is a Soviet medium tank that had a profound and lasting
effect on the field of tank design. At its introduction, the T-34
possessed an unprecedented combination of firepower, mobility,
protection and ruggedness. Its 76.2 mm (3 in) high-velocity
tank gun provided a substantial increase in firepower over any of its
contemporaries; its well-sloped armour was difficult to penetrate
by most contemporary anti-tank weapons. When first encountered in
1941, German general
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
Paul Ludwig Ewald von Kleist
called it "the
finest tank in the world" and
affirmed the T-34's
"vast superiority" over existing German armour of the period.
Although its armour and armament were surpassed later in the war, it
has often been credited as the most effective, efficient and
influential tank design of the Second World War.
was the mainstay of Soviet armoured forces throughout the
Second World War. Its design allowed it to be continuously refined to
meet the constantly evolving needs of the Eastern Front: as the war
went on it became more capable, but also quicker and cheaper to
produce. Soviet industry would eventually produce over 80,000 T-34s of
all variants, allowing steadily greater numbers to be fielded as the
war progressed despite the loss of tens of thousands in combat against
the German Wehrmacht. Replacing many light and medium tanks in Red
Army service, it was the most-produced tank of the war, as well as the
second most produced tank of all time (after its successor, the
series). At 44,900 losses during the war, it also suffered
the most tank losses of all time. Its development led directly to
and T-55 series of tanks, which in turn evolved into the
later T-62, T-72, and
that form the armoured mainstay of many
were widely exported after World War II,
and in 2010 the tank remained in limited frontline service with
several developing countries.
1 Development and production
1.2 Initial production
1.3 Mass production
2.6 General reliability
3 Operational history
Operation Barbarossa (1941)
3.2 Further action (1942–1943)
3.4 German use of T-34s
3.5 Manchurian campaign (August 1945)
Korean War (1950–1953)
Angolan Civil War
Angolan Civil War (1975–1988)
3.8 Other regions and countries
3.8.1 The Balkans
3.8.2 The Middle East
3.8.3 The Warsaw Pact
3.9 Current active service
4.1 Current operators
4.2 Former operators
6.1 Other armoured fighting vehicles
7 Surviving vehicles
8 See also
8.1 Tanks of comparable role, performance, and era
11 External links
Development and production
In 1939, the most numerous Soviet tank models were the
tank and the BT series of fast tanks. The
T-26 was slow-moving,
designed to keep pace with infantry on the ground. The BT tanks were
cavalry tanks: fast-moving and light, designed for manoeuvre warfare.
Both were Soviet developments of foreign designs from the early 1930s;
T-26 was based on the British Vickers 6-Ton, and the BT tanks were
based on a design from American engineer J. Walter Christie.
T-34 (model 1940), and
T-34 (model 1941)
In 1937, the
Red Army had assigned engineer
Mikhail Koshkin to lead a
new team to design a replacement for the BT tanks at the Kharkiv
Komintern Locomotive Plant (KhPZ). The prototype tank, designated
A-20, was specified with 20 mm (0.8 in) of armour, a
45 mm (1.77 in) gun, and the new Model V-2-34 engine, using
less-flammable diesel fuel in a V12 configuration designed by
Konstantin Chelpan. 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. This feature had greatly saved on
maintenance and repair of the unreliable tank tracks of the early
1930s, and allowed tanks to exceed 85 kilometres per hour
(53 mph) on roads, but gave no advantage in combat and its
complexity made it difficult to maintain. By 1937–38, track design
had improved and the designers considered it a waste of space, weight,
and maintenance resources, despite the road speed advantage. 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 rounds than perpendicular armour.
Battle of Lake Khasan
Battle of Lake Khasan in July 1938 and the Battles of
Khalkhin Gol in 1939, an undeclared border war with
Japan on the
frontier with occupied Manchuria, the Soviets deployed numerous tanks
Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Although the IJA Type 95
Ha-Go light tanks had diesel engines, the Red Army's
T-26 and BT
tanks used petrol engines which, while common in tank designs of the
time, often burst into flames when hit by IJA tank-killer teams
using Molotov cocktails. Poor quality welds in the Soviet armour
plates left small gaps between them, and flaming petrol from the
Molotov cocktails easily seeped into the fighting and engine
compartment; portions of the armour plating that had been assembled
with rivets also proved to be vulnerable. The Soviet tanks were
also easily destroyed by the Japanese Type 95 tank's 37 mm
gunfire, despite the low velocity of that gun, or "at any other
slightest provocation". The use of riveted armour led to a problem
called "spalling", whereby the impact of enemy shells, even if they
failed to disable the tank or kill the crew on their own, would cause
the rivets to break off and become projectiles inside the tank.
Medium tank A-32
After these battles, Koshkin convinced Soviet leader
Joseph Stalin to
let him develop a second prototype, a more heavily armed and armoured
"universal tank" that reflected the lessons learned and could replace
T-26 and the BT tanks. Koshkin named the second prototype
A-32, after its 32 mm (1.3 in) of frontal armour. It had an
L-10 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, and the same Model V-2-34
diesel. Both were tested in field trials at
Kubinka in 1939, with
the heavier A-32 proving to be as mobile as the A-20. A still heavier
version of the A-32, with 45 mm (1.77 in) of front armour,
wider tracks, and a newer L-11 76.2 mm gun, 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 that year's decree expanding the armoured force and
Sergo Ordzhonikidze to head tank production.
Valuable lessons from Lake Khasan and Khalkhin Gol regarding armour
protection, mobility, quality welding, and main guns were incorporated
into the new
T-34 tank, which represented a substantial improvement
over the BT and
T-26 tanks in all four areas. Koshkin's team
completed two prototype T-34s in January 1940. In April and May, they
underwent a grueling 2,000-kilometre (1,200 mi) drive from
Moscow for a demonstration for the Kremlin leaders, to the
Mannerheim Line in Finland, and back to
Kiev. Some drivetrain shortcomings were identified and
Pre-production prototype A-34 with a complex single-piece hull front.
Political pressure came from conservative elements in the army to
redirect resources into building the older
T-26 and BT tanks, or to
T-34 production pending completion of the more advanced T-34M
design. This pressure was brought to bear by the developer of the KV-1
tank which was in competition with the T-34.
Resistance from the military command and concerns about high
production cost were finally overcome by anxieties about the poor
performance of Soviet tanks in the
Winter War in Finland, and the
effectiveness of German tanks during the Battle of France. The first
production T-34s were completed in September 1940, completely
replacing the production of the T-26, the BT series, and the
T-28 medium tank at the KhPZ plant. Koshkin died of
pneumonia (exacerbated by the drive from
Kharkiv to Moscow) at the end
of that month, and the T-34's drivetrain developer, Alexander Morozov,
was appointed Chief Designer.
T-34 posed new challenges for Soviet industry. It had heavier
armour than any medium tank produced to date, and there were problems
with defective armour plates. Only company commanders' tanks could
be fitted with radios (originally the 10-RT 26E radio set), due to
their expense and short supply – the rest of the tank crews in each
company signalled with flags. The L-11 gun did not live up to
expectations, so the Grabin Design Bureau at Gorky Factory N.92
designed the superior F-34 76.2 mm gun (see Designations of
Soviet artillery). No bureaucrat would approve production of the new
gun, but Gorky and KhPZ started producing it anyway; official
permission only came from the State Defense Committee after troops
praised the weapon's performance in combat against the Germans.
