Designed and built in the Kharkov Tractor Factory in Ukraine, the T-34 tank made its way to Moscow and was first presented on March 17, 1940 at Red Square. The successful 400-mile journey from Ukraine was the first real test for the armored vehicle that was to become the best tank of World War II.
Its technical design was radical, a major step up from the pre-war light tanks, which were high-speed but lacked firepower and armor and were complex in construction. The T-34 medium tank was built simple and durable with excellent firepower, armor, mobility and shape. The tanks were mass produced before the German invasion and made a successful debut in battles against the Japanese headed by the legendary military commander Georgy Zhukov.
The Germans were advancing deep into Russia, closing in on Moscow and forcing the relocation of the entire Russian military industry to Siberia. New factories exceeded their pre-war production. Outnumbering the German tanks in the great battles of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and Kursk, the T-34s crushed the enemy.
Western experts and even Russia’s opponents in the war still respond with admiration to the T-34 tank. German General Friedrich von Mellenthin called it “the most remarkable example of an offensive weapon in the Second World War” and German Field Marshal Paul von Kleist said the T-34 was the best in the world.
More advanced than German tanks, they were the main ‘war-winning’ weapons against the Germans. In 1945, when summing up the results of the World War II, British Prime Minister Lord Winston Churchill had this to say when asked what he thought the best weapon was: “There were three: the English canon, the German Messershmitt plane and the Russian T-34 tank. The first two, I understand how it was done, but I completely don’t understand how such a tank appeared…” Another example of its popularity is its inclusion in Stephen Biesty’s “The Incredible Cross-sections,” an internationally known picture book about the greatest creations of mankind.