|Haynes/ Hachette Book Group|
164 pages, hardcover
While many consider the T-34 tank to be a revolutionary design, like many military vehicles it was evolutionary, based on the early BT light tanks. While it no longer had the ability to run solely on its road wheels, the influence of the Christie suspension was still there. It was rear drive, powered by an initially temperamental engine. It also was cramped with room in the turret for only two people. There were issues with fumes from the engine and the firing of the gun overpowering the crew thanks to inadequate ventilation. It had no heating system, and thanks to the poor engine, often was only capable of functioning for a few hundred kilometers before it needed to be changed.
However, it did have several very positive features those being sloped armor, fairly thick armor, and a very good gun. Its appearance was a surprise to German soldiers, even though German intel had known about it for some time.
With what is basically a killer tank, it did not show itself well in the first year of the great patriotic war. The lack of trained crews, the ineptitude of its officers, and the mechanical glitches often resulted in abandon vehicles. Indeed, more T-34s were 'lost' due to breakdowns and lack of fuel than probably anything else during the initial deployment. It also did not help that the Soviets did not have a vehicle capable of recovering these tanks from the battlefield.
Once the bugs had been worked out and reliability increased, the T-34 became a real threat. It was built in large numbers and was so successful that Stalin ordered the initial production version to remain unchanged so as to not interrupt production. Naturally, the Germans soon caught up and passed the abilities of the T-34 by 1943 so it had to be modified. This time replacing the 76mm gun with an 85 mm gun of greater power. This change also allowed for a three man turret and when introduced in mid 1944 put the Soviets back on an even par with German mediums.
The book spends the majority of its pages on the development and war history of the tank. This includes the many variations on the T-34 chassis such as assault guns. The end of WWII did not mean an end of the T-34 and later versions were still seeing action in 2017. In line with other books of the series, there are 'walkaround' sections that show details of the tank using period, museum and tech manual illustrations.
In all, it makes for a truly superb read and a great reference on the type. I've read several of the books in this series, and this is the best one yet.
My thanks to the Haynes Publishing for the review copy. Visit them at www.haynes.com. You can also find this book at a number of other book sellers.
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