Production of this first
T-34 series – the Model 1940 – totalled
only about 400, before production was switched to the Model 1941,
with the F-34 gun, 9-RS radio set (also installed on the SU-100), and
even thicker armour.
T-34 tanks headed to the front.
Subassemblies for the
T-34 originated at several plants: Kharkiv
Diesel Factory N.75 supplied the model V-2-34 engine, Leningrad
Kirovsky Factory (formerly the Putilov works) made the original L-11
gun, and the Dinamo Factory in
Moscow produced electrical components.
Tanks were initially built at KhPZ N.183, in early 1941 at the
Stalingrad Tractor Factory
Stalingrad Tractor Factory (STZ), and starting in July at Krasnoye
Sormovo Factory N.112 in Gorky.[notes 1]
(June 1941 –
KV and KV-85
After Germany's surprise invasion of the
Soviet Union on 22 June 1941
(Operation Barbarossa), the Wehrmacht's rapid advances forced the
evacuation and relocation of Soviet tank factories eastwards of the
Ural Mountains, an undertaking of immense scale and haste that
presented enormous logistic difficulties and was extremely punishing
to the workers involved. Alexander Morozov personally supervised the
evacuation of all skilled engineers and labourers, machinery and stock
from KhPZ to re-establish the factory at the site of the Dzerzhinsky
Ural Railcar Factory in Nizhny Tagil, renamed Stalin Ural
N.183. The Kirovsky Factory, evacuated just weeks before the
Germans surrounded Leningrad, moved with the
Kharkiv Diesel Factory to
the Stalin Tractor Factory in Chelyabinsk, soon to be nicknamed
Tank City"). The workers and machinery from Leningrad's
Tank Factory N.174 were incorporated into the Ural Factory
and the new Omsk Factory N.174. The Ordzhonikidze Ural Heavy Machine
Tool Works (UZTM) in Sverdlovsk absorbed workers and machines from
several small machine shops in the path of German forces.
While these factories were being rapidly moved, the industrial complex
surrounding the Dzerzhinsky Tractor Factory in Stalingrad continued to
work double shifts throughout the period of withdrawal (September 1941
to September 1942) to make up for production lost, and produced 40% of
all T-34s during the period. As the factory became surrounded by
heavy fighting in the
Battle of Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad in 1942, the situation
there grew desperate: manufacturing innovations were necessitated by
material shortages, and stories persist of unpainted
T-34 tanks driven
out of the factory directly to the battlefields around it.
Stalingrad kept up production until September 1942.
Soviet designers were aware of design deficiencies in the tank, but
most of the desired remedies would have slowed tank production and so
were not implemented: the only changes allowed on the production lines
through to 1944 were those to make production simpler and cheaper. New
methods were developed for automated welding and hardening the armour
plate, including innovations by Prof. Evgeny Paton. The design of
the 76.2 mm
F-34 gun Model 1941
F-34 gun Model 1941 was reduced from an initial 861
parts to 614. The initial narrow, cramped turrets, both the cast
one and the one welded of rolled armour plates bent to shape, were
since 1942 gradually replaced with the somewhat less cramped hexagonal
one; as it was mostly cast with only a few, simple flat armour plates
welded in (roof etc.), this turret was actually faster to produce.
Limited rubber supplies led to the adoption of all-steel, internally
sprung road wheels, and a new clutch was added to an improved
five-speed transmission and engine, improving reliability.
T-34 Model 1943 in Poznań, Poland. The model 1943's hexagonal
turret distinguishes it from earlier models.
Over two years, the unit production cost of the
T-34 was reduced from
269,500 rubles in 1941, to 193,000, and then to 135,000. This was
achieved by underpaying & overworking all the factory workers.
Through this time - the workers were treated as little more than
slaves. At the same time, its production time was cut in half by
the end of 1942, even though most of the more experienced factory
workers had been sent to the battlefield and were replaced by a
workforce that included 50% women, 15% boys, and 15% invalids and old
men. Originally "beautifully crafted machines with excellent exterior
finish comparable or superior to those in Western Europe or America",
later T-34s were much more roughly finished; however, this did not
compromise mechanical reliability,
T-34 production had reached an average of 1,300 per month;
this was the equivalent of three full-strength Panzer divisions.
By the end of 1945, over 57,300 T-34s had been built: 34,780 T-34
tanks in multiple variants with 76.2 mm guns in
1940–44, and another 22,609 of the revised T-34-85
model in 1944–45. The single largest producer was Factory N.183
(UTZ), building 28,952 T-34s and T-34-85s from 1941 to 1945. The
Krasnoye Sormovo Factory
Krasnoye Sormovo Factory N.112 in Gorky, with
12,604 in the same period.
At the start of the German-Soviet war, T-34s comprised about four
percent of the Soviet tank arsenal, but by the end it made up at least
55% of tank production (based on figures from; Zheltov 2001 lists
even larger numbers).
Following the end of the war, a further 2,701 T-34s were built prior
to the end of Soviet production. Under licence, production was
Poland (1951–55) and
Czechoslovakia (1951–58), where
1,380 and 3,185 T-34-85s were made, respectively, by 1956.
Altogether, as many as 84,070 T-34s are thought to have been built,
plus 13,170 self-propelled guns built on
T-34 chassis. It was the
most-produced tank of the Second World War, and the second
most-produced tank of all time, after its successor, the T-54/55
T-34 had well-sloped armour, a relatively powerful engine and wide
tracks. The initial
T-34 version had a powerful 76.2 mm gun,
and is often called the T-34/76 (originally a
World War II
World War II German
designation, never used by the Red Army). In 1944, a second major
version began production, the T-34-85, with a larger 85 mm gun
intended to deal with newer German tanks.
Comparisons can be drawn between the
T-34 and the U.S. M4 Sherman
tank. Both tanks were the backbone of the armoured units in their
respective armies, both nations distributed these tanks to their
allies, who also used them as the mainstay of their own armoured
formations, and both were upgraded extensively and fitted with more
powerful guns. Both were designed for mobility and ease of manufacture
and maintenance, sacrificing some performance for these goals. Both
chassis were used as the foundation for a variety of support vehicles,
such as armour recovery vehicles, tank destroyers, and self-propelled
artillery. Both were an approximately even match for the standard
German medium tank, the Panzer IV, though each of these three tanks
had particular advantages and weaknesses compared with the other two.
T-34 nor the M4 were equals to Germany's heavier tanks,
the Panther (technically a medium tank) or the Tiger I; the Soviets
IS-2 heavy tank
IS-2 heavy tank and the U.S. used the
M26 Pershing as the
heavy tanks of their forces instead.
