Soviet Tank Repair in WW2

Soviet Tank Repair in WW2


Time to talk about Soviet Tank Repair in the
Second World War. Now, since this is a rather niche topic and
also falls under the dreaded L-category, namely Logistics. The source situation is not the best. And speaking of sources and tanks, if you
want to get your hands on a German Panzer Company Manual from 1941 in German & English,
be sure to check out our indiegogo campaign. Due to the high demand we added another 50
signed copies with world wide shipping to the campaign. Now, let’s at first address the question
on “why the need for repair”. The answer to this question might seem rather
obvious, yet, depending on your understanding of World War 2 tanks, you might be quite surprised. First off, is the vulnerability, although
these steel beasts seem quite strong at times they were quite weak in other areas. Namely, when it came to reliability and many
other technical issues, as Dickson noted: “[…] while it may not be obvious to the
infantryman cowering in his foxhole as a tank approaches, tanks are vulnerable things, often
operating at the limit of their engines’ and transmissions’ capabilities, and it
doesn’t take much to put them out of service.” The tank is basically threatened by several
factors, its own design, its construction, its crew, logistics and only then by the enemy. Whereas there is a certain interaction going
on, e.g., a tank designed with minimal margins for error or on the limits of his capabilities
is more likely to break if there are any problems with the construction process or materials. Furthermore, if the crew makes any errors
it is even more likely, e.g., a novice driver can easily throw off a track or if the turret
is not properly turned while crossing a ditch, the gun barrel can be damaged. Additionally, the large weight, climatic situation
and terrain wear down a tank rather easily as well, remember these vehicles were not
produced with modern factories. So, if the crew does not regularly maintain
the tank or does not receive the proper spare parts and/or lubricants the chances of failure
increase again. This is also clearly reflected by this observation:
“[…] tank losses due to technical reasons increased in percentage after an operation
lasted for more than approximately 20 days, illustrating the need for constant maintenance
on even operable tanks.” Well, and finally, there is of course the
most obvious threat to tanks, the enemy, yet even here one has to think a bit differently
than usually: “[…] and even an obsolete antitank weapon
can damage the running gear, jam the turret, or damage the cannon with a lucky (or skillful)
hit.” Remember tanks on the battlefield will likely
will draw more fire than smaller or less threating targets. Yet, one might argue, well, why not just replace
damaged or destroyed tanks with new ones from the factory? Well, this was an option before and after
an ongoing operation, yet usually not during an operation:
“’[I]n the last war reinforcement of armored units with new combat vehicles, either in
groups or individually, took place mainly while preparing for operations or during long
operational pauses. Reinforcement from factories happened very
seldom during battle. Therefore, repair of damaged armored vehicles
during an operation and their quick return to service was the most important, even the
sole, source of battlefield replacement.’” Now, when it comes to losses, kills etc. it
is always very important to remember what the terminology actually means, especially
since there is usually quite some variation between the different factions, e.g.,
“The Soviets used the term ‘irrecoverable’ (bezvozvratnyi) to refer to losses, in both
personnel and equipment, which were permanently lost. In personnel losses it includes dead and missing.” The author of the paper that serves as the
main source notes about his use of “knocked out”:
“In this study, ‘knocked out’ refers to damage, repairable or not, which puts a
tank out of action.” Now, this is very important, since a tank
that was “knocked out” could be repaired and see action again, so it was possible that
during an operation more tanks were “lost” than were totally fielded. “For a long operation the number of knocked-out
tanks could be double or triple the number of tanks at the start as some tanks were knocked
out two, three, or even four times. A tank army with an average of 600 tanks at
the start of an operation that suffered an average of 32 tanks lost per day would have
no tanks left after only 19 days if there were no compensating factors.” Now, what of course is particularly interesting
is the rate at which tanks were repaired once they were knocked out. So, the tank repair rate is the number of
tanks, which were repaired each day. “Tank repair rate is influenced by many
factors: the severity of the fighting and therefore the number of tanks in need of repair,
the speed at which a side is advancing (which increases the distance between the damaged
tanks and the repair units), the availability of evacuation vehicles, how long repair units
can remain in one place, etc. Second, the quality of tanks increased as
the war went on. Improved tanks lasted longer before requiring
