The Soviet Union built the Stalinets S-60/S-65 tractors in the 1930s mainly for agricultural work. In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and the Soviets took heavy losses in troops and material. To replace their losses, the Soviet were forced to take desperate measures. Large numbers of these farm tractors were taken directly from the farms and pressed into service with the Red Army. They went from towing harvesting equipment to towing howitzers. The Germans also captured many of these tractors and employed them as well.
Clarence Leo Best started out working for the Best Manufacturing Company, owned by his father, Daniel Best, and eventually became manager of Best Manufacturing Company’s Stockton, California plant. In 1908. the Holt Manufacturing Company acquired.the Best Manufacturing Company. In 1910, C. L. Best left the Holt Manufacturing Company and formed his own company, the C. L. Best Gas Traction Company, to continue his father’s legacy. During WW1, the Holt Manufacturing Company supplied about 2760 Holt caterpillar tractors to the British, French, and American armies for towing heavy artillery; including the BL 9.2-inch howitzer and the BL 8-inch howitzer.
In mid-1916 while operating out of a plant in Elmhurst, California, the C. L. Best Traction Company became large enough to purchase Daniel Best’s former San Leandro, California plant. In 1920, the company was restructured and renamed the C. L. Best Tractor Company. In 1919, the company began selling their C. L. Best 60 Tracklayer (Best 60). This tractor was powered by a four-cylinder, overhead valve gasoline engine that produced 60 horsepower (45 kW) at the belt and 35 horsepower (26 kW) at the drawbar. The Best 60 was a 72-inch (1.8 m) gauge machine weighing 20,500 pounds (9,300 kg) and became the most successful tractor in the Best model line.
In the mid-1920s, the Holt Manufacturing Company encountered financial trouble and Best’s financial backers approached Holt executives to discuss a merger. On 15 April 1925, the C. L. Best Tractor Company merged with the Holt Manufacturing Company forming the Caterpillar Tractor Company and Clarence Leo Best became the chairman of the board. The Best 60 tractor was renamed the Caterpillar Sixty (C-60).
Between 1919 and 1931, 18,948 C. L. Best 60 Tracklayer/Caterpillar 60 tractors were manufactured in San Leandro, California and Peoria, Illinois. The C-60 was sold around the world and was employed on every continent, except for Antarctica. The tractor worked in the mahogany forests in Africa and on rubber plantations in South America. It built roads in China and built canals in Europe. The C-60 took part in the construction of the Hoover Dam in the western US and even participated in the construction of the original Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California.
Caterpillar 60 tractors of the Red River Lumber Company in California towing trailers with large single-log loads.
Photo from The Forest History Society
C-60 tractors working on a road project in Nebraska. The long canopy over the length of the tractor was a Caterpillar option. Construction versions of the C-60 had the fuel tank mounted on the right side of the tractor while the agricultural version had the fuel tank mounted on the left side.
Film: Industrial Use of Caterpillar Tractors (1926)
Film: Caterpillar Sixty tractor. A levee construction (1931)
In 1927, the Caterpillar Tractor Company hired Leonard Fletcher who had 12 years of valuable experience in the agricultural field. He headed agricultural sales and was later sent to represent the company in Europe, particularly Russia which was suffering a famine at the time. By late 1929, worldwide sales had begun to stagnate due to the Great Depression and new markets were needed to be opened up. Fletcher personally negotiated several large orders for tractors and combines for large grain farm operations in the Soviet Union. More orders followed, and both Caterpillar track-type tractors and combines were purchased in large numbers.
Video: Interview with Leonard Fletcher
Using the US Caterpillar 60 as their prototype, the Soviets built their own copy of the tractor, the Stalinets 60 (S-60) which ran on petroleum ether (Benzine). On 1 June 1933, the first batch of S-60 tractors came out of the gate of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Factory (Chelyabinskii Traktornyi Zavod – ChTZ). The S-60 was produced during the Soviet Second Five Year Plan (1933–37) and was mainly employed by kolkhozes (Soviet collective farms). Its main purpose was to work with trailed agricultural machines, including PTO driven (power take-off) and to tow stationary machines. Production of the S-60 tractor ended on 31 March 1937.