Soviet medium tank models of World War II
T-34 Model 1940
T-34 Model 1941
T-34 Model 1942
T-34 Model 1943
26 t (29 tons)
26.5 t (29.2 tons)
28.5 t (31.4 tons)
30.9 t (34.1 tons)
34 t (37 tons)
32 t (35 tons)
31.9 t (35.2 tons)
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
460 L (100 imp gal; 120 US gal)
460 L (100 imp gal; 120 US gal)
460 L (100 imp gal; 120 US gal)
610 L (130 imp gal; 160 US gal)
545 L (120 imp gal; 144 US gal)
500 L (110 imp gal; 130 US gal)
160–250 km (99–155 mi)
160–250 km (99–155 mi)
160–250 km (99–155 mi)
330 km (210 mi)
240 km (150 mi)
250–300 km (160–190 mi)
250 km (160 mi)
15–45 mm (0.59–1.77 in)
20–52 mm (0.79–2.05 in)
20–65 mm (0.79–2.56 in)
20–70 mm (0.79–2.76 in)
16–90 mm (0.63–3.54 in)
20–90 mm (0.79–3.54 in)
15–120 mm (0.59–4.72 in)
Dimensions, road speed and engine horsepower of the various models did
not vary significantly, except for the T-43, which was slower than the
The heavily sloped armour design made the tank better protected than
the armour thickness alone would indicate. The shape also saved weight
by reducing the surface area. A few tanks also had appliqué armour of
varying thickness welded onto the hull and turret. Tanks thus modified
were called s ekranami (Russian: с экранами, "with
The USSR donated two combat-used Model 1941 T-34s to the United States
for testing purposes in late 1942. The examinations, performed at
the Aberdeen Proving Ground, revealed problems with overall armour
build quality, especially of the plate joins and welds, as well as the
use of soft steel combined with shallow surface tempering. Leak issues
were noted: "In a heavy rain lots of water flows through
chinks/cracks, which leads to the disabling of the electrical
equipment and even the ammunition". Earlier models of the T-34,
until the Model 1942, had cast turrets whose armour was softer than
that of the other parts of the tank, and offered poor resistance even
to 37 mm anti-aircraft shells.
In addition, close examination of the
T-34 at the Aberdeen Testing
Ground showed that a variety of alloys were used in different portions
of the armour on the T-34. "Mn-Si-Mo steels were employed for the
thinner rolled armour sections, Cr-Mo steels for the thicker rolled
armour sections, Mn-Si-Ni-Cr-Mo steels were employed for both rolled
and cast steel components from 2" to 5" in thickness, and Ni-Cr-Mo
steels were employed for some of the moderately thick cast armour
sections". The armour was heat-treated in order to prevent
penetration by armour-piercing shells, but this also caused it to be
structurally weak, resulting in strikes by high explosive shells
Despite these deficiencies, the T-34's armour proved problematic for
the Germans in the initial stages of the war on the Eastern Front. In
one wartime account, a single
T-34 came under heavy fire upon
encountering one of the most common German anti-tank guns at that
stage of the war: "Remarkably enough, one determined 37 mm gun
crew reported firing 23 times against a single
T-34 tank, only
managing to jam the tank’s turret ring." Similarly, a German
report of May 1942 noted the ineffectiveness of their 50 mm gun
as well, noting that "Combating the
T-34 with the 5 cm KwK tank
gun is possible only at short ranges from the flank or rear, where it
is important to achieve a hit as perpendicular to the surface as
possible." However, a Military Commissariat Report of the 10th
Tank Division, dated 2 August 1941 reported that within
300–400 m the 37 mm Pak 36's armour-piercing shot could
defeat the frontal armour. According to an examination of
T-34 tanks in several repair workshops in August to September
1942, collected by the People's Commissariat for
Tank Industry in
January 1943, 54.3% of all
T-34 losses were caused by the German
long-barreled 50 mm KwK 39 gun.
As the war went on, the
T-34 gradually lost some of its initial
advantage. The Germans responded to the
T-34 by fielding large numbers
of improved anti-tank weapons such as the towed 75 mm gun, while
hits from 88 mm-armed Tigers, anti-aircraft guns and PaK 43
88 mm anti-tank guns usually proved lethal. A Wa Pruef 1
report estimated that, with the target angled 30° sideward, a Panther
tank could penetrate the turret of a T-34-85 from the front at ranges
up to 2000 m, the mantlet at 1200 m, and the frontal hull
armour at 300 m. According to the Pantherfibel, the T-34's
glacis could be penetrated from 800 m and the mantlet from 1500 m
at 30° sideward angle. Ground trials by employees of NIBT Poligon
in May 1943 reported that the KwK 36 88mm gun could pierce the T-34
frontal hull from 1,500 metres at 90 degrees and cause a disastrous
burst effect inside the tank. The examined hull showed cracks,
spalling, and delamination due to the poor quality of the armour. It
was recommended to increase and improve the quality of welds and
T-34 side view, displaying the F-34 gun, with an I
The F-34 76.2 mm (3 in) gun, fitted on the vast majority of
T-34s produced through to the beginning of 1944, was able to penetrate
any early German tank's armour at normal combat ranges. When firing
APCR shells, it could pierce 92 mm of armour at 500 m. The
best German tanks of 1941, the
Panzer III and Panzer IV, had no more
than 50 or 60 mm of flat frontal armour. The F-34 also fired
an adequate high explosive round.
The gun sights and range finding for the F-34 main gun (either the
TMFD-7 or the PT4-7) were rather crude, especially compared to
those of their German adversaries, affecting accuracy and the ability
to engage at long ranges. As a result of the T-34's two-man
turret, weak optics and poor vision devices, the Germans noted:
T-34s operated in a disorganised fashion with little coordination, or
else tended to clump together like a hen with its chicks. Individual
tank commanders lacked situational awareness due to the poor provision
of vision devices and preoccupation with gunnery duties. A tank
platoon would seldom be capable of engaging three separate targets,
but would tend to focus on a single target selected by the platoon
leader. As a result
T-34 platoons lost the greater firepower of three
independently operating tanks.
The Germans also noted that the
T-34 was very slow to find and engage
targets, while their own tanks could typically get off three rounds
for every one fired by the T-34. When new German tanks types with
thicker armour began appearing in mid-1942, the T-34's 76.2 mm
cannon had to fire at their flanks to assure penetration. As a result,
T-34 was upgraded to the T-34-85 model. This model, with its
85 mm (3.35 in) ZiS gun, provided greatly increased
firepower compared to the previous T-34's 76.2mm gun. The 85 mm
gun could penetrate the turret front of a
Tiger I tank from 500 m
(550 yd) and the driver's front plate from 300 m
(330 yd) at the side angle of 30 degrees, and the larger turret
enabled the addition of another crew member, allowing the roles of
commander and gunner to be separated and increasing the rate of fire
and overall effectiveness. Against the frontal armour of the
Panther at 30 degree sidewards, the T-34-85 could not penetrate the
non-mantlet of its turret at 500 m (550 yd), meaning
that even upgraded models of the
T-34 usually needed tungsten rounds
or had to flank a Panther to destroy it.[clarification needed]
The greater length of the 85 mm gun barrel (4.645 meters) made it
necessary for crews to be careful not to plough it into the ground on
bumpy roads or in combat.
