The Full Wiki

T-34: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

The T-34 was a Sovietmarker medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II. First produced at the KhPZ factory in Kharkov (Kharkivmarker, Ukrainian SSR), it was the mainstay of Soviet armoured forces throughout World War II, and widely exported afterwards. It was the most-produced tank of the war, and the second most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55 series (Harrison 2002). In 1996, the T-34 was still in service with at least twenty-seven countries.

The T-34 was developed from the BT series of fast tanks and was intended to replace both the BT-5 and BT-7 tanks and the T-26 infantry tank in service (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:66, 111). At its introduction, it was the tank with the best balanced attributes of firepower, mobility, protection and ruggedness, although initially its battlefield effectiveness suffered from the unsatisfactory ergonomic layout of its crew compartment, scarcity of radios, and poor tactical employment. The two-man turret-crew arrangement required the commander to serve as the gunner, an arrangement common to most Soviet tanks of the day; this proved to be inferior to three-man (commander, gunner and loader) turret crews.

The design and construction of the tank were continuously refined during the war to enhance effectiveness and decrease costs, allowing steadily greater numbers of T-34s to be fielded. In early 1944, the improved T-34-85 was introduced, with a more powerful 85 mm gun and a three-man turret design. By the war's end in 1945, the versatile and cost-effective T-34 had replaced many light and heavy tanks in service, and accounted for the majority of Soviet tank production. Its evolutionary development led directly to the T-54/55 series of tanks, built until 1981 and still operational .

Production history

Revolutionary design

“We had nothing comparable.” —Friedrich von Mellenthin (Panzer Battles)

In 1939 the most numerous Soviet tank models were the T-26 light tank, and the BT series of fast tanks. The T-26 was a slow-moving infantry tank, designed to keep pace with soldiers on the ground. The BT tanks were cavalry tanks, very fast-moving light tanks, designed to fight other tanks but not infantry. Both were thinly armoured, proof against small arms but not anti-tank rifles and 37 mm anti-tank guns, and their gasoline-fueled engines (commonly used in tank designs throughout the world in those days) were liable to burst into flames "at the slightest provocation" (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:111). Both were Soviet developments of foreign designs from the early 1930s: the T-26 was based on the British Vickers 6-Ton, and the BT tanks were based on a design from American engineer Walter Christie.

In 1937, the Red Army assigned the engineer Mikhail Koshkin to lead a new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ) in Kharkiv. The prototype tank, designated A-20, was specified with of armour, a 45 mm (1.8 in) gun, and the new model V-2 engine, using less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12 configuration. It also had an 8×6-wheel convertible drive similar to the BT tank's 8×2, which allowed it to run on wheels without caterpillar tracks (Zheltov 1999). This feature had greatly saved on maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank track of the early 1930s, and allowed tanks to travel over 85 km/h (53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat. By then, the designers considered it a waste of space and weight (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:66, 111). The A-20 also incorporated previous research (BT-IS and BT-SW-2 projects) into sloped armour: its all-round sloped armour plates were more likely to deflect anti-armour rounds than perpendicular armour.

A-8 (BT-7M), A-20, T-34 Model 1940, T-34 Model 1941

Koshkin convinced Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to let him develop a second prototype, a more heavily armed and armoured "universal tank" which could replace both the T-26 and the BT tanks. The second prototype Koshkin named A-32, after its of frontal armour. It also had a 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, and the same model V-2 diesel engine (Zaloga 1994:5). Both were tested in field trial at Kubinkamarker in 1939, and the heavier A-32 proved to be as mobile as the A-20. A still heavier version of the A-32 with of front armour and wider tracks was approved for production as the T-34. Koshkin chose the name after the year 1934 when he began to formulate his ideas about the new tank, and to commemorate the decree expanding the armoured force and the appointment of Sergo Ordzhonikidze to head tank production (Zaloga 1994:6).

Koshkin's team completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometre (1,250 mi) drive from Kharkivmarker to Moscowmarker for a demonstration for the Kremlinmarker leaders, to the Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to Kharkiv via Minskmarker and Kievmarker (Zaloga 1994:6). Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and corrected (Zaloga & Grandsen 1983:6). Resistance from the military command and concerns about high production cost were finally overridden by anxieties about the poor performance of Soviet tanks in Finland and the effectiveness of Germany's Blitzkrieg in France, and the first production tanks were completed in September 1940, completely replacing the production of the T-26, BT, and the multi-turreted T-28 medium tank at the KhPZ. Koshkin died of pneumonia at the end of that month (exacerbated by the drive from Kharkov to Moscow), and the T-34's drivetrain developer, Alexander Morozov, was appointed Chief Designer.

The T-34 had the coil-spring Christie suspension of the BT, using a "slack track" tread system with a rear-mounted drive sprocket and no system of return rollers for the upper run of track, but dispensed with the weighty and ineffective convertible drive. It had well-sloped armour, a relatively powerful engine and wide tracks. The initial version had a 76.2 mm gun, and is often called the T-34/76 (originally a World War II German designation). In 1944 a second major version began production, the T-34-85 (or T-34/85), with a larger turret mounting a larger 85 mm gun.

