The T-34 Medium Tank was built at seven different factories during the Second World War, starting with Factory 183 at Kharkov and the Stalingrad Tractor Factory, both of which would fall to the Germans during the war.
On 5 June 1940 the Central Committee passed a resultion setting the production targets for 1940. Factory 183 was to produce 600 tanks in 1940, and the STZ another 100. In fact only 183 T-34s were completed during the year, all of them at Kharkov.
After the German invasion it became clear that Kharkov was in danger, and so Factory No.183 was evacuated to the east, and Factory No.112 was ordered to begin production. This left the STZ as the most important producer of the T-34 at the end of 1941.
1942 saw the new Factory No.183 begin large scale production, but this was countered by the German threat to Stalingrad. Three more factories were ordered to begin production during 1942, and although none of them reached the same scale of production as Factory No.183, they did produce 12,000 tanks.
Different sources give different figures for the production of the T-34, but the margins of error are all comparatively small. For consistency we will use the figures given in Michulec, T-34 Mythical Weapon. According to his figures a total of 35,595 T-34-76s were produced from new between 1940 and 1944. The relocated Kharkov plant at Nizhniy Tagil was responsible for a third of the total production, building 15,014 T-34-76s and as many T-34-85s.
The urgency of production in the Soviet Union in the second half of 1941 meant that despite all of the disruption caused by the German invasion 2,104 T-34s were completed. In the same period German complacency meant that only 1,388 Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs were built!
First Factory No.183 - Kharkiv Locomotive Factory (KhPZ), Kharkov
Production of the T-34 began at Factory No.183 at Kharkov, where the tank had been designed. On 5 June 1940 the Central Committee passed a resolution ordering the Kharkov plant to produce 600 tanks in 1940, with another 100 to be produced at Stalingrad. In fact only 183 T-34s were completed during 1940, all of them at Factory No.183. Production stepped up in the first half of 1940, when 553 tanks were produced at Kharkov, and reached a peak in the second half of the year, when despite the rapid approach of the Germans another 939 T-34s were completed. A total of 1,675 T-34s were produced at Kharkov.
By September 1941 it was clear that there was a real danger that Kkarkov would fall to the Germans. On 13 September 1941 the factory was ordered to evacuate to Nizhniy Tagil, east of the Urals. The first of 43 trains left on 17 September, the last on 19 October. Although much of the factory equipment reached the new site, only 10% of the work force and 20% of the engineers followed the machinery.
Second Factory No.183 - Uralskiy Tankovyj Zawod No.183 (UTZ), Nizhniy Tagil
The staff and machinery from Factory No.183 reached Nizhniy Tagil in the middle of winter. The facilities remained primitive for some time – at first parts of the factory were unroofed, despite the low winter temperatures (as low at -40 degrees C at some times). Most of the original workforce had been lost, and much of the burden of production fell on children and women. There was barely enough food and virtually no medical care.
Despite these terrible circumstances production at Nizhniy Tagil began in December 1941, when 25 T-34s were completed. Hardly surprisingly the quality of these tanks was not high, but as the factory became better established many of the problems were ironed out.
STZ Factory – Stalingradzkiy Traktornyj Zawod
The Stalingrad Tractor Factory was introduced into the T-34 production programme in 1940, although the first tanks did not appear until the start of 1941. A massive effort was needed to create a viable tank industry at Stalingrad. The city was surrounded by an un-industrialised hinterland, and so every industry needed for the production of the T-34 had to be concentrated in the city. The tanks were built at the STZ, armour plates were made at the Krasniy Oktyabr steel mill, and chassis were produced at either the STZ or the Stalingrad Ship Yard (Factory No.264).
This effort paid off after the German invasion. In the autumn of 1941 the Kharkov factory had to be evacuated to the east, leaving the STZ as the only major producer of the T-34. Of the 1,250 tanks produced in Stalingrad during 1941, 1,000 were built after the German invasion.
