Book Review: World War Two Photobooks Series Volume 5: KV Tanks on the Batt
lefield by Neil Stokes; Peko Publishing, Budapest 2014; 128 pp. with B&W ph
otos; retail price US$42.95; ISBN 978-963-89623-4-8; available from Panzerw
recks, Armor Plate Press or on Amazon
Advantages: great detail photographs of mostly early production KV-1 and KV
-2 tanks from various private collections and archives; super aid for model
Disadvantages: some minor (but understandable!) quibbles with translations
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for "Klim" fans and Soviet armor fans in general
The KV series of tanks were arguably one of the worst designs of World War
Two as they were overweight, overwrought, and overstressed, all of which l
ed to their early failure as a winning battlefield weapon. But they were a
real shock to the Germans and caused a lot of scurrying around on their par
t to counter these massive vehicles.
But as they were so inferior in overall performance (high marks for protec
tion, average marks for armament, but very low marks for mobility, a totall
y unbalanced design) that many of them failed on the march or destroyed the
bridges they had to cross due to their being more than the bridge could ha
ndle. As a result, there are relatively few shots of early production KV-1
and KV-2 tanks in action.
Neil Stokes has emerged as one of the most knowledgeable people in the Wes
t on the KV tanks and wrote the best single volume on the tank, "KV Technic
al History & Variants" (Air Connection Hobby Inc., 2010). He has continued
collecting photos and information on the tanks and has now combined them in
this new volume from Peko of Hungary. The book is in both English and Hung
arian, which is a good idea to reach a wider audience (many Russian publish
ers still haven't figured that one out).
While the book is basically focused on captured German photographs of knoc
ked out or broken-down KV tanks, the text is very objective and in most cas
es quite enlightening. This is a far cry from the other Air Connection book
, T-34: Mythical Weapon, which has a large number of photos of knocked-out
T-34 tanks but then has an execrable text that slams the T-34 as basically
being a rotten tank (it was not).
As noted, the KV series tanks were overweight (47 tons for the KV-1s, and
about 52 tons for the KV-2) for their engines and transmissions, and more o
ften than not one or another would fail. As a result, many of the tanks wer
e blown up by their crews or Soviet engineers in place to prevent capture.
The book starts with the very early tanks (KV s malenkoy bashny or KV-1 Mo
del 1939 and KV s bol'shoy bashny) and their combat losses and proceeds thr
ough the KV-1 Model 1940 with F-32 gun, KV-1 Model 1941 with ZIS-5 and late
model KV-1 Model 1942 tanks to the KV-1s and KV-85. It also covers the lat
er model KV-2 Model 1941, KV-8 flamethrower tank, and the prototypes of the
KV-6 - a KV-1 with a fixed flame installation in its upper glacis plate th
at did not enter production.
A wide variety of details are apparent in both the destroyed and abandoned
tanks, and Neil calls them out. Oddities include a KV-1 with a Model 1942
turret but rack mounts for five 160 liter fuel tanks on its fenders, only
associated with gasoline powered M-17 engined tanks from the fall of 1941.
Modelers will able to clearly see a lot of arguable points brought to a cl
ose with things like tracks that extend past the fenders, varieties of fend
er bins and stowage to include the curious square auxiliary fuel tanks from
early 1941, tow cables, hatch and vision port details, and other things be
loved by modelers. The "wrong" wheels show up on early and later model tank
s, different turrets and hulls, and other things people love to build just
to be different!
Also apparent are different types of tracks and fittings, with a number of
different patterns quite evident. One favorite cited on the Internet is a
pair of photos on pages 24-25 with a KV-2 Model 1940 with what appears to b
e about a hundred meters of chain on it. Apparently the Germans were using
it for testing bridges by weighting the KV-2 down as much as possible and t
hen running over the bridge (the US Army used the hapless M6 heavy tanks fo
r the same thing).
Many of the tanks are shown with oversized captured markings, and at lea
st one KV-2 sports a Panzer III or IV cupola. Some good details on the engi
nes used in the KVs can also be seen such as the twin axial fans for the ra
diators at the rear of the engine.
The Russian markings are usually visible, but often due to the chromatic v
alues of the film red letting does not show up well. Neil does good and is
correct in some of the notes. On Page 91 is one named for "Feliks Dzerzhins
kiy" - "Iron Felix", the head of the infamous Cheka. The knocked-out KV-1 M
odel 1941 on page 104 has a common Russian saying on the turret - "Krov' za
Krov', Smert' za Smert'" (blood for blood, death for death). But the oddes
t one is a KV-1 Model 1942 on page 113: it has "Al. Nevskiy" on the turret.
Guess they ran out of room, but "Al Nevskiy" sounds more like a used car d
ealer than a Grand Prince of Rus! And the KV-8 on Page 123 reads "Vpered na
Zapad"! or "On to the West!" Those are just my observations as a Russian l
inguist for 40 years and no slur on the work Neil has done.
Overall, if you like the big "Klim" tanks this is a very useful and valuab
le book and I can heartily recommend it - there are even some shots with ot
her Soviet armor that is also of interest.
Thanks to Neil Stokes for the review copy.
8 years ago