“In this fateful hour, when the Germans had almost defeated us, those ridiculous tanks saved our positions.” – Mikhail Katukov, Marshal of Armored Troops
The T-60 Scout Tank has an unusual place in history, it was beloved and universally hated at the same time. While at a later date, General Katukov praised the T-60 in the quote above, in a meeting with Stalin immediately after the battles around Moscow, he was very critical of the tank.
If you are a “power” gamer or tank head, you won’t find the T-60 on anyone’s “greatest tanks” list. Yet, this little tank is often credited with saving the Soviet Union. It was slow, poorly armed and had thin armor, so what gives?
The war with Finland revealed a severe shortage of tanks in the Soviet army, the existing tanks were outdated and too few in number. By the beginning of 1941, N. A. Astrov (chief engineer) and his team at Zavod Nr. 37 was tasked with developing a light tank that could be rapidly mass produced. The result was the T-60 with an immediate order to produce 10,000 vehicles. Some say Stalin’s interest in the tank was because he attended the tank’s final trials in person.
Weighing in at a little over 5 tons, the T-60 had a crew of 2, armor was 20mm to 25mm thick (1942 models had armor increased to 35mm), and it had a top speed of 28mph on roads and 14mph off road, which was seldom achieved for two reasons: one was the ground being covered in snow or mud for most of the year and two, well, there just weren’t any roads to speak of in the Soviet Union. It also had no radio, though it was designed for one.
The choice of armament is interesting. The secondary co-axial machine gun was the same drum fed DP-27 light machine gun used by the infantry and the main gun was a 20mm belt-fed cannon designed for aircraft.
The tank was fairly reliable – Stalin was pleased that the T-60s which were destroyed were destroyed while in combat – there were a number of Soviet tanks of other designs that were destroyed due to mechanical failure before they ever reached the front.
In all, a little over 6,200 T-60s were built.
The T-60 in Action
At the very beginning of Barbarossa, the T-60 would have matched well against the Panzer II. However, the Panzer II was already being rapidly replaced by the Panzer III, which outclassed the T-60 and most other Soviet armor in use. The T-60 was even vulnerable to all of the German anti-tank guns in operation. When the T-60 finally saw action in late Summer, early Autumn, only the new T-34 and the KV-1s and KV-2s could go toe-to-toe with German armor, but they were too few to stem the invading tide.
The T-60 was a disaster when it had to directly face German tanks, which in desperate hours, it was called upon to do. This earned the little tank the nickname “a brother’s grave for two.” However, the tank saw success when deployed using its low silhouette to infiltrate German lines and ambush German troops. The German infantry referred to the T-60 as “indestructible locusts.” So it was a flop when facing other tanks, but a success against infantry.
Another instance of the tank’s low silhouette being an advantage was at Leningrad. The city was supplied by barges, which were under almost constant attack. However, the Luftwaffe would not attack barges which appeared to be empty. Coal was used as ballast to stabilize the empty barges and the T-60s were smuggled into Leningrad while being nearly buried in coal.
As the T-60 was being replaced by the T-34s and T-70s, it saw roles as an infantry support vehicle ferrying ammunition to the front and carrying wounded to the the rear. Later in the war it was used to escort convoys, reconnaissance duties, guard headquarters, and towing artillery.
The T-60 in Nuts!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, the Nuts! rule book is oriented for the late war, 1944-1945. A lot of early weapons, troop formations, army doctrines – well just about everything had changed and older things had been replaced.
The Eastern Front was the only theater of the war which received supplements covering the early war and mid-war periods for the earlier editions of Nuts!. I suspect this has to do with most Americans having knowledge of only the battle of Stalingrad.
Anyway, I have been privileged to receive a draft copy of a new Eastern Front supplement to be released sometime this year, hopefully. There are stats for the T-60, woo-hoo!
Katya Petlyak and “Malyutke”
Ekaterina (Katya) Petlyak had wanted to be a pilot, but she was too short being a hair under five feet tall. As fate would have it, she became a tanker and was assigned to a tank with “Malyutke” (little one) written on the turret. The men joked a “malyutke” for “Malyutke”, none of them realized the tank had been built from money donated by children.
Katya and “Malyutke” participated in the battle of Stalingrad, where she not only destroyed enemy positions, soldiers and vehicles – she also transported the wounded to safety and delivered ammunition and orders to the front lines. After the battle of Stalingrad, when Katya took Malyutke in for repairs, the T-60 was decommissioned and she was assigned a T-70, which also received the name “Malyutke.”
There were other women tankers of fame, but they all commanded the T-34. Outside of the famous women, over 800,000 women served in the Soviet armed forces in World War Two.
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