(12) Eastern Front

Color profiles: Jacek Pasieczny,  captions: Stanisław Jabłoński
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This issue of Topcolors covers the vehicles used by the Polish People’s Army units operating on the Eastern Front between 1943 and 1945. The tanks and assault guns presented here are Soviet designs, while the trucks are U.S. models obtained by the Soviets under the Lend-Lease agreement. The armored vehicles in Soviet Russia all wore a uniform color scheme consisting of the basic 4BO Dark Green paint, which covered all exterior elements of the vehicles. The paint was manufactured in large quantities and at numerous sites scattered around the country, which resulted in a multitude of shade variations of the basic color. In fact, when applied to the vehicles, the paint’s shades varied from light green/grey to dark olive green. Some vehicles had dark brown 6K and light brown 7K spots painted over the basic 4BO coat, although much more common was a two-tone camouflage scheme with 4BO paint covering 75 percent of the area. If a three-colored camouflage was used, the base 4BO paint was applied to 45 percent of a vehicle’s exterior. The actual layout and arrangement of camouflage schemes applied to the Soviet vehicles depended to a large degree on individual painters’ skills and imagination. As I have already mentioned, adding camouflage patterns to overall 4BO finish was not a frequent occurrence and, if done, it required the use of paint thinner, often substituted with gasoline under field conditions. Since the fuel was always in short supply, very few crews bothered with application of sophisticated camouflage patterns. On the other hand, the winter camouflage was used more liberally, although that too varied from unit to unit. Winter camouflage usually consisted of wide whitewash Type B stripes painted over the base color. Another camouflage pattern used by the Soviets included the addition of a grid of 4BO lines over the whitewash stripes. The best results were achieved when a thick coat of whitewash was applied to a thoroughly cleaned armor, although that by no means guarantied durability of the camouflage. In most cases the whitewash would peel off and/or fade quickly, which gave the Soviet tank crews a constant headache. According to many sources ordinary lime was often used to camouflage tanks and other armored vehicles (one example of the use of this camouflage technique was the battle of Moscow). Once again, that was only one of many solutions used in field operations: camouflage schemes and patterns varied greatly and were often the result of the painters’ ingenuity and/or resourcefulness. As a side note and perhaps an interesting bit of trivia, the whitewash used as part of winter camouflage was 50 percent plaster, 43 percent chalk, 2 percent lime and 5 percent glue. The mixture was delivered as powder packaged in sacks or cans.

IS-2M “410” of the 1st Company,  4th Independent Heavy Tank Regiment, 1st Polish Army. Pomerania, March 1945. The tank is pictured soon after the three digit tactical numbering system had been introduced. The last “0” of the previous tactical number (“4100”) had been painted over with dark paint.

ISU-122 “703”, a self-propelled gun of the  1st Battery, 25th Self-Propelled Artillery  Regiment, 1st Armored Corps. This camouflage scheme was used when the vehicle was  crossing the Neisse River on April 16, 1945.

Polish Army Studebaker US-6, nr F-0-33-69. Jastarnia, February 3, 1945. This model is equipped with a winch installation.

SU-122 “7” from the second production block. The Fourth Army, Russia, September 1943.

SU-122 “908”, second production block. The vehicle belonged to the 1434th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment. Volkhov Front, winter 1943.

SU-76M “507”, serial nr 407102 from the 1st Battery, 27th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment, 1st Polish Armored Corps. Germany, April – May 1945.

SU-85 “L-05”. This vehicle was manufactured in 1944. Eastern Front, Ukraine, 1944.

T-34-85 “1000”, serial nr 4080305, manufactured at Factory No. 112. The tank has an eight-element turret. The vehicle belonged to Col. Matulin, CO of the 1st Polish Armored Corps. Spring 1945.

T-34-85 manufactured at Factory No. 112. The tank, featuring D5T gun, belonged to the 119th Tank Regiment. Ukraine, March 1944. Notice the inscription in Armenian that reads David Sasunski.

T-34-85 “262” made at Factory No. 112. The vehicle features an S53 gun mounted in an older-type turret. Ukraine, spring 1944.

 

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TC13-Operation-Bodenplatte

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