Establishing and maintaining production

The T-34 posed new challenges for Soviet industry. It had heavier armour than any medium tank produced to that point, and subassemblies originated at several plants: Kharkov Diesel Factory No. 75 supplied the model V-2 engine, Leningrad Kirovsky Factorymarker (former Putilov works) made the original L-11 gun, and the Dinamo Factory in Moscow produced electrical components. Tanks were initially built at KhPZ No. 183, in early 1941 at the Stalingrad Tractor Factory (STZ), and starting in July shortly after the German invasion at Krasnoye Sormovo Factory No.marker 112marker in Gorkymarker. There were problems with defective armour plates, however (Zaloga 1983:6). Due to a shortage of new V-2 diesel engines, the initial production run from the Gorky factory were equipped with the BT tank's MT-17 gasoline-burning aircraft engine, and inferior transmission and clutch (Zheltov 2001:40–42). Only company commanders' tanks could be fitted with radios, which were expensive and in short supply. The L-11 gun did not live up to expectations, so the Grabin design bureau at Gorky Factory No. 92 designed a superior F-34 76.2 mm gun. No bureaucrat would approve production, but Gorky and KhPZ started producing the gun anyway; official permission only came from Stalin's State Defense Committee after troops in the field sent back praise for the gun's performance (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:130).

Political pressure came from conservative elements in the army to redirect resources into building the older T-26 and BT tanks, or to cancel T-34 production pending completion of the more advanced T-34M design. This political pressure was brought to bear by the developer of the KV-1 and IS-2 tanks which were in competition with the T-34. (Political pressure between designers and factories producing different tanks to meet the same requirements continued much later post-war, including a period when the T-55, T-64, T-72, and T-80 were in concurrent production at several factories with differing political patrons on the supreme council of the USSR [Sewell 1998].) Germany's surprise attack against the Soviet Union in June 22, 1941 (Operation Barbarossa) forced the Soviet Union to freeze further development, and shift into full production of tanks.

Germany's rapid advances forced the evacuation of tank factories to the Ural mountainsmarker, an undertaking of unprecedented scale and haste. KhPZ was re-established around the Dzherzhinski Ural Railcar Factory in Nizhny Tagilmarker, renamed Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183. The Kirovsky Factory was evacuated just weeks before Leningrad was surrounded, and moved with the Kharkov Diesel Factory to the Stalin Tractor Factory in Chelyabinskmarker, soon to be nicknamed Tankograd ('Tank City'). Voroshilov Tank Factory No. 174 from Leningrad was incorporated into the Ural Factory and the new Omsk Factory No. 174. The Ordzhonikidze Ural Heavy Machine Tool Works (UZTM) in Sverdlovskmarker absorbed several small factories. While these factories were being moved at record speed, the industrial complex surrounding the Stalingrad Tractor Factory produced forty percent of all T-34s (Zaloga & Grandsen 1983:13). As the factory became surrounded by heavy fighting in the Battle of Stalingradmarker, the situation there grew desperate: manufacturing innovations were necessitated by material shortages, and stories persist that unpainted T-34 tanks were driven out of the factory into the battlefields around it (Zaloga & Sarson 1994:23). Stalingrad kept up production until September 1942.

Barring this interruption, the only changes allowed on the production lines were to make the tanks simpler and cheaper to produce. New methods were developed for automated welding and hardening the plate, including innovations by Prof. Evgeny Paton. The design of the 76.2 mm F-34 gun Model 1941 was reduced from the earlier model's 861 parts to only 614 (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:131). Over two years, the production cost of the tank was reduced from 269,500 ruble in 1941, to 193,000, and then to 135,000 (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:131). Production time was cut in half by the end of 1942, even though most experienced factory workers had been sent to the battlefield and replaced by a workforce that included 50% women, 15% boys and 15% invalids and old men. At the same time T-34s, which had been "beautifully crafted machines with excellent exterior finish comparable or superior to those in Western Europe or America" were much more roughly finished, although mechanical reliability was not compromised (Zaloga & Grandsen 1983:17).


“The technological pace-setter of World War II tank design” —Steven Zaloga et al. (1997:3)

In 1942 a new hexagonal turret design, derived from the abandoned T-34M project, entered production, improving the cramped conditions, and eventually adding a commander's cupola for all-round vision. Limited rubber supplies led to the adoption of steel-rimmed road wheels, and a new clutch was added to the improved five-speed transmission and engine.

After German tanks with the superior long 75 mm (2.95 in) gun were fielded in 1942, Morozov's design bureau began a project to design an advanced T-43, aimed at increasing armour protection, while adding modern features like torsion-bar suspension and a three-man turret. The T-43 was intended to be a universal tank to replace both the T-34 and the KV-1 heavy tank, developed in direct competition with a Chelyabinsk heavy tank design bureau's KV-13 project (Zaloga et al. 1997:5).