From 1 August to 23 November 1936, the successful test trails of the new diesel engine Stalinets 65 (S-65) tractor allowed the Soviet Union to be the first in the world to mass produce diesel tractors. The main advantage of the diesel engine was it ran on cheaper fuel with a higher efficiency. Plowing 1 hectare with a diesel engine tractor was significantly cheaper than a petroleum engine tractor. One hectare is a square, 100 meters by 100 meters or 10,000 squared meters. An acre is about 0.405 hectare and one hectare contains about 2.47 acres. The S-65 tractor was produced from 1937 until 1941. From 1933 to1941, ChTZ had produced over 100,000 tractors.
Film: Сталинец С-65 трактор. В женских руках. По Х/Ф. (1938)
Film: Stalinets S-60 tractor malfunction during harvesting. Soviet Russia (1939)
Besides agricultural work, S-60 and S-65 tractors were employed by the Soviet Army. They were typically assigned to heavy division and corps level weapons such as the 152mm ML-20 M1937 and the heavier 203mm B-4 M1931 howitzers. These tractors were also used by tank recovery teams to recover damaged tanks and by engineer units to tow special equipment.
Film: Stalinets S-65 tractor. Military variant. Western Ukraine (1939)
The Winter War also known as First Soviet-Finnish War was between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with the Soviets invading Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of WWII. Despite superior military strength, especially in tanks and aircraft, the Soviet Union suffered severe losses and initially made little headway. Finland repelled the Soviet attacks for more than two months and inflicted substantial losses on the invaders while temperatures ranged as low as –43 °C (–45.4 °F).
The fighting was north of Leningrad along the Finland/USSR border mainly on Taipale in Karelian Isthmus, on Kollaa in Ladoga Karelia, on the Raate Road in Kainuu, and there were battles in Salla and Petsamo in Lapland. After the Soviet military reorganized and adopted different tactics, they renewed their offensive in February 1940 and overcame Finnish defenses. The conflict ended with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940 in which Finland ceded 11% of its territory to the Soviet Union.
A S-60 tractor is recovering a T-26 tank which had been damaged by Finnish antitank mines, Karelian Isthmus, December 1940. On the right is a disabled OT-26 (KhT-26) flame thrower tank that was pushed off the road. Note the OT-26 is missing its tracks. The T-26s are painted in winter white camouflage while the OT-26 is not.
On Sunday, 22 June 1941, the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa (German: Unternehmen Barbarossa) also known as the German invasion of the Soviet Union. With the largest invasion force in the history of warfare, they invaded the western Soviet Union along a 1,800 mile (2,900 km) front, with 3,350–3,795 tanks, 3,030–3,072 AFVs, 600,000 motor vehicles and over 600,000 horses for non-combatant operations. As the massive German armour force rolled eastward towards Moscow with the Luffwaffe providing air support, the Soviet Army were forced back under extreme pressure taking heavy losses of troops, tanks, artillery and tractors.
Seven industrial entities (including most of Leningrad’s Kirov Plant) were either wholly or partially relocated east to Chelyabinsk and the resulting enterprise became commonly known as “Танкоград” (‘Tankograd’, or ‘Tank City’). The factories suspended production of tractors and re-configured their production lines to produce tanks. Since no new tractors were available, the Soviet Army impressed as many civilian S-60/S-65 tractors that could be found into military service.
Unfortunately the slow speed of these tractors, 7 mph (11 km/h). caused many to be captured by rapid advancing German units. The Germans pressed them into service for towing their own medium/large caliber guns and for a number of other jobs.
This abandoned S-60 tractor is towing a 152mm ML-20 howitzer. Note the jumping deer marking on the gun shield. The unit is unknown and the other markings on the gun are illegible.
This S-65 is towing a 203mm B-4 M1931 howitzer.
This S-60 tractor is probably towing a 122mm howitzer model 1910/30. Note the red star painted on the front end of the fuel tank.