Tank commander A.K. Rodkin commented: "the
tank could have dug the ground with it in the smallest ditch [filling
the barrel with dirt]. If you fired it after that, the barrel would
open up at the end like the petals of a flower", destroying the
barrel. Standard practice when moving the T-34-85 cross-country in
non-combat situations was to fully elevate the gun, or reverse the
The T-34's 12-cylinder Model V-2-34 diesel engine at the Finnish Tank
Museum in Parola
T-34 was powered by a Model V-2-34 38.8 L V12 Diesel engine
of 500 hp (370 kW),[notes 2] giving a top speed of
53 km/h (33 mph). It used the coil-spring Christie
suspension of the earlier BT-series tanks, 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 heavy and
ineffective convertible drive.
During the winters of 1941–42 and 1942–43, the
T-34 had a marked
advantage over German tanks through its ability to move over deep mud
or snow — especially important in Russia's twice-annual rasputitsa
mud seasons — without bogging down. The Panzer IV, its closest
German equivalent at that time, used an inferior leaf-spring
suspension and narrow track that tended to sink in such
T-34 suffered from the unsatisfactory ergonomic layout of its crew
compartment. The two-man turret crew arrangement required the
commander to aim and fire the gun, an arrangement common to most
Soviet tanks of the day. The two-man turret was "cramped and
inefficient"  and was inferior to the three-man (commander,
gunner, and loader) turret crews of German
Panzer III and Panzer IV
tanks. The Germans noted the
T-34 was very slow to find and engage
targets while the Panzers could typically get off three rounds for
every one fired by the T-34.
Early in the war, the commander fought at a further disadvantage; the
forward-opening hatch and the lack of a turret cupola forced him to
observe the battlefield through a single vision slit and traversable
periscope. German commanders liked to fight "heads-up", with their
seat raised and having a full field of view – in the
T-34 this was
impossible. Soviet veterans condemned the turret hatches of the
early models. Nicknamed pirozhok (stuffed bun) because of its
characteristic shape, it was heavy and hard to open. The complaints of
the crews urged the design group led by Alexander Morozov to switch in
August 1942 to using two hatches in the turret.
The loader also had a difficult job due to the lack of a turret basket
(a rotating floor that moves as the turret turns); the same fault was
present on all German tanks prior to the Panzer IV. 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 rounds had been used, the crew had to pull additional
ammunition out of the floor boxes, leaving the floor littered with
open bins and matting and reducing their performance.
The main weakness [of the two-man turret of a
T-34 Model 1941] is that
it is very tight. The Americans couldn't understand how our tankers
could fit inside during a winter, when they wear sheepskin jackets.
The electrical mechanism for rotating the turret is very bad. The
motor is weak, very overloaded and sparks horribly, as a result of
which the device regulating the speed of the rotation burns out, and
the teeth of the cogwheels break into pieces. They recommend replace
it with a hydraulic or simply manual system.
The problems created by the cramped T-34/76 turret, known before the
war, were fully corrected with the provision of a bigger cast
three-man turret on the T-34-85 in 1944.
The T-34's wide track and good suspension gave it excellent
cross-country performance. Early in the tank's life, however, this
advantage was greatly reduced by the numerous teething troubles the
design displayed: a long road trip could be a lethal exercise for a
T-34 tank at the start of the war. When in June 1941, the 8th
Mechanised Corps of D.I. Ryabyshev marched towards Dubno, the corps
lost half of its vehicles. A.V. Bodnar, who was in combat in 1941-42,
From the point of view of operating them, the German armoured machines
were almost perfect, they broke down less often. For the Germans,
covering 200 km was nothing, but with T-34s something would have been
lost, something would have broken down. The technological equipment of
their machines was better, the combat gear was worse.
T-34 gearbox had four forward and one reverse gear, replaced by a
five-speed box on the last of the Model 1943s. The earlier
transmissions were troublesome, and some tanks went into battle with a
spare transmission cabled onto the engine compartment deck.
The tracks of early models were the most frequently repaired part.
A.V. Maryevski later remembered:
The caterpillars used to break apart even without bullet or shell
hits. When earth got stuck between the road wheels, the caterpillar,
especially during a turn – strained to such an extent that the pins
and tracks themselves couldn't hold out.
The USSR donated two combat-used Model 1941 T-34s to the United States
for testing purposes in late 1942. The examinations, performed at the
Aberdeen Proving Ground, highlighted these early faults, which were in
turn acknowledged in a 1942 Soviet report on the results of the
The Christie's suspension was tested long time ago by the Americans,
and unconditionally rejected. On our tanks, as a result of the poor
steel on the springs, it very quickly [unclear word] and as a result
clearance is noticeably reduced. The deficiencies in our tracks from
their viewpoint results from the lightness of their construction. They
can easily be damaged by small-calibre and mortar rounds. The pins are
extremely poorly tempered and made of poor steel. As a result, they
quickly wear and the track often breaks.
Testing at Aberdeen also revealed that engines could grind to a halt
from dust and sand ingestion, as the original "Pomon" air filter was
almost totally ineffective and had insufficient air-inflow capacity,
starving the combustion chambers of oxygen, lowering compression, and
thereby restricting the engine from operating at full capacity.
The air filter issue was later remedied by the addition of "Cyclone"
filters on the Model 1943, and even more efficient "Multi-Cyclone"
filters on the T-34-85.
The testing at Aberdeen revealed other problems as well. The turret
drive also suffered from poor reliability. The use of poorly machined,
low quality steel side friction clutches and the T-34's outdated and
poorly manufactured transmission meant frequent mechanical failure
occurred and that they "create an inhuman harshness for the driver". A
lack of properly installed and shielded radios – if they existed at
all – restricted their operational range to under 16 km
Judging by samples, Russians when producing tanks pay little attention
to careful machining or the finishing and technology of small parts
and components, which leads to the loss of the advantage what would
otherwise accrue from what on the whole are well designed tanks.
Despite the advantages of the use of diesel, the good contours of the
tanks, thick armor, good and reliable armaments, the successful design
of the tracks etc., Russian tanks are significantly inferior to
American tanks in their simplicity of driving, manoeuvrability, the
strength of firing (reference to muzzle velocity), speed, the
reliability of mechanical construction and the ease of keeping them
Operation Barbarossa (1941) 
Main article: German encounter of Soviet
T-34 and KV tanks
German training mockup of a
T-34 built over a captured Polish TK-3
Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, its invasion of the Soviet
Union, on 22 June 1941. The existence of the
T-34 proved a
psychological shock to German soldiers, who had expected to face an
inferior enemy. The
T-34 was superior to any tank the Germans then
had in service. Initially, the
Wehrmacht had great difficulty
destroying T-34s in combat, as standard German anti-tank weaponry
proved ineffective against its heavy, sloped armour. The diary of
Alfred Jodl seems to express surprise at the appearance of the
At the start of hostilities, the
Red Army had 967
T-34 tanks and 508
KV tanks concentrated in five of their twenty-nine mechanized
corps. In one of the first known encounters, a
T-34 crushed a
37 mm PaK 36, destroyed two Panzer IIs, and left a 14 kilometres
(8.7 mi)-long swathe of destruction in its wake before a howitzer
destroyed it at close range.[page needed] The Germans'
standard anti-tank gun, the 37 mm PaK 36, proved ineffective
against the T-34; the Germans were forced to deploy 105 mm field
guns and 88 mm anti-aircraft guns in a direct fire role to stop
Burning T-34, Russia, 1941
Despite this, the Soviet corps equipped with these new tanks lost most
of them within weeks. The combat statistics for 1941 show that the
Soviets lost an average of over seven tanks for every German tank
lost. The Soviets lost a total of 20,500 tanks in 1941
(approximately 2,300 of them T-34s, as well as over 900 heavy tanks,
mostly KVs). The destruction of the Soviet tank force was
accomplished not only by the glaring disparity in the tactical and
operational skills of the opponents, but also by the mechanical
defects that affected the Soviet armour pool. Beside the poor
state of older tanks, the new T-34s and KVs suffered from initial
mechanical and design problems, particularly with regard to clutches
and transmissions. Mechanical breakdowns accounted for at least 50
percent of the tank losses in the summer fighting, and recovery or
repair equipment was not to be found. The shortage of repair
equipment and recovery vehicles led the early
T-34 crews to enter
combat carrying a spare transmission on the engine deck.
Other key factors diminishing the initial impact of T-34s on the
battlefield were the poor state of leadership, tank tactics, and crew
training; these factors were partially consequences of Stalin's purges
of the Soviet officer corps in 1937, reducing the army's efficiency
and morale. This was aggravated as the campaign progressed by the
loss of many of the properly trained personnel during the Red Army's
disastrous defeats early in the invasion. Typical crews went into
combat with only their basic military training plus 72 hours of
classroom instruction; according to historian Steven Zaloga:
The weakness of mechanized corps lay not in the design of their
equipment, but rather in its poor mechanical state, the inadequate
training of their crews, and the abysmal quality of Soviet military
leaderships in the first month of the war.
Further action (1942–1943)
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As the invasion progressed, German infantry began receiving increasing
numbers of the
Pak 40 75 mm, which were capable of penetrating
the T-34's armour at long range. Larger numbers of the 88 mm Flak
guns also arrived, which could easily defeat a
T-34 at very long
ranges, though their size and general unwieldiness meant that they
were often difficult to move into position in the rough Russian
terrain. The heavy German
Tiger I tank appeared on the Eastern
Front in late 1942, as a response to the T-34.
At the same time, the Soviets incrementally upgraded the T-34. The
Model 1942 featured increased armour on the turret and many simplified
components. The Model 1943 (confusingly also introduced in 1942) had
yet more armour, as well as increased fuel capacity and more
ammunition storage. Also added were an improved engine air filter and
a new clutch mated to an improved and more reliable five-speed
transmission. Finally, the Model 1943 also had a new, slightly
roomier (but still two-man) turret of a distinctive hexagonal shape
that was easier to manufacture, derived from the abandoned T-34M
T-34 was essential in resisting the German summer offensive in
1942, and executing the double encirclement manoeuver that cut off the
German Sixth Army at Stalingrad in December 1942. The Sixth Army was
surrounded, and eventually surrendered in February 1943, a campaign
widely regarded as the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front.
In 1943, the Soviets formed Polish and Czechoslovak armies-in-exile,
and these started to receive the
T-34 Model 1943 with a hexagonal
turret. Like the Soviet forces themselves, the Polish and Czechoslovak
tank crews were sent into action quickly with little training, and
suffered high casualties. The Czechoslovak crews of
T-34 saw their first action in the Battle of
Kiev in November 1943.
The battalion forces consisting of ten T-34, ten
T-70 and ten BA-64
quickly captured the city center and destroyed 4 enemy tanks, 2 tank
destroyers and 7 other armoured vehicles with the own losses of only
three T-34s light damaged. For his performance the commander of the
tank unit, Josef Buršík, received the golden star Hero of the
In July 1943, the Germans launched Operation Citadel, in the region
around Kursk, their last major offensive on the Eastern Front in the
Second World War. It was the debut of the German Panther tank,
although the numbers employed at Kursk were small and the brunt of the
burden was carried by the Panzer III, StuG III, and Panzer IV. The
campaign featured the largest tank battles in history. The high-water
mark of the battle was the massive armour engagement at Prokhorovka,
which began on 12 July, though the vast majority of armour losses on
both sides were caused by artillery and mines, rather than tanks.
Over 6,000 fully tracked armoured vehicles, 4,000 combat aircraft, and
2 million men are believed to have participated in these battles.
The Soviet high command's decision to focus on one cost-effective
design, cutting costs and simplifying production wherever possible
while only allowing relatively minor improvements, had proven to be an
astute choice for the first two years of the war. However, the battles
in the summer of 1943 demonstrated that the 76.2 mm gun of the
T-34 was no longer as effective as it was in 1941. Soviet tank crews
struggled at longer ranges with the additional frontal armour applied
to the later variants of the
Panzer III and Panzer IV, and were unable
to penetrate the frontal armour of the new German Panther or Tiger I
tanks at standard combat ranges without tungsten rounds, and had to
rely on tactical skill through flanking maneuvers and combined
T-34 Model 1943 (left), next to the T-43.
After improved German Panzer IVs with the high-velocity 75 mm
(2.95 in) gun were encountered in combat in 1942, a project to
design an entirely new Soviet tank was begun, with the goals of
increasing armour protection while adding modern features like a
torsion-bar suspension and a three-man turret. This new tank, the
T-43, was intended to be a universal tank to replace both the
the KV-1 heavy tank. However, the T-43 prototype's armour, though
heavier, was still not proof against German 88 mm guns, while its
mobility was found to be inferior to the T-34. Finally, although the
T-43 shared over 70% of its components with the T-34, manufacturing it
would still have required a significant slow-down in production.
Consequently, the T-43 was cancelled.
Not only were the weapons of German tanks improving, so was their
armour. Soviet firing tests against a captured
Tiger I heavy tank in
April 1943 showed that the T-34's 76 mm gun could not penetrate
the front of the
Tiger I at all, and the side only at very close
range. A Soviet 85 mm anti-aircraft gun, the 52-K, was found
capable of doing the job, and so derivatives of it were developed for
tanks. The resulting tank gun could penetrate the side armour
Tiger I from a distance of 800 meters and the turret side from
a distance of 600 meters. It was still not enough to match the Tiger,
as a Tiger could destroy the
T-34 from a distance of 1,500 to 2,000
meters, but it was a noticeable improvement.
Rear view of a T-34-85 from Factory 174. In the centre is a circular
transmission access hatch, flanked by exhaust pipes, MDSh smoke
canisters on the hull rear, and extra fuel tanks on the hull sides.
