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IS-2 rear glacis adornment
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scruton
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:10 am    Post subject: IS-2 rear glacis adornment Reply with quote

Good question, Chris. Although the panel in your example clearly looks dark (muddy?), it is possible it may once have been an air recognition panel. Alan is correct -- by May most Soviet units were using some combination of white painted stripes/crosses. However, in February and March (perhaps into April and May) some units of the 1st and 2nd Byelorussian Fronts do seem to have been using cloth panels for aerial recognition. Here, for example, is a T-34/85 of the 1st Byelorussian Front (according to Il'ya Moshchanskii and Ivan Khokhlov) with a very clear white panel:



Here's an IS2 of the 2nd Byelorussian Front in late March (again, according to Moshchanskii), with what what certainly appears to be a rapidly dirtying white sheet (+ a detail shot for what it's worth):





By late April, I'd argue it's entirely plausible that those once white recognition sheets could've degraded to the muddy, tattered mess we see in your picture and this shot reportedly taken in Berlin:



So, not a definitive answer, but I'd argue that the recognition panel option ought to be considered a distinct possibility (at least for units of 1st and 2nd Byelorussian Fronts, if Moshchanskii is to be believed). I hope that helps.

Best regards,

Chris
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Chris Steadman
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Chris, it most certainly does help and your suggestion that they are dirtied white recognition panels is hugely plausible.

I am left, still, with some questions though. Below I've posted another pic. It, like your last pic, shows a 'flag' that is very uniform in colour, not something that I would entirely expect if they had been white and had got dirty with time. Second, if white sheets were used, one would have expected to see some pictures of them when new, used in this way on IS-2s. Third, white seems to have been an odd choice of colour at that time in that place. There is snow on the ground and some of the vehicles are using white for their camo. Last, once they had become muddy and blended in, why continue to use them and why not replace them? Replacing them, since the problem of aerial fratricide had been identified, would have had some urgency I suspect.

At the moment I suspect that they are indeed air recognition panels, but that they are of a high visibility colour other than white. I suspect that with time we will find more pictures, that will add further light to the debate. Thanks again.



Last edited by Chris Steadman on Mon Dec 31, 2007 12:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Chris Steadman
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bob_Mackenzie wrote:
Pg 4o shows it clearly not a flag


Thanks Bob. It does indeed show that the sheet used on that particular tank is of uniform colour and appears not to have any iconography or other markings on it.
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Bob_Mackenzie
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If its an air recognition flag why put it on the rear slope - not the engine deck to turret top?
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scruton
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 4:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bob_Mackenzie wrote:
If its an air recognition flag why put it on the rear slope - not the engine deck to turret top?


Because the engine deck is frequently occupied by desantniki and the turret top is too cluttered with crucial access hatches and optics to cover -- presumably that's why most units went to painted recognition signals. Signals on the rear slope should still be visible from the air (though, admittedly, more visible to craft approaching from the rear or directly overhead than those attacking from the front oblique at low altitude).

I was dubious, too, but I've yet to hear a plausible alternative explanation:

1. If the rational is heat retention -- i.e., capturing heat from the engine and retaining it under the cloth cover so the heating fans can force it back into the crew compartment -- why aren't the cloths actually covering the radiator grills on the top deck? All they're covering on the rear deck is the hinged engine hatch (and the smaller circular access ports) -- surely the heat loss out the top deck is greater?

2. If they're intended as some sort of cargo trap, why do we never see any of them with cargo underneath?

3. I suppose it's possible, as Rolfe suggests, they were intended as some sort of expedient to prevent moisture/muck from infiltrating into the engine compartment around the edges of the access hatches if the seals were bad -- many of the IS2s photographed with panels on the rear deck also have canvas muzzle covers in place to protect the guns on long-distance road movements, so I suppose it's plausible . . . but I've never heard of the IS2 suffering from particular problems in this regard. Same goes, I suppose, for the idea of convoy station-keeping -- why do we see them primarily on tanks of 1st and 3rd Byelorussian Fronts if this was a general problem?

So, despite the fact that the agreed-upon aerial recognition signals were white triangles/stripes/crosses on the turret tops for the Soviets, I lean towards agreement with Chris's initial surmise that the panels are aerial recognition devices of some sort.* His further hypothesis that the panels were not white but some other color seems plausible to me, but I look forward to more concrete evidence, either that the panels were colored or that they served some other purpose entirely.

Best regards,

Chris

* In addition to Moshchanskii's remark, in Zhukov at the Oder, Tony Le Tissier reports that the staff of 1st Byelorussian Front worked out a "system of ground-air recognition and target identification signals" (p. 146) in preparation for the Berlin operation. Although these were just as likely flare signals, etc., it is possible that colored panels might've played some part in the scheme (and that their purpose may not have been so much for IFF but instead intended to aid aerial recon crews in identifying and reporting on friendly subunits). Just a thought. Anyway, given Le Tissier's report, I'm inclined to assume that if the panels *were* intended for aerial recognition, they weren't directed at over-zealous American fighter-bombers (and, therefore, weren't really a deviation from the painted recognition symbol system worked out with the western Allies) but at Soviet aircraft supporting the final attack on Berlin.
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Alanmccoubrey
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chris, Given that both the Luftwaffe and Soviets attacked tanks from the rear behaps it wasn't too bad a solution. You gat very technical with the "desantniki" Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing
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scruton
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Alanmccoubrey wrote:
You gat very technical with the "desantniki"


"Tank-riders" works, too Very Happy
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Chris Steadman
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2008 6:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to everyone's contributions and especially to Chris. This is going to be one of those unresolved issues until better photos or information come to light. I'm inclined to think that they are either air recognition, convey markers or tactical markers (in that order). I do wonder if any of the RKKA later war tactical manuals might help at all, but have neither access nor the language skills necessary. I am going to be looking at any new pics, I find, a bit more closely in future ;-)
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