I have to say thank you all for the positive response in the previous article. Now I would like to imply that this article may contain many disputes because history can be twisted depending on which side you are on and which way your government wants you to think. So I will try my best to give a third person perspective and background knowledge behind this event so you can decide for yourself.
This article mentions the fight for the T-62 on the disputed island, how both sides tried to recover it and the various secret methods both sides used to either sabotage it or protect it. Including secretly recovering it from the river and the spies that were used to destroy it.
Now as I have mentioned in the previous article China’s medium tank project was in a standstill when many technical problems were met. In the 1960s and 1970s, China had a really big industry problem in which facilities and infrastructures just weren't there to provide experimental data. I have to highlight that I personally pay plenty of respect to Chinese scientists like Qian Xuesen (Tsien Hsue-shen), Deng Jiaxian, Liu Xianzhi and many others. These scientists (if you google them, you will see they are very big scientists) left their old lives abroad and chose to return to China and work very hard even with China‘s starvation that was so bad that even China's chairman didn't eat meat for 3 years. So I pay them the greatest respect for giving up their wealthy lives abroad to come home to build a better motherland, it was very unselfish of them. (You might be thinking what's this to do with this T-62 story, just wait and you will see).
A vast part of Russia's Far East was part of China in the 19th century but during the century of humiliation, China became weak so Russians attacked the land and China was forced to sign unfair treaties.
So much of this was ignored when the countries were friends but in the 1960’s, the major border conflict began on an island by the name Zhenbao Island or Damanskii Island.
It took a turn for the worse so Russian soldiers, in a few cases, killed civilians. Russian border troops drove APC over protesters and killed three very young civilians. Russians were far better equipped so they often would use the waves produced from their patrol boats to flush away the Chinese rowing wooden patrol boats. This type of small conflict went on for a while until Mao Zedong decided that China must make an revenge. Note that Russians living near the border during the 1950s were actually nice where Chinese fishermen gave fish to Russians across the river and Russians gave bread to Chinese so there were no conflicts before.
Russian troops would pick fights on the smaller and malnourished Chinese patrols and the Red Army made sure that they brought more men than the Chinese had so they would have the upper hand.
This part is funny, China organised a group of professional wrestling and kung fu fighters to join the PLA and act as a normal patrol and basically brawl with the Russian troops. Obviously, Russians quickly realized that they weren't the people they normally clashed against because they are just too skilled. Being beaten up, Russian troops started to bring guns and one commander on the Russian side was one eyed, he pushed the Chinese commander so the Chinese commander threw a heavy punch to the neck of the Russian one eyed commander. The Russians pulled their guns out but a group of Chinese soldiers fired from an ambush location that killed all the Russian troops at that point. Meanwhile, almost simultaneously, on the other part of the Island Russians killed many of PLA troops.
Soon, the situation got really bad. Tanks came in, the most advanced T-62 came with artillery support and also the USSR moved just below a million troops to the border. It was almost at the point of another world war (this is how dangerous it got to). Soviets drove APCs generally but soon T-62s appeared which made the situation on the Chinese side very critical as the PLA didn't deploy any tanks around the region and the Type 56 40mm RPG (a Chinese built RPG-2) had no chance of penetrating the front of T-62.
As the T-62s came onto the island, Chinese troops already anticipating such attack, had laid anti-tank mines that only had the capability of immobilizing them but not destroying. The land mines were placed in a white bag and covered with snow to make them look like snow balls and the Chinese fired shots at the T-62 to make sure the Soviet tanks would come towards the mine field.
A T-62 was immobilized with a mine destroying its tracks, the tanks behind it were well trained and they did not turn but they just reversed directly backwards following the trace. The T-62 was left there alone on a frozen river.
A PLA front line soldier slowly moved up to see a black thing moving underneath the tank, it was an injured Russian tanker with a broken leg (or similar injury). The PLA soldier fired immediately seeing the enemy tanker had aimed his pistol at him. Luckily for the PLA soldier, he found out upon closer inspection the Russian‘s pistol had jammed. The PLA soldier heard something, a breathing sound from inside the tank. He decided not to try to look inside as he has a long gun while the Russian tankers had small pistols hiding inside. He threw a grenade through the hatch not knowing if anyone was inside (it was an empty tank, probably just the tank interior had some kind of sound).
The Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev was in Budapest for the meeting of all Eastern block nations. After Brezhnev heard the battle report made by the Russian defense minister he was angry and frustrated so he ordered the T-62 must be brought back to the Soviet Union or be destroyed. The reason the Soviet leaders thought a T-62 was worth all this effort was because it was clear evidence for Soviet intrusion into another countries territory which would have a negative impact politically. The T-62 had a few bits technology such as stabilization, smooth bore gun and night vision which gave a good enough reason for China to get it since China’s own tank designs ran into many difficulties.
Soon the Soviets launched artillery strikes on the tank but due to the sloping armor and the overall inaccuracies, the T-62 remained intact and undamaged. Russian ground troops (APCs and recovery vehicles along with 70 infantry) were sent to recover this tank but were pushed back by Chinese artillery strikes. By then, the Soviets found out the Chinese were in fact trying to recover the T-62 as well, so a barrage of mine laying rockets managed to deploy enough mines so the PLA couldn't approach it with ease. To make matters worse, it started to snow heavily which buried all the mines. Soon a pattern was found, the mines that were laid were in groups so once you found one, you could guess where others were. Over just one night a total of 1700 mines of all different types were diffused and removed.
After the failure of trying to prevent Chinese troops from reaching the T-62. Soviets deployed advanced night visions equipment to enable special task forces to place explosives (weighing 160kg) inside the tank but this plan failed as Chinese artillery watched them closely.
Funnily enough, Chinese tank engineers and technical teams went to inspect the tank and take as many parts as possible from the tank. Probably the radio, ammunition and optics (things that were light enough to be carried). This move was soon discovered by Russian troops who also called in artillery to prevent Chinese from approaching the tank. By March 28th, while under fire, Chinese engineers managed to dismantle most parts of the tank over a period of 7 nights time with all Chinese artillery deployed in the region to participate on bombarding Soviet positions. On the 2nd of April, China attempted to pull the T-62 on to the land off the frozen river which it was immobilized on. This move triggered the Soviet artillery to bombard it so much that finally the ice broke and the tank fell into the river. Due to warmer temperature and bombardments, the ice was not able to freeze fast enough so the whole tank just sank, after this the temperatures increased so the surrounding ice started to melt too.
Soviet bombardments came to a halt once the tank fell into the river thinking that they have done enough to stop the Chinese from obtaining it. This altered the recovery plan so the navy’s divers from Daliang were deployed in the region to attach a rope onto the tank. Another major problem arose when the recovery team realized that there wasn't a winch large enough to pull the tank out from the water (note that pulling things out of water is more difficult due to more resisting force). So three huge winches were produced in Harbin, and brought to the front line.
However, problems didn't end there, the Chinese diving suits were not insulated and not suited for the freezing cold water of the river so divers went into the water facing life threatening temperatures. When the pulling started, man force was used alongside the winch. This was extremely dangerous, if the soldiers ran out of strength half way, the winch could spin uncontrollably possibly killing them. After a few days of trying, Soviet forces started to bombard again, they had probably realized what was happening at the river. Soon the winch became useless, due to the bombardment the wires snapped. Pulling resumed again when two recovery vehicles were transported from Baotou (where tanks are produced) to the front line along with the winches, they pulled the tank out. Surprisingly, only the turret came out as the cables were attached on the turret so the hull and turret weren't pulled out together.
On the 29th of April, the entire tank was out of water and transported quickly on a truck to the nearest train station. It was to be fixed at a tank repair factory at Lvshuen. If you thought the fight for this was over, you will be wrong.
