Wednesday, June 20, 2012

KV-1 Wow Barbarossa 1941

I'm reading this book, Panzer Operations (The Eastern Front Memoir of General Raus, 1941-1945), by Erhard Raus (compiled and translated by Steven H Newton)  I'm reading it to get more of a feel of the Eastern Front because I'm considering gaming it in 15mm.
I ran across a couple of fascinating stories about the KV1 tank. These two stories come from the first couple of days of Barbarossa. He is part of 6th Panzer Division as Kampfgruppe Raus(HQ, Motorized Brigade 6) on the first day of Barbarossa KV-1
Colonel Erhard Raus
Panzer Regiment 11
I/Motorized Infantry Regiment 4
II/Artillery Regiment 76
one company, Panzer Engineer Battalion 57
one company, Panzerjaeger Battlion 41
one battery, II/Flak Regiment 411
Motorcycle Battalion 6

He is in the north and these stories come from the resistance they encountered in the town of Raseinai:
Page 23
Wikipedia PZ 35
 "Nearer and nearer rolled the giant tanks, echeloned in width and depth. One of the them encountered a marshy pool in which a PzKw 35t had become mired. Without hesitating, the black monster rolled over the helpless panzer.  The same fate befell a German 150mm howitzer, which had not been able to escape in time.  When the KV-1s approached, the howitzer fired at them over open sights without causing any damage at all. One of the tanks drove straight for the howitzer, which now delivered a direct hit to its frontal armor. A glare of fire and simultaneously a thunderclap of the bursting shell followed, and the tank stopped as if hit by lightning. "That's the end of that," the gunners thought as they took a collective deep breath. "Yes, that fellow's had enough," observed the section chief. Abruptly, their faces dropped in disbelief when someone exclaimed, "It's moving again!" Indeed, the tank advanced again, chains rattling loudly, and crashed into the heavy gun as if it were nothing more than a toy, pressing it into the ground and crushing it with ease as if this were an everyday affair. The heavy howitzer was finished, though the crew fortuitously escaped without harm."

Wikipedia -150mm
Pages 26-34 discuss how one tank, parked at the unit's bridgehead was blocking a main supply route for the division. The tank gave them fits for over 48 hours. Their first attempt was to send a battery (4 guns) of their newly equipped 50mm anti-tank guns. One gun set up front, the others manhandled the guns through hollows and trees on either side of the tank. The began firing from about 600 meters and closer.
"In no time the armor-piercing shell had covered the intervening 600 meters. A glare of fire appeared, followed by the sound of a violent impact. A direct hit! A second and then a third shot followed.

"The tank did not move until it had been pelted by at least eight direct hits. Then it's turret rotated, it took careful aim, and methodically silenced our antitank battery with a few 80mm shells. Two of our 50mm guns were shot to pieces, and the remaining two seriously damaged."
Wikipedia - 50mm
They then brought in an 88mm flak gun to the rear of the tank. As the crew was setting up and almost ready to shoot, the KV-1 rotated it's turret and began firing before the 88 could. The gun was knocked back into a ditch and then began firing its machine guns to take out the gunners.
Their next attempt - they sent in 12 engineers with explosives. Which they did on some of the tracks and side armor. The explosives went off and basically did nothing. The engineers escaped. However, one was lost. He returned later saying that he'd got lost when they scattered. However, he returned and put explosives in the barrel. That went off. And again, little damage.
The next attempt - PzKW 38ts from Panzer Battalion 65 would shoot the KV-1 from the front and two sides. While this was going on a second 88mm flak gun would be brought in to shoot it again from the rear. While the tanks attacked, the 88 set up and got 3 shots and hits.  Even after the tank appeared to be dead, the 88 shot 4 more shots into the tank. (A WWII version of the Zombieland double-tap.) KV-1
The gun rose into the air and it seemed to be dead. The troops and tankers moved forward and begain climbing on it, trying to get it open, to no avail. As they climbed around the gun barrel began moving again! The engineers thought quickly and threw grenades into one of the holes made by the shooting at the based of the turret. The grenades exploded and the hatch flew open. The crew and tank were officially dead.

