The T-34 was a Soviet tank during World War II. From 1941 to 1945, over 57,000 T-34s had been produced. At the beginning of the Soviet involvement of the war (see Eastern Front of World War II), it was the most advanced tank in the world. Most informed military historians consider the T-34 tank, not the atomic bomb, as the "weapon that won the Second World War."
Design and production
The T-34 was a technologically innovative design which addressed the short-comings of the earlier BT series of wheel/track tank. The T-34 was developed during the 1936-37 period, the prototype was completed in early 1939, and in September 1940 T-34 was put into series production mounting a 76 mm gun. The Model 1940, the first T-34 production variant, was armed with the L-11 76.2 mm gun, which was considerably shorter than the subsequent F-34 76.2 mm main gun of the 1941 and later models. The mantlet was also round in contrast to the more square mantlets of later models. It had a two-man turret. The tank's main advantage was its simple design which made it easy to mass-produce and repair.
The T-34 was also small for a medium class tank and comparibaly light. Its water-cooled diesel engine minimized the danger of fire and increased the tank's the radius of action. The design overcame the technological superiority of German forces during the "Great Patriotic War". Built in Ukraine in the Kharkov Steam-Engine Factory (KhPZ), the German general von Runstedt called the T-34 the "best tank in the world" and von Kleist said it was the "finest in the world." The T-34 had a more powerful cannon than the earlier German main battle tanks, the Panzer III and Panzer IV. It had a higher top speed (32 MPH), and superior sloped armor and superior welded construction. During 1943 the Soviets discovered that the German Tiger I and Panther tanks outranged the T-34's original 76 mm gun, and subsequently a 85 mm gun was mounted on a T-34 tank. The T-34/85 was a modification of the T-34 equipped with more powerful armor and cannon. T-34/85 had a new flatter, although larger, three-man turret which gave this already innovative tank design the look that all tanks adopted after the wars end. Although not equal to the German Panther and Tiger tanks, the huge numbers of T-34s more than compensated for their technological shortcomings. Around 64,000 T-34 tanks of all types were produced during the war.