Very often, when watching films about the war, about the army of the USSR and the army of Russia, I hear from former and current tankers, soldiers and officers complaints against the filmmakers about the quality of the work of military consultants and other specialists. Like, where did they even get such a form? Where do these overalls come from? Why is the armament of the crew not in accordance with the regulations? ..
There are many complaints. Indeed, it is strange to hear such expressions from a specialist who sometimes served for more than a dozen years in the tank forces. Especially somewhere in the country or in the garage, where on each hook hangs something received from the native army. From a headset to an old jumpsuit with a diamond pattern and a yellow T-62 on the chest.
To somehow reassure the critics of military consultants, I had to dig into military history. It turned out that a simple question about the clothes of a soldier or an officer can be no less interesting than a good detective story. There were even discoveries.
Tankmen of the Red Army
We are used to the fact that in Soviet films about the pre-war and war times, tankers look the same. Black overalls, a helmet and a pistol on his belt.
Alas, I will disappoint you, the first overalls were blue. More precisely, dark blue. And they were called like this: overalls for the driver. Simply because they were issued to drivers of almost everything that could drive. The crew wore the usual field uniform.
The jacket and trousers were simply sewn to each other at the waist. Accordingly, such a jumpsuit was fastened with buttons from top to bottom. The industry hasn’t experimented much with fabric either. Plain cotton fabric. And this element of military clothing was intended simply to protect the mechanic’s uniform from technical dirt when repairing equipment.
Hence, some of the features of this item of clothing. First of all, valves. These are special overlays on buttons and pockets that covered buttons on the chest and belt and a pocket on top. On the pockets, the flaps were fastened with a button. Further, there are lingering straps on the sleeves and at the bottom of the trousers. They were used to tighten clothes on the wrists and ankles. The third element is knee pads. Somewhat unusual for a modern soldier – diamond-shaped.
Pockets. The jumpsuit had only two pockets. One on the left side of the chest and one on the right thigh. Unlike later Soviet overalls, the chest pocket was actually a pocket and not a pistol holster.
In principle, the jumpsuit was quite successful. Except for some details. First of all, the color. The dark blue did not hide the oil and grease stains that appeared when repairing cars. Therefore, rather quickly, the dark blue color was changed to black. However, even in the initial period of the Great Patriotic War, there were a lot of dark blue tankers in the army.
The second drawback is rather spicy. The overalls were completely unsuitable for the natural needs of a tanker. If it was still possible to go “on the small” somehow, then “on the big” … That is why, even in the pre-war period, a detachable valve was made at the back.
By the way, jump overalls in the Soviet Army copied tank ones and were also sewn with valves. Veteran skydivers remember the “comfort” that the overalls provided to meet these very needs. Especially on the landing site, before boarding, many experienced this “pleasure” firsthand.
A small digression from the main topic
The most recognizable element of the tanker and, in my opinion, the most beloved element, is the tank helmet. Although today such helmets are used not only by tankers, but also by infantrymen, artillerymen, sailors and even paratroopers. True, in the latter case, the helmet is somewhat simplified.
The helmet, or rather the headset, has a very successful design. That is why it has practically not changed to this day. The history of this accessory for a tanker began in the mid-30s of the last century. The need to develop a special headgear was caused by the rapid development of tank forces.
The headset was made of tarpaulin. True, this fabric is related to soldiers’ boots only by the name of the manufacturer. Plain fabric rubberized with rubber. Rollers stuffed with horsehair or other components were sewn onto the helmet. Special valves for headphones are sewn directly opposite the ears. Pleated lining (summer) or natural fur (winter). Adjustment to the size of the tanker’s head is made using straps at the top and on the back of the head.
Sometimes special glasses were included in the headset. There was no single design for glasses, but in most cases they were a half mask with two side and two front glasses. In the Red Army, glasses were a fairly rare occurrence simply because the glass was constantly breaking.
And one more interesting fact. He is associated with the personal weapons of the crew. Pistols, revolvers in the initial period, and then TT were in all crew members. By the way, the holsters were specially designed as combined. For carrying both pistols. They were worn over a jumpsuit on a belt. However, when boarding the crew in the car, there were often hitch due to the fact that the holster got stuck.
It was then that the special chic of Soviet tankers appeared. Holster with shoulder strap. Outwardly, this method of wearing was not very different from the belt one, but it gave huge advantages in time in case of getting stuck. The fact is that the waist belt performed a completely different function. He pressed the strap of the holster to the body of the tanker. And in the event of a jam, it was enough to unfasten the belt.
And the last interesting fact. Soviet tankmen were never given tarpaulin boots! According to the orders of the People’s Commissar of Defense, tankmen were given only cowhide or yuft boots! Tankers were not given any tarpaulin boots or boots.
War and form
The Great Patriotic War made some adjustments to the clothing of tankers. First of all, the jumpsuit has become mandatory for all crew members. This was caused by the desire to save the crew when the vehicle was defeated. An additional layer of fabric was theoretically supposed to protect the tanker’s body from burns. Which, in principle, is quite logical.
However, in practice, the situation looked completely the opposite. Almost all crew members took part in the repair and maintenance of combat vehicles. Naturally, during such work, the uniform was soaked in drops of fuel and oils. It turned out that after a certain time the overalls not only did not save from fire, but, on the contrary, became an additional factor in the death of tankers. The driver mechanics suffered especially.
