumble. It is recommended
to convert it to a hydraulic or simply to a manual system.

There really was not enough space in the T-34’s turret. And no wonder:
After all, from the beginning it was designed for the T-34’s predecessor,
the convertible wheel/track A-20 tank, armed with a 45 mm gun. Even
with this, the turret was not distinguished by its spaciousness, but after
installing the 76 mm gun, with its much larger breech and increased recoil,
it became extremely cramped. The confinement not only made the tankers

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uncomfortable, but it also impeded their movement, including their using
observation instruments. Because of this it took at least 11 seconds for the
commander to leave the tank; whereas in case of fire only a few moments
separated him from terrible death in a blaze. Due to the confinement and
inconvenient stowage of the ammunition, the T-34 on the move could shoot
no more than three rounds per minute (TsAMO D. 41, p. 15). The inadequate diameter of the turret ring—just 1,420 millimeters—made it impossible
to add another crew member, which would have freed the commander from
having the additional responsibility of being the gunner. In the T-34-85 the
diameter of the ring was widened to 1,600 millimeters, which allowed to
place three men and an 85 mm gun in its enlarged turret. In comparison, the
diameter of the turret ring on the Sherman Tank was 1,753 millimeters. This
provided its crew more than 1.5 times the ‘living space’ of the T-34. Thus, it
is not surprising that the Americans did not understand how it was possible
for the T-34 tankers to arrange themselves in it.
However, their complaints about the turret traversing gear appear subjective. Two types of them were installed on the Shermans: hydraulic and
electric. The hydraulic ones operated more smoothly; therefore, the majority of tanks employed these systems. However, there were not enough of
them for all Shermans, in which case electric drives, interchangeable with
hydraulic ones, were installed.
One could, of course, also turn the T-34 turret by hand. It was namely
the hand drive that was used for accurate target aiming, while with the
three-stage electric drive they only turned the turret quickly, which was very
important in battle, especially close combat. With its help the turret made a
full turn in 14.3 seconds (Tank T-34, p. 41). Thus, the employment of the
electric drive in this way was completely justified; however, its design, and
especially the manufacturing of the Aberdeen T-34, had been subpar.
Weapons
The F-34 gun is very good. It is simple, works trouble-free, and is
convenient to service.
Its shortcoming is the fact that the muzzle velocity is significantly lower
that the American 3-inch (3200 feet versus 5700 feet per second).

The F-34 gun that was installed on the 34 undoubtedly deserved the
Americans’ praises. It was an excellent model of a tank weapon for its
time—simple, inexpensive, compact, and reliable. But here, with figures,
is a clear discrepancy. The muzzle velocity of the F-34’s armor-piercing shell
was 662 meters (2,172 feet) per second (Ust’yantsev and Kolmakov, p. 210).
The US Sherman Tank that was being produced in 1942 was armed with
the 75 mm M3 gun, whose armor-piercing shell had the muzzle velocity
of 619 meters (2,030 feet) per second. Thus, the M3 fell somewhat behind
the F-34 with regard to this parameter. Even with the HVAP (high velocity
armor-piercing) T45 round for this gun, the muzzle velocity was 869 meters

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(2,850 feet) per second (Hunnicutt, p. 562). This was, however, a purely
experimental model, which was not mass produced and did not come to the
army. Be that as it may, it would have had to double its velocity to attain
the 1,737 meters (5,700 feet) per second mentioned in the document under
discussion. APFSDS (armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot) rounds
achieved that velocity much later than the Second World War, and only with
smooth-barrel guns. Thus, here there is an unquestionable mistake, either in
the notes or in the translation.

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Sight
The general opinion is that the sight is the best in the world. There is no
comparison with any existing (as far as is known here) one or anything
being developed in America.

The sight that was installed in the T-34 was relatively good for its time,
but it certainly was not the best in the world. It would be more accurate
to call it the best of those sights with which the Aberdeen testers were
familiar by then. Captured Wehrmacht tanks came there later; after all, the
German sights at that time were the best with regard to design and quality of
production and were imitated in every way possible. Nevertheless, the TMFD
telescopic sight, which had been installed on the T-34 that had been sent to
Aberdeen, apparently exceeded its contemporary American tank sights. Its
design was at the appropriate level for that time and provided acceptable
accuracy of fire to a distance up to 600–800 meters; at that period greater
distance of fire was not required in most cases.
Its principal shortcoming was the low quality of lens material—cloudy
and bubbled. From August 1941 through October 1943 domestic tank sights
strikingly worsened. At that time the raw materials base for the production of
optical glass had been lost, many qualified personnel had been unavailable,
and optics factories had been evacuated to the east. Sights and observation
instruments were often being assembled and adjusted by people who not
only had not been trained for this, but also who had not had enough rest,
food, and sleep. It had been necessary to take extreme measures to correct
this untenable situation. Surviving optical glass and instrument specialists
were recalled from the front, and both special equipment for the production
and treatment of optical glass and the raw materials for it were ordered and
obtained from the US through Lend-Lease. Later, on the basis of captured
German sights, new designs were developed (e.g., the TSh-16 articulated
sight, which was installed on the T-34-85). As a result, the quality of Soviet
tank sights during the second half of the war improved substantially.
Track
The Americans very much like the idea of a steel track link. However,
they think that until they receive feedback about the comparative results

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of using steel and rubber track on American tanks from Tunis and other
fronts there is no justification for rejecting their own idea of using rubber
track.
From their point of view, the shortcoming of our track is the lightness
of its construction. It can be easily damaged by small-caliber rounds and
mines. The track pins are extremely poorly tempered and made from poor
steel, as a result of which they wear out very quickly and the track often
breaks. At first they very much liked the idea of driving in the track pins
against the stop on the tank hull, but when in use, after some wear, the
track pins began to bend against the stop, which often resulted in the track
breaking.
They think that it is better to make the tracks heavier at the expense of
the reduction in armor thickness.
They also like the width of the track.

