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Storm of the Sabres

Tyazhelyy Tank KV-2: Neuyazvimyy Koloss Stalina (KV-2 Heavy Tank: Stalin's Invulnerable Colossus) Book Review

By Cookie Sewell

Date of Review November 2011 Title Tyazhelyy Tank KV-2: Neuyazvimyy Koloss Stalina
Author Maksim Kolomiyets Publisher YaUZA Publishing (in Russian)
Published 2011 ISBN 978-5-699-50462-6
Format 128 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $36-40 based on source

Review

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’shoy Bashnoy (big turret; the 76mm tank was then called the “Maloy Bashnoy” 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 “popular” 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 “Dvoyka”.

First off, Kolomiyets has laid out the various differences in the KV-2 - both the early “Big Turret” ones and the two variants of the later “Lowered Turret” 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 “Most Secret” 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 – 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: “projo” 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 (“Akt”) 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; “high value” 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’ great book on the KV series, this is a must for any KV fan.

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