German troops are examining a S-60 tractor which is towing a Soviet 76mm Model 1931 (3-K) AA gun. The gun was mounted on a two-wheeled carriage with collapsible cruciform outriggers. The Germans designated these captured guns the 7.62 cm Flak M.31(r) and employed them until they either wore out or the ammunition supply was depleted. A few of them were re-bored to fire German 8.8 cm ammunition and re-designated the 7.62/8.8 cm Flak M.31(r).
A S-60 tractor with a wooden cab towing a supply train consisting of several wagons linked together. Note the tractor cab appears to have wooden framed house windows with 6 panes. The only thing it is missing is curtains.
This abandoned S-65 tractor with cab had slid off the road. German soldiers are standing around examining their captured trophy.
This photo was taken by Kriegsberichter Koster on 16 October 1941 at Uman (Ukraine) and it shows a S-60 tractor towing a 152-mm howitzer M1938 (M-10) gun in its stowed position. It drove into the wall of a village
house after its crew was killed by German troops.
A S-65 tractor with cab abandoned on Langeronovskaya Street in Odessa (port on the Black Sea), Ukraine, October 1941. On the right, the photo shows sculptures on the facade of the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theatre. In the background on the street is an abandoned Soviet Gaz-AA Truck.
There were several types of cab enclosures built on theses tractors. The most common was the wooden rectangular cab and some had a ZIS truck cab fitted. Some S-65 tractors had a modified Mercedes-Benz L3000 truck cab fitted as shown here. This one had armour plates with view ports added and note the cab door has many dents in it.
This is another S-65 tractor with a Mercedes-Benz L3000 truck cab fitted. The windshield, rear and side windows have been removed. These cabs were most likely salvaged from destroyed or “out of service” trucks. It is not clear if the Soviets or the Germans added the Mercedes cab to these tractors.
The luftwaffe also employed captured S-60 and S-65 tractors. This S-60 tractor was used by Kampfgeschwader 54 “Totenkopf” (KG 54) for runway maintenance on one of its forward airfields in Russia. In the background are Junkers Ju88 bombers.
A disabled S-65 tractor towing a GAZ-AAA fuel tank truck BZ-38U. It appears the engine and the whole front end of the truck had been removed and was hitched to the tractor as a trailer. The location was probably somewhere near an airfield.
“Rasputitsa” (Russian: распу́тица) is a Russian term for two seasons of the year, spring and autumn, when travel on unpaved roads or across country becomes difficult due to extreme muddy conditions from rain or melting snow. This term also refers to road conditions during both periods.
This captured S-60 tractor is towing a Krupp Protze 6×4 truck (Kfz.70) along a muddy road.
A captured S-65 tractor with cab towing a Mercedes Benz LG 3000 truck on a muddy road.
A S-65 tractor with a wooden rectangular cab bogged down in deep thick mud.
A captured S-60 tractor towing supply trucks along a icy, snow packed road. The leading truck is an Opel Blitz.
An abandoned S-65 tractor buried in deep snow being recovered. Note the snow has completely covered the tractor’s tracks.
During the Siege of Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg), Lake Ladoga provided the only access to the besieged city as a section of the eastern shore remained in Soviet hands. Supplies were transported into Leningrad by trucks on winter roads over the thick ice, the “Road of Life”. S-60 and S-65 tractors led the convoys and were used to tow graders to clear lanes through the fresh fallen snow.
Film: Stalinets S-60 and Stalinets S-65. Road of Life to the besieged Leningrad. Тhe Lake Ladoga (1941)
A S-65 tractor towing a 203mm B-4 howitzer in Eastern Prussia, the 3rd Byelorussian Front. It probably belonged to the 117th Heavy Howitzer Artillery Brigade.
A S-60 tractor is towing a lend lease M3A1 Stuart light tank. The unit marking on the tank turret is unknown.
A captured S-65 tractor towing a captured T-34/76 1941 model tank. Note the white cross painted on the turret.
A S-65 tractor towing trailers carrying assault boats. Probably for a river crossing.
A S-65 tractor with a field modified mine roller. A boom was mounted off the front of the tractor with a hanging load of T-34 or BT tank road wheels which were dragged on the ground in front of the tractor to detonate land mines. Not sure if this was a Soviet or German modification.
