ARM: Review - KV-2 Heavy Tank: Stalin's Invulnerable Colossus

Book Review: Tyazhelyy Tank KV-2: Neuvyazimyy Koloss Stalina (KV-2
Heavy Tank: Stalin=92s Invulnerable Colossus) by Maksim Kolomiyets;
=93Yauza=94/=94Stragegiya=94/=94Ehksmo=94 Publishing, Moscow 2011; 128 pp. =
with
B&W and eight color photos plus plans and drawings; price US$36-40
based on source; ISBN 978-5-699-50462-6
Advantages: first dedicated book to the KV-2 tank program; first one
with interior cutaway and photos of the surviving tank in the Central
Army Museum system
Disadvantages: all text in Russian
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all diehard =93Dvoyka=94 and Soviet armor fans
Because it was so big and clumsy, but nearly impossible to knock out
in 1941, the KV-2 has always garnered a large following in the West
and the modeling community. While less than 225 of these tanks were
built, they captured the imagination of many and scared the daylights
out of the Germans until they saw they tended to break down more often
than any other tank.
Starting on the date that the KV tank was accepted for service with
the Red Army on 19 December 1939, it was noted that a heavier tank
would be needed to break through fixed fortifications such as were
soon encountered on the Mannerheim Line in Finland. The solution was
to fit the new (1938) M-10 howitzer to a large turret and mount it
directly on the KV chassis. The new tank, dubbed the KV Tank s
Bol=92shoy Bashnoy (big turret; the 76mm tank was then called the =93Maloy
Bashnoy=94 or small turret) was rolled out on 10 February 1940. This
consisted of a prototype turret mounted on the U-0 chassis; this was
the original prototype KV hull with a factory series establishment
number. This turret was swapped around as needed to the U-1, U-3 and
U-7 hulls as testing progressed.
As testing was needed under actual conditions, the prototype was sent
to the Karelian Isthmus and fought in 6 battles. Here it took 17
direct hits but was unfazed. The tank was considered a success but
more development was required.
Some ideas did not work, such as a small armored door that covered
the end of the muzzle of the 152mm howitzer (the Soviets were afraid
someone would shoot down the barrel and either inside the turret or
hit the fuse of a loaded projectile). They also redesigned the turret
and added a bow machine gun, after which the tank was redesignated as
the KV-2. Early models (of which 24 were built) also were
retroactively designated as KV-2s.
There were two series of serial numbers - the first series was A-36xx
and the rest of the KV-2 production run were B-xxxx.
Even with its massive turret the Soviets worried that the Germans
would find a way to penetrate the turret, so plans were made in March
1941 for a full set of turret applique armor protection, but it was
never fitted.
As of 22 June 1941 a total of 156 KV-2 tanks were in service and
allocated to eight combat formations (tank divisions of mechanized
corps). But records indicate that within 30 days only 51 were left and
most of those appear to have been in poor condition. Almost all of
them were either captured or destroyed by 10 October 1941.
There are currently three =93popular=94 Russian armor historians: Mikhail
Baryatinskiy, who unfortunately tends to recycle his own writings;
Mikhail Svirin, who publishes very aperiodically but is always
interesting; and Maksim Kolomiyets, who does yeoman work and even when
relooking a subject finds a goodly amount of fresh material. Such is
the case with this book, and it is one modelers will definitely want
to snap up if they are fans of the =93Dvoyka=94.
First off, Kolomiyets has laid out the various differences in the
KV-2 - both the early =93Big Turret=94 ones and the two variants of the
later =93Lowered Turret=94 one. Drawings show the detail differences among
the versions as do close-up photos from various sources (one of which
is listed as the US NARA archives). Dates are provided for both how
many of the tanks were produced by month (for 1940 and 1941 - the
printed version has an error and lists both of them as 1941). There is
also a full cutaway of the tank from the original blueprints in the
center of the book (labeled =93Most Secret=94 to boot).
One of the major coups of this book is a set of color photographs of
the interior of a surviving KV-2 turret =96 the first ones seen
anywhere. With the blueprint and the photos, many modelers will now
finally have a chance to put an interior in that monster turret (hint:
=93projo=94 storage is in the hull, propellant in the turret). This
appears to be from the survivor in Moscow, serial number B-4744, which
appears to be an original KV-2 with some cosmetic repairs (e.g. later
production road wheels) rather that what was thought for a long time
to be a KV-1 chassis with a KV-2 turret stuck on it.
For the Russian linguist and armor fan, there is more. One of the
items provided is a copy of an original handover document (=93Akt=94)
dated 10 May 1941 in which KV-2 serial number B-4663 was handed over
from the Kirov Factory in Leningrad to the Red Army; =93high value=94
items were the tank, the MT-1 artillery system, its mounting, TSD-9,
PTK, and PT-9 sights, three DT machine guns (coaxial and two flexible
ones), a 71-TK-3 radio set, and the V-2K engine and transmission.
Formal handover date after inspection was to be 12 May 1941.
There is also what can be gleaned as a combat record of how the KV-2s
were lost or destroyed. This is noted as coming from German records
(which were much more precise than the Soviet ones of the time) and
German photographs. Much of this either came from the archives of the
Central Army Museum or NARA.
Overall this is a great book for the modeler (and a greater one for
those who speak Russian!) Put in combination with Neil Stokes=92 great
book on the KV series, this is a must for any KV fan.
Cookie Sewell
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