Apparently the author of this document was not a technically educated
man; otherwise, he would not have written about the rubber tracks on the
American tanks. Rubber tracks, armored with steel cable, were only used
on light vehicles, most often on half-track armored cars and personal carriers with a maximum weight of 10 tons (although they had been tested on
16-ton tanks) (Ogorkiewicz, p. 103). The Shermans used steel tracks with
rubber bushes to increase longevity, and rubber ‘pillows’, which reduced
noise when the tank was moving and improved road grip, although not on
all surfaces. In addition, as distinct from the purely steel tracks, these did not
ruin hard road surfaces.
For the mostly dirt roads in the USSR, however, protection of their surfaces was not so urgent. The low specific pressure played a much more
important role on dirt roads, and especially when moving off-road, and the
T-34’s wide tracks provided this. With respect to this parameter, the T-34 was
superior to the Sherman: The former had a specific pressure on the ground
of .72 kg/cm, while that of the Sherman was .96 kg/cm; consequently the
Sherman conceded to the T-34 in cross-country capability under off-road
conditions.
Nevertheless, once again there were painful problems here with the
quality of production. The reason for this was the acute shortage of track
links from which the caterpillar tracks were assembled. Because of this, during the second 10 days of February 1942 the UTF was able to send to the front
only 68 percent of the tanks that had been produced at that time; the remaining ones had to stand ‘shoeless’. Under such conditions the production of
tracks had to be handed over to manufacturing facilities that were barely
suited for this. As a result, as many as half of the products were defective;
therefore, the tracks often broke, and the track pins buckled and tore apart
(Svirin, ‘Lapti’ dlya T-34, pp. 39–40). The problem with the track pins also
manifested itself during the tests at Aberdeen, and the Americans correctly
noted this. The tracks of the T-34 broke few times during the tests as well.

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Suspension
On the T-34 it is poor. The Americans had tested the Christie suspension
a long time ago and unconditionally rejected it. Because of the poor steel
on the springs, it sagged very quickly on our tank, as a result of which the
clearance noticeably decreased.
The suspension on the KV tank is very good.

One cannot but agree with the observation about the poor material of
the suspension springs. At that time spring steel was also numbered among
the long list of Soviet shortages. In general, the USSR did not produce this
from March 1942 through May 1943. Its need was satisfied only through
Lend-Lease deliveries, which anyway were insufficient. Therefore, this was
economized as much as possible.
Another reason for the low quality of suspension springs could be the
faulty heat treatment of them. The quality of heat treatment in the production of T-34s, as we confirmed using its armor as an example, was not
distinguished by stability at that time.
On the other hand, one can argue with the negative opinion about the
design of the suspension. The T-34 inherited the design from the BT tanks,
and those, in turn, borrowed from the prototype designed by the well-known
American engineer and inventor John Walter Christie. His independent suspension had both its virtues (e.g., simplicity because of the absence of
supporting rollers, reduced roller friction thanks to their large diameter, and
additional protection of the side of the tank by support rollers) and its shortcomings (e.g., heaviness of the unsprung weight, which reduced smoothness
of ride; considerable area that the spring shafts occupy in the tank hull; and
weakening of side armor by cutouts for suspension arms). On the whole, the
Christie suspension was quite up to date and was used on tanks not only in
the USSR, but also in England.
The greatest minus regarding the T-34’s suspension was its lack of
shock absorbers, which, in combination with the low internal friction in
its elements, resulted in strong and continuous rocking of the tank hull
on uneven terrain, especially at higher speeds. This was not, however, an
organic flaw in the design of the Christie suspension, as shock absorbers
could have been used. The Americans did not mention this shortcoming,
evidently only because at that time their Sherman also did not have shock
absorbers. Incidentally, the Sherman’s suspension was far from perfect, if for
no other reason than because it was blocked. The next generations of Soviet
and American tanks acquired an independent torsion suspension, which is
also the most widely disseminated in contemporary combat vehicles. The KV
tank had that suspension, and it was not by chance that the Americans liked
it so much.

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Engine
The diesel is good and light.
On the whole, American specialists and military agreed on the idea of
employing diesels on tanks, but, unfortunately, all diesel engines manufactured by US factories are used by the Navy, so the Army is deprived of
the opportunity to install diesels on their tanks.
The shortcoming of our diesel is the criminally poor air cleaner on
the T-34.
The Americans think that only a saboteur could design something like
this. They also cannot understand why it is called an oil-bath filter in our
manual.
Tests in the laboratory and under operation show the following:
a) the air cleaner does not, in general, clean the air that gets into the
engine;
b) its throughput capacity does not provide the flow of the necessary
quantity of air, even when the engine is idling.
As a result of this, the engine does not develop full power and the dust
that gets into the cylinders leads to their very rapid wear, compression
drops, and the engine loses even more power.
In addition, the filter has been manufactured extremely primitively
from a mechanical point of view: the metal is burned through in areas
of spot welding, which results in oil leakage, etc.
The filter is better on the KV tank, but even that one does not provide an
adequate flow of sufficiently purified air.
The starters on both engines are poor (low power and unreliable
design).