Few people know, but they tried to solve this problem already during the war. In 1943, a special fireproof tank suit was created. It consisted of a hooded jacket, trousers, mask and gloves. It was created from a two-layer tarpaulin impregnated with OP. On tests, the suit showed quite serious protection. 10 to 20 seconds.
However, in combat conditions, the suit prevented the crew from performing combat work. Therefore, the tankers did not like him. But the suit was not “lost”. At least in Soviet times, such suits were often used when working as welders. Even today, finding such a suit is not a problem.
And what about the tankers? The wartime tankers were also saved by a remedy, which saves today from coronavirus and diarrhea. Laundry soap! The overalls were washed whenever possible. How effective it was, I can’t say, no research has been carried out, but I think the soldier cannot be fooled. If, instead of resting, he washes his uniform, it means something.
Time of testing and searching
The post-war period is characterized by frequent experiments with uniforms. Tankers have finally abandoned the classic overalls. The tank jumpsuit became a suit. Trousers and a jacket have become an independent piece of clothing. Good or bad, I can’t say. In some cases, a suit is better, in others, a jumpsuit.
The main thing that was preserved for tankers was black. Jackets and trousers periodically changed their style, the number of pockets, buttons with zippers, but remained black. And this continued until 1980. That is, before the start of active hostilities in Afghanistan.
The fact is that the tankers and mechanics-drivers of combat vehicles and self-propelled guns were well educated by the Soviet Army and were proud of their black overalls. However, after the enemy began to actively use the PTS, it turned out that even an almost entire crew or mechanic, after leaving the wrecked car, became almost the main target of the spooks. The black color did not really mask him among the other soldiers.
Already in 1981-82, the mechanics-drivers of combat vehicles practically abandoned black overalls and fought in the usual field uniform. The tankers remained true to their color.
Those who visited the river in the early 80s remember how many “experimentalists” there were then. The uniform was tested in combat conditions almost constantly. Everyone has experienced it. And the infantry, and the Airborne Forces, and tankers as well. It was then that the first camouflaged tank overalls and the first gerbils appeared. By the way, gerbils took root just then. Alas, a simple solution, which simply suggested itself then, was not found.
Modern solution to the problem of survivability of the crew of a combat vehicle
Is there a solution to the problem of the survival of a tank crew when a combat vehicle is defeated? No matter what the designers say, no matter what protection systems are installed on the tanks, the combat vehicle is obviously in a losing situation in front of the PTS. Simply because in battle the tank must be in the first echelon, at the very spearhead of the attack. And he acts most often against a well-prepared enemy defense.
If you now ask the tankers who have served in the last 10-15 years about the uniforms of the tank troops, the picture will turn out to be no worse than a kaleidoscope. Soviet overalls, camouflage, black Russian overalls. Someone will tell you about the “cowboys”. And everyone will tell the truth.
I have already written above about a simple solution, to which we had to come back in the 80-90s of the last century. It is quite possible that this decision was reached then, but the turmoil in the country, all these perestroika, glasnost and other breaks in society through the knee did not allow the plan to be realized.
You cannot embrace the immensity! It is impossible to combine all the necessary qualities in one, even ideal form. Will tankers stop refueling and servicing their combat vehicles? Or will they not drip fuel on themselves, wipe their oiled hands on their overalls? Of course not. The tank is not only the crew’s combat vehicle, it is their home. But it is also a machine that always needs attention.
Has dirt, dust and weather changed? “Tanks are not afraid of dirt” canceled? Or are there no more swamps and breakdowns on the road? So you need a jumpsuit. It is for the repair and maintenance of machines that you need. Needed for marches. For everyday combat training is needed. And this jumpsuit will be slightly different from those that were on the tankers in 1941-1945. And it will burn the same way.
But why should a tanker study, maintain equipment, go through marches and shootings and fight in the same uniform? The tankers chose the black color not because of their own ambitions, but simply because it is the most practical color for training and servicing tanks. And they changed into an ordinary gerbil in battle simply because it gives an additional chance to survive.
May 20, 2017 in the 4th Guards Tank Kantemirovskaya Order of Lenin of the Red Banner Division named after I. Yu. V. Andropov celebrated the 75th anniversary of the 12th Guards Red Banner Shepetovsky Orders of Suvorov and Kutuzov, 2nd Class, Tank Regiment. It was there that the new uniform for tankers was shown. The same ingenious solution that I wrote about above.
Do you work in the park? Do you service a technician? Get a black, truly tank-like, comfortable and practical jumpsuit. And he takes it on his head. Field exit? Shooting? March? Replace it with another tank legend – a headset.
Getting ready for battle? Attack or repel the enemy’s attack? Change the overalls to a “digital”, to overalls impregnated with a special fire retardant solution. The material of the overalls protects against small fragments. Moreover, these overalls make the crew invisible to thermal imagers and other technical means of the enemy. And change the classic headset for a special helmet made of composite material.
Simply? Indeed, simple. But it took a lot of blood and many lives to reach this simplicity. It took a sea of soldier’s sweat.
A common item of clothing for a serviceman, of which there are dozens, and sometimes hundreds, for some military specialties. But how difficult was the fate of this simple and ordinary (even for civilian life) tank overalls, the pride of tankers …