KV-8 - Operations
During the war years in the Red Army flamethrower and tank units and units were part of the armored and mechanized troops. Thanks to the enormous psychological impact, they were widely used on all fronts of the Great Patriotic War to suppress infantry and break through enemy fortifications, densely saturated with anti-tank weapons.
Flame-throwing tank units were mainly used in the attack of fortified lanes and settlements, attached to the rifle units. During the offensive, flamethrower tanks were usually located in line of battle behind the linear tanks, and when approaching the targets of attack (fortifications, houses, etc.), they advanced and destroyed their assigned targets with flame throwing, burning out manpower from the buildings. When attacking heavily fortified firing points, concentrated fire was required, and sometimes the first shot was fired without igniting the jet, igniting the fire with a second shot — this was how a more reliable defeat was ensured and less of the mixture burned in flight. Attacking the field defense, flamethrower tanks tried to approach the trenches and, turning around, carried out flame throwing along the trenches.
The formation of flamethrower battalions began in the summer of 1942, immediately after the arrival of new machines from the factory. Organizational flamethrower tanks KV-8 were part of the individual flamethrower tank battalions and individual flamethrower tank brigades. A separate battalion consisted of two KV-8 companies (10 tanks) and one OT-34 company (11 tanks). A total of 12 such battalions were formed (500–512 dep). The first combat use of the KV-8 occurred in August 1942 on the Volkhov front.
The following is a report, dated September 15, 1942, on the use of KV-8 tanks. The report was sent by the Deputy Commander of the Volkhov Front for Automobile and Armored Troops Major General Bolotnikov, Deputy Commissar of Defense of the USSR for Automotive Armored Forces Lieutenant General Fedorenko: “I report that flame-throwing tank battalions 500, 502 and 507 arrived in the 8th Army of the Volkhov Front on August 22-24, 1942 The battalions are fully staffed and equipped. The condition of the battalion materiel is quite satisfactory. The juggling of crews, platoons of companies and battalions in general is satisfactory.
"The combat work of the battalions during several fights makes it possible to draw the following conclusions about their tactical use and technical shortcomings. I. Tactical application and organization. Subdivisions of KV-8 tanks, being weaker than units and subunits of linear tanks of the same brand by their firepower, are not expedient to use them independently, it is most advantageous to use when breaking through the fortified enemy line in combat formations with linear tanks or in the second echelon. It follows that the organization of individual flame-throwing tank battalions is not advisable, but it is desirable to introduce flame-throwing units into the states of tank units. In the wooded and marshy area, a particularly careful linking of questions of interaction with infantry is required, since the possibility of a firethrower jet of its own infantry cannot be ruled out.
"As a rule, infantry should not be in front of flame-throwing tanks, due to limited visibility in the area, but should move in the intervals between the tanks. The effect of flamethrowers as to defeat the enemy, so it is good for moral influence on him, but it is necessary to ensure the approach of flamethrower tanks to the object of flame throwing to a real shot of flamethrowers. The flamethrower range reaches 80-100 meters, in a wooded area the range is limited to 40-70 meters.
"Flame-throwing produces a particularly large moral effect at night. When attacking on the night of August 30 to August 31 in the area of #40.4 and in the area of the 24th Guards Rifle Division, the Germans fled, tearing off their uniforms and underwear.
"II. Technical flaws flamethrowers. 1) After a shot from the ATO cartridge, a lot of poisonous gas is released, which greatly affects the condition of the crew. There were cases when the crew fainted after the flamethrower’s operation (507th flamethrower tank battalion). It is necessary to improve the ventilation in the tank and, if possible, change the charge of the cartridge in order to reduce the emission of gases. 2) In the tank there are three tanks for the fire mix - one down with 450 liters and two on the sides in the turret, 120 liters each. Almost for a fight 450 liters of fire mixture is enough.