Let us mention that at that time the Americans sometimes still installed
diesel engines on their tanks, e.g., on the versions of Sherman, which were
delivered to the Soviet Union via Lend-Lease. In their own Army, however,
practically all combat vehicles had gasoline engines, inasmuch as this simplified considerably fuel deliveries to the troops. Moreover, there were not
enough diesels for all who wanted them; therefore, they were delivered
first to the Navy for installation on submarines, minesweepers, landing craft,
motor boats, etc.
The Americans were completely justified in their criticism of the T-34’s
air cleaner. It had an extremely primitive design. The basic filtering element
was a thin, oiled wire—a gimp. This was a simple and cheap but ineffective
technical decision. The air cleaner performed its function unsatisfactorily.
Its quality of air purification strongly depended on the uniformity in the
laying of the gimp. Even when it was most carefully laid, however, without
clearance and thickening, it provides only 79.6 percent air purification with
an air particulate level of 1 g/m3 (TsAMO D. 1712, p. 100). The remaining
rather numerous dust particles got into the engine cylinders and acted as an
abrasive there, causing the cylinder liners and piston rings to wear out. This,
in turn, inevitably resulted in a drop in compression and a sharp increase in

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oil usage. This is what engineers at experimental factory No. 100 of the Soviet
tank industry discovered in 1943–1944 in special tests devoted to studying
the effect of particulate air pollution on the B-2 diesel:

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The dust that is sucked in with the air, consisting, in part, of sharp quartz
particles, which are harder than normal pearlitic cast iron, when mixed
with oil provides an ideal abrasive material, which is the reason for the
rapid wear of the piston rings, the piston cylinder, and suction valves.
This results in a drop in power, an increase in oil and lubricant usage,
and the premature breakdown and repair of the engine (Ust’yantsev and
Kolmakov, p. 50).

Moreover, the dust, which the air cleaner was catching, quickly choked
up the mesh, as a result of which the filter did not allow enough air into the
engine. In the summer it was necessary to clean the gimp with kerosene,
oil it, and change 1–1.5 liter of aviation oil in the air cleaner no fewer than
every 10 hours of engine operation; in the winter, this had to be done every
20–25 hours (Tank T-34, p. 79). In addition, when the air was dust laden
this process had to be repeated every 2–3 hours, which often could not be
done in an actual combat situation. As a result, engines did not develop their
nominal power and failed prematurely. Thus, during the summer campaign
of 1942 some B-2 engines had to be repaired after the first 10–15 hours
of operation in dusty air; they broke down completely after 30–50 hours
(Ust’yantsev and Kolmakov, p. 50). For comparison, on the American tank
M4A3 Sherman issued in 1942, the air cleaner was supposed to be serviced
with oil change after each 400 kilometers, and in dusty conditions, daily
(Technical Manual No. 9-759, p. 26).
There is the opinion that the Aberdeen testers were not able or did not
want to service the air cleaner as suggested, thereby causing the T-34 engine
to break down. This, however, in no way corresponds to reality. Engineer
Matveev was one of the members of the Soviet delegation in Aberdeen.
Among his responsibilities was to teach the Americans how to use the T34 and KV and how to care for them. The Soviet report about the Aberdeen
tests noted that they had never encountered more meticulous and pedantic
tank maintenance technicians than the Americans.
It must be said that the problem with the Pomon-type air cleaner on the
T-34 had been known for a long time. Already in January 1941, at a meeting
with the participation of V. A. Malyshev, who was in charge of the Soviet
tank industry, a decision was made: ‘By 1 July 1941 a new design for an
engine air cleaner has to be developed and installed’. At that point, however, they had no time to deal with this. New centrifugal-type Cyclone air
cleaners, which provided 99.4 percent air purification, began to be installed
only at the very end of 1942 and on T-34s that had been produced at the
Chelyabinsk Kirov Plant, and not even on all of them. They still required
cleaning and lubrication every 3–4 hours under conditions of very dusty air.

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Ultimately, the problem with the filter was resolved only after the appearance of the Multicyclone air cleaner, initially developed for the IS heavy
tanks. It provided practically 100 percent air purification under air particulate level of 3 g/m3 ; in addition it was capable of operating for 8 hours
without maintenance (TsAMO D. 1712, p. 100). In 1944 these filters were
installed on T-34-85s.
Complaints about the low-powered starters can also be explained. The
fact is, starting a diesel engine required greater torque and faster rotation
of the crankshaft than for a carburetor engine of the same power. After all,
the former had a cylinder pressure that was roughly twice as high, and the
moving parts were more massive, meaning they had greater inertia, and it
was necessary to move them quite quickly in order for the air-fuel mixture
to ignite. Therefore, if an electrical starter was used, even a rather powerful
one, the energy in the batteries could be quickly used up if the engine
did not immediately start. In this case, a reserve air system was installed
on the T-34. Its shortcoming was the absence of a compressor on the tank
itself; therefore, it was necessary to fill the system with compressed air from
an external source, and this was not always possible. Compressors were
installed on later generations of Soviet tanks, and the air system for starting
up an engine eventually become primary.
Transmission
Poor, beyond any words.
An interesting event took place: a mechanic repairing the transmission
of the KV tank was struck by the fact that it very much resembled those
transmissions that he had been working on 12-15 years ago.
It had been requested from the firm, United States Wheel Truck Rayes
Corporation, Linden, NJ.
The firm sent drawings of its A-23 transmission. To general surprise,
the drawings of our transmission turned out to be copies of those that had
been sent. The Americans were stunned not by the fact that we had copied
their design, but rather that the design that had been copied was from one
they had rejected 15–20 years ago.
The Americans consider that a tank designer who installed such a
transmission in the tank committed an act of inhuman cruelty directed
towards the driver (hard to work).
The transmission of the T-34 is also very poor. During its usage the teeth
on all the gears completely crumbled out. A chemical analysis of the gear
teeth showed that their heat treatment is very poor and does not meet any
American standards for such parts.

Here, it seems there is also some confusion. Apparently, the aforementioned firm, US Wheel Track Layer Corporation, located in the small town
of Linden, NJ, belonged to J. Walter Christie; however, three typos somehow
appeared in the name. Then, everything fell into place. Evidently, it was not
a matter of the KV transmission, but the T-34’s, which could be rightfully

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called the grandchild of the M.1940 tank, which Christie had developed.
In 1930 he had sold to the USSR two test models of this vehicle, together
with drawings. Of course, the T-34’s transmission had been reinforced, taking into account the substantially increased weight of the tank, but still kept
much in common with its prototype. Therefore, it is in no way surprising
that the American, who was familiar with Christie’s designs, identified it at
first glance.
Thus, the design of the T-34’s transmission was hopelessly outdated.
It had only four forward gears—clearly inadequate for such a heavy vehicle
as the T-34, with external characteristics of its diesel, where the operational
speed range was noticeably smaller than that of the carburetor engine. It was
shifted by sliding the spur gears along the shafts, which was anachronistic
even at that time, when constant mesh gears and synchromesh clutches
for shifting were extensively used in automobile and tank transmissions.
Engaging sliding gears required great skill on the part of the driver; nevertheless, as a rule a shock load did occur. In addition, the working surface of the
teeth was decreased by the lead-in radii, without which it was simply impossible to change gears. Therefore, during operation the teeth experienced a
very high specific load. If we add to this the aforementioned problems with
heat treatment, it becomes obvious why during the Aberdeen tests the gear
teeth crumbled out in the T-34’s transmission. Moreover, is also completely
understandable why Americans mentioned the cruelty regarding the drivers.
They had in mind the extreme efforts necessary to shift gears, which will be
discussed later.
It must be said that the power train was a weak aspect of practically
all tanks of Soviet design in the 1930s and the beginning of the 1940s. Their
design engineers clearly lacked the knowledge and ability to create such
complex assemblies and systems properly. No wonder they tried to take
advantage of foreign experience whenever possible. Therefore, it is in no
way surprising that the transmission of the KV tank had foreign roots as well.
According to statement by N. F. Shashmurin, its main developer, the design
of its transmission was proposed by N. L. Dukhov, the lead designer of this
tank, and approved by Zh. Ia. Kotin, the chief designer of the Kirov Plant.
They took this basic layout from an American magazine; it had been used
on Holt tractors (the predecessor of the well-known company Caterpillar) at
the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, its primitive design also left much
to be desired.
Steering Clutches
Poor beyond criticism. In America several years ago they rejected the
installation of steering clutches, even on tractors (not to mention tanks).
In addition to the fallaciousness of the principle itself, our clutches have
an extremely slipshod machining and low-quality steel, which results in
swift wear and makes it easy for dirt to make through into the drums, and
in no way ensures reliable operation.

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By that time clutch-and-brake steering systems had, indeed, become
obsolete. Together with the simplicity of design, they had serious shortcomings: They required precise adjustment and made it impossible for the energy
of the braking track to be redistributed to the running track. As a result, with
each turn of the tank a braking occurred, and the energy absorbed here
quickly wore out the steering clutches and track brakes, even if they were
of the highest quality. Production defects exacerbated these shortcomings
even more. The next generation of Soviet tanks began to use geared steering
systems instead of clutch-and-brake steering systems.

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General Notes
From the American point of view, the tanks are slow.
Both our tanks climb a gradient better than any American tank.
The welding of the armor plates is extremely crude and sloppy.
The radio sets in laboratory tests turned out to be not bad; however,
thanks to poor shielding and poor protective devices, after their installation in the tanks, because of strong interference from the running engine,
they were unable to maintain normal communications at a distance of
more than ten miles.
They very much liked the compactness of the radio sets and their
apposite placement in the vehicles.
Machining of parts and components is, with rare exceptions, very poor.
The disgusting design and extremely poor operation of the gear selector
lever on the T-34 especially annoyed the Americans; after much agonizing
they made a new one and replaced ours.
All of the tanks’ mechanisms require extremely many adjustments.

At first glance it seems that some strange paradox is hidden here: Why
do Soviet tanks move slower than American ones, but, at the same time,
climb a gradient better than them? After all, the nominal power-to-weight
ratio of the T-34 in 1942 was 17.8 horsepower per ton, while that of the
Sherman was only 13.2. The fact is that the inherent shortcomings of the
power train made it impossible for the T-34 to fully use this power.
The T-34’s transmission was very inconvenient to use. Tanks with a
four-speed gearbox could use fourth gear only when moving on a smooth
road, while on terrain third gear was the maximum. Therefore the average
speed there was only about 25 kilometers per hour. However, shifting gears
while moving required extreme efforts, especially from second to third gear:
The driver had to apply a force of 46–112 kilograms in the first batch of the
vehicles. The radio operator, who in the tank sat to the right of the driver,
had to physically help him to shift gears (Drabkin, p. 26). The gear selector
lever, with whose help this was done and which the Americans did not like
so much, was located just between them, so that it could be moved with
four hands. The reason for such an inconvenience, in addition to the flawed

