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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, May 24, 2020

No Dissasemble KV-2!

There are a few topics that I come back to every few years to see if more information has turned up on the subject. Today we look at the story of a KV-2. However before we do go on, I'd like to draw your attention to first Francis Pulham, author of the big book on T-35's. I spent a couple of hours chatting to him about this subject, and his rather encyclopaedic knowledge allowed me to stick a lot of details together. In addition, I should give an honourable mention to the guys over on the Army Rumour Service forum, who threw their tuppence in and gave me some pointers, which got us on the right track.

The story starts in 1941 and is likely caused by nothing more than bad reconnaissance. As Operation Barbarossa crashed over the Ukrainian countryside the Soviets threw their tank formations against the Germans. The operational plan was for the 6th and 11th Mechanised Corps, along with the 6th Cavalry Corps to ram into the German penetration and wipe them out. These were seriously big formations of mostly tanks of all types, including KV-2's. Each corps seemed to have around 200 tanks apiece. The initial intention was for the 6th and 11th to attack on the 24th of June. However, there were no radios to enable coordination between the two forces, and very little reconnaissance. This led to the 6th Mechanised Corps, which was the owner of our KV-2, to launch an attack towards the Germans. However, the Germans were not where they were expected to be, and the 6th Mechanized Corps was deployed badly. In fact, the Germans were some 30km further back. This led to a long approach march, where many vehicles broke down and most of the corps supply of fuel was used up. Equally the Germans were able to spot the attack developing by air reconnaissance, and first bomb the attack, and then dig in a blocking force. With the heavier KV tanks out of fuel, it was decided to send the BT's and T-26's forward alone. They fared badly, so the KV's were launched. Air attack and Stugs were brought up to help the infantry which this force crashed into. Ultimately the attack would fail from lack of coordination, air attack and disrepair of the Soviet forces. Near Grodno there stood a lone KV-2, chassis number Б-9648, either out of fuel or broken down. It would be captured intact by the Germans.
Б-9648 as the Germans found her
There were orders from the German High Command that at least two samples of any captured tanks should be sent back to Germany. One each of these would be sent to the German army museum and evaluation centres located at Stettin and Kummersdorf. As it turns out about four or five KV-2's would be recovered, Б-9648 amongst them. With one each heading to the respective establishments, what of the others? Well one was badly damaged with most of its running gear destroyed. This had some road wheels left on it, to which some BT tracks were fitted to allow it to be moved. Б-9648 still had a full set of running gear. She was dissembled for transport back to the Reich, where she would form the gate guardian for a new propaganda exhibition "The Soviet Paradise" (this link is to the program for the exhibition) in Berlin. This was held at the Lustgarten. Before taking up her place she was driven in a parade through Berlin. Б-9648 is identifiable as she lacks some features of a KV-2, the most obvious is the mud guards and boxes on the side of the tank. It seems these were removed during the disassembly, and never reattached. There are other missing parts, such as the plugs for the pistol ports on the side of the turret.
Б-9648 stripped for transport.
"The Soviet Paradise” opened in 1942. During her time in Berlin she was attacked by German resistance members. They planted incendiary devices at the location, although no lasting damage was done. The resistance members were all rounded up and executed. For the next few months, and possibly years the exhibition toured the greater German Reich (Germany and Czechoslovakia were definitely visited), although it does not have seem to have gone to conquered territories. At some point the show arrived in Essen.
Б-9648 during the Berlin parade.
Б-9648 in Prague.
At current I've been unable to find out if the show ended at Essen, or when it arrived there. Equally what happened to Б-9648 after the show is unknown. However, she next surfaces in 1945 in the Essen area. There is a suggestion that she had been sent to Krupp for metallurgical analysis, although the source for this rumour is hard to pin down. Equally, this is where the biggest mystery begins.
The photo above is of Б-9648. You can see she has taken a large number of hits to her flank, and one glancing hit from a steep angle from the rear quarter. This latter hit has knocked a chunk out of the gun mantle and gone on to dent the gun barrel.
The photograph was taken by the US Army Signals Corps on the 11th of April 1945. The caption on it states the tank was knocked out in Essen by US forces of the 79th [infantry] Division.
Previous renditions of this story state the tank was used to defend the Krupp works. However, this doesn't appear to be the case, as the paratroopers of the 507th battalion drove into the Krupp works in jeeps capturing it without a shot being fired. So, what is Б-9648 story?

Comparing the holes on the side of the turret to the pistol port the penetrations appear to be around 37-40mm thick, although there is the chance of a large degree of error here. One option could be "The Soviet Paradise" was in town as the US forces approached, then the tank was used as a target hulk to train people to fire Panzerfausts. Then the US forces took the area and the Signals Corp photographers decided it had to have been used in combat and claimed the use in their caption.

However, the shot from the extreme rearwards angle would suggest something else. A Panzerfaust would not achieve such an impact, being more likely to break up on impact, or if it functioned its damage would be different, and certainly more severe to the gun barrel. Equally HEAT warheads leave a scorch mark around the impact point, which is missing. There is also the suggestion the impacts are from a rearwards angle, although this could just be down to the low quality of the image. Maybe the tank was used in combat, one final time, and was knocked out by US forces, who later used it as a target hulk? Maybe some US vehicle with a 37mm crept up behind her and opened fire, but as a 37mm M3 isn't going to stand much chance against a KV and had to fire a large number of shots before the crew bailed?

Until more information comes to light, I suspect it’s one of those things we'll never know.... unless you have the missing piece of the puzzle, or know someone who does? I seem to recall Germany had a tradition of a "local historian" role for each settlement, that records events locally. The answer may be there, but I have no idea on how to access such a valuable collection of data.


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