With the T-43 cancelled, the Soviet command made the decision to
retool the factories to produce an improved version of the T-34. Its
turret ring was enlarged from 1,425 mm (56 in) to
1,600 mm (63 in), allowing a larger turret to be fitted and
thus the larger 85 mm gun. The prototype T-43's turret design was
hurriedly adapted by Vyacheslav Kerichev at the Krasnoye Sormovo
Factory to fit the T-34. This was a larger three-man turret, with
radio (previously in the hull) and observation cupola in the roof. Now
the tank commander needed only to command (aided by cupola and radio
systems), leaving the operation of the gun to the gunner and the
loader. The turret armour was much thicker, 90 mm, even if bigger
and less sloped than the original
T-34 turret. This made the turret,
overall, a bigger target (due to the three-man crew and bigger gun),
but more resistant to enemy fire. The ammunition load shrank from
around 90-100 to 55-60 shells, but the projectiles were 50% heavier
(9 kg) and were much better in the anti-armour role, and
reasonable in a general purpose role. The resulting new tank, the
T-34-85, was seen as a compromise between advocates for the T-43 and
others who wanted to continue to build as many 76 mm-armed T-34s
as possible without interruption.
Interior of a T-34-85 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. Levers for
radiator flaps can be seen on the firewall.
Production of the T-34-85 began in February 1944, first using the
85 mm S-53 gun and then in mid-1944 the 85 mm
ZiS-S-53 was a modified S-53 designed by the Grabin Design Bureau in
order to simplify the gun and reduce its price; the ballistics of both
were the same). The improved T-34-85 became the standard
Soviet medium tank, with an uninterrupted production run until the end
of the war. A T-34-85 initially cost about 30 percent more to produce
than a Model 1943, at 164,000 rubles; by 1945 this had been reduced to
142,000 rubles. During the course of the World War II, the cost
T-34 tank was reduced by almost half, from 270,000 rubles in
1941, 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.
The T-34-85 gave the
Red Army a tank with better armour and mobility
than the German
Panzer IV tank and StuG III assault gun. While it
could not match the armour or weapons of the heavier Panther and Tiger
tanks, its improved firepower made it much more effective than earlier
models, and overall it was more cost-effective than the heaviest
German tanks. In comparison with the T-34-85 program, the Germans
instead chose an upgrade path based on the introduction of completely
new, expensive, heavier, and more complex tanks, greatly slowing the
growth of their tank production and aiding the Soviets in maintaining
a substantial numerical superiority in tanks. By May 1944,
T-34-85 production had reached 1,200 tanks per month. In the
entire war, production figures for all Panther types reached no more
than 6,557, and for all Tiger types (including the
Tiger I and Tiger
II) 2,027. Production figures for the T-34-85 alone reached
German use of T-34s
T-34 Model 1943 tanks pressed into service with the
The German army, always short of equipment, was always more than happy
to employ as much captured materiel as possible and T-34s were not an
exception. Fighting on the Eastern Front saw large numbers of T-34s
captured, though few were T-34-85s. These were designated by the
Germans as Panzerkampfwagen
T-34 747(r). From late 1941, captured
T-34s were transported to a German workshop for repairs and
modification to German requirements. In 1943 a local tank factory in
Kharkiv was used for this purpose. These were sometimes modified to
German standards by the installation of a German commander’s cupola
and radio equipment.
The first captured T-34s entered German service during the summer of
1941. In order to prevent recognition mistakes, large-dimension
crosses or even swastikas were painted on the tanks, including on top
of the turret, in order to prevent strikes from Axis aircraft.
Modified T-34s were also used as artillery tractors, recovery
vehicles, and ammunition carriers. Badly damaged tanks were either dug
in as pillboxes or were used for testing and training purposes.
Manchurian campaign (August 1945)
Main article: Soviet invasion of Manchuria
Just after midnight on 9 August 1945, though the terrain was believed
by the Japanese to be impassable by armoured formations, the Soviet
Union invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria.
Red Army combined-arms
forces achieved complete surprise and used a powerful,
deep-penetrating attack in a classic double encirclement pattern,
spearheaded by the T-34-85. The opposing Japanese forces had been
reduced as elite units had been drawn off to other fronts and the
remaining forces were in the middle of a redeployment. The Japanese
tanks remaining to face them were all held in the rear and not used in
combat; the Japanese had weak support from IJAAF forces, engineering,
and communications. Japanese forces were overwhelmed, though some put
up resistance. The Japanese emperor transmitted a surrender order on
14 August, but the Kwangtung Army was not given a formal cease fire
until 17 August.
Korean War (1950–1953)
US Marines knocked out this North Korean T-34-85 in September 1950
while American and
United Nations forces advanced on
Seoul after their
successful amphibious landings at Inchon during the Korean War. At
least two penetrating hits can be seen on the tank's front.
A full North Korean
Korean People's Army
Korean People's Army (KPA) brigade equipped with
about 120 Soviet-supplied T-34-85s spearheaded the invasion of South
Korea in June 1950. The WWII-era 2.36-inch bazookas initially
used by the American troops in Korea were useless against the KPA's
T-34 tanks, as were the 75 mm main guns of the M24 Chaffee
light tank. However, following the introduction of heavier and
more capable armour into the war by US and UN forces, such as the
American M4 Sherman,
M26 Pershing and
M46 Patton tanks, as well as the
British Comet and Centurion tanks, the KPA began to suffer more T-34
tank losses in combat from enemy armour, aside from further losses due
to numerous US/UN airstrikes and increasingly-effective anti-tank
firepower for US/UN infantry on the ground, such as the then-new
3.5-inch bazooka (replacing the earlier 2.36-inch model). By the time
the invading North Korean troops were forced to withdraw from the
south, about 239 T-34s and 74
SU-76 assault guns had been lost or
abandoned. After October 1950, North Korean armour was rarely
encountered. Despite China's entry into the conflict in the following
month, no major armour deployments were carried out by them (with
their focus being on (massed) infantry attacks rather than armour
China became involved in the war with limited armour
(mainly several T-34-85s and a few IS-2 tanks), which were primarily
dispersed with their infantry, thus making armoured engagements with
US and UN forces rare from then on.
In summary, a 1954 US military survey concluded that there were, in
all, 119 tank vs. tank actions involving US Army and US Marine units
against North Korean and Chinese forces during the Korean War, with 97
T-34-85 tanks knocked out and another 18 considered probable.
Angolan Civil War
Angolan Civil War (1975–1988)
Restored FAPLA T-34-85 at the South African National Museum of
Military History, Johannesburg.
One of the last modern conflicts which saw the extensive combat
deployment of the T-34-85 was the Angolan Civil War. In 1975, the
Soviet Union shipped eighty T-34-85s to
Angola as part of its support
for the ongoing Cuban military intervention there. Cuban crewmen
instructed FAPLA personnel in their operation; other FAPLA drivers and
gunners accompanied Cuban crews in an apprentice role.
FAPLA began deploying T-34-85s against the
UNITA and FNLA forces on
June 9, 1975. The appearance of FAPLA and Cuban tanks prompted
South Africa to reinforce
UNITA with a single squadron of Eland-90
Other regions and countries
A Bosnian Serb Army T-34-85, with rubber matting added in an attempt
to hide its thermal signature, near
Doboj in early 1996.
In early 1991, the
Yugoslav People's Army
Yugoslav People's Army possessed 250 T-34-85s, none
of which were in active service. During the breakup of
Yugoslavia, the T-34-85s were inherited by the national armies of
Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and
Serbia and Montenegro
Serbia and Montenegro and continued
to see action during the Yugoslav Wars. Some were also
acquired from Yugoslav reserve stocks by Serbian separatist armies,
Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina
Army of the Republic of Serb Krajina (SVK) and the Army of
Republika Srpska (VRS). Most of these tanks were in poor
condition at the beginning of the conflict and some were soon rendered
unserviceable, likely through inadequate maintenance and lack of
On 3 May 1995, a VRS T-34-85 attacked an
UNPROFOR outpost manned by
the 21st Regiment of the
Royal Engineers in Maglaj, Bosnia, injuring
six British peacekeepers, with at least one of them sustaining a
permanent disability. A number of T-34s being stored by the
VRS at a base in
Zvornik were temporarily confiscated by
part of a local disarmament programme the following year.
The Middle East
Egyptian Army T-34-85 in the Egyptian Military museum.
Czechoslovak-produced T-34-85s were used by
Egypt in the Arab-Israeli
Wars of 1956 and 1967 in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt went on to build
the T-34-100, a local and unique conversion that was made up of a
Soviet BS-3 100 mm heavy field-artillery gun mounted within a
modified turret of the T-34-85. In 1956, they were used as regular
tanks to support Egyptian infantry, but by 1967 they were simply dug
in to be used as defensive gun-emplacements. Israel captured many of
Egypt's T-34-85s but it is unknown if they ever saw active service in
the Israeli Army. Captured Egyptian T-34-85s were re-painted by Israel
and also displayed on parade after the
Suez Crisis of 1956 with
Israeli Army markings.
The Syrian Army also received T-34-85s from the
Soviet Union and they
took part in the many artillery duels with Israeli tanks in November
1964 and in the
Six-Day War of 1967.
The Warsaw Pact
T-34-85s equipped many of the armies of Eastern European countries
(later forming the Warsaw Pact) and the armies of other Soviet
client-states elsewhere. East German, Hungarian and Soviet T-34-85s
served in the suppression of the
East German uprising of 17 June 1953
as well as the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
T-34-85s were sporadically available in
Afghanistan but it is not
known if they were used against the military forces in the coalition
Some of the PRC's T-34-85s in the country's 1950 National Day parade.
After the formation of the People's Republic of
China (the PRC) in
Soviet Union sent many T-34s and T-34-85s to the PRC's
People's Liberation Army (the PLA). The T-34s were phased out by the
end of 1960, while the T-34-85 was put into production locally by the
PRC and was known as the Type 58 medium tank, although the production
of the Type 58 was ended soon after once the PRC received
battle tanks from the
Soviet Union and began to build the Type 59
tank, which was a direct copy of the T-54.
Cuba received 150 T-34-85 tanks as military aid from the Soviet Union
in 1960. The T-34-85 was the first Soviet tank to enter service with
Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces
Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), along with the IS-2. Many
T-34-85 tanks first saw action in April 1961 during the Bay of Pigs
Invasion with an unknown number destroyed or knocked out during the
battle. In 1975, large quantities of T-34-85s were also donated
from the USSR to the FAR to support its lengthy intervention in the
Angolan Civil War.
A platoon of five Cuban T-34-85s saw combat in
Angola against South
African troops during the Battle of Cassinga. The tanks were based
along with a company of Cuban mechanized infantry equipped with
BTR-152 armoured personnel carriers. In May 1978, South Africa
launched a major airborne raid on
Cassinga with the objective of
destroying a South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) base
there. The Cuban forces were mobilised to stop them. As they
Cassinga they were strafed by South African aircraft, which
destroyed most of the BTR-152s and three of the T-34-85s; a fourth
T-34-85 was disabled by an anti-tank mine buried in the road. The
remaining tank continued to engage the withdrawing South African
paratroops from a hull down position until the battle was over.
Over a hundred Cuban T-34-85s and their respective crews remained in
Angola as of the mid 1980s. In September 1986, Cuban president Fidel
Castro complained to General Konstantin Kurochkin, head of the Soviet
military delegation to Angola, that his men could no longer be
expected to fight South African armour with T-34s of "World War II
vintage"; Castro insisted that the Soviets furbish the Cuban forces
with a larger quantity of T-55s. By 1987 Castro's request
appeared to have been granted, as Cuban tank battalions were able to
deploy substantial numbers of T-54Bs, T-55s, and T-62s; the T-34-85
was no longer in service.
Cypriot National Guard
Cypriot National Guard forces equipped with some 35 T-34-85 tanks
helped to support a coup by the Greek junta against President
Archbishop Makarios on 15 July 1974. They also saw extensive action
against Turkish forces during the Turkish invasion in July and August
1974, with two major actions at
Kioneli and at
Kyrenia on 20 July
In 1984, the South West African People's Organisation made a concerted
attempt to establish its own conventional armoured battalion through
its armed wing, the People's Liberation Army of Namibia. As part
of this effort, SWAPO diplomatic representatives in Europe approached
German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic with a request for ten
which were delivered. SWAPO T-34s were never deployed during
offensive operations against the South African military, being
confined to the role of protecting strategic bases inside northern
By 1988 most of them had been stationed near Luanda, where their crews
received training from Cuban instructors. In March 1989, SWAPO
inexplicably moved all its armoured units south towards the Namibian
border. South Africa accused SWAPO of planning a major offensive to
influence Namibia's pending general elections, but the tank crews
remained stationary and even refrained from intervening in a series of
renewed clashes later that year. All SWAPO T-34s were finally
Namibia at the movement's expense, following Namibian
independence in 1990. Four later entered service with the new
The Soviet and Finnish armies used T-34s until the 1960s; the former
included the 76.2 mm-armed versions until at least 1968, when
they were used in filming the sequel to the movie The Alive and the
Dead. The Finnish tanks were captured directly from the Soviets or
purchased from Germany's captured stocks. Many of the Т-34-85s were
enhanced with Finnish or Western equipment, such as improved
In January 2015, video emerged of
T-34 tanks being
transferred by rail, reportedly to participate in the invasion of
Ukraine. It was later confirmed that these tanks were being
Moscow for the 2015 Victory Day Parade.
Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army was equipped with
many Chinese Type 58 tanks, a copy of T-34, but these were used only
Tet Offensive and the 1972 Easter Offensive.
In 2015, both T-34-85 Model 1969 tanks and
SU-100 self-propelled guns
were photographed being used in Houthi takeover in Yemen.
Current active service
In 2010, there were eleven countries that maintained T-34s in the
inventories of their national armed forces: Cuba, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Yemen, the Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali,
Namibia, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam. Of these operators,
Vietnam possessed the largest known surviving fleet of
tanks, with 45.
Bosnia-Herzegovina possessed 5,
Yemen 30, Guinea
Mali 21, and
Laos 10. It was unclear how
many Cuban and North Korean T-34s remained in service. All the
Congolese and Namibian tanks were believed to be in reserve storage or
In 1944, pre-war development of a more advanced
T-34 tank was resumed,
leading to the T-44. The new tank had a turret design based on the
T-34-85's, but featured 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 and 200 of these tanks
were built before the end of the war. With substantial drivetrain
changes, a new turret, and 100 mm gun, it became the T-54,
starting production in 1947.
T-34-85 of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2014.
Cuba: 642; undisclosed number in service.
Republic of the Congo: In reserve.
Guinea: 45; 30 operational.
Mali: 30; 21 operational.
Namibia: 4; in reserve.
North Korea: 650; undisclosed number in service.
Yemen: 250; 30 operational.
Vietnam: 300; 45 operational.
People's Republic of China: 2,500
East Germany: 872
Kingdom of Italy: Captured.
Palestine Liberation Organization: 24
North Yemen: 150
South Yemen: 80
One of the best-known memorials of the
Battle of the Dukla Pass
Battle of the Dukla Pass of
Ladomirová and Svidník, on the Slovak side of the Dukla
Pass. A Soviet T-34-85 (left) together with a German Pz-IV J (right).
A T-34-85 tank monument in the
East German city of Karl-Marx-Stadt
(Chemnitz) became 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 Bautzen, 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
Another such tank, mounted atop the monument to Soviet tank crews in
Prague, was the focus of significant controversy. The monument (known
locally as 'Saint Tank') was intended to represent Lt I.G.
Goncharenko's T-34-85 (the first Soviet tank to enter
Prague in May
1945), but 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
Four Tankers and a Dog (Czterej pancerni i pies), a very successful
war-themed Polish television series of the 1960s, adapted the novel of
the same name by the Polish writer
Janusz Przymanowski (1922–1998),
himself a People's Army of
Poland volunteer. The series made
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 Republic
German Democratic Republic (East Germany). At
the beginning of the 21st century reruns of the black and white series
still manage to attract a large audience.
Budapest on 23 October 2006, the 2006 protests in
during the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.
Protesters managed to start an unarmed
T-34 tank which was part of a
memorial exhibit, and used it in riots against police forces. The tank
drove a few hundred metres, then stopped in front of the police,
causing no personal injury.
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improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
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There were two main production families of the T-34, each with
subvariants. The 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; damaged tanks were rebuilt, sometimes
with the addition of newer-model equipment and even new turrets.
Red Army never had a consistent policy for naming the T-34.
Since at least the 1980s, however, many academic sources (notably, AFV
expert Steven Zaloga) have used Soviet-style nomenclature:
the models armed with 76.2 mm guns, and T-34-85 for models armed
with 85 mm guns, with minor models distinguished by year, as T-34
Model 1940. Some Russian historians use different names: they refer to
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 the hexagonal-turret
T-34 as Model 1942 instead of
German military intelligence in
World War II
World War II referred to the two main
production families as T-34/76 and T-34/85, with subvariants receiving
letter designations such as T-34/76A — this nomenclature has been
widely used in the West, especially in popular literature. When the
Wehrmacht used captured T-34s, it designated them
Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r), where the "r" stood for russisch
("Russian"). The Finns referred to the
T-34 as the Sotka after
the common goldeneye, because the side silhouette of the tank
resembled a swimming waterfowl. The T-34-85 was called pitkäputkinen
Sotka ("long-barreled Sotka").
T-34-85 on display at Yad La-Shiryon, Israel.
T-34 (German designation: T-34/76) was the original tank with a
76.2 mm gun in a two-man turret.
Model 1940 (T-34/76A): Early, small production run (about 400
built) with the L-11 76.2 mm tank gun.
Model 1941 (T-34/76B): Main production with thicker armour and the
superior F-34 76.2 mm gun.
Model 1942 (T-34/76C): Thicker armour, many minor manufacturing
Model 1943 (T-34/76D, E, and F): Introduced May 1942 (not 1943). More
ammunition and fuel, very minor armour increase. New hexagonal
turret, nicknamed "Mickey Mouse" by the Germans because of its
appearance with the twin, round turret-roof hatches open. Later
production had a new commander's cupola.
The T-34-85 (German designation: T-34/85) was a major improvement with
an 85 mm gun in a three-man turret. All T-34-85 models are
externally very similar.
Model 1943: Short production run of February–March 1944 with D-5T 85
Model 1944: Produced from March 1944 through to the end of that year,
ZiS-S-53 85 mm gun, radio moved from the hull into a
turret with improved layout and new gunner's sight.
Model 1945: Produced from 1944 to 1945, with an electrically powered
turret traverse motor, an enlarged commander's cupola with a one-piece
hatch, and the TDP smoke system with electrically detonated MDSh
Model 1946: Production model with the improved V-2-34M engine, new
wheels, and other minor details.
Model 1960: A refurbishing program introduced a new V-2-3411 engine
and other modernizations.
Model 1969 (also called T-34-85M): Another refurbishing program
introducing night driving equipment, additional fuel, and other
Other armoured fighting vehicles
A T-34-57 in 1941.
Flame-thrower tanks: O
T-34 and OT-34-85 had an internally mounted
flamethrower ATO-41 (ATO-42 later) replacing the hull
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 and tank destroyers:
SU-122, a self-propelled howitzer based on
T-34 Model 1943
SU-85, a tank destroyer based on
T-34 Model 1943 chassis.
SU-100, a tank destroyer based on T-34-85 chassis.
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
An enormous number of T-34's and T-34-85's were produced; the Soviets
used them aggressively in campaigns in Europe and Asia, and they were
distributed to the Soviets' allies all over the world. Due to all
three factors, 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 U.S.
$20,000–40,000. Some still may serve in a second-line capacity in a
Third World militaries, while others may find use in a
civilian capacity, primarily in film-making. In many World War II
films, such as Saving Private Ryan, The Battle of Neretva, and
Kelly's Heroes, T-34-85 tanks were modified to resemble Tiger I
tanks, due to the rarity of the latter. In Sydney Pollack's 1969
movie Castle Keep, barely modified T-34-85 tanks were used as German
In 2000, a
T-34 Model 1943 was recovered that had spent 56 years at
the bottom of a bog in Estonia. The tank had been captured and
used by retreating German troops, who dumped it in the swamp when it
ran out of fuel. The anaerobic environment of the bog preserved the
tank and ensured there were no signs of oil leakage, rust, or other
significant water damage. The engine was restored to full working
Other significant surviving T-34s include a Model 1941 at the U.S.
Army Ordnance Museum in Aberdeen, Maryland—one of the oldest
surviving vehicles. The French
Musee des Blindes
Musee des Blindes at Saumur holds two
T-34s, including one in full working condition that is displayed in
action at its summer "Carrousel" live tank exhibition. The
T-34 Tank, a privately owned T-34-85 named after the
street in which it is sited (near Bermondsey, London), is frequently
repainted by artists and graffitists.
List of tanks of the Soviet Union
Soviet combat vehicle production during World War II
Tanks of comparable role, performance, and era
Canadian Grizzly I
German Panzer IV
Hungarian Turán III
Italian Carro Armato P 40
Japanese Type 3 Chi-Nu
Swedish Stridsvagn m/42
United States M4 Sherman
^ Due to a shortage of new Model V-2-34 diesel engines and a need to
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Gorky factory were equipped with the BT tank's
Mikulin M-17 gasoline
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^ The name of the T-34's engine (V-2; B-2 in Russian) is a model name,
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to T-34.
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U.S. WWII Newsmap, "Russian Armored Vehicles", hosted by the UNT
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