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design of the transmission itself and the inadequate number of gears, was
the poor choice of gear ratios. After mid-September 1941 the third-gear ratio
was changed, and it made possible to shift gears with an effort of up to
31 kilograms. When moving on rugged terrain requiring frequent gear shifting, however, even this was too tiresome, and, as a rule, the T-34s went into
combat in second gear. Therefore their maximum speed was only 15 kilometers per hour. The new five-speed gearbox was able to fundamentally
resolve this problem. In 1943 this was installed on the T-34, although not
on all of them. The tanks equipped with new transmission were able to
use fourth gear on terrain; thus, their maximum speed immediately doubled
under these conditions.
On the other hand, in climbing a gradient in first gear, the T-34’s superiority over the Sherman in power-to-weight ratio was apparent, even with
the old transmission.
Now about the T-34’s means of communications. Before 1943 the 71TK-3 radio set had been installed there. Nominally it had rather decent range
of operation—18 kilometers when the tank was moving and as much as
25 kilometers when it was standing with engine off. In reality, however, it
could achieve its maximum range merely when operating in telegraph mode,
while only at a range of up to four kilometers could one count on reliable
two-way telephone communications. The radio set was complicated in both
its production and use. Despite the presence of five knobs for tuning, it
was enormously difficult to tune, especially at a long distance and while on
the move because of poor selectivity and insufficient interference protection.
In addition, the 71-TK-3 was pretty bulky: It occupied a volume of around
100 liters (Makarov, p. 18).
Nevertheless, the question arises: Why did the Americans praise it? The
answer is quite simple: A completely different radio set—the 9-R—had been
installed on the T-34 that had been sent to Aberdeen. At that time the British
were renowned for the quality of their radio equipment; therefore, it was
from them that the USSR in 1942 acquired a license. On the basis of this,
by the end of the year the USSR had set up the mass production of 9-Rs,
which provided reliable two-way telephone communications at a range up
to 18 kilometers. The real breakthrough, however, occurred in 1944, when
they began to install it on all T-34-85s, without exception. Before this, in
the best case only the tanks of commanders of platoons, companies, and
higher had been outfitted with radio sets. As a rule, regular tanks had neither
transmitters nor even receivers. If one takes into consideration the fact that
the T-34 commander also carried out the duties of gunner, and that the field
of view out of it, as mentioned earlier, was very restricted, then it becomes
clear how difficult it was to organize effective coordination among tanks on
the battlefield.
We have already mentioned the reasons for the low quality of Soviet
tanks’ parts and components. One can add that in 1942, for understandable

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reasons, this quality was at its lowest level for the entire war. Later it began
to steadily increase as a result of the enormous efforts of Soviet designers,
technicians, and manufacturers. By the end of the war the newly issued T-34s
were able of completing forced marches of 500 kilometers, which was far
beyond the capability of majority of their predecessors at the beginning of
the war. Lend-Lease deliveries of equipment, technologies, machine tools,
instruments, and materials played no small role there as well. It was just
as important that by that time the Soviet tankers have learned to pay much
more attention to the maintenance of their vehicles than at the beginning of
the war.

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Conclusions—Suggestions
1. Immediately replace the air cleaners on both tanks with the ones
having greater filtering capacity and better efficiency.
2. Change the technology for tempering armor plates. This will increase
their resistance to penetration with the same thickness or decrease the
weight (and, consequently, the consumption of metal) by reducing the
thickness.
3. Make the tracks heavier.
4. Replace the existing transmission of obsolete design with the
American ‘Final Drive’. This will significantly increase the tanks’
maneuverability.
5. Accordingly, abandon the use of steering clutches.
6. Simplify the design of small components, increase their reliability, and
decrease the necessity of a large number of adjustments as much as
possible.
7. Comparing American and Russian tanks, it is obvious that driving the
latter is much harder.
Great skill is required of the Russian driver to change gears on
the move; also required are particular experience in using steering
clutches and great experience as a mechanic to maintain the tank in
serviceable condition (adjustment and repair of components that are
constantly breaking down), which makes the training of tank drivers
very complicated.
8. Judging by the samples, when producing tanks Russians pay little attention to accuracy of machining, finishing, and technology of small parts
and components, which leads to the loss of all advantages that result
from the generally well-thought-out design of the tanks.
9. Despite the advantages of using a diesel engine, the good shape
of the tanks, thick armor, good and reliable armament, successful
design of the tracks, etc., Russian tanks are significantly inferior to
American tanks with regard to simplicity of driving, maneuverability,
fire power, speed, reliability of mechanical devices, and simplicity of
adjustments.

