Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank
This is author Frankie Pulham's first book, but I hope it is not his last. Fallen Giants: The Combat Debut of the T-35A Tank is an impressive piece of work. This paperback, 144pp book measures about 6.75" X 9.75" and is written in English. There are numerous period photos along with some current photos of the same locations, giving a certain amount of 'then and now' feel to the work.
The Red Army's T-35 was an early 1930s design that followed the ideas pioneered in the Vickers "Independent" - although it was not really a direct copy, the tactical concept was the same. The T-35 had five turrets with a 76.2mm howitzer, two 45mm cannons, and a horde of machineguns. The tactical concept was that these very heavily-armed tanks would be able to assault through WW1-style fortified areas, using their howitzers to destroy bunkers, their smaller-caliber cannon to fight off enemy tanks, and their machineguns to attack infantry. Their great length allowed them to cross trenches. That was the theory, at least.
The reality is that 1920s and 1930s engineering could not keep up with this idea. These huge vehicles were hard to get moving and hard to steer. The numerous guns were impossible to control in combat. Their great size made them difficult to armor adequately. The T-35 was the only really mass-produced tank even to embody these breakthrough concepts. The T-35s mechanical problems are pretty well-known, and of the 60 or so T-35s built, it has long been thought that over 90% were lost due to mechanical problems.
That's been the traditional story. This book, however, attempts to track down each of the T-35s to figure out the circumstances of each loss. It's an astonishing body of research. The author wasn't able to nail down every single T-35's fate. But, considering the state of the Red Army in the summer of 1941, the general secrecy of the USSR, and the fact that over 70 years has passed, it is amazing how much he has been able to find.
The author provides a brief, but very good, history of the development of the T-35 before delving into the meat of the book, which is his individual tracking of as many T-35s as possible. The heart of the book is over 30 descriptions of individual tanks, with their production features and circumstances of their loss. The T-35 was produced under circumstances that were not precisely identical, and they came back to the plant for rebuilds; thus each one can have a mix of features. This aided Pulham in his research work. A careful study of the photos enables individual tanks to be identified in a way that would be more difficult with truly-mass-produced material.
A concluding set of short chapters takes a look at the other AFVs that served with T-35s such as T-26s and BTs, and provides an assessment of the T-35s operations. These are essentially afterthoughts.
As you'd expect, many of the photos show T-35s in a destroyed or abandoned state.
There are 8 color plates in addition to the period photos. These are of very good quality, but since most T-35s carried simple markings and all had the same paint scheme, they are not nearly as useful as the photos.
There are also a number of maps showing the locations of many of the T-35 losses.
This is a fascinating book both in terms of content and research methods. The author has found production details and usage data for more than half of the T-35 fleet, right down to dates, locations, and circumstances of each loss. It's a real labor of love. The photos are mostly new to me, and i consider myself a bit of a T-35 fan.
Pros: Easily the most thorough tank-by-tank history of the operational use of the T-35; great collection of mostly-unpublished photos; generally well-written.
Cons: Small size makes it difficult to appreciate the great photos - this book would be better in a larger format. Here's hoping for a second edition in a much larger format. Some relatively minor editing errors.
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders; MUST HAVE for T-35 fans.
Thanks goes out to Fonthill Publications for this review sample.
Reviewed by Danny Egan
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