Operation Fall Blau (English: Case Blue) was the German 1942 summer offensive in southern Russia between 28 June and 24 November 1942. On June 30. Fall Blau was renamed Operation Braunschweig (Brunswick), named after Braunschweig. The Battle of Rostov was part of the operation and it lasted for five days, The 56th Soviet Army, in retreat, was pitted against the 17th German Army and 1st Panzer Army which tried to surround the town. The Germans took the bridges over the Don River, the Bataysk Bridge and the dike to the south of the town and prevented the flooding of swamp, which allowed them to capture Rostov on 23 July and continue their progress towards the Caucasus.
Film: Stalinets S-60 and Stalinets S-65 tractors destroyed by German aircraft. Rostov (1942)
A captured S-65 tractor towing a Soviet T-26 light tank passes a Wehrmacht Horch field car.
The Battle of Stalingrad (today Volgograd) began on 23 August 1942 when the city endured heavy aerial bombardment that reduced most of it to rubble. By September, the fighting reached the city center. The fighting was of unprecedented intensity where the city’s central railway station changed hands 13 times, and the Mamayev Kurgan (one of the highest points of the city) was captured and recaptured 8 times. By early November, the German forces controlled 90 percent of the city and the Soviets were cornered in two narrow pockets, but they were unable to eliminate the last pockets of Soviet resistance before Soviets launched a huge counterattack on November 19. This resulted in the Soviet encirclement of the German Sixth Army and other Axis units. On 31 January 1943, the Sixth Army surrendered, and by February 2, with the mopping up of straggling German troops, the battle was over.
A S-60 tractor is towing a disabled Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. L armed with a long barrel 50mm gun. Note the sagging tracks and the panzer is riding on its road wheels. The panzer belonged to either the 14th or the 24th Panzer Division. Following it is another S-65 tractor with a cab. They are passing buildings and a chimney of whats was left of one of the factories in Stalingrad.
A S-65 tractor with cab leading or towing vehicles along a snow packed road, Winter, 1942. Note that its left track has a damaged track shoe.
This is another photo of the same tractor but closer. The vehicles behind it are field cars (Kfz. 15) and/or civilian cars.
This S-60 tractor is towing a 152mm ML-20 howitzer. The drums on the ground in the foreground indicate that the tractor was probably about to be refueled. Note the missing track shoe.
Unlike the continuous tracks on tanks where each track link is connected directly to the next link, caterpillar tractors have a continuous track chain that runs around the sprocket, under the track rollers, around the front idler wheel and over the carrier rollers. A track shoe is bolted to each link of the track chain. Many track shoes could be damaged or missing and the tractor was still be able to move.
This is my close up of the missing track shoe. The exposed track chain link around the front idler wheel shows the holes where the track shoe is bolted on. The two bolts can be seen on the track shoe above it.
Operation Citadel (German: Unternehmen Zitadelle) or the Battle of Kursk. 7 July to 2 August 1943.
Kursk was the combat debut of the German 65 tonnes (143,000 lb) Sd.Kfz. 184 Ferdinand armed with a 8.8 cm Pak 43/2 L/71 gun. The Germans made the mistake of employing the Ferdinand as an assault weapon instead of a long range anti-tank weapon. During the battle, the Germans lost 39 out of 89 Ferdinands (44%) due to mines, artillery and mechanical breakdowns and the Germans did not have any equipment that could recover the heavy Ferdinands from the battle field.
A S-60 tractor towing supply trailers to the front line units at Kursk.
Disabled Ferdinand number 624 of 2./s.Pz.Jg.Abt. 654 being recovered by at least two Soviet S-65 tractors.
A S-65 Tractor of a Soviet artillery unit in Kharkov (south of Kursk) on 23 August 1943.
S-65 tractors towing a 152mm ML-20 howitzers through Tallinn. Estonia, September 1944. The building behind the tractor and howitzer is St. John’s Church (Jaani kirik) on Vabaduse väljak. This photo was taken from a upper floor window in the Hotel on the south side of the street. Note the long wooden cabs on the tractors.
A S-65 tractor towing a 203mