Soviet tanks in WWII: The fatal cost of errors




 
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May 24th, 2016  
MontyB
 
 

Topic: Soviet tanks in WWII: The fatal cost of errors


Soviet tanks in WWII: The fatal cost of errors

May 17, 2016 Alexander Vershinin, special to RBTH
The organization of modern armed forces is an extremely complicated objective. Russia's experience with the operation in Syria clearly demonstrates how serious this challenge is. However, in this case Russia is learning from its mistakes – 75 years ago these errors almost led the USSR and its army to ruin.



Soviet troops following heavy KV tanks. The Western Front. May 13, 1942. Source: Samariy Gurariy/RIA Novosti

In terms of quality and quantity, the Soviet armored tank forces at the beginning of WWII were one of the strongest in the world. The figures speak for themselves: In 1941 there were more than 25,000 tanks in the Red Army.
In comparison, Germany had assembled only about 4,000 tanks before its invasion of the USSR, which is three times fewer than the number of armored vehicles that the Soviet Union had in its border zone.
Specialists rightly point to the fact that a large part of the Soviet machines were out of date or supposed to be written off. But even what remained was impressive in its power. Stalin had at his disposal more than 1,500 new KV and T-34 tanks, which were superior to the German tanks in a number of different parameters.
Soviet tanks T-34 are pictured in the outskirts of Berlin. April 21, 1945. Source: TASS
This entire tank armada was organized in 20 motorized corps, each of which was like a separate army. Formally, the Germans had nothing similar: Each of their motorized corps had slightly over 1,000 tanks of various types and 35,000 servicemen. If everything had been decided by figures alone, than five such Soviet armies would have been enough to counter all the Wehrmacht’s armored tanks on the Eastern Front.
The strength and weakness of the motorized corps

But the motorized corps turned out to be as ineffective as they were menacing. Gigantomania did the USSR a disservice here – a large number of tanks in a subdivision meant that they did not have high combat capability. The components of the motorized corps were unbalanced and the hurriedness with which they were deployed led to the fact that the subdivisions had different numbers and types of tanks. The motorized corps clearly lacked cars and tractors, which inevitably influenced the tanks' maneuverability. And the crews' training left much to be desired.
Soviet troops heading straight to the front lines after the historical parade held on Moscow's Red Square on November 7, 1941. Source: Anatoliy Garanin/RIA Novosti
For the sake of fairness, it is necessary to say that the tactics of the tanks' military use on the eve of WWII was a difficult challenge for all the large armies in the world. The most successful were the Germans, having created the effective Panzerwaffe, whose basic unit was the tank division, the main instrument of the Blitzkrieg.
In terms of tank numbers, the Panzerwaffe was five times smaller than the Soviet motorized corps, but it was much more effective thanks to a more balanced composition and a high degree of motorization. The German tank division included a mobile motor-infantry and special stress was placed on the anti-tank artillery.
The cost of organizational mistakes

The battles of 1941 demonstrated the price of the organizational mistakes made by the creators of the Soviet armored vehicle forces. The powerful motorized corps were utterly destroyed, and the Red Army's attempt to deal the Wehrmacht a counterblow in Ukraine turned into a catastrophe.
By the end of June the Soviet forces had lost 4,300 pieces there, which was 75 percent of the starting amount, while the Germans lost just 250. Most of the losses were irretrievable. The main reason for the losses were the motorized corps' structural limitations, which turned them into unwieldy armadas, vulnerable in clashes with an experienced enemy.
The Kursk Bulge, July 1943. Reserve troops are moving to front. Source: Fedor Levshin/RIA Novosti
However, the Soviet tank drivers demonstrated their heroism everywhere they could. One of the feats that went down in history was that of D. Lavrinenko, who in November 1941 destroyed seven German tanks in the course of one battle. And yet the human factor could not compensate for the profound organizational mistakes. Two difficult years were needed to fix them.


https://rbth.com/defence/armed_by_ru...-errors_593733
May 25th, 2016  
JOC
 
 
I was under the impression that the T-34 didn't start to show up in any number until the later part of the battle of Moscow?
May 26th, 2016  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JOC
I was under the impression that the T-34 didn't start to show up in any number until the later part of the battle of Moscow?
Probably true in terms of concentrated numbers of T-34 but there were at least 1000-1500 in operation when the war began and the first reported encounter between German armour and the T-34 was June 22 1941 (second day of the invasion).

The T-34 must have been entering mass production in 1940 as there were at least 400 of the model 1940s made before they switched to the 1941 model.
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May 27th, 2016  
I3BrigPvSk
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MontyB
Probably true in terms of concentrated numbers of T-34 but there were at least 1000-1500 in operation when the war began and the first reported encounter between German armour and the T-34 was June 22 1941 (second day of the invasion).

The T-34 must have been entering mass production in 1940 as there were at least 400 of the model 1940s made before they switched to the 1941 model.
The Russian doctrine about using armor changed rapidly after the shortcomings in the early stage of the war. The Russians used the tanks as a support to the infantry in the beginning of the entire thing. That didn't work out so well. Nonetheless, the T-34/76 was a superb tank and when the Russians got things working according to the doctrine and in numbers, the Germans were in trouble.
May 27th, 2016  
JOC
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by I3BrigPvSk
The Russian doctrine about using armor changed rapidly after the shortcomings in the early stage of the war. The Russians used the tanks as a support to the infantry in the beginning of the entire thing. That didn't work out so well. Nonetheless, the T-34/76 was a superb tank and when the Russians got things working according to the doctrine and in numbers, the Germans were in trouble.

Germany was also in trouble because of sheer numbers of Red Army Tanks. The SU manufactured (I'm going on memory) ~ 60 K, T-34's. The Germans made a total of 1800 tigers and about ~ 6 K panthers which were superior machines. But the quality could not make up for the quantity. Not to mention the ~ 50 K
Sherman's the Germans faced on the western fronts. The situation for Germany became hopeless as it was outnumbered in both men and equipment.

Yes the Red Army got it together to a far better degree but it was still their numbers particularly at the point of attacks that won them their victories after Stalingrad - Kursk.
May 28th, 2016  
I3BrigPvSk
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JOC
Germany was also in trouble because of sheer numbers of Red Army Tanks. The SU manufactured (I'm going on memory) ~ 60 K, T-34's. The Germans made a total of 1800 tigers and about ~ 6 K panthers which were superior machines. But the quality could not make up for the quantity. Not to mention the ~ 50 K
Sherman's the Germans faced on the western fronts. The situation for Germany became hopeless as it was outnumbered in both men and equipment.

Yes the Red Army got it together to a far better degree but it was still their numbers particularly at the point of attacks that won them their victories after Stalingrad - Kursk.
The Russian expression was and through out the cold war. The quantity is quality, and that is pretty much true during the war as well. The T-34/76 and the updated versions were really good and according to the Russian philosophy, make it simple and make it work. In addition to that, make a lot of it. During the early stages of the war, the Russians faced the problems of decapitating their own higher echelon of officers, one survived the thing and that was Zhukov.
 


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