"The side tanks are not convenient because when the projectile hits them, the mixture is poured over the tank and the tank lights up. Similar cases were in the 502th and 507th flamethrowing tank battalions. It is advisable to remove the side tanks. 3) There were cases of incomplete closing of the valve, and the burning mixture poured over the tank. It is necessary to replace the valve with one that would ensure trouble-free operation. In addition, the valve does not provide tightness and misses the fire mixture. 4) It is necessary to put the piston seal so as to exclude the possibility of the penetration of fire mixture into the combustion chamber, since this phenomenon is observed very often in this construction.
"5) It is advisable to have a dust guard from the outer side of the flamethrower’s head, as during the movement of the tank, dust clogs the nozzle and valve. 6) Gearbox spools and diaphragms often fail. It is necessary to make the membranes from gas-resistant material and have spools and membranes in the spare parts. 7) The piston does not have a sufficiently tight fit, as a result of which the fluid seeps into the powder chamber. 8) There is a frequent sticking of the fork and the roller of the fork, as a result of which the automatic shooting is disturbed.
"III. Fire-resistant crew suits have shown themselves on the positive side. The personnel using them give positive feedback. The flame of a burning fire mixture in a tank is easily extinguished by a protective glove. The disadvantages of the costume include the fact that when moisture is applied to the protective film of the costume, it lags behind the fabric and breaks. A long stay in a suit is tiring. Costumes should be introduced to supply tank crews.”
Thus, in combat effectiveness, the KV-8 flamethrower tanks significantly surpassed the older OT-26 and OT-130, the latest samples of which were also used quite competently and served until 1944. However, as in the tests, weak artillery was again known. armament.
Several tanks, after an unsuccessful use, became the trophies of the Germans. For example, in December 1942, the command sent a group of flamethrower tanks and infantry to storm the German positions under the N-p Mid-Tsaritsi. The tanks were in the first echelon and immediately came under fire from the enemy's VET, unable to even get close to the flamethrower distance and losing several KVs. One of the tanks was soon sent to the landfill in Kummersdorf. German experts quickly came to the conclusion that the flamethrower tank has a noticeably greater vulnerability and the methods of fighting the KV-series tanks are quite applicable to the KV-8 tanks.
The German infantry and artillerymen soon learned how to distinguish flamethrowing tanks from the "linear" 45-mm cannon along the shortened barrel. The main thing was not to allow a heavy flame-thrower tank to a distance of a shot, which was not always possible. An example is the “Report on a business trip to the Volkhov Front”, compiled by an engineer of Plant No. 222, who was specifically sent to the front to inspect the operation of flame-throwing tanks in combat conditions. “... In the 502th and 503rd separate tank battalions, flamethrower tanks were used in isolated cases, and yet the battalion command and crews praised the combat effect of the use of flamethrowers.
So, for example, the OTB Commissar 502 stated that flamethrowers were used little and rarely because the terrain did not allow and the German infantry ran off at a distance that did not allow the use of flamethrowers. Efficiency is good. Opponent with flame throwing runs out of the shards, throwing everything. The mechanic-driver of the KV-8 T.T.Paturnak said that he made only 4 shots from a flamethrower. The tank was fired on by an anti-tank gun, but as soon as a flamethrower was fired in the direction of the anti-tank battery, the crew serving the gun ran, and two Germans were frightened to the ground and were crushed by tank tracks.
The commander of the 503 OTB, Captain Drozdov, stated that with flamethrowing in the Gontovaya Lipka area, the flamethrower mixture did not reach the enemy, but the enemy was running in panic. However, he believed that the use of flamethrowers in a wooded and marshy area is impractical. The commander of the 507 OTB, Major Nikolayevtsev, said that the KV-8 tank, commanded by political instructor Comrade Osatyuk, made 15 fire shots at the infantry that lay in the bushes. When using a flamethrower, the infantry fled in panic. Part of the Nazis fled in burning clothes. One KV-8 tank used a flamethrower at night. The Germans fled in panic, and some of them threw off their burning uniforms and even their underwear.