Tanks produced at Stalingrad had a number of identifying features. The front glacis plate and rear armour were interleaved with the side plates, a later used at Factory No.112. The front part of the gun tube recuperator cover was made from a single straight plate, producing a chisel-like profile. The STZ had the worst supply of rubber during 1942, and so was more likely to produce tanks equipped with nothing but steel wheels. STZ tanks also had two observation periscopes on the roof – one for the loader and one for the commander.
By mid-1942 it was becoming clear that Stalingrad too was about to be threatened by the Germans. The last tanks are said to have left the factory unpainted and gone straight to the front line in September 1942, before production was stopped by the German advance.
No.112 Factory – Krasnoye Sormovo, Gorky
The third factory to begin production of the T-34 was the Krasnoye Sormovo Factory No.122 at Gorky. This would become the second most important producer of the T-34, eventually building over 12,000 tanks, equally split between the T-34-75 and T-34-86. The factory was ordered to begin production of the T-34 on 1 July 1941, in the immediate aftermath of the German invasion, and the first tanks were delivered in October. A shortage of diesel engines meant that the first “Sormovo” tanks had to use a M-17F petrol engine, and only 5 of the 161 tanks produced at Gorky in 1941 used the V-2 diesel.
Factory No.112 copied the STZ in using a simplified front glacis plate, with the armour interlocking with the side armour. A combination of the modifications introduced at Stalingrad and Gorky and the general changes to the production of the T-34 meant that the time taken to produce the components for one tank hull was reduced from 200 hours before the war to only 36 hours at Gorky in December 1941, and the time to assemble them into a complete hull went down from nine to two days.
No.174 Factory (Voroshilov Plant), Omsk
The No.174 Factory at Omsk was one of the three plants orders to begin production of the T-34 when the Germans began to threaten Stalingrad, and was the only one of the three to continue producing the T-34 to the end of the war. By the end of the war No.174 Factory had produced 5,867 T-34s, equally split between the 76mm and 85mm armed versions.
CzKZ – Czelyabinskiy Traktorniy Zavod (Czelyabinsk Tractor Factory) then Czelyabinskiy Kirovskiy Zawod
Czelyabinskiy became famous as “Tankograd”, but the city wasn’t a major producer of the T-34. Tank production at Czelyabinskiy began after the Kirov (Heavy) Tank Factory was relocated from Leningrad in June 1941, but T-34 production did not begin until the summer of 1942. Like the Omsk plant T-34 production began at CzKZ as the Germans began to threaten production at Stalingrad. Tankograd had been producing T-34 components since the end of 1941, so it did not take long for production to begin – the first tank was completed on 22 August 1942, only 32 days after the order to start building complete tanks, and 30 tanks were built that month. Production ended in March 1944 after 5,094 T-34-76s had been produced.
UTZM – Uralskiy Zavod Tyazhelogo Mashinostroyenya im. Ordzhonikidze or Uralmash (Ordzhonikidze Ural Heavy Machinery Factory)
In numerical terms the least important of the T-34 factories was UTZM, or Uralmash, where only 719 complete tanks were produced during 1942-43. Production of complete tanks at Uralmash began in the summer of 1942, as the threat grew to the factory at Stalingrad, and ended in the autumn of 1943. After that the factory produced a large number of assault guns based on the T-34 chassis. This did not end the involvement of the Uralmash factory in T-34 production. They had developed the stamped hexagonal turret in October 1942, after having problems with the cast version, and between then and March 1944 produced 2,670 of these turrets.
Uralmash had been involved in the T-34 programme since the autumn of 1941, when production of T-34 hulls had begun. Turrets soon followed, and in April 1942 the factory began to produce complete hulls and turrets, which were then sent on to Factory No.183 to be turned into complete tanks. Finally on 28 July 1942 the factory was ordered to begin assembling complete T-34s, and the first one came off the production line on 15 September 1942.
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