"We had nothing comparable", Major-General F.W. Mellenthin, Chief of Staff of XLVIII Panzer Corps.
"The finest tank in the world", Field-Marshal Ewald von Kleist, First Panzer Army.
"This tank (T-34) adversely affected the morale of the German infantry", General G. Blumentritt.
T-34/76 was further development based on T-32 medium tank, which was based on A-20 and A-30 prototypes.Pre-production models were produced in early 1940 and full scale production commenced in mid-1940.T-34 Medium Tank (Tridsatchedverka), when introduced into production in June of 1940, was the most advanced tank design in the world. It was superior to any other tank in the world, including feared German tanks. Its revolutionary design featured sloped armor, speed, hitting power and low silhouette along with reliability and low production cost. T-34 although available in small numbers in the early stage of fighting on the Eastern Front gave German Army a nasty shock when first encountered and remained that way until introduction of more powerful anti-tank armament. T-34 was described by the Germans in the following statements: "Very worrying", Colonel-General Heinz Guderian, Commander of Second Panzer Army, "We had nothing comparable", Major-General F.W. Mellenthin, Chief of Staff of XLVIII Panzer Corps and "The finest tank in the world", Field-Marshal Ewald von Kleist, First Panzer Army.
T-34 was produced in six main variants, all operated by four men crew and armed with 76.2mm gun and 2 or 3 machine guns designated as T-34/76. T-34/76 was produced in following variants: A (model 1940), B (model 1941), C (model 1942), D (model 1943), E (model 1943) and F (model 1943). From 1940 to 1944, some 35119 T-34/76 tanks were produced. In order to respond to T-34/76 in 1942, Germans developed their own Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, which incorporated many features of the Soviet T-34/76 and eventually proved to be a superb tank.
Top: T-34/76 Model 1942 from 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf", September 1942.
Bottom: Flakpanzer T-34(r), Eastern Front, mid 1944.
Captured T-34/76 was designated by the Germans as Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747(r). Large number of T-34/76 tanks was captured and pressed into service contrary to few T-34/85 tanks. T-34/76 was more often captured since from 1941 until mid 1943, Germans were still firmly established on the Eastern Front, while T-34/85 appeared on the battlefield in the winter of 1943, when Germans were already retreating westwards after successful Soviet offensives. Germans were always more than happy to employ as many captured examples as they could and many served with various units. T-34/76 employment by German formations was not always temporary but sometimes permanent until the end of the war. First examples of T-34/76 were in service with 1st, 8th and 11th Panzer Division during the summer of 1941. Although it was considered to utilize captured T-34/76 tanks dangerous because many gunners fired on silhouette instead of markings. In order to prevent such mistakes to take place, crews painted large-dimension crosses or even swastikas. It was very common to paint a cross or swastika on top of the turret in order to prevent the Luftwaffe from attacking. Another way to overcome this problem was to use captured T-34/76 in an infantry support role where recognition problems were not that common. T-34/76D (model 1943) tanks with round twin turret hatches were often nicknamed by the Germans as "Mickey Mouse", because of their appearance when both hatches were open.
PzKpfw T-34 747(r) of 10th Panzer Division’s 7th Panzer Regiment.
Since late 1941, captured T-34/76 tanks were transported to a workshop in Riga for repairs and modifications, while in 1943, Mercedes-Benz in Marienfelde and Wumag in Goerlitz (now Zgorzelec) were also repairing and modifying T-34s as well. Captured T-34/76 tanks were modified to German standards by installation of commander’s cupola, radio equipment along with other non-standard field modifications made during service by the their new owners. Spare parts were never much of a problem and some 300 captured vehicles were maintained on long term bases. T-34/76s tanks were also used as artillery tractors and ammunition carriers. Badly damaged tanks were either dug in as pillboxes or were used for testing and training purposes. Number of T-34/76′s upper hulls with turrets was also mounted on railway wagons designated as Panzerjaegerwagen (tank destroyer wagon). They were used as part of Panzerzug (armored train), Streckenschutzug (railway protection train) and Panzertriebwagen (armored locomotive), including Panzerzug "Michael".
This captured Soviet T-34/76 was painted in panzer grey and marked with large Balkenkreuz.
The German flag was painted on the turret hatch for proper identification by the Luftwaffe.
Known users of captured T-34/76 tanks were numerous along with many unrecorded ones. For example on October 15th of 1941, 1st Panzer Division’s 1st Panzer Regiment had some 6 T-34/76 Model 1940 and 1941 tanks. Along with 1st Panzer Division, T-34/76 tanks were in service with 2nd Panzer Division, 9th Panzer Division (33rd Panzer Regiment), 10th Panzer Division (7th Panzer Regiment), 11th Panzer Division, 20th Panzer Division (21st Panzer Regiment) and 23rd Panzer Division. Number of T-34/76 tanks was still in service in 1945, for example with 23rd Panzer Division in Slovakia and East Prussia. Along with Panzer Divisions, number was used by 18th Panzergrenadier Division and 98th Infantry Division. In the summer of 1943, few captured T-34/76 tanks were even operated by Italian crews. According to original German captured tank inventories as of July of 1943 there were 28 T-34(r) as part of Army Group South and 22 as part of Army Group Center.For example from July 10th to July 14th of 1943, 6th Panzer Division operated 2 captured T-34 tanks. In September of 1943, "RONA" (Russian Army of Liberation) commanded by Mieczyslaw Kaminski operated some 24 captured T-34/76 tanks against Soviet partisans in Byelorussia. T-34/76 was held in high regard and also elite units such as Panzergrenadier Division "Grossdeutschland" (Panzer Regiment "Grossdeutschland") used some captured examples as late as 1945.