KGB sent a spy who was trained at the KGB training camp and who was a local evil landlord’s son (near where the train station is located). This KGB spy’s father owned the land in this rural place and was punished by communism when that area was liberated, so he fled to Russia and chose to be part of the KGB as he wanted his revenge on the communist China. The head of the KGB went to speak to him and told him that if he completes this mission, he will have all the girls and money he would ever want. So he carried a bag of 2 sets of incendiary explosives just one was enough to destroy the interior of the T-62.
After the drop off by a patrol boat, he walked for a long time out of the forest and some kind of miracle occurred (just a pre-warning, what I’m about to tell you is not fake). In fact I can’t even make something up as perfect as this. Basically, the spy saw a tractor so he asked them if he could get a ride to his home town. Since he was so tired, he slept on the back in a carriage and sitting next to him were two people. As the tractor rumbled, he fell asleep. Amazingly, the two people opposite him were trying to figure out who he was and by some unbelievable miracle, the two were actually people who lived and were treated very poorly on the land owned by this KGB spy’s father and apparently they had a similar appearance. After the spy got off, the two on the back knew that he was the landlord’s son and he reported him to the local police and said that this person disappeared a long time ago. When the police found him they searched his bag, the explosives were found and after he confessed about everything, he was executed as he attempted to cause harm to the nation. (Obviously the two people on the tractor hated his father and remembered him very well, personally I was very confused during this part of the story but its historical).
The broken tank was fixed and restored and gave a very good reference to future Chinese tanks. The Soviet lunar IR search system was integrated into the Type 69 and the gun of the T-62 was a classified weapon so China managed to learn that in fact the Soviets have already invented the smooth bore guns instead of rifled guns. It led the way for China’s own smooth bore gun, China gained a formula for the smooth bore gun from Egypt (however this could be wrong), no one in China’s tank industry really understood how to use such formula. Then, a general by the name Yiezhengying recommended the engineers to find a university professor in Shandong university. This professor wasn't an ordinary man, he was Liu xianzhi刘先志 who studied at Technische Universitaet Berlin, after he finished university, Krupp (the famous German weapon company that made many tank parts that you can find in world of tanks) employed him to become deputy Chief engineer. He participated in the designing of the famous 8.8cm gun and various tank turrets for Panther and Tiger II. As he was considered a very important scientist, the Soviet captured him to work for the USSR and later sent him back to Communist China. By then, he promised himself that he will not design more killing machines as he felt guilty of his creations so he became a professor at that university. During the sad and painful Cultural Revolution, he was abused and sent to work on flowers. At this time the engineers went to find him with the formula, due to the fact that this was a top classified project, they just told him to solve it. He had a look but refused to tell them as the two men told him that it was for educational purposes (he straight away knew it was for a new type of gun). The next day, they visited him again and told him the truth and within minutes he showed them how to use the formula to design this new smooth bore gun.
I have to say, without the T-62 China’s tank development would probably still be in the catch up stage, but now China’s Type 99 has proved to be one of the best tanks in the world. Before all of you guys question this claim, allow me to explain it. A tank shouldn't simply be compared with raw comparison stats, why? Well let’s say, is 1200hp on the Type 96 necessarily a disadvantage than 1500hp? No, because the 1500hp requires so much more fuel it would be a challenge for the supply to be maintained. Is China’s tank or Russia’s tank necessarily worse than the American’s? No! If you think about it, the US army doesn't need the best tank ever since the air force will clear out enemy tanks for them, so the need for America to design a tank that must win a one on one fight is completely pointless. I am not saying America doesn't have the capabilities to create the best tank now but there is no need as America isn't even considering designing or producing a 4th gen MBT to put into service. There are many other factors such as reliability and cost that will need to be considered before you say which is better. I just felt the need to mention this at the end of this long article since some people often just flash up the stats and says something before everything is considered.
So hopefully this has been an interesting article for you to read, and I have to thank you all for giving me the verbal praise etc. and a special thank you to Farmeh_EU for double checking my grammar. If there is anything else on Chinese tanks that you want me to write about then I am willing to do so.
If you do have any questions you would like to discuss, you can contact me via YouTube.
Thanks for reading!
chickentikka_EU and Farmeh_EU