Upon investigation: only 2 of the 7 88 shots had pierced and gone through the armor. The other 5 had made large dents. There were 8 blue spots created by the new 50mm guns. There was slight damage to the caterpillar track and a small dent in the gun barrel resulting from the engineer attack. No traces of hits could be found from the 37mm guns of the PzKw 38ts.

I find this story and others like it so amazing in light of war gaming. If this were to be gamed, at any level, in a wargame there would be cries of how unrealistic the results were. Yes, this is a rarity, but still these things happen all the time in recollections of war. And when they happen in games they're great fun.

Wikipedia - 88mm
Unusual events like this are one reason I like games like Combat Commander, IABSM, and BKCII. Sure, it's frustrating when you can't do something in a turn, but if you remember that may of these are simulating a period of time. Yes, we do everything in steps, but it's actually modeling a fluid amount of time.

I rolled some dice just to see what is was like for the KV-1 v 150mm and KV-1 v 50mm encounters. I tried both the BKCII and IABSM models.  It was tough to do based on turn structure etc. However, this result was possible - again though it would have to be a crazy stretch and most likely wouldn't happen.  But it could and that's cool.
Zvezda Pz 38
One thing interesting is that the KV-1 in BKCII has restricted visibility and can only fire at a 45 degree arc in front of it. I suppose this is done because it was a slow turret. But all tanks in the game can only fire 180 degrees to the front. I suppose you could home rule something if you were playing that each model represents one tank and not a platoon.

Let me give proper credit to the pics - for their image of the Zvezda Pz 38t - go buy one to support the 's profits.

Wikipedia for the images

Amazon for the book cover - go buy a copy and support the cause - Bezos' profits for the KV-1 pics. Again, I've done this without permission, so may be eating crow later and pulling them off. However, I've been taken with Tim's site for the following reasons:
  • He gives detailed write-ups on how the models come together. A great help if I begin assembling them. (Hey how hard/easy were the Plastic Soldier Company figures to assemble?)
  • He seems to be a gamer after my own heart - he's pursuing 15mm and trying to find the least expensive/best looking kit he can find
  • I really like he makes these cheap, I mean, inexpensive models look when he's complete. - Nice work
  • And his description, could almost be mine - "My favourite rules are Warmaster and all it's derivatives (i.e. BKC, CWC, FWC, Black Powder etc).....mainly because the WM mechanism is simple for someone my age to remember! I'm also a keen amateur military historian. Researching my family's activities in times of war and visiting the sites where it all took place."

Go follow him, like him, whatever, so he doesn't send the police after me for stealing his photos. 


  1. Nice stories, I have heard similar stories of the KV-1, maybe originating from the same source, whats the book like overall?

  2. Great post. The 150 How was more likely to have been a 150 Infantry gun, but either way it would only be firing HE, little chance of hurting the KV but if it was a Infantry gun it would be quite a low verlocity shot. As for the KV it was fitted with an under powered 75L, enough to deal with anything the Germans had on the battlefield at that time and between that and the T-34 really gave the Germans some pause. Suprised the lone tank survived the night though, that's when the infantry would have been kings.


  3. Great post. Feel free to use the pics/quotes anytime. All the best, Tim

  4. I think we played a scenario based on this historical account using Tractics back in the 1970's, and Tractics allowed for AFV immobilization results, and multi-compartment penetration damage also (ranging from no-damage to the dreaded "ED".....explosive destruction).

    Tractics was very rules-intensive, and we've come a long way from what we accepted as being playable "then & now".

    I guess we give up some of the "story-line" results that could occur when playing intensive rulesets like Tractics, in order to have greater breadth and scope of results on the larger gaming battlefield today. Probably why skirmish-level games and larger tactical-level rules systems remain separated.

  5. That book is an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

  6. Hey, just stumbled across this post. Like you are (were?), I'm getting into 15mm WWII on the Eastern Front. Enjoyed your write up :)

  7. Thank you. Good luck in your pursuit of 15mm