Book Review
T-34 Mythical Weapon
  • mw8

by: Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]

A Definition:
(From Webster's New English Dictionary) Mythical Adj. Imaginary, Unreal, Untrue, Having to do with myths...

Obviously people can draw their own definitions. However, there ARE some assumptions in this book which may not sit too comfortably with researchers, modellers or Military Historians. It is worth bearing in mind this choice of words due to the very-opinionated nature of the author's conclusions...

The T-34, for many people, is the definitive AFV of both WWII and a considerable number of years following. Used from the Russian Steppes to Angola and from the Middle-East to the Balkans, few vehicles have been seen in so many conflicts for such an extende period of time. However, this was a vehicle plagued by political intereference, built under abominable wartime conditions, and deployed in the most wasteful manner possible. On the positive side, in my opinion, it was designed to be used after a minimal amount of technical instruction, it was rugged and technically, much more reliable than many of its contemporaries - the KV series, the much-vaunted and (truly) mythical Panther. What is indiscutible is the total disregard in which the Soviet regime used it's Armed Forces - thrown into the meat-grinder of some of the most horrific battles in history, being barely trained, poorly supported by logistics and minimally equipped.

What however remains, historical hindsight apart, is the huge potential in the T-34 as a modelling subject - only the Sherman can compete by offering so many variations in variants, in slight detail differences or in the enormous number of countries which used it - once again, many years after it first appeared. The essential difference between the two systems is in documentation. The Sherman was produced in vast numbers as was the T-34, post WWII, production, development and updating continued in both vehicles. Unfortunately, for the T-34 modeller, documentation is scattered, sometimes confusing and frequently incomplete. While a modeller can access the plans, the offical documentation and examine many preserved examples throughout Europe or the United States. In its country of inception however, the T-34 seems to still be blanketed in official secrecy - making the work of the researcher difficult not to say impossible. Therefore, any attempt to expand the knowledge-base of the vehicle and its variants has to be welcome...

About this Review:
Due to the sheer size of this book and the enormous amount of data within its pages, i've decided to review it according to the various sub-divisions within the book.

The Vital Statistics:
T-34 Mythical Weapon is published by AirConnection of Canada in cooperation with Armagedon Publishing of Poland. The authors of the book are Robert Michulec and Mroslaw Zientarzewski. The book is printed as a large-format hardback and has 520 pages. Within its pages are 880 black and white photos, 58 pages of 1/35th scale plans, detail drawings of various components, twenty pages are in full color, six pages of full-color CAD illustrations and 36 color photos of the vehicle's interior. The book cariies the ISBN 0-9781091-0-4

In Detail
Part 1 - Historical overview. A large part the book is taken up with the author's (very) personal view of the history of the development of the vehicle with an anaysis of the political machinations behind its conception. The initial part of this is demonstrated through a case study of the battle for Mcensk which initiated 'Operation Taifun'. This DOES appear to confirm the author's conclusions about the operational doctrine (or lack of it) which was so emblematic of the Soviet Union. At no point in these 44 pages, does the author deviate from his personal beliefs about a rampant incompetence at all levels - from the 'Aparatchniks' to the designers to the Political leaders and including in his condemnation the Commanders. This section is useful as a 'stage-setter' and much as I (personally) enjoy an 'Academic dog-fight' some of the assumptions do seem a little over the top. For the modeller, there are some VERY well chosen images within this section of a variety of early variants - all with varying degrees of battle damage.

Part 2 - Development. Once again, taking a very personalized view of the decision making process the author takes a very detailed overview of the birth of the Soviet Tank Industry and, the process which led to the beginning of the T-34. Some very controversial views are expressed - one of which is that the T-34M was a FAR superior vehicle to the T-34 series. Some coverage is given to the T-43 - again with some very forceful opinions attached. This section, although 'wordy' does have some incredibly useful drawings and photos of prototype and trials vehicles. Although some of the arguments are compelling (others less so) the remit of this review is undoubtedly to concentrate on the book for its value to the modeller, I will leave the historical/doctrinal arguments for another occasion, and move onto:

Part 3 - 'Circumstances and the First Cut' this considerable section begins the process of describing, through text, photos and line-drawings the evolution of the T-34. Once again, some controversial arguments although the clear emphasis is on the factual. The evolution is well-illustrated through some excellent drawings which clearly indicate the changes made to hull and turret. Although much of this particular section falls under the 'Historical' category, the modeller will find a great deal to interest them.

Part 4 - the 'Real' T-34: In this the vehicle in service and in combat is overviewed. Inevitably, many of the images show T-34s knocked-out during Barbarossa. This is one of the strongest sections in the book for contemporary photos. Those considering portraying K.O'ed or damaged vehicles will be completely overwhelmed by the quality and breadth of the images. Another 'bonus' within these images are vehicles in winter settings with (even in black and white) good indicators as to the application of winter whitewash. This section deals with the T-34/76 within four chapters and has some extraordinarily useful technical data within its pages.

Part 5 - The T-34/85: The emphasis on this, one of the best edited sections, has some (for the modeller) vitally useful material on the evolution of the -85 turret, mantlet differences, cupolas, armament etc. Within the photos are some extraordinary 'in-service' images showing a wide-variety of markings. Those planning dioramas will also find much of use within this section.

Part 6 - Production, Special Versions, Production of the Tank and an Appraisal are somewhat self-explanatory. However, there is a shortage of images of one of the more fascinating versions - the Mine-Roller attachment, there are a few (but, IMO, not enough). Also lacking is much on the ARV version. There are interesting (and well-compiled) sections within these chapters - once again dealing with historical and technical development. This brings us on to the next sections:

Part 7 - The T-34 in the Polish Army: Now this is perhaps seen as of limited interest, HOWEVER, due to the difficulties in research within Russia, Poland, would be a logical choice to do research. As the Polish Army (serving with the Soviets) was equipped with many versions of the T-34 there is real value in using these (available) archives. This is a mixture of the technical and historical once again, with some excellent images reprinted. The Post-War period comes into this (rough) category. This is also of some significance as many vehicles were re-engineered. The documentation here is also much stronger than the Russian statistics. Quality of the images is, once again, excellent and extremely varied with a variety of those images which modellers love to have. The last sections are:

Part 8 - Hulls, Suspension, Armament, Interiors, Turret, Engine, Serial Numbers, Scale Plans and Color Section, occupy almost 150 pages, this is the area (apart from the many contemporary images( which modellers will use most. The detail in these sections, is, in a word, staggering. Each of the first six are done in 'Walk-Round' format with a multitude of different variants being shown to demonstrate the differences. The scale plans (all in 1/35th scale) occupy 58 pages and finish with a page of scale illustrations of applique armor. Each is carefully captioned. The full-color CAD drawings which constitute the next section are particularly useful. All 23 road-wheels are done along with the 6 varieties of Idlers and the 9 variations of Drive-wheels. Sections such as interior arrangement of the 'Large' turret produced by Factory 112 are shown over five pages with a multitude of useful perspectives.The fillowing 11 pages are color images of a variety of vehicles including the engine, internal wiring and driver's compatment. The final section of the book are a series of 12 color 'profiles' showing a variety of color schemes and markings.

On the Plus side
There has been a growing demand in the last few years for this book to be re-edited, expanded and published in English. Now it has arrived, it IS a massive resources for the T-34 enthusiast - particularly in the attempt by the author to document the myriad of variations which epitomises the T-34. The acquisition, re-scanning and choice of the contemporary images of the vehicle is first-class. The 1/35th scale plans are very well-executed and of huge practical value. The author is undoubtedly enthusiastic about the subject also. Some mention should also be made of the detail in the captions - other publishers take note!

On the Debit Side
The book is frequently chaotic in its editing. It really takes time to succesfully 'navigate' through the book. The lack of an index (for a book of this size) is also a failing in the editing process. Although covered, there are one or two variants which really should have a higher profile - the T-34 ARV, the T-34 Mine Roller and. in particular, a shortage of information on the STZ-produced vehicles are, in my opinion, serious shortcomings. The highly 'subjective' historical viewpoint of the author does, after a while, tend to 'grate' also. The CAD drawings are extremely well done although (personal prejudice here again), I do wonder about the choice of vehicle...

If you are really serious about the T-34, it's simple. Buy it. If you are content to build OOB or add a few simple improvements, then perhaps look to cheaper alternatives. However, in a year's time, I would fully expect this book to be fetching 3-4 times it's cover price. It is a VERY useful book, which although NOT the last word on the subject, gets damned close to what T-34 builders are looking for. It isn't cheap, however, this cannot compare with a $20 softcover book with images and a few vague captions. Nor, is it likely that 2% of this information will ever make it onto the 'net. It's a book written with the modeller in mind although the author does tend to ride his particular 'Hobby-Horses' a little too often. Perhaps what we were expecting was a modeller's guide to the T-34. We got it but not EXACTLY what we were looking for although both the Military History buffs and the modeller will find an extraordinary amount of data within its pages - some of it controversial, some of it excellent but NEVER boring...
Highs: The detail. The quality of the plans, the CAD drawings and the contemporary images are ALL superlative.
Lows: The highly subjective historical viewpoint of the author. There are several gaps in the coverage. The editing frequently leaves a lot to be desired.
Verdict: It's not perfect, but at the end of the day, it does give the impression of being written (almost) entirely with the modeller in mind.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 0978109104
  Suggested Retail: $85 - $100
  PUBLISHED: Feb 18, 2007

About Jim Rae (jimbrae)

Self-employed English teacher living in NW Spain. Been modelling off and on since the sixties. Came back into the hobby around ten years ago. First love is Soviet Armor with German subjects running a close second. Currently exploring ways of getting cloned to allow time for modelling, working and wr...

Copyright ©2021 text by Jim Rae [ JIMBRAE ]. All rights reserved.


