Friday, March 16, 2007

T-34 Mythical Weapon by Robert Michulec and Miroslaw Zientarzewski

Well, where to begin. This is a book written by two Polish authors about the T-34 Medium Tank. The book is quite large and heavy and printed on high quality glossy paper, so it will definitely last you a while. Now, once you get into the text, be prepared to be bombarded by bias, I was quite surprised as how much 'loathing' these authors had for this tank. Also keep in mind this book is very much into pictures, down to every bolt you could say. The reader will also wonder why there are so many pictures of destroyed T-34's when there are plenty of pictures to be found of them going into battle or just sitting there waiting to do something, perhaps pictures with crews, etc. But the majority of the pictures you'll see in this book, destroyed T-34's. The commentary to each picture is also less about context but more about when the tank was made and in which factory, etc.

They start the book by addressing their own title, obviously "Myth" will have everyone wondering, what was "mythical" about the T-34? Well, supposedly there were various myths going around about the creation of this tank as well as its use in the Second World War and apparently the Germans mixed it up with another tank, namely the KV-1, in some or many of their reports, depending on how you look at it. Already, I will say I was put off by the fact that the majority of sources used are secondary, no real archival research was done for this book. But, getting back to the Myth, one example is given of where supposedly the T-34 was to have destroyed a German tank at 1000 meters, but the authors did not believe this saying in theory it is possible but most likely in reality it is impossible. Any evidence given to support this? None, only that there were other tanks involved in this battle, namely KV-1's and also a formation of 85mm anti-aircraft guns which might have been responsible for the enemy 'kill', yet once more, all conjecture, yet by the time you reach the end of this little tale, the authors are 100% sure that this is indeed what happened. The T-34 is therefore already attaining mythical status with the Germans and so it goes.

Other evidence is presented of Guderian who apparently confuses this tank for the KV, this might have merit as there is some believable evidence. Specifically he identifies the T-34 by name yet by description it is apparently the KV he is talking about. The Germans during this time were apparently as bad with tank identification as the Soviets would be closer to the end of the war when every tank they saw was a Panther and Tiger and every SP gun a Ferdinand, not a phenomenon uncommon during the Second World War (Americans and Germans did the same with their enemies' tanks). To keep this short, this book is filled with detail on the tank, some of it believable some less so, it might be useful if you're a modeler or a collector but in the end I would not call it the definitive history of the T-34.

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