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We have already discussed all these points, but it is necessary to mention
that they were not some kind of revelation to Soviet specialists. Practically
all the shortcomings of the T-34 that the Americans described had already
been known for a long time. On 6 November 1940 S. K. Timoshenko,
People’s Commissar of Defense, wrote to K. E. Voroshilov, Chairman of
the Council of People’s Commissars’ Defense Committee, enumerating in
nine points changes he proposed to introduce into the design of the T-34.
They concerned increasing the size of the tank crew, widening the field of
vision, improving means of communication, reliability enhancement, changing the suspension to torsion and the transmission to epicyclic (Zheltov et
al., Neizvestnyi T-34, pp. 28-29). The reason for the letter was the results of
military tests of the prototypes and early production tanks. The list of complaints from the Soviet military coincided, for the most part, with those of
the Americans. As a result, the acceptance of the T-34 was temporarily halted
until the most critical shortcomings were eliminated, and the development
of the design for the T-34M (factory number A-43) began. They intended to
introduce many fundamental improvements on it: doubling the number of
gears in the transmission, using individual torsion suspension, widening the
turret ring diameter to 1,700 millimeters, and introducing a gunner into the
crew, thereby freeing the commander from this responsibility. The latter was
also supposed to get a commander’s cupola. It was planned to manufacture
this modernized tank instead of the T-34 starting in January 1942; however,
the war thwarted all these plans (Svirin, Esli by voyna povremenila, p. 3).
The logic of an unprecedentedly fierce war, with the use of enormous
amounts of military equipment and with its colossal losses, dictated completely different solutions, often departing from those that were suitable for
peacetime. It was necessary to choose between producing better tanks, but in
smaller quantities and with some delay, or producing as many tanks as possible that, despite all their shortcomings, could be built immediately, when
they were so sorely needed. The choice was clear: The front could not wait
and survive on promises and hopes for a better future. After all, for many
soldiers on the front lines there might not be a better future if they did not
have enough military materiel capable of opposing the enemy’s weaponry.
A bitter war of attrition was underway, and in such a war Germany, ceding much to the Allies with regard to human and material resources, had
little chance of success. It was namely the understanding that they could not
keep pace with their enemies regarding the quantity of weapons produced
that forced the Germans to try to outdo them in quality and in the development of miracle weapons capable of turning the tide of the war in their favor.
Among tanks, this role was assigned to the Tigers and Panthers. However,
no outstanding combat characteristics of these vehicles could compensate
for their small numbers. There were also flaws in their design; after all, the
Germans had no time to perfect them, as a result of which these tanks were
thrown into battle ‘undercooked’, with all the ensuing consequences.

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In producing weapons, at that time the US mainly stressed quantity, as
did the USSR. Americans, however, were able to provide much higher quality
in their military products. The Sherman, the most mass-produced American
medium tank, was built in numbers comparable to the T-34 in 1942–1945 but
exceeded the latter sixfold in mean time between failures. In 1943, however,
when it became clear that the Sherman noticeably lagged behind the new
German tanks in fire power, the Americans took only half-way measures to
eliminate this. Starting in 1944 they began to install on the Sherman a new,
more powerful 76 mm gun, with a much longer barrel than the old 75 mm,
and provided it with HVAP shells with a high muzzle velocity. This, of course,
made it possible for the American tankers to engage the enemy at greater
distances than before. Nevertheless, the Tigers and Panthers were still able
to penetrate the Sherman’s armor from afar, while remaining invulnerable
to its shells. Installing on the Sherman the new 90 mm gun, whose armor
penetration capability with the HVAP shell was as good as that of the German
88 mm King Tiger gun, would have been significantly more effective. It was
technically possible to install it in the modified Sherman turret, but this was
not done so as not to lower production tempo (Hunnicutt, p. 212). As a
result, the 90 mm gun appeared on US tanks only at the end of the war,
when the production of the Pershing began.
Once again we must stop at the reasons for the T-34’s technical shortcomings, especially its low reliability. There were many reasons, and they
can be divided into production, technology, and design. It is easy to explain
the first two groups by the very difficult situation in which the USSR found
itself at the beginning of the war. The hasty evacuation of hundreds of factories, the lack of production ties, the loss of enormous human and material
resources and raw materials, the organization of production under new, often
ill-suited conditions, accompanied by shortages in a large number of things
necessary for production, especially qualified personnel, all were factors that
even individually, let alone all taken together, in no way could contribute
to increasing the quality of production or even maintain it at a pre-war
level. Deviation from optimal technologies here was inevitable, often simply
because of inability to use them. After all, designs are usually developed taking into account the specific material base available for manufacturing them;
however, in the case of a loss of this base or sharp changes in it, it was necessary to adapt to new conditions somehow, find needed ways out of very
difficult situations, compromise, and make improvised decisions, which are
rarely the best, especially in a situation where the lack of time and resources
is most acute. Therefore, no one will raise a hand to throw stones at people
who, lacking sleep and food, often sick, in heat and cold, in rain and snow,
and sometimes even under enemy bombings, were still able to provide the
front with tens of thousands of fearsome T-34s.
However, it must be admitted that a significant portion of the T-34’s
shortcomings were put into its designs from the very beginning. It was

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developed at the end of the 1930s; therefore, one cannot write off its flaws
to the war, and responsibility for this must be laid on the tank designers.
Let us try to puzzle out this complicated issue. It is well known that M. I.
Koshkin, N. A. Kucherenko, and A. A. Morozov were in charge of the development of the T-34. Who were these men, what knowledge and experience
did they have at the time, under what conditions were they working, and
what contribution did they make to this project?
M. I. Koshkin was born on 3 December 1898 in a small village
near Yaroslavl. After studying at the Sverdlov Communist University in
1921–1924 he did Party work in Viatka. He became an engineer rather late:
It was only in 1934 that he graduated from Leningrad Polytechnic Institute,
after which he worked as a design engineer, secretary of the Party bureau,
and deputy chief of the design bureau at the Kirov Leningrad Experimental
Mechanical Engineering Plant. He was involved in design work for only
2.5 years, participating in the development of the T-29 and T-46-5 tanks.
Both these vehicles were built as test models but were not mass produced.
On 28 December 1936 Koshkin was sent to Kharkov to Factory No. 183;
he was immediately assigned the position of chief designer of Tank Design
Bureau No. 190. The only project that he directly led there—the BT-9 tank—
was abandoned because of inconsistency with the specification and major
technical errors. For example, the suspension arms of the tank’s support
rollers were directed forward, and not, as is proper, to the rear (Kolomiets,
pp. 15–16). Nevertheless, judging by the recollections of his colleagues, the
attitude of the design team toward Koshkin was one of great respect. He
was the project leader, organized its work, ‘pushed it through’ to the higher
leadership, and, what was especially important at that time, successfully protected his people from unjustified repression and was even able to secure
the release of some who had been arrested earlier. However, Koshkin did
not distinguish himself with high technical qualifications.
N. A. Kucherenko was also very young. He was born on 6 January
1908, so that he was barely 30 when he began working on the future T-34.
In 1930 he graduated from Kharkov Institute of Transportation Engineers.
He was an excellent specialist in the field of production and made a valuable contribution to the development of the T-34. For the most part, thanks
to specifically his service, this tank was so manufacturable and simple to
produce that it was possible to organize its large-scale serial production
promptly at several factories under the most difficult of wartime conditions and make it the most mass-produced tank of the Second World
War. Kucherenko mainly implemented ties between the design bureau and
production.
The principal weight of resolving the numerous engineering problems associated with the design of the T-34 rested on the shoulders of
A. A. Morozov. He was a talented, self-educated person. He was born
on 29 October 1904, and after graduating from a realschule, he began