overhaul or suffering a malfunction.” Yet, there could be huge variations, e.g.,
Dickson gives the data for 4th Guard’s Tank Army during the Sandomir-Silesia operation,
the average rate of 19 tanks per day, yet, the minimum number of tanks repaired on a
day were 0 and the maximum 68. Yet, he looked at data for different units
and operations and plotted the data: “The increase from 1943 to 1945 is substantial—from
the low 20s to the low 40s, and reflects the increase in tank repair units in the Red Army
force structure.” Now, Dickson has also a case study about the
3rd Tank Army from late 1942 to early 1943. First, from 29th December 1942 to 14 January
1943, the Army was deployed and had to cover a distance of about 400 kilometers bee-line
or as the crow flies. “Of the 426 tanks which set out, only 304
arrived at the final destination. One-hundred twenty-two tanks remained scattered
along the route in various stages of disrepair due to technical reasons.” Now, in terms of irrecoverable losses they
only started once the Soviets started their offensive. Yet, due to the repairs from recoverable tanks
during the operations the overall strength of tanks could increase over time, until the
German counter-offensive happened. Suddenly, the irrecoverable losses went through
the roof. “The reason for the sudden increase in irrecoverable
losses was probably due to the fact that damaged tanks, for the most part immobile and requiring
a tow to go anywhere, were over-run by advancing German forces.” The case study is very interesting for many
reasons, first it shows how many tanks were lost just from redeployment. Second, it shows that the number of tanks
could increase during the battle, since damaged tanks could be put in service again. Third, from sudden spike in increased irrecoverable
losses one can determine when certain pools or areas with damaged tanks were overrun or
had to abandoned. Now, before we move to the conclusion. Peter from Tank Archives has dug out something
interested. The Soviet apparently also handed out rewards
for the repair of tanks. “Order of the People’s Commissar of Defense
On rewards for personnel of armoured units for quick and high quality repair of tanks
#0140 February 25th, 1942 In order to accelerate repair and restoration
of tanks currently undergoing light and medium repairs in army level, front level, and military
repair units, I order that: 1. Starting on March 1st, 1942, the following
monetary reward for personnel of repair units that can provide quick and high quality repair
of tanks in the timelines defined by their commanders is introduced. Light repairs Medium repairs
KV tank 350 rubles 800 rubles T-34, Mk.II, or Mk.III tank 250 rubles 500
rubles BT, T-26, T-40, or T-60 tank 100 rubles 200
rubles […]
6. For systematic overfulfilment of government
quotas for tank repair, personnel of repair units are nominated by the military council
for decorations in addition to the monetary reward. 7. This order must be announced to the personnel
of the armoured vehicle repair units and formations. People’s Commissar of Defense
I. Stalin.” Dickson draws 4 Observations from his study:
1) If the number of irrecoverable losses were limited, a tank unit could maintain or sometimes
even increase the number of operational tanks during the course of an operation if enough
could be repaired. “2. The faster a tank unit advanced, the farther
behind the repair units lagged and the more time they had to spend moving to keep up. Both reduced the number of tanks which could
be repaired.” 3) Retreat could lead to the total loss of
a lot of tanks, if a damaged tank pool was overrun. Due the very low number of evacuation vehicles,
most tanks had to be abandoned. This is similar to the problems the Germans
experienced in late war, especially with their heavy tanks. “4. Operational pauses were critical and allowed
repair units time to catch up and clear the backlog of tanks to be repaired. This, and the fact that it did not retreat
and lose its damaged tank pool, is why the 5th Guards Tank Army was able to reconstitute
itself after the battle at Prokhorovka.” Now, in case you like to learn more about
German Tank Warfare, Bismarck and I have translated a German Army Regulation about the Medium
Tank Company from May 1941, which builds upon the experience of the successful campaigns
in Poland, the Low Countries and France. It encompasses topics such as tank crew specialization,
training, formations, how to engage enemy positions and tanks. It is not a mere translation; it also comes
with the German original text on one page and the English one on the other. Additionally, we added notes on terminology,
translation decisions, a glossary and several other supplements as well. If you are interested check out our indiegogo
campaign. If you liked this video, consider supporting
me by sharing this video or other means. Also a big thank you here to Pivka Military
History Park in Slovenia, the Panzermuseum Munster in Germany and the Tank Museum at
Bovington in the United Kingdom for inviting me to their museums and events. Thank you to Peter for sending me various
links on this topic. As always, sources are listed in the description. Thank you for watching and see you next time!

