Monday, January 2, 2017

Axis T-34 Use

During World War II, German Wehrmacht and Waffen SS formations were the biggest non-Allied users of Soviet built T-34s ever. During the fighting on the Eastern Front (1941-45), Germans captured few hundred of various models of T-34 (Tridsatchedverka). Large number of T-34/76s (models A to F) were captured, on the contrary to only few T-34/85s captured. T-34/76s were more often captured since from 1941 until early 1943, Soviets were partially on the retreat and Germans were on the offensive. T-34/85s appeared on the battlefield in the winter of 1943/44, when Germans were already retreating westwards after successful Soviet offensives. Overall, more than three hundred captured T-34s were used in combat as late as March of 1945. Other, retired or battle damaged T-34s were used as sources of spare parts (for captured T-34, SU-85, SU-100 and SU-122) and for testing purposes or target practice as late as 1944.

First T-34/76s entered German service as early as Summer of 1941, during the early stage of Operation Barbarossa. 1st, 8th, 10th and 11th Panzer Division, were the first Wehrmacht units which were equipped with captured T-34s. When in March 1943, SS Panzer Corps recaptured Kharkov, some fifty various T-34/76s were captured. All of those were being repaired in local tractor (tank) factory which was overrun by the Germans. Later on they were repaired (modified to German standards) and repainted (and marked) in the same factory designated - SS Panzerwerk (SS Tank Workshop). All of them entered service with 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich". All T-34/76s were grouped into a special 3rd (Pz. Jag. Abt) Panzer Battalion (part of "Das Reich") exclusively equipped with captured T-34/76s. SS-Hauptscharfuhrer Emil Seibold from 3rd Panzer Battalion scored 69 kills including those on his T-34 during July and August of 1943 at Kursk. Also 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf" used captured T-34s. In the summer of 1943, few captured T-34/76s were even operated by Italian crews. In the winter of 1943/44, 20th Panzer Division (21st Panzer Abteilung) captured a large number of T-34 (model 1943) tanks which were very quickly put in service. In December of 1944, number of T-34/76s from Das Reich were handed over to 1st Ski Jager Division. In 1944, 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" captured first example of a newer T-34/85 during their fighting in central Poland and also pressed into service.

The Ukrainian “Liberation Force” of Vlasov also used many captured T-34s, which showed a blazon with the traditional St Andrew cross and “ROA” (for Russian Volunteer Army)

Romanian Army
A few of these Soviet tanks were captured by the Romanian Army in the course of the Russian Campaign, their advanced design impressing the Romanians to such an extent that Maresal (marshal) Ion Antonescu proposed producing a copy for the Army's use, but Romania's limited industrial capacity made such a project impossible. Captured T-34's saw limited local use by Romanian forces during the war, two reported in service as of November 1942, while four others, wornout or otherwise unserviceable, ended their days as training vehicles for antitank gunnery recognition, performance tests, target practice, and so forth after being shipped back to the homeland from the Crimea in March 1944.

Finnish Army
The first T-34 captured by the Finns in the war, which had been acquired in September 1941.  The T-34 was probably the best tank in the world in 1941— certainly no other vehicle matched its combination of firepower, protection, and mobility, or indeed even came close.  And the Finnish examples were to demonstrate the T-34's amazing prowess quite vividly in the battles to come.  The Finns called the T-34 the “Sotka,” which was a species of sea duck, presumably because the tank's strikingly sloped hull and turret made it look like a swimming duck, although there are other stories about the origin of the name.  At any rate, “Sotka” caught on throughout the Finnish forces.

Italian Captured Russian AFVs
Italians captured some Soviet armour in the East. These were probably 12 vehicles in total - 2 armoured cars (BA-6/BA-10) and 10 unspecified tanks. Two of the latter were STZ built T-34 Model 1941/42. One of them is depicted in one of the colour plates of the "new" Vanguard on T-34/76 tanks. This is definitely STZ Model 1942 tank of 120th Motorised Artillery Regiment, 3rd "CELERE" Inf. Division.

Andrea Galliano says that the orders from OKW stated that all the captured materiel in excess of that used directly by the Italian units on the Russian Front had to be handed over to the Germans.

The Italians nevertheless smuggled a complete T-34 to Italy, where it was studied.

Hungarian Army
Captured T-34 received the Hungarian cross and were used against Soviet troops from 1942.

The T-34[above] with red-white-green stripes around the turret. Probably 1944 at Nadvornaja.

Captured Soviet Vehicle registration plates:
BA6 4-6
T27 9-10 H-024 to H-032
T28 1 H-037
T26B 1 H-035
BT5-7 3-6+
T38 1
T40 1
T60 1
T34/76 T34/85 2+ (seen 3 ex of T34/76 in photos)
KV1 1
STZ-3 2
BA-10 5-10
-Magyar Steel Hungarian Armour in WW Csaba Becze

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