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working at the Kharkov Locomotive Factory, first as a clerk, then as a
copier and a draftsman. Having served in the army as an aviation technicianmechanic, he returned to the factory as a designer in the tank design group.
In 1929–1931 he studied evenings at the Kharkov Engineering Technical
School, but he finally received his engineering degree only in the 1950s.
Morozov was chief of the power train section for the BT-20 tank in the experimental design bureau under the leadership of A. Ia. Dik, and then became
lead engineer for the A-20 and A-32 projects in Design Bureau No. 24,
headed by Koshkin. During Koshkin’s long-lasting illness Morozov continually replaced him, and after the former’s untimely death on 26 September
1940, Morozov justifiably was appointed to the position of chief designer at
Factory No. 183. Morozov was undoubtedly a man of extraordinary talent
and possessed enormous work capability. However, this could not make up
for the knowledge and experience that he lacked at that time.
So how could it happen that the men who were assigned to the
development of the T-34, which was going to become the backbone of the
Soviet tank forces during the imminent war, were not, frankly, prepared
for this? First and foremost, no one knew then that such a glorious fate
would fall on the T-34. The best Soviet tank design engineers were at
that time concentrated in Leningrad—N. V. Barykov, S. A. Ginzburg, N. L.
Dukhov, Zh. Ia.Kotin, L. S. Troianov, N. V. Tseits, and many other talented,
educated, and experienced designers were working there. In Kharkov
a small, provincial design bureau was in operation, mainly dealing with
engineering support for the production of the BT series tank, the license
for whose prototype was purchased on 28 April 1930 from the American
inventor Christie (Zheltov et al., Tanki BT , p. 4). The bureau had gradually
improved the original model along the line of the BT-2, BT-5, BT-7, and
BT-7M; however, the majority of the new designs created there were, in
the best case, built only as experimental models. They failed to bring them
to mass production; after all, the Kharkov Locomotive Factory was sorely
lacking in competent specialists. I. N. Alekseenko, the founder and first
leader of the Kharkov tank design group, had left to work in Leningrad,
although he never particularly distinguished himself there. In 1931 he was
replaced by A. O. Firsov, and the group was transformed in a design bureau
(Veretennikov et al., pp. 23–24). The repressions exacerbated the problem
of staff shortage even further. Over the entire period of the bureau’s activity
its workers were arrested from time to time, being accused of sabotage
for their common mistakes and lapses. The new wave of repression in
1937 swept away many, including I. P. Bondarenko (the director of the
factory) and Firsov (not only the head of the design bureau, but also the
most knowledgeable and experienced engineer there).
In August 1937 Factory No. 183 was assigned to develop and produce a
new convertible wheel/track tank. In order to carry out this important task
it was decided to reinforce the Kharkov collective with qualified personnel
and to send there a large group of graduates from the Military Academy

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of Mechanization and Motorization, headed by A. Ia. Dik. On the basis of
this group and the best factory designers allocated to him, Dik formed and
headed a separate design bureau, directly subordinated to the factory’s Chief
Engineer, bypassing its Chief Designer Koshkin. The preliminary design of
the tank, designated as BT-20, was developed with a delay of a month and
a half. Someone wrote an anonymous report about Dik; he was arrested,
accused of preventing the fulfillment of the government task and missing
the deadline, and was sentenced to 10 years in the labor camps. His bureau
was disbanded.
The completion of the task was assigned to Koshkin, who organized
a new special design bureau for this, later designated KB-24. He was not
provided with new specialists, but was assigned, in addition to the convertible wheel/track BT-20, to develop its purely tracked version. Koshkin and
his team had just seen with their own eyes the sad consequences of not
completing the task in time. Therefore, in this situation they had no other
recourse than to maximally make use of the engineering solutions made for
the BT series tanks. It would have been too risky to attempt to find and
develop fundamentally new designs, taking into account the lack of knowledge and experience of the Kharkovites, not to mention that there simply
was not enough time for this.
As a result, the T-34 was principally distinguished from the BT-7M only
in the new form of the body and turret, the thickness of the armor, weapons,
and its tracked-only running gear. The majority of its components and assemblies basically were strengthened analogues of its predecessor. As we recall,
the prototype of the BT was the Christie tank, which had been developed in
the 1920s and was almost a third lighter than the BT-7M. Each engineering
solution has its own limit of employment, and they came right up to these
limits on the BT-7M; and, after all, the T-34 was almost twice as heavy as
the latter. We have already seen what the use of the four-speed transmission
in the T-34 resulted in. One more example of blind copying was its final
drives. Its author had the simple task of designing a heavy duty reduction
gear with a ratio of 5.7. The production capabilities of the factory dictated
the employment of standard spur gears for this. Under these conditions the
high gear ratio required the use of at least a double-reduction gear. The
T-34’s final drive, however, employed the design borrowed from the BT, i.e.,
only single-reduction gear. In order for it to fit into the given space it was
necessary to reduce the number of teeth of the lead gear to 10. However,
as every student in a mechanical engineering school learns, the gear teeth
with a standard profile are undercut when number of them is fewer than
17. It was exactly what happened with the teeth of the driving gear of the
T-34’s final drive, having weakened them in the most critical section. As a
result, the final drives were still ones of the T-34’s most unreliable components. From 1 January to 25 August 1942 alone there were 188 documented
cases of their breakdown; moreover this occurred with tanks produced at all
factories (Zheltov et al., Neizvestnyi T-34, p. 52). Thus, the reason here was
not an accidental faulty production, but a general shortcoming of the design.

