Military Organization > Soviet Union > Soviet Medium Tank Company (1944-45)

Soviet Medium Tank Company (1944-45)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the late World War II Medium Tank Company of the Soviet Red Army’s Tank Battalions or Separate Tank Regiments active from February 1944 to the end of the war.

 

This organization was valid when companies were equipped with the 5-man crew T-34-85 medium tank. When an older mark of T-34 with a 76mm gun was used, this organization would apply minus dedicated gunners (the tank commander doubled as vehicle gunner on these tanks).

 

The next level up was the Tank Battalion (when in a Tank Brigade) which consisted of 1 Battalion Command and Headquarters, 2 Medium Tank Companies (this), 1 Technical Support Company, 1 Mess Section, and 1 Medical Section.

 

They were also integral to Separate Tank Regiments, which consisted of 1 Command and Headquarters, 2 Medium Tank Companies (this), 1 Reconnaissance Platoon, 1 Technical Support Company, 1 Mess Section, and 1 Medical Section. For Separate Tank Regiments within Mechanized Brigades, they only consisted of 1 Command and Headquarters, 3 Medium Tank Companies (this), and 1 Reconnaissance Platoon.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company Headquarters

    • 3 Tank Platoons

  2. Discussion​​

  3. Sources

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USSR T-34 1944-01.png
 

Organization

  • Type: Tank Company

  • Origin: Red Army (Soviet Union)

  • Time Frame: World War II (1944-1945)

  • Personnel*: 16 Officers and 40 Enlisted

Headquarters Section, Company HQ (4 Officers and  4 Enlisted)

→ T-34-85

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Tank Commander*, Lieutenant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver and 1 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Gunner, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Senior Mechanic-Driver, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Senior Radio Operator/Hull Machine Gunner, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver
    * In practice replaced with another NCO crew member; probably a Loader.
     

→ Others*

  • 1× Deputy Company Commander for Technical Affairs, Senior Technician-Lieutenant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Tank Technician, Technician-Lieutenant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Engine Technician, Starshina, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

* Most likely rode with the battalion train

3× Platoons (3 Officers and 13 Enlisted each)

→ Tank No. 1 — T-34-85

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Senior Lieutenant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver and 1 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Gunner, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Mechanic-Driver, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Senior Radio Operator/Hull Machine Gunner, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Loader, Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

→ Tank No. 2 — T-34-85

  • 1× Tank Commander, Lieutenant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver and 1 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Gunner, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Mechanic-Driver, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Radio Operator/Hull Machine Gunner/Deputy Mechanic-Driver, Junior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Loader, Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

→ Tank No. 3 — T-34-85

  • 1× Tank Commander, Lieutenant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver and 1 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Gunner, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Mechanic-Driver, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Radio Operator/Hull Machine Gunner/Deputy Mechanic-Driver, Junior Sergeant, Senior Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

  • 1× Loader, Sergeant, armed with 1 Pistol or Revolver

 

Discussion

The Soviet Medium Tank Company was considerably leaner than its American counterpart during World War II, with 3-tank platoons (verus the American and German 5-tank platoons or the British 3 to 4) and no train with only a handful of technical personnel who would likely ride with the battalion train most of the time. It contained 10 medium tanks (since early 1944 the T-34-85 being the most modern, although older T-34s were still in use) split into a Company Headquarters and 3 Tank Platoons (3 tanks each). Like the related 5-tank platoon, the odd numbered 3-tank platoon is optimized for tank combat versus even numbered platoons which are more versatile in how they can be split up (especially when attached to infantry). The author speculates that the Soviets reduced their medium tank platoons from 5 to 3 tanks to increase the number of deployable units (similar to how they reduced the size of their rifle squads as the war progressed).

The Company Headquarters consisted of a tactical element mounted in a T-34 and technicians without their own transport (hence the assumption they rode with the battalion train). The T-34 carried the Company Commander, Tank Commander, Hull Machine Gunner/Radio Operator, Senior-Driver Mechanic and Tank Gunner (T-34-85 only). In reality, there would likely be no extra Tank Commander (authorized as Lieutenant) with the 5th crew member being a Loader NCO. In practice, the Company Headquarters tank was commanded by the Company Commander. Prior to the T-34-85, the vehicle commander doubled as the gunner, being one of the biggest flaws with the original T-34s. All tankers were armed with either a pistol (like the semi-automatic TT) or a revolver (like the M1895 Nagant) while all Tank Commanders also had a submachine gun. The technical personnel included the company's deputy for technical matters, a Tank Technician, and Senior Engine Technician. All were armed with a revolver or pistol. Most likely, these extra personnel would have rode with the battalion trains as the company did not have an organic vehicle for them.

The Tank Platoons consisted of 3 tanks. The platoon overall was commanded by a Senior Lieutenant who also acted the Platoon Commander. The other tanks were commanded by Lieutenants — a World War II-era Soviet oddity, which was not the case as late as 1940 (Штат № 010/16). In fact, the entire force structure of the company was in theory much higher ranking than the average company, with there being no personnel below the rank of Junior Sergeant. The lowest ranking billet were the Junior Radio Operators, who ranked Junior Sergeant, while all other positions besides the Tank Commander ranked Senior Sergeant. This may have been due to the view of tank units as being more elite than other combat arms, expected to act more independently in a more technical environment than say the infantry. This also appears to have not been the case before World War II, as 1940 tables call for junior enlisted radio operators/hull gunners and loaders (and NCO tank commanders). The author does not know how often this was actually followed, although given the nature of TO&Es and their application it is safe to assume that many units had non-officer tank commanders and junior enlisted tank personnel. There is evidence that Senior Sergeants and Starshinas (Warrant Officers, in the British SNCO sense) acting as Tank Commanders.

Sources

Secondary/Tertiary

  • "Танковый батальон штата №010/501", Soviet TO&E for the Tank Battalion dated 10 May 1944 summarized on online (1, 2)

  • Schechter, Brandon (2019) "The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II through Objects"