In 1943 the Soviets encountered the new German Tiger and Panther tanks. Experience at the Battle of Kurskmarker and reports from front-line commanders indicated that the T-34's 76.2 mm gun was now inadequate. An existing 85 mm (3.3 in) antiaircraft gun was identified which was effective against the new German tanks, and could be adapted to tank use (Russian Battlefield 1998b). Unfortunately, the T-43 prototype's heavier armour was still not proof against the Tiger's 88 mm gun, and its mobility was found to be inferior to the T-34's, even before installing a heavier 85 mm gun. Although it shared over 70% of its components with the T-34, a commitment to manufacturing it would have required a significant slow-down in production (Zaloga et al. 1997:5).

In consequence the T-43 was cancelled, and the Soviet command made the difficult decision to retool the factories to produce a new model of T-34 with a turret ring enlarged from 1,425 mm (56 in) to 1,600 mm (63 in), allowing a larger turret to be fitted. The T-43's turret design was hurriedly adapted by V. Kerichev at the Krasnoye Sormovo Factorymarker to fit the T-34 (Zaloga 1984:166). The resulting new T-34-85 tank had a far superior gun and finally, a three-man turret with radio (which had previously been in the hull). Now the commander needed only to command the tank, leaving the operation of the gun to the gunner and the loader. Another, and a very significant tactical piece of equipment was the Mk.4 observation periscope copied from the British and Polish pre-war design, permitting the commander an all-around field of view, which was mounted on the turret roof.

Overall production slowed down somewhat while the new tank started its production run. Although a T-34-85 was still not a match for a Panther, the improved firepower made it much more effective than before. The decision to improve on the existing design instead of tooling up for a new one allowed the Soviets to manufacture tanks in such numbers that the difference in capabilities could be considered insignificant. In May 1944, the Wehrmacht had only 304 Panthers operating on the Eastern Front, while the Soviets had increased T-34-85 production to 1,200 tanks per month (Zaloga et al. 1997:6).


The cost to produce a T-34-85 tank was initially about thirty percent higher than a Model 1943, at 164,000 rubles; but by 1945 it was down to 142,000 (Harrison 2002:181). During the course of the war, the cost of a T-34 tank had been reduced by almost half, from 270,000 rubles in 1941 (Harrison 2002:181), while in the meantime its top speed remained about the same, and its main gun's armour penetration and turret frontal armour thickness both nearly doubled (Zaloga 1984:113, 184, 225).

Production figures

T-34-85 with Polish Army markings
By the end of 1945, over 57,000 T-34s had been built: 34,780 original T-34 tanks in 1940–44, and another 22,559 T-34-85s in 1944–45 (The Russian Battlefield 1998a, 1998b). The single largest producer was Factory N.183 (UTZ) with 28,952 T-34s and T-34-85s built from 1941 to 1945. The second-largest was Factory N. 112 (Krasnoye Sormovo) in Gorki with 12,604 in the same period. (Michulec & Zientarzewski 2006:220). In 1946, after the war, 2,701 T-34s were built, and large-scale production ceased. Production was restarted under licence in Poland (1951–55) and Czechoslovakia (1951–58), where 1,380 and 3,185 T-34-85s were made, respectively, by 1956. Later, T-54/55 and T-72 tanks were also built outside the Soviet Union. In the late 1960s, Soviet T-34-85s underwent a modernization program (T-34-85M) for export and reserve service, being retrofitted with drivetrain components from the T-54/55 series tanks—a testament to the level of standardisation in Soviet tank design.

As many as 84,070 T-34s are estimated to have been built, plus 13,170 self-propelled guns built on the T-34's chassis (Zaloga & Grandsen 1996:18). Some of these ended up in various Cold War conflicts around the world.

Model designations

German military intelligence in World War II referred to the two main production models as T-34/76 and T-34/85, with minor models receiving letter designations such as T-34/76A—this nomenclature has been widely used in the West, especially in popular literature.

The Red Army never had a consistent policy for naming the production models (Zaloga 1994:19). Since at least the 1980s however, many academic sources (notably, AFV expert Steven Zaloga) have used Soviet-style nomenclature: T-34 and T-34-85, with minor models distinguished by year, as T-34 Model 1940. This system is used here.

Some Russian historians use different names: they refer to the first T-34 as the T-34 Model 1939 instead of 1940, all T-34s with the original turret and F-34 gun as Model 1941 instead of Models 1941 and 1942, and hexagonal-turret T-34 as Model 1942 instead of 1943 (Zheltov 2001, passim).

Captured T-34s in German service were designated Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r), for Russland ('Russia').

The Finns called the T-34 Sotka after the Common Goldeneye, a sea duck, because the side silhouette of the tank resembles a swimming waterfowl (as related in the memoirs of Finnish tank ace Lauri Heino). The T-34-85 was called pitkäputkinen Sotka, 'long-barreled Sotka'.