82 Comments on "Soviet Tank Repair in WW2"


  1. Interested in German Panzer Company Manual from 1941? You can pledge here: https://igg.me/at/hdv

    The H.Dv. 470/7 – Die mittlere Panzerkompanie from May 1941 is a key Army regulation for the German Panzer force following the successful campaigns in Poland, the Low Countries and France. It encompasses topics such as tank crew specialization, training, formations, how to engage enemy positions and tanks, as well as a complete breakdown of the tank company’s force strength.

    Reply

  2. I wonder if you will adress the repairable tanks not being counted as casualties thing.

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  3. I dunno why but crewmen that survived the T-34-76 look at the T-34-85 and go "comrades is it just me or is this tank awfully familiar to fix despite having new gun and turret?" and just repair their shit if they're not to be the spearhead.

    I now start to pity the repair teams and crew trying to fix the lumbering KV-1, KV-2 and the heavy ass SU-152 and ISU-152…

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  4. This reminds me of the Chieftain's Inside the Hatch episode on the t34 and how some tracks repair and maintenance was done. A German or an American repair team would have cried tears of sorrow over some Russian repair methods 🤣

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  5. Bernard, at 5:50 you say they had to cover a distance of 400 Kilometers B Line or as the crow flies. I've only ever heard someone use the B Line reference as in the following, "I made a B line to the store when I heard new Xbox was on sale. Here it is clear the speaker means he's going to the store as quickly as possible he's not actually going to travel how a crow flies to the store. I'm sure Bernard did his research and in everyday vernacular English speakers are misusing the phrase B line. Non Native English speakers sometimes teach you about your own language as they come at it from a unique perspective. Thanks Bernard!

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  6. What!? The Russians actually Repaired their tanks? I thought they just "parked the busted up T-34 in a ditch," then went back to headquarters for an unpainted "new from the factory" tank to "keep chasing the Nazis out of the Motherland."

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  7. German solider: Yes I took out a tank, take that you Bolshevik!
    Ivan: Don't worry Hans there's more coming for you.
    German solider: Scheiße……

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  8. Great info, extra glad it actually comes form the Soviet side that is generally viewed as having super simple and super reliable tanks "that never fail unlike the German ones" but the reality was far from this popular myth, with forced marches decreasing operational numbers.

    The truth is every tank of ww2 by todays standards was a "temperament beast" that need a lot of care, even after simple marches. The 20+ day of battles as a threshold for sudden increase in operational losses due to technical issues was the same for the Germans.

    The "reliable" tanks from France 1940 suddenly became unreliable when pushed deep into the USSR in 1941.

    Please find info on the American tank repair and logistics.

    PS

    Any idea about the definitions behind "light" and "medium repairs"

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  9. Brackets at this age? I consider to do with my teeth as well at some point.

    Does anybody know, is there a point, when it's to late?
    PS: Looks nice, btw. Almost invisible.

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  10. It is incredible how tanks are formidable in some circumstances and utterly vulnerable in others

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  11. I'm not surprised tanks are vulnerable in transmission capabilities. It's a lot of weight for the engine and the transmission to haul around.

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  12. "The fact that it did not retreat and lose its damaged tank pool, is why the 5 Guards Tank Army was able to reconstitute itself after the battle at Prokhorovka." What a fuck? The Germans captured the battlefield and, according to German sources, before the retreat, they destroyed all the knocked out Russian tanks. Damaged tank pool, was lost in Prokhorovka.

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  13. Excellent Video, perticullary for those of us who have thrown track, like to the inside AND outside because we took a ditch at the diagonal instead of straight on (then sat there and watched four other M1s come in and either do the same thing or sink up to the turret in mud. It was a rough '85 REFORGER… 😉)

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  14. Sir: I will be on vacation from my out of state physician job in late March 2020. Should you find yourself in South Texas then, there is an Akaushi steak calling out your name. (Texas raised Wagyu, better than USDA Prime. Look up "Food and Drink Restaurant,"South Padre Island.)