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The lack of necessary knowledge and experience was not a fault, but
rather a misfortune of the T-34 originators. However, they did not just stand
still, but rather worked avidly and learned from their mistakes. This especially applied to Morozov himself. His next tank, the T-44, was much more
advanced in its design in comparison with the T-34, but it was still not distinguished by its high reliability and durability; therefore, it was not produced
in large numbers, although it was officially put into army service. Very soon,
however, it was replaced by the T-54, an outstanding (for its time) combat vehicle in all respects: powerful, inexpensive, and reliable. It is not by
chance that the T-54s/55s and their numerous modifications were produced
in various countries to the tune of more than 100,000 units. This is a record
number of tanks for all times and all nations. By that time Chief Designer
Morozov and his entire team had under their belts enormous experience in
the development, production, and mass employment of both the T-34 and
many other tanks during the Second World War. The experience was not only
positive, but also negative, which is also very useful. However, even having
this invaluable experience and having learned much during this period, they
needed years to make the T-54 the reliable vehicle that we know today.
Its first experimental model began its testing in March 1945 but was ultimately put into serial production only in 1949. The designers of the T-34,
unfortunately, had neither this experience, not this knowledge, nor this time.
They were, however, successful in another area: The T-34’s chassis had
enough reserves with respect to weight and volume to make it possible
to improve the design of its individual components and assemblies relatively simply and in a short time, without fundamentally remaking the entire
vehicle and, thus, without reducing the tempo of tank production. For example, the five-speed transmission was made completely interchangeable with
the four-speed one. The T-34-85 was more than 20 percent heavier than
first issues of the T-34, but this did not affect its running gear, and the its
dynamic performance diminished only insignificantly. It was namely because
of these reserves that they managed to continuously adapt the T-34 to the
rapidly changing demands of the war and maintain its production for its
entire period.
We have already mentioned the simplicity of the T-34’s design as something that could not be more suitable to the limited capabilities of Soviet
industry at that time. This feature also substantially facilitated both its production and repair under field conditions. Another quality of no little importance
was the ease with which the tank was mastered. This made it possible to train
T-34 crews in adequate numbers in a very short time, which supported the
tremendous production of this vehicle. In addition, the qualification requirements of these crews were in complete accord with the educational and
technical level of the manpower the Red Army had at its disposal at that time.
One should not forget that the requirements for quality, reliability, and
durability of a combat vehicle are different in peacetime than in wartime.
While in peacetime one should be able to count on a long usage period for

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tanks, in wartime they are essentially expendable materiel. Their quality level
can be reduced to an acceptable minimum within the limits of the expected
life cycle. However, it is possible to increase their production because of the
obtained savings in labor and scarce materials. After the war, however, these
tanks must be modernized so as to raise their reliability and durability to a
level that is high enough for their continued use in peacetime. In the USSR
the program for such postwar modernization was called UKN.8 From 1945 to
1966 thousands of tanks and self-propelled guns of wartime production,
including the T-34, passed through it (Svirin, Tankovaya mosch SSSR, p. 566).
As a result of UKN, the T-34’s warranty mileage reached 2,000 kilometers,
and not only on paper, but in fact. This program made it possible to prolong
their life and save tremendously on resources necessary for their replacement
by new tanks.
In conclusion, it is appropriate to cite excerpts from the official report
of the Aberdeen specialists on the T-34 testing. Without shutting their eyes
to its shortcomings, they had many good words to say about it:
The medium Russian T-34 tank is basically a good tank, convenient for
mass production by a semi-qualified working force. . . . The following
are several distinguishing features of this tank:
1. Low silhouette with an acceptable outer appearance.
2. Simplicity of design.
3. Good cross-country capability. . . .
The choice of angles of slope for the body’s and turret’s armor plates
indicates superior resistance to penetration (Bakhmetov et al., pp. 25–26).

This flattering assessment best coincides with comments British testers
made about this tank at about the same time. They are contained in their
preliminary report, written while they were studying the Aberdeen T-34’s
twin brother, which had been sent to England:
The design shows a clear-headed appreciation of the essentials of an
effective tank and the requirements of war, duly adjusted to the particular characteristics of the Russian soldier, the terrain and the manufacturing
facilities available. When it is considered how recently Russia has become
industrialized and how great a proportion of the industrialized regions
have been over-run by the enemy, with the consequent loss or hurried
evacuation of plant and workers, the design and production of such useful tanks in such great numbers stands out as an engineering achievement
of the first magnitude (Preliminary Report 20 II).

One cannot fail to agree with these words of the USSR’s allies in the
anti-Hitler coalition.
8

‘Elimination of design shortcomings’ (ustranenie konstruktivnykh nedostatkov).

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