The command of the 507 OTB in the report presented to the 8th Army ABTO writes that “flamethrowers justified their purpose” and further, after listing the shortcomings revealed during the classes in the village of Kuzminki concludes: “With the elimination of the above deficiencies, the flamethrower would be a wonderful weapon against the enemy ... A flamethrower is an excellent tool for combating counter-attacking infantry in a wooded and swampy area. Practice has shown that at night the use of flamethrowers has a stunning effect on the enemy.
”In all flamethrowing battalions operating on the Volkhov front, KV-8 tanks were used mainly. TO-34 tanks were used very rarely, since, according to the driver's statement, it was impossible to drive a tank along the battlefield dug in with craters, to overcome engineering obstacles and to make flame throwing of the driver. Spare parts for flamethrowers are not spent by any battalion. "Viscous fire mixture loses viscosity during prolonged storage, but when added, the powder becomes viscous and gives a good result when applied.
"Flame-resistant suits made by an experimental batch and issued to the crews of flame-throwing tanks 500 OTB justified their appointment. Crews of burning tanks claimed that protective clothing helped them get out of the burning tank safe and sound. The mechanic-driver T.Zgersky and the radio operator T.*[unintelligible], who went into battle on the KV-8 tank, said that if there were no fire-resistant suits on them, the crew would not have gotten out of the wrecked tank and would have burned.
"FINDINGS: 1. The experience of the combat use of flamethrower tanks on the Volkhov front showed that they give a good effect on flame throwing at infantry clusters, DZOTam and hidden enemy firing points. 2. Flame-throwing tanks are not used as flame-throwers and are given to infantry subunits on a platoon basis, and this leads to the fact that they perform the tasks of line tanks with a slight use of the combat power of flame-throwers. 3. The installation of tanks in the turret of the KV-8 tank leads to the fact that when the turret is shot in the tank, there is a fire in the tank and it fails as an irretrievable loss. 4. Flamethrowers on TO-34 tanks are generally not used, since the control of the tank and flamethrower is focused on the driver, and on the battlefield all his attention is focused on the combat course of the tank and it is difficult for him to break away from the controls without compromising the performance of the combat mission.
"5. The use of flamethrower tanks in a wooded and marshy area does not give the desired results, since under these conditions the moral effect of the use of a flamethrower spreads over a small area of poor visibility. 6. Individual and group spare parts, issued by flamethrower units, are almost not consumed, so should not change it upwards. For the spare parts spent during the training sessions, it is sufficient to have the most scarce parts and components at the point of study. 7. Despite the fact that the acting battalions did not use up the entire supply of cartridges for powder flame thrower and powder for preparing a viscous fire mixture, the existing equipment of flame-throwing tank battalions should not be reduced until more complete information is obtained on the use of flame-throwing tanks on other fronts. 8. Fire-resistant clothing fully justified its purpose, and therefore the crews of flame-throwing tanks should be supplied with this clothes. Engineer (signature unintelligible)”.
In December 1942, the KV flamethrowing tanks had to take part in the battle for Stalingrad. The 235th outpost (a separate flamethrower-tank brigade) was listed as a reserve for the front commander. As far as this brigade was concerned, the head of the headquarters of the GABTU, Colonel Kulvinsky, in October 1942 gave quite definite instructions. In particular, it was ordered: "Use flamethrower tanks only for their intended purpose, in no case turning them into linear tanks."
It was originally intended to use a brigade of fire-breathing tanks against a surrounded German group. They were supposed to burn out the nodes of resistance of the defenders with the stubbornness of the doomed enemy infantry. But instead, they now had to face head on with German tanks.