    I like logistics better than tactics ot operations. Logistics and Artillery are where the US Army had NO EQUALS in the 2nd World War. No one came close.

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  15. The Soviets actually did repairs on their tanks and not just run them into the ground and strip them for parts?

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  16. Frido von Senger und Etterlin, in his memories, recalls how tank and mechanized divisions "melt away" during the operations, leaving behind just an empty shell of all the ancillary units. It was a constant struggle to keep the formations up to strength. I made a video about this various months ago.

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  17. One of the fascinating points about Cooper's "Deathtraps" to me was the relative ease with which Shermans could be replaced. Given that 1st Army had fewer than 1000 Sherman tank crewmen killed or wounded throughout the campaign in France and Germany (Source: The Dupuy Institute), the fact that Cooper could just order replacements up should have pointed out to him an incredible strength of the Sherman.

    This was also true of the T-34."Quantity has a quality all its own," the Rusdians would say.

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  18. Reminds me of the ex-DDR and ex-Soviet vehicles, MTLB and BMP-1 respectively, that Sweden bought (and refurbished in the Czech republic) in the 90's. Their reliability was often in question and it was often said that they were originally built to only reach the Atlantic coast and by then would be worn out.

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  19. If the repair teams succeeded to repair a tank, especially form an irrecoverable condition, or "bezvozvratnoe sostoyanie", they were given monetary prizes and extra vodka, if, however, they failed to do so, well then they were sent to clear minefields before advancing tank columns..

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  20. I expected it to be far more bureaucratic, like
    0: no repair needed
    1: repair after operation needed
    2: not fit to continue operation
    3: defenseless
    4: no field repair possible (send back for factory repair)
    5: to be gutted for spare parts
    6: only scrap metal

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  21. This is ALL BULL ! Everyone knows the Soviets repaired their equipment with the blood of dissidents and cowards ! Disagreement, I will remind you, will result in a court of inquiry looking into your patriotism and enthusiasm for the goals of the revolution.

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  22. Did either side develop " Calvary " either land or air based to hunt the maintenance personnel ?
    It seems logical to hunt broken AFV and the troops that fix them rather than fight a repaired platoon.

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  23. I remember reading about Rommel, he stressed to his commanders to control/own the battle field once the fighting was over. It allowed for the recovery of knocked out tanks and equipment and denied the enemy, recovery of their equipment.

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  24. Disclaimer: I like those Disclaimers, they make feel save from mind bending hidden advertisements. Seriously, keep doing them

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  25. G'day,

    Ah, Comrade, Kameraden, Buddy, Chum, Chap & Matey…; durink der recent Great Patriotic Waaauuh(!), the mighty Soviet Union did not repair Tanks at all….

    Durink Great Patriotic Waaauugh(!) it was the Tanks…, which repaired the Soviet Union…!

    Obliviously, you must immediately radically reframe all your Points of Reference, in order to propperly comprehend the inherantly manifold mysteries of Stalin's interpretive implementation, of Lennin's twisted notions about how to transition from Capitalism to Marxism…., via Peace Through Superior Firepower – OouuuRaaah,…! (?).

    Take it easy,

    Have a good one…..

    ;-p

    Ciao !

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  26. The repair units at one 5th Air Force base during the Pacific War managed to build an off-the-books B25 out of cannibalized parts. Without armor or guns it was the fastest B25 ever and they used it to bring booze back from Australia. War is never as simple as people imagine.

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  27. A reasonable contemporary comparison for panzerkampfwagen maintenance & repair would be Earth moving machinery. Owner & operators such as Jeff Anderson aka Jpaydirt show how it's done.