The T-34 (German designation: T-34/76) was the original tank with 76.2 mm gun.

  • Model 1940 (T-34/76A) — Early production run with interim L-11 76.2 mm tank gun in a two-man turret
  • Model 1941 (T-34/76B) — Main production with heavier armour and the superior F-34 76.2 mm gun
  • Model 1942 (T-34/76C) — Many minor manufacturing improvements
  • Model 1943 (T-34/76D, E, and F) — New cast hexagonal turret, nicknamed "Mickey Mouse" by the Germans because of its appearance with the twin, round turret-roof hatches open. Main production had a new commander's cupola
  • T-34/57 — Fewer than 324 T-34s in 1941 and 1943–44 were fitted with the ZiS-4 or the ZIS-4M high-velocity 57 mm gun to be used as tank hunters (Wachowski 2004). Some of them took part in the Battle of Moscowmarker

The T-34-85 (T-34/85) was a major improvement with a three-man turret and long 85 mm gun.

  • Model 1943 — Short production run of February–March 1944 with D-5T 85 mm gun
  • Model 1944 — Main production, with simpler ZiS-S-53 85 mm gun, radio moved from the hull into a turret with improved layout and new gunner's sight

Various technical improvements continued to be made to the T-34-85, including major refurbishing programs in 1960 and 1969. All T-34-85 models are externally very similar.

Pre-war development of a more advanced T-34 tank was resumed in 1944, leading to the T-44. The new tank had a turret design based on the T-34-85's, but a new hull with torsion-bar suspension and transversely-mounted engine. It had a lower profile than the T-34-85 and was simpler to manufacture. Between 150 to 200 of these tanks were built before the end of the war. With some drivetrain modifications and a new turret and gun, it became the T-54, starting production in 1947.

One can recognize the widely-exported Czechoslovakian-built T-34-85s by a semi-conical armoured fairing (like a rear-facing scoop) on the left rear slanting side-panel of the engine-compartment sponson.


Identification of T-34 variants can be complicated. Turret castings, superficial details, and equipment differed between factories. New features were added in the middle of production runs or retrofitted to older tanks. Knocked-out tanks were rebuilt, sometimes with the addition of newer-model equipment and even new turrets. Some tanks also had appliqué armour made of scrap steel of varying thickness, welded on to the hull and turret. Tanks thus modified were called s ekranami ( , ‘with screens’) (Zaloga 1983:14).

Initial 1940 production tanks were installed with the 10-RT 26E radio set, but this was soon replaced by the 9-RS model also installed on SU-100s. From 1953, T-34-85s were installed with the R-113 Granat ("garnet") radio sets.

Other T-34-based armoured fighting vehicles

  • Flame-thrower tanks — OT-34 and OT-34-85 were fitted with an internally mounted flame-thrower replacing the hull machine gun
  • PT-1 T-34-76 — Protivominniy Tral (counter-mine trawl) Mine roller tank, mostly built on T-34 Model 1943 or T-34-85 chassis
  • Self-propelled guns — The T-34 chassis was used as the basis for a series of self-propelled guns

After World War II, some T-34s were fitted with 122 mm howitzers as self-propelled artillery by Syriamarker and Egyptmarker.

T-34-based support vehicles

There were many support vehicles and even civilian tractors and cranes built on the T-34 chassis starting during the war and continuing at least into the 1990s. The vast majority of these were conversions of old or damaged tanks and self-propelled guns.

  • Bridging tanks — Old tanks rebuilt in the field or at repair facilities. These were simply driven into water two abreast for special river-crossing operations, to be recovered later.
  • Armoured recovery vehicles — During World War II, some old tanks were rebuilt as armoured recovery vehicles (ARVs), by plating over the turret ring or adding a superstructure. After the war, this repurposing program was formalized in successively more elaborate models.

Table of tank models

Soviet medium tank models of World War II

Model 1940

Model 1941

Model 1942

Model 1943

T-34-85 T-44
Weight 26 t 26.5 t 28.5 t 30.9 t 34 t 32 t 31.9 t
Gun 76.2 mm L-11 76.2 mm F-34 76.2 mm F-34 76.2 mm F-34 76.2 mm F-34 85 mm ZiS-S-53 85 mm ZiS-S-53
Ammunition 76 rounds 77 rounds 77 rounds 100 rounds 60 rounds 58 rounds
Fuel 460 L (120 U.S. gal) 460 L(120 U.S. gal) 610 L(160 U.S. gal) 790 L(210 U.S. gal) 810 L(215 U.S. gal) 642 L(170 U.S. gal)
Road range 300 km (185 mi) 400 km (250 mi) 400 km (250 mi) 465 km (290 mi) 300 km (185 mi) 360 km (225 mi) 300 km (185 mi)
Armour 15–45 mm(0.60–1.8 in) 20–52 mm (0.8–2.1 in) 20–65 mm (0.8–2.6 in) 20–70 mm (0.8–2.8 in) 16–90 mm (0.6–3.5 in) 20–90 mm (0.8–3.5 in) 15–120 mm (0.6–4.7 in)
Cost 270,000 rubles 193,000 rubles 135,000 rubles 164,000 rubles
Notes: dimensions, road speed, engine horsepower did not vary significantly, except for the T-43 which was slower than the T-34. References: Zaloga & Grandsen , Harrison , KMDB .