For the first time, the brigade was brought into battle on December 14, taking part in the attack near the Ny Verkhne-Kumsky, where flamethrower tanks were supported by tanks from the 234th replay (T-34 and T-70) of the 4th tank enclosures. The Germans held a dense defense here, including anti-tank guns of various calibers and tanks Pz.III and Pz.IV from the 6th tank division dug into the ground. The first frontal attacks were unsuccessful, however, on the same day, one of the flamethrower tank companies, under cover of mist, burst into the location of a group of enemy tanks and used flamethrowers against them. Three enemy tanks caught fire, and the rest of the tank crews fled in panic.
In the course of further attacks of the 4th TK, the enemy was knocked out of Upper-Kumsky by the end of December 19, For the heroism shown in February 1943, the 235th Section was renamed the 31st Guards Section, retaining 505, 508, and 509th battalions. Subsequently, this brigade used flamethrowing tanks until April 1945. The KV-8 performed well during the battle on the Mius River (the so-called Mius Front). At the end of August 1943, the crews of the 516th OOTB of the 26th guards were assigned the task of keeping the defense in the area of Platovo. The initial task of the tank group was the pursuit of German units retreating in the direction of Mariupol in order to go behind enemy lines and cut off his escape route to the Taganrog grouping. The settlement Platovo was captured in a night battle on August 30, but the Soviet units did not have enough further forces to attack.
The tankers, assisted by a partisan detachment of about 100 people, fell under the counter-strike of the German troops, held the defenses for four days, holding down enemy actions in this direction. Particularly impressive was the counterattack of Soviet flame-throwing tanks against the advancing German infantry, which used as a “human shield” of civilians. Suddenly, having come from the flank, the KV-8 opened fire with all types of weapons, turning the enemy's soldiers to flight. During this day, the Germans no longer dared to take active steps under Platovo, and soon Soviet reinforcements approached and the Germans were thrown back.
In the summer of 1944, flamethrower tanks were used during the Bobruisk offensive operation. In this area, the German defense had 5-6 rows of trenches, anti-tank ditches, several rows of barbed wire and minefields. The area around Bobruisk and the surrounding settlements also contributed to the formation of “fire bags”, well shot through with cannons and mortars. In the offensive, the Soviet side involved almost all types of engineering armored vehicles, including flamethrower tanks as support. The 516th battalion that arrived in Belarus was reattached to the 3rd Guards and 20th Rifle Corps and acted together with the assault engineering and sapper units attached to the same corps.
Flaming-tank companies during the attack were built in two echelons, having two platoons in the first echelon and one in the second echelon. For the first echelon at a distance of 50–60 meters, infantry advanced. The platoons of the first echelon, covered from the flank by fire of the tank echelon of the second echelon, reached the trench, crushed the enemy with tracks, shot and burned the infantry and destroyed the firing points. Thus, it was possible to avoid large losses in the equipment, while 68 guns and mortars, 83 machine guns and anti-tank guns were destroyed, 33 DZOTs were burned.
Subsequently, the tanks of the 516th otp involved in the storming of the Polish g.Poznan, where in January-February 1945 were heavy street battles. Flame-retardant tanks were used in small groups in cooperation with infantry and self-propelled guns ISU-152. For example, the 1st flamethrower company, together with the sappers on the night of January 29, 1945, attacked ancient fortifications in the city center. At maximum speed, the tanks raced through the Queen Jadwiga rampart and engaged in battle with a nickname, who sat down in shelters and widely used faust-cartridges and anti-tank guns.
Soviet infantry was delayed by fire and was not allowed on the rampart, and the artillery could not provide effective support, since the battle went on at night and at the closest distances. But even in these difficult conditions, flamethrower tankers destroyed up to 15 fire points and burned eight houses occupied by the enemy. During February 20, flamethrower tanks acted to cleanse enemy quarters number 8 and 9 on the approaches to the citadel, eliminated small enemy groups in the cemetery, covered the actions of sappers to build a bridge across the cemetery ditch, burned enemy firing points on the shaft and in the cemetery.
After the end of the war, heavy KV-8 flamethrower tanks were handed over to warehouses, and then dismantled for metal.
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