On May 8, 1945 the Nazis surrendered to the Allies in Reims. However, at the time the Soviet Union’s Supreme Command was not included in the proceedings.This outraged Stalin, he believed the official surrender should occur in Berlin, the lair of the Fascist Beast, not in newly liberated France under the Western Allies’ authority.
I would have to say rightfully so when you consider the Soviet contribution to victory in Europe. Stalin demanded another (official) surrender ceremony in Berlin. So later the next day, at the Soviet Command Headquarters in a suburb of eastern Berlin, called Karlshorst, Commander of the German Army, Field Marshal Keitel surrendered to Soviet Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov ending the World’s bloodiest conflict. The building was turned into a museum, it has the very table Zhukov and Keitel sat at that day. So I found it one the map and rode out there. It was a nice ride. While I didn’t actually go inside the museum to see the exhibition, they did have two tanks, a self-propelled assault gun and a tank destroyer, as well a Katyusha and three guns.
The first tank we have here is a Soviet SU 100. Affectionately referred to as Pizdets vsemu, “the fucking end to anything”. Actually, it’s not a tank but rather a “tank destroyer”. What the difference? Both are mounted on tracks, heavily armored and have a large caliber gun. But the main difference is that a tank destroyer does not have a turret, making it cheaper and easier to produce. However, without a turret, a tank destroyer could only shoot in the direction it was facing. Therefore, like a tank version of a sniper, they would often lie in wait along a likely approach hoping to deliver a nasty punch from a concealed position.
The next photo is neither tank nor tank-destroyer but a “self propelled assault gun”. Bear in mind that German tanks were typically named after big nasty animals like the Nashhorn (Rhinoceros), the Elephant, the Panther and the Tiger. Well, the SU 152 was called the Zveroboy, “the animal killer” by the Soviet troops. As Soviet soldiers advancing into Germany territory met elaborate German bunkers or hardened urban strongholds they needed something to blow them to smithereens. The distant artillery was often too inaccurate to pinpoint individual bunkers and most armored vehicles couldn’t mount a direct assault on a concrete bunker without being destroyed themselves.
Enter the SU-152, a huge cannon inside a tank shell that just blows the crap out of whatever the infantry wants it to. But, as the name says, its huge gun was not an anti-tank (AP) gun. So it was unlikely that a SU-153 would actually penetrate a tank hull, but the concussion from its high explosive (HE) shell could knock the turret right off of the heaviest German tank. It had a small crew of 4-5 men and a separate compartment for the crew, isolating them from the engine and ammunition. While this might seem elementary, conditions inside a moving tank, Soviet tanks in particular, were awful at best, the SU 152 was a step up in this regard.
Joseph Stalin Tank
The only tank heavy enough to bear the Dear Leader’s name. At the outset of the war, German armored divisions were unstoppable. They used their heavy tanks to punch through enemy lines leaving the slow-moving infantry to mop up as they arrived. The armor would then be free to maneuver and wreak havoc in the enemy’s rear. As the heavy tanks led the charge, stopping them meant stopping the assault. This led to the Allies struggling to build bigger and stronger tanks and the Germans returning the favor. For many years the Germans held the advantage, but by the end of the war, the tide had turned. The JS/IS Joseph Stalin Heavy tank entered service around 1943. It could be mounted with a 160 mm gun and fire a ‘whopping’ two rounds a minute.
The Russian army was renowned for its artillery. They had thousands upon thousands of cannons and after Stalingrad, they shelled the Germans mercilessly. What you see here on the left is a Katyusha rocket launcher mounted on the back of a truck. Katyusha, the rocket, got its name from a girl in a popular Russian song at the time. The Katyusha could be mounted on just about any type of truck meaning that it could fire and move quickly before counter-battery fire could be brought to bear. The German soldiers called it “Stalin’s Organ” becasue of the dreadful sound the rocket made in flight. They were cheap, easy to produce and dangerously inaccurate, meaning the Soviets loved them.
Finally we have the T-34, widely regarded as the best all around tank of the Second World War. This one comes with a larger 85mm gun. Originally the T-34s performed poorly, they were unreliable and dangerous to their crews. Yet, as the war progressed many upgrades were added and by war’s end the T-34 was the pride of the Red Army and the king of the battlefield. Its heavy gun matched anything the Germans had and its revolutionary sloped armor helped to deflect shells. It had wide tracks and a hearty engine allowing it to operate when German amour had frozen in the Russian snow. In fact the German studied the T-34 and used their findings to develop their own Panther tank. But perhaps the greatest advantage of the T-34 was that it was so easy to produce. Major parts of it were created from stamped metal as oppossed to individually welded plates. This meant that they could be produced in mass, the Soviets produced nearly 60,000 during the war while the Germans were only able to field 6,500 Panthers. Tough odds to beat. Often, individual organizations such as villages, factories or churches would save and contribute to the purchase of one T-34. The proud donors would then write a message on the side of the tank turret. I think this one says “For the Homeland”.