T-34 - An Illustrated History of Stalin’s Greatest Tank

Published: January 21st, 2021     
Product Image
Author: Wolfgang Fleischer
Reviewed by: Michael Reeves - IPMS# 51129
ISBN #: 978-1-78438-495-1
Other Publication Information: Hardcover, 210 pages with over 300 photos and reference tables, including 16 pages of color plates
Price: $34.95
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

The T-34 is known to just about anyone with knowledge of WWII battles and the Eastern Front in particular. While it had some teething issues, it was an unpleasant surprise to the Germans who came against it and the KV series of tanks. It quickly became apparent that the typical early Panzers were outmatched and outgunned. This led to development of the Tiger and the Panther, which derived much of its design from experiences with the T-34. This new book from Greenhill Books gives an excellent account of the design, development, and battlefield performance of this workhorse of the Red Army. After a foreword called Stalin's Saviour by Anthony Tucker-Jones, we delve right in.

What's Inside

This is a comprehensive guide to the T-34 in all its glory and it charts the evolution of the T-34/76 and T-34/85 versions and their many variants. The book includes technical evaluations and detailed plans of each type, as well as the German perspective of what it was like to fight against it. Also included is coverage of the SU-85/100/122 self-propelled guns, as well as other designs based on the T-34 chassis like flamethrower tanks and mine-clearers. The chapters are as follows:

  1. The Place of the T-34 in Tank History
  2. Development
  3. Specialised Variants
  4. Self-Propelled Guns
  5. T-34 Data

Chapter 1 abounds in diary and account entries from various sources and gives an account of the development of the American Christie tank being inspiration (something borrowed or stolen more like according to some) for the T-34. It continues into service in the Spanish Civil War and beyond.

Chapter 2 is the most extensive of the entire book and goes into the following subheadings:

  • Prototypes, Experiments, and Series Production up to 1941
  • The T-34/76- Mass Production until 1944
  • Maintaining Mass Production and Making Improvements
  • The T-34/85, 1943-1946

The chapter looks at early incarnations like the BT-20 and A-20, A-32, and A-34. Line drawings, cross sectional diagrams, and factory photographs abound. Modelers will find vast amounts of inspiration in the photos within and loads of vignette or diorama ideas. One page in particular stands out- photos and drawings showing T-34 turrets on Soviet and German armoured trains and even one on a Soviet river gunboat. The chapter is also interrupted by the centerfold of color plates, which feature many gate guardian and museum exhibit tanks. There are many walk around photos, as well as a color chart of various shell types used. As the coverage continues, there is an excellent mix of wartime photos and technical drawings and diagrams of crew stations, engine, gun,and other technical equipment for the detail junkie.

Chapter 3 looks in-depth at the specialised variants, including:

  • Flamethrower Tanks
  • Mine Clearance Tanks
  • Recovery and Bridgelaying Tanks

There are excellent photos throughout the chapter of not only the tanks featuring the special equipment, but also detailed diagrams of the various sorts of apparatus. The last bit even gives a bit of information about a T-34 used for active propaganda that featured twin loudspeakers to broadcast messages to the Germans that could be heard up to 2km away.

Chapter 4 features the aforementioned self-propelled guns and each gets its own section. Factory photos and diagrams, ammunition diagrams, and service photos abound.

Chapter 5 on T-34 data is actually just a series of fifteen charts that feature each of the T-34 variants mentioned throughout the book.

Conclusion

This is a fine volume on the T-34 that provides fascinating text and photos from just about any variant you can think of. The book was not bogged down in tedious minutiae and I was able to read it in just a few days. It was full of great information and the photos have given me too many ideas to weed through for my next T-34 project- although the propaganda loudspeaker variant might be the one I try next. A great addition to the bookshelf! My thanks go to Greenhill Books, Pen & Sword, and IPMS-USA for the review sample.

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