Modified T-34/76 with German commander’s cupola.
Waffen-SS units also did not hesitate to use captured T-34/76 tanks and 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" and 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf" pressed significant number into service. T-34/76 tanks used by "Das Reich" are of particular interest. When in March of 1943, SS Panzer Corps recaptured Kharkov, some 50 various models of T-34/76 tank were captured. All of those were being repaired in a local tractor (tank) factory that was overrun and designated as SS Panzerwerk (SS Tank Workshop). Shortly after they were repaired along with being modified to German standards, repainted and marked with German markings. Modifications included installation of commander’s cupola (from damaged Panzerkampfwagen III and IV tanks), Schuerzen (armor skirts) and other equipment such as Notek light, storage boxes, tools, radio equipment and antenna. 25 of them entered service with newly created 3rd SS Panzer Battalion of 2nd SS Panzer Regiment of 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich".
PzKpfw T-34 747(r) from 23rd Panzer Division.
SS Hauptscharfuehrer Emil Seibold from 3rd SS Panzer Battalion scored some 69 kills during his career including those on his Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747(r) in July and August of 1943, during the Battle of Kursk Salient. Seibold received Knights Cross during the last decoration ceremony on May 6th of 1945. On July 4th of 1943, 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" had 18 operational T-34 tanks and 9 in repair. 3rd SS Panzer Division "Totenkopf" also pressed number into service but had none at Kursk. Overall, there were some 22 T-34/76 tanks in active service with Waffen SS Panzer Divisions during the Battle of Kursk Salient.
Captured ex-Soviet T-34/76 Ausf E (Model 1943)
of Panzer Grenadier Division "Grossdeutschland".
On December 30th of 1944, some 29 Panzerkampfwagen T-34 747(r) were in service with Geb.Jäg.Rgt.100. In 1942, single T-34/76 and KW-2 were used to form 66th Panzer Company for the planned Invasion of Malta. Two T-34/76 tanks were captured by schwere Panzer Abteilung 502 on the Leningrad Front in November of 1943 and were pressed into service. In the summer of 1944, the Germans sold three captured T-34/76 tanks to Finland.
One of the most interesting conversions based on T-34/76 (model 1943) chassis was 2cm Flakvierling auf Fahrgestell T-34(r), an anti-aircraft tank – Flakpanzer. Also known as Flakpanzer T-34(r), it was armed with 20mm Flakvierling 38, which was a four barreled 20mm anti-aircraft L/115 gun. The armament was mounted in a turret made by field workshop (Werkstattkompanie 653) using armor plates from damaged half-tracks. Ammunition was stored in metal cases on a rack at the rear of the vehicle. It served with headquarters of schwere Heeres Panzerjaeger Abteilung 653, on the Eastern Front in early and mid 1944. Flakpanzer T-34(r) can be compared to post-war Chinese Type 63 anti-aircraft tank based on T-34, which remained in service until late 1980s. In mid 1944, this same unit also used other T-34/76 tanks converted to ammunition carriers designated as Munitionspanzer T-34(r).Also, this unit fielded captured recovery version of T-34 tank mounted with 20mm Flakdrilling, which was twin barreled 20mm anti-aircraft gun. Another interesting conversion was done by Kampfgruppe Kienast in Saxony in 1945 – 88mm Flak 36 gun mounted on a modified T-34/76 chassis.
In 1943, improved model operated by five men crew and armed with 85mm gun and machine gun was introduced. It was designated as T-34/85 and by the end of the war some 29430 tanks were produced. Only few were captured and even fewer were pressed into service, since German Army Office wanted to examine and test this new Soviet tank. In mid 1944, 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" during heavy fighting on the Vistula front near Warsaw captured and pressed T-34/85 into service. 252nd Infantry Division during their combat in East Prussia also pressed captured T-34/85 into service. It is also reported that 7th Panzer Division also captured atleast one T-34/85. It is unconfirmed, but reported that one T-34/85 was fitted with 88mm gun removed from a damaged Tiger and used during fighting in East Prussia.
Soviet T-34/85 armed with 85mm gun.
As of 1996, T-34, mainly in it its 85mm variant was still in service with many nations including: Afghanistan, Albania (approx. 70), Angola (approx. 58), Guinea Bissau (approx. 10), Cuba (approx. 400), Mali (approx. 18), Romania (approx. 1000), Slovenia, Hungary (approx. 5), Vietnam, Bosnia and other nations.