Combat history

World War II

The T-34 often symbolises the effectiveness of the Soviet counterattack against the Germans. The appearance of the T-34 in summer 1941 was a psychological shock to German soldiers, who had been prepared to face an inferior Soviet enemy; this is shown by the diary of Alfred Jodl, who seems to have been taken by surprise at the appearance of the T-34 in Rigamarker. The T-34 could take on all 1941 German tanks effectively. However, the new tank suffered severe problems, e.g. from engines literally grinding to halt due to dust and sand ingestion—the original Pomon filter was almost totally ineffective—and some serious mechanical troubles beset its transmission and clutch. At least half the first summer's total tank losses were due to breakdowns rather than German fire, although this also included old tanks in disrepair. There was a shortage of repair equipment, and it was not uncommon for early T-34s to go into combat carrying a spare transmission on the engine deck. The mechanical troubles were eventually sorted out.

During the winter of 1941–42 the T-34 again dominated German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud or snow without bogging down; German tanks could not move over terrain the T-34 could handle. The Panzer IV used an inferior leaf-spring suspension and narrow track, and tended to sink in deep mud or snow.

The German infantry, at that time armed mostly with PaK 36 37 mm (1.46 in) antitank gun, had no effective means of stopping T-34s. During the Battle of France the Pak 36 had earned the nickname "Door Knocker" due to its inability to penetrate anything but the lightest tank armour, though it worked very well at announcing the presence of the gun crew. Needless to say, crews of these weapons fighting on the Eastern front also found it severely underpowered for engaging Soviet tanks, often having to rely on heavier towed firepower, such as the relatively rare but effective Pak 38, the newer and much heavier Pak 40 and especially the 88 mm Flak guns that could not be moved into location as easily. Only the poor level of Soviet crew training, the ineptitude of Soviet commanders, and sparse distribution prevented the T-34 from achieving greater success.

In 1942 and 1943 the Red Army emphasised rebuilding the losses of 1941 and improving tactical proficiency. T-34 production increased rapidly, but the design was "frozen"—generally, only improvements that sped production were adopted. Soviet designers were well aware of the need to correct certain deficiencies in the design, but these improvements would have cost production time and could not be implemented. In 1943, production of T-34s had been ramped up to an average of 1,300 per month, much higher than the German rate. However, Soviet losses greatly exceeded German losses due to continued tactical inferiority.

In response to the sheer number of T-34s appearing on the battlefield and the ever-growing need for heavier firepower, the Germans were beginning to field very large numbers of the high-velocity PaK 40 75 mm gun, both towed and self-propelled. These made up most of the anti-tank artillery by 1943. By late 1942 and into mid-1943 Germany had also begun to field the powerful Tiger heavy tank and Panther medium tank, which further increased the need for an improved T-34. These improved versions came in two notable forms: an uparmoured version in 1943 that incorporated greater fuel capacity, reliability, and a modified turret; and a 1944 version with a new turret carrying a form of the 85 mm ZiS AA/AT gun. This last greatly increased firepower over the previous 76.2 mm F-34 cannon and finally gave the T-34 the offensive capability it had so badly needed.

By the last years of the war the Soviets' improving tactics were still inferior to the Germans', but the Red Army's growing operational and strategic skill and its larger inventory of tanks helped bring the loss ratios down. The T-34-85 in early 1944 gave the Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility than German Pzkw IV and Sturmgeschütz III, but it could not match the Panther in gun or armour protection. To the Soviet advantage there were far fewer Panthers than T-34s, and the T-34-85 was good enough to allow skilled crew and tactical situations to tip the balance.

At the outset of the war, T-34 tanks amounted to only about four percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the war's end, they comprised at least 55% of the USSR's massive output of tanks (based on figures from;Zheltov 2001 lists even larger numbers). By the time the T-34 had replaced older models and became available in greater numbers, newer German tanks, including the improved Panzer V "Panther", outperformed it. The Soviets' late-war Iosif Stalin tanks were also better-armed and better-armoured than the T-34.

A natural comparison can be made between the T-34 and the U.S. M4 Sherman medium tank. Each tank formed the backbone of the armoured units in their respective allied armies. The T-34 was a "world-beater" at the time of its debut, while the Sherman was a strong contender when introduced in 1942. Both models were upgraded and improved extensively throughout their service life, receiving new turrets with more powerful guns. Both were designed for ease of manufacture and maintenance, sacrificing some performance for this goal. Neither was a match for the heavy German Panther or Tiger tanks in armour or firepower, but the Soviet IS-2 heavy tank and American M26 Pershing were more comparable.

