During the Initial weeks of Operation Barbarossa, the German Army, and its Allies, discovered the Red Army’s tank battalions included some truly formidable armored fighting vehicles. The heavy KV-1 and KV-2 tanks proved to extremely difficult to knock out with available 37mm and 50mm anti-armor weapons, and in one case a crippled KV-1 and its crew held up a German advance for several days until finally destroyed in a scene similar to the end sequences of the movie “Fury.”
The Russian T-34 proved to be one of the best tanks of the Second World War and saw service in the Korean War, and later on even in Afghanistan during the 79-89 war. When the Germans first encountered the T-34 on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1941, it came as a profound shock. Maneuverable, well-armed with a 76mm gun, and designed with thick, sloping armor, it was virtually impregnable to German anti-armor weapons smaller than the legendary 88mm.
This T-34 was one of the first thrown into battle against the German Army. On the opening day of Barbarossa,elements of Army Group North advanced east of the Njemen River in Lithuania and ran headlong into a T-34 unit. In a fierce action that saw the Germans deploy 88s and 105mm howitzers to put direct fire on the T-34’s, some 70 Russian vehicles were knocked out. This T-34, photographed a few days later on June 25, 1941, was one of them.
The T-34 would go on to play a pivotal role in the Allied victory on the Eastern Front, and variants are still in service throughout the world today.