    Jpaydirt on YouTube
    https://www.youtube.com/user/jpaydirt/videos

    Cat D9G Destroying Itself
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_j2041yrSo

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  28. Disclaimer IV: I was kindly reminding you lots, so stop spamming or i will loose all my hair… jees

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  29. The last time I was this early… I was two days late and the tank didn't make it to Berlin before the surrender…

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  30. I found the details fascinating, when you consider Kursk, which you have explained. This may be of interest https://panzerworld.com/homeland-armor-maintenance. Panzer world, have an article on Tank repair, where tanks were shipped back for repair or scraped. I understand this was similar with the Luftwaffe, typically minor repairs required the aircraft to be returned to the factory, perhaps Bismarck could advise. This is in contrast to the Western allies who had repair units close to the combat units and setup repair factories in France, back to the logistics v tactics argument yet again. https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/we-have-ways-of-making-you-talk/id1457552694?i=1000454690933 is worth listening to major general Stuart Watson, he explains the replacement of a squadron of Sherman DD tanks, on D Day, within hours.

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  31. I'm wondering what your opinion would be if anyone had tank transport vehicles if that would have made a difference to make it worth it? They are (on roads of course) faster, they save fuel, save wear and tear and allow the crew to get rested and repair the tank. I wonder your general idea of the idea, lol.

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  32. Allright, I have asked this question so many times without answer, but I will give it aanother try. What does the magical word "Guards" mean in Soviet troop formations?? I mean, what is the difference between a 5th Tanks Guards Army and a 5th Tanks Army? Is this like some kind of trade secret among historians? And yes, I have tried googling it many times before. Can somebody please explain?

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  33. I guess it's a myth that Soviet tanks were designed to not last much longer than they were expected to survive in combat. It would be interesting to know whether Soviet factories sent spare parts in the volume shipped to American units, or did Soviet repair depots have to rely on cannibalizing broken AFVs?

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  34. for the record. this is one of the best videos i've ever seen. certainly the best video about warfare i've ever seen.

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  35. I once spoke to a someone who was a Bundeswehr Leopard 2 commander and company XO in the 90s. In his words the default state of a tank was "broken," and the job of a good tank crew was to make it less broken than normal so that it can at least accomplish the objective the unit was given.

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  36. This is the first I have heard of the Soviets using monetary rewards. I would have thought a double allocation of vodka would be sufficient for the repair teams. The front line men didn't need it. it took so long for paper work on roster strength to catch up that the actual number of men left in a unit was far less than the strength the supply people had on their documents

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  37. Many WW2 tanks were notoriously unreliable due to design faults, expedient use of parts and systems not fit for purpose or poor manufacturing and quality control. Add in other factors such as harsh operating environments, poorly trained crews and sub-standard maintenance and you have issues even before entering combat. Little wonder all sides worked hard to recover and reuse disabled and damaged tanks.

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  38. So the communists never were communist. Both sides were nationalist. The old German/Slav grudge match.

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  39. So just by not retreating, the Guards Tanks were able to drastically reduce their overall losses, while because they did retreat, the Panzers lost more.

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  40. will you ever make a video on the Japanese tank forces or is the information too hard to come by in English?

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  41. Legend has it that a Soviet tank broke down once. Stalin responded with purging 20,000 officers.

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  42. Amazing!
    So basically, the communists learned that the capitalist philosophy of if you want something – reward it equitably and you'll get more of it.
    Even a commie can be taught the basic fallacy of their system. That's great.

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  43. Sounds like the Communists dabbled in the "for profit" system when there wasn't sufficient incentive under their communist system to get the job done.

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  44. Soviet tank repair: hit it with a hammer and threaten it with the gulags until it becomes operational again

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  45. 1988 in Giessen, Germany: We drove our M110A1, 203mm Self Propelled Howitzers like we stole them!😝

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  46. This was really impressive. I've never seen something so in depth on Soviet tank repair. I'm so glad you were able to cover this particular topic and cover it so well.
    I read an article once (which of course I can't find, just like all my favourite articles) comparing the Soviet and German medical systems and how due to advantages in the way the Soviets allocated resources and priorities for treatment, they were able to return 70% of wounded soldiers to active duty, compared to 58% for Germany.

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  47. I'm impressed by this man's knowledge of military history. Also impressed by the knowledge of many of the commenters here. Thought I knew a lot about military history before I came here. Keep up the great videos!

    Reply

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