Oh oh. When I started to read the review I thought you would slag the book but you represented good arguements why a model builder, historian and T34 fan might be interested in the book. I do have a passing interest in the T34 and do own a T34 kit and collect military history books. Three good resons to buy the book. What is stopping me is price and the fact I can't get it at Amazon or Chapters/Indigo. So, I will wait and see if I get Hunnicut's Sherman reprint. If not I will take that money and pick up this book directly from Air Connection... Thanks for the review! Michael
FEB 19, 2007 - 01:33 AM
The problem with the book is that the author is highly biased. (It was mentioned somehow in the review but I think not nearly enough ). I guess the author let personal feelings against anything Russian affect the way he wrote the historical parts of the book. (I can't help to mention, but many of the photos are German photos of burned-out vehicles... very few factory-finished or Russian photos of the T-34 in service.) I can understand the negative feelings: in my part an uprising crushed (actually two in two hundred years), 60 years of occupation does that to you. But it does not mean that the T-34 wasn't probably the best ever tank design (once they put in a radio and a decent gun with a decent sight, that is). Otherwise, the book is excellent.
FEB 21, 2007 - 08:33 AM
Andras, if I had been reviewing the book for a military history 'site, I would have been rather more critical of some of the 'assumptions' made by the author. There again, if I was Polish, I rather doubt i'd be too sympathetic either to the Soviet Union. No, the problem, was looking at the book and reviewing it for its value and utility for the modeller. In this aspect, I believe the book is WELL worth the investment. There are gaps, but as I said in the review, the problem is researching 'at source' i.e. within the Russian Archives. Some people have been FAR too dismissive of the book. At the present moment, it's the best (bar NONE) available on the T34. Michael, if you're making one BIG book investment, personally i'd suggest this more than the Hunnicut reprint. Very simple, this is more designed for the modeller than Hunnicut ever was. On the other hand, if you're going to build more M4s than T-34s...
FEB 21, 2007 - 12:50 PM
I did wonder why the Polish version had such a large section on the figthing around Mtsensk. Frankly, the Polish version was worth the price for the photos and drawings alone (specially the second volume), even if you can't do anything more than decipher the captions to the illustrations. I'll be buying the translated version too. David
FEB 21, 2007 - 02:19 PM
I didn't say it wasn't worth to buy it. I merely said that the negative aspects of the book were not really emphasized. As a modeler, I think, historical accuracy is a very important issue.
FEB 21, 2007 - 09:42 PM
I can attest that this book is a worthy investment too, someone brought one to our last model club meeting and I was amazed at the depth of the book. The amount of pictures is astounding, ignoring the text alone and just going with the pictures this is a solid book. Also agree with another poster though that it would be nice to pick it up via Amazon, you know you'll get a lower price than the asking one now. Just picked up both FAQ books, Mig's and the figure one for $50 total thanks to a new Amazon credit card and their low prices. lol Price is the biggest hurdle for this book, it's an otherwise solid book for the modeler.
FEB 21, 2007 - 10:09 PM
Jim, (or anyone else who has this book) Does the book contain any info and or pics of the late war T-34/85 with the "bedspring" armor added on? Mike
FEB 24, 2007 - 02:29 AM
To be honest, the author makes no bones about his desire to cut the T-34's reputation "down to size" as it were. After reading most (though admittedly not all) of the book I have to say he does a pretty good job of it too. I've been researching the T-34-76 for a few years and have to say that very little of what the book puts forward can be easily or completely refuted. The fact of the matter is the tank was badly flawed suffering from an archaic suspension, a less than stellar engine, bad transmission, poor workmanship, questionable armor quality, (none of this entirely unique to the T-34 of course), on and on, as the book notes in fair detail. With that said there are a number of things about Mythical Weapon that are annoying; the translation seems very uneven (mistaking APDS ammunition for HEAT for instance) and in such a way in a number of cases as to confuse the reader (the section on the "hex" turrets are bound to cause some to believe these turrets were made up of separate sections which were then welded together which would only be true of the Uralmash "pressed" turret, all others being single piece castings to my knowledge). Also a little disappointing is that the book continues a few myths regarding the T-34. For instance the idea that "Model '43's" were modified to carry "97 to 100" main gun rounds is very hard to believe given that, in order to make the changes mentioned in the book, the 9 ready rounds would have to be eliminated which, with the 20 added rounds in wooden boxes, would allow for at most 88 rounds. Though this change may have been suggested, or even carried out at some factory or repair shop, it seems unlikely to me to have been a common modification (but who knows for sure? I've been wrong before!). Another 'myth' is the smooth faced cast track (the book ID's these as "550mm" on pg. 474). Much as I've tried to confirm these, on close inspection all the potential candidates in photos turn out to be standard ”waffle pattern” tracks packed with clay. Lastly, many of the drawings, though generally OK, suffer from one level or another of “inaccuracy” (missing or miss drawn details on the suspensions are a just two of several nit-picks I have concerning them). BUT with all that said, and if you can afford the steep price tag, Mythical Weapon is no doubt the best “single source” reference on the T-34 available to date. It contains a really great collection of wartime photos and dozens of very useful detail shots from preserved tanks. Mark
FEB 24, 2007 - 09:42 AM

Click image to enlarge
  • mw4
  • mw5
  • mw2
  • mw3
  • MW1
  • mw6