Tanks were expected to have many roles on the battlefield, the foremost being infantry support and exploitation. The tank-versus-tank role is also important. German tank production was limited to relatively small numbers of superior but complex vehicles (in part because of production diversion into self-propelled guns), which put them at a numerical disadvantage. The Soviet decision to build large numbers of T-34s, gradually improving and simplifying the design, proved to be a superior strategy that helped win World War II.

After World War II

T-34-85s were used in many Soviet-client and formerly-Soviet client states after the end of World War II. The North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 was spearheaded by a full brigade equipped with about 120 T-34-85s. Additional T-34 tanks later joined the first assault force after it had penetrated into South Korea. They were pitted against the M24 Chaffee, M4 Sherman and M26 Pershing but not the Centurion tanks of the UN forces. The North Korean 105th Armoured Brigade had overwhelming early successes against South Koreanmarker infantry, Task Force Smith and U.S. M24 light tanks. The WWII-era 2.36-inch bazookas still used by the Americans were useless against the T-34s. The North Korean T-34s lost their momentum when faced with U.S. M26 heavy tanks and ground-attack aircraft, and when the U.S. infantry upgraded their antitank weapons to 3.5-inch Super Bazookas hurriedly airlifted from the United States. The tide turned in favor of the UN forces in August 1950, when the North Koreans suffered major tank losses during a series of battles in which their foes brought their newer equipment to bear. The U.S. landings at Inchon on September 15 cut off the North Korean supply lines, causing their armoured forces and infantry to run out of fuel, ammunition and other supplies. As a result, the North Koreans had to retreat, and many T-34s and heavy weapons were abandoned. By the time the North Koreans had fled from the South a total of 239 T-34s and 74 SU-76s had been lost. Afterwards, North Koreanmarker armour was rarely encountered.

The Finnish Army used T-34s captured from the attacking Soviets and purchased from Germany during and after the war until the 1960s. They enhanced many of them with Finnish or Western equipment, such as optics.
T-34s equipped many of the Eastern European (later Warsaw Pact) armies. They served in the suppression of the East German uprising of June 17, 1953, as well as of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. They were also used in the Middle East, the Vietnam War, and even as recently as the Bosnian War. In May 1995, a Serb T-34 attacked an UNPROFOR outpost manned by the 21st Regiment of the Royal Engineers in Bosnia, injuring a British peacekeeper. Croatiamarker inherited twenty-five or thirty from Yugoslavia but has since withdrawn them from service. During the Kosovo war, the Yugoslav Army used T-34 tanks as decoys for NATO aviation. T-34s were sporadically available in Afghanistanmarker (it is not known if T-34s were used against coalition troops), and Saddam Hussein had T-34s in the Iraqimarker army in the early 1990s. Several African states, including Angolamarker and Somaliamarker, have employed T-34-85s in recent years. Cubanmarker T-34-85s also saw action in Africa.

Cypriot National Guard forces equipped with some thirty-five T-34-85 tanks helped to enforce a coup by the Greek junta against democratically-elected President Archbishop Makarios on July 15, 1974. They also saw extensive action against Turkish forces during the Turkish invasion in July and August 1974, with two major actions at Kionelimarker and at Kyreniamarker on July 20, 1974 (Drousiotis 2006).

China produced T-34 tanks under the designation Type 58, though production soon stopped when Type 59 became available. A small number of T-34's have also been spotted in China, converted into fire-fighting vehicles.

Other countries

After the Second World War the following 40 countries used the T-34; it remained in service in 1996 in 27 of those countries, indicated by asterisks * (Zaloga & Kinnear 1996:34).

Combat effectiveness

“The finest tank in the world” —Field Marshal Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist

Combat effectiveness of early war T-34s can be evaluated in terms of "hard" factors—armour, firepower, and mobility—and "soft" factors such as crew comfort, vision devices, crew task layout and so forth. The T-34 was outstanding in hard factors and poor in soft ones.

In 1941 the thick, sloped armour of the T-34 could defeat all German anti-armour weapons at normal combat ranges except the towed 88 mm Flak guns. By mid-1942 the T-34 had become vulnerable to improved German weapons and remained so throughout the war, but its armour protection was equal to or superior to comparable tanks such as the US M4 Sherman or German Pzkw-IV.

In terms of firepower, the T-34's 76 mm gun with anti-tank ammunition could penetrate any 1941 German tank with ease. This gun also fired an adequate high explosive round. In 1943, the 76 mm could not penetrate the Panther's front armour and was out-ranged by the Panther's long 75 mm and the Tiger's 88 mm. The introduction of the Soviet 85 mm gun in 1944 did not make the T-34-85 equal in firepower, but the 85 mm could penetrate both Panthers and Tigers at reasonable ranges (Russian Battlefield 1998c).

In terms of mobility, the T-34's wide track, good suspension and large engine gave it unparalleled cross-country performance. First-generation German tanks could not begin to keep up.

In terms of ergonomics, the T-34 was poor, despite some improvements during the war. All 76 mm-armed versions were greatly hampered by the cramped two-man turret layout. The commander's battlefield visibility was poor; the forward-opening hatch forced him to observe the battlefield through a single vision slit and traversable periscope. He was also over-tasked by having to fire the main gun. In contrast, most contemporary German and U.S. medium tanks had much superior three-man turrets with commander, gunner and loader. The three-man turret layout allowed the tank commander to concentrate on leading his crew and co-ordinating his actions with the rest of his unit, without having to manage an individual task such as laying or loading the gun. This makes an enormous contribution to crew effectiveness. The T-34-85 corrected this problem, which had been recognised before the war. Many German commanders liked to fight "heads-up", with the seat raised and having a full field of view. In the 76 mm-armed versions of the T-34, this was impossible (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:135–7).

Turret of the T-34-85, with commander's cupola allowing all-round vision (introduced partway through the production run of the T-34 Model 1943).

Visibility from the driver's seat was also poor. Tactically, this affected the driver's ability to use terrain to their advantage, since he could not see folds in the ground as well, or have as wide a range of vision as in some other tanks.

Interior of a T-34-85 tank viewed from the driver's hatch, showing the ammunition boxes on which the loader had to stand in the absence of a turret basket.
In the foreground is the driver's seat.
The loader also had a difficult job due to the lack of a turret basket (a rotating floor that moves as the turret turns). This problem was shared with many other tanks, for example, the U.S. M-3 Stuart. The floor under the T-34's turret was made up of ammunition stored in small metal boxes, covered by a rubber mat. There were nine ready rounds of ammunition stowed in racks on the sides of the fighting compartment. Once these initial nine rounds were fired in combat, the crew had to pull additional ammunition out of the floor boxes, leaving the floor littered with open bins and matting. This distracted the crew and degraded their performance (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:137).

Other key factors diminishing the initial impact of T-34s on the battlefield were the poor state of leadership, tank tactics, and crew training, a consequence of Stalin's purges of the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s, aggravated by the loss of the best-trained personnel during the Red Army's disastrous defeats in 1941. Many crews went into combat with only their basic military training plus seventy-two hours of classroom instruction. These problems were exacerbated by the T-34's poor ergonomics and lack of radios during the early war, making it practically impossible to co-ordinate tank units in combat. German tank soldiers found that the Soviet armour attacked in rigid formations and took little advantage of terrain (Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:126–27, 135). By 1943–44 these problems had largely been corrected, although Soviet crew training never reached the level of German training.

Tank as a symbol

Hundreds of T-34s were installed as war memorials in Soviet-bloc countries.

A T-34-85 tank monument in the East Germanmarker city of Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitzmarker) was the target of a 1980 bomb attack that inflicted minor damage on the vehicle and blew out nearby windows. The bomber, Josef Kneifel, was sentenced to life imprisonment in Bautzenmarker, but was released after a deal with the West German government in 1987. After German unification in 1990, the tank was transferred to a museum in Ingolstadt.

Another such tank, mounted atop the monument to Soviet tank crews in Praguemarker, was the focus of significant controversy. The monument, also known locally as 'Saint Tank', intended to represent Lt I.G. Goncharenko's T-34-85, the first Soviet tank to enter Prague in May 1945, actually bore an IS-2m heavy tank. To many in Prague, the tank was also a reminder of the Soviet invasion which ended the Prague Spring of 1968. The tank was painted pink by artist David Černý in 1991. Following an official protest from the Russian government, the arrest of Černý, a coat of official green paint, public demonstrations, and a further coat of pink paint applied by fifteen parliamentary deputies, the tank was finally removed to a military museum (Wright 2001:379, Zaloga & Kinnear 1996:42–43).

Another T-34 formerly painted pink is the Mandela Way Tankmarker in London.

Four Tankers and a Dog (Czterej pancerni i pies) was a very successful war-themed Polish television series of the 1960s (based on an eponymous novel by a Polish writer Janusz Przymanowski (1922–98), himself a Red Army volunteer) which made T-34 tank number 102 an icon of Polish popular culture. It was also shown in other Soviet-bloc countries where it was also well received, surprisingly even in the German Democratic Republicmarker. At the beginning of the twenty-first century reruns of the black and white series still manage to attract a large audience.

News of an unconventional use of a T-34 broke, quite unexpectedly, from Budapestmarker on October 23, 2006. A month-long crisis centred around the Ferenc Gyurcsány cabinet scandal climaxed during the official fiftieth anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Protesters managed to start an unarmed T-34 tank which was part of a memorial exhibition and used it in riots against police forces. The tank ran out of fuel after a few hundred metres and caused no personal injury.


“The impression that it made was to influence greatly subsequent tank development throughout the world” —John Milsom (1971)

The T-34 was among the most important weapons systems in the Red Army in World War II. At the time it was first fielded in 1940, it was easily the finest tank design in the world (Zaloga & Grandsen 1983). By mid-war the T-34 was no longer technically superior to its opponents, but it was still effective in combat (Zaloga & Grandsen 1983).

The improved T-34-85 remained the standard Soviet medium tank with an uninterrupted production run until the end of the war. The Germans responded to the T-34 by introducing completely new, very expensive and complex second-generation tanks, greatly slowing the growth of their tank production and allowing the Soviets to maintain a substantial numerical superiority in tanks (Zaloga & Grandsen 1983:37). Production figures for all Panther types reached no more than 6,557, and for all Tiger types 2,027. Production figures for the T-34-85 alone were 22,559. The T-34 replaced most light, medium, and heavy tanks in Soviet service. Its evolutionary development led directly to the T-44 and T-54/55 series of tanks, built until 1981 and still operated today.

Surviving vehicles

Due to the large number produced, there are hundreds of surviving T-34s. Examples of this tank are in the collections of most significant military museums, and hundreds more serve as war memorials. Many are in private ownership, and demilitarised working tanks change hands for between $20,000 and $40,000 USD. Some still may serve in a second-line capacity in a number of Third World militaries, while others may find use in a civilian capacity, namely film making. For the movie Saving Private Ryan, two T-34 tanks were modified to resemble Tiger I tanks, due to the rarity of the latter vehicle.

The durability of the T-34 is underlined by a recent restoration. In 2000, a T-34 Model 1943 was recovered that had spent 56 years at the bottom of a bog in Estoniamarker. The tank had been captured and used by retreating German troops, who dumped it in the swamp when it ran out of fuel. There were no signs of oil leakage, rust, or other significant water damage to the mechanical components. The engine was restored to full working order.

Other significant surviving T-34s include a Model 1941 at the US Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, Marylandmarker — one of the oldest surviving vehicles. Other older 76 mm-armed T-34s have recently been recovered from old battle sites, but no known T-34 Model 1940 with an L-11 gun survives.


  1. George Parada (n.d.), “ Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r)” at Achtung Panzer! website, retrieved on November 17, 2008.
  2. Yaziv, D.; Chocron, S.; Anderson, Jr., C.E.; Grosch, D.J. “Oblique Penetration in Ceramic Targets”. Proceedings of the 19th International Symposium on Ballistics IBS 2001, Interlaken, Switzerland, 1257–64
  3. A Leningrad team was also trying to develop an advanced replacement for the T-26 infantry tank, but its project was plagued by technical problems and political shake-ups. About 69 T-50 light infantry tanks were finally built in Omsk, Siberia in the winter of 1941, but by then thousands of T-34s were rolling into battle, and the infantry tank concept had been abandoned. (Zaloga 1984:114)
  4. Paton Evgeny Oscarovich”, at the E.O. Paton Electric Welding Institute, retrieved November 17, 2008.
  5. pp.18-19 Steven J. Zaloga, Hugh Johnson, T-54 and T-55 Main Battle Tanks 1944-2004, Osprey Publishing; the KMT designation was adopted in the 1950s
  6. Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:127
  7. Perrett 1999
  8. Zaloga 1984:225
  9. Zaloga & Grandsen 1984:223
  10. Zaloga 1984:125–6, 225
  11. Zaloga & Grandsen 1983:37
  12. Perrett 1987:134–5
  13. Perrett 1987:135
  14. Zaloga & Kinnear 1996:34–3
  15. Regina v. Ministry of Defence Ex Parte Walker” (judgment), 6 April 2000, retrieved November 17, 2008.
  16. Dmitry Pyatakhin and George Parada (n.d.), “ Tiger Tamers: Battle for Sandomierz Bulge - August of 1944” at Achtung Panzer! website, retrieved on November 17, 2008.
  17., " Hungarian protesters seize tank", October 23, 2006; Népszabadság Online, " Elfogták az elkötött T-34-es vezetőjét", October 23, 2006 (Hungarian language).
  18. Anonymous, (n.d.) “ Heinz Guderian” at The Eastern Front website, retrieved on November 17, 2008.
  19. Tom Philo, “ Selected Equipment Production Figures World War II.” at Tom Philo Photography website, retrieved on November 17, 2008; Anonymous (2005), “ German Panzer Production in WWII” at Lone Sentry website, retrieved on November 17, 2008.
  20. Tanki T34-76 väljatõmbamine Kurtna järvest (WWII Trophy tank). Militaarne Hiiumaa web site, text republished from Komatsu Times vol 3 no 1. English and Estonian language, retrieved on February 3, 2007.
  21. Подъем танка (pulling tank) T-34. Otsing Club web site. Russian language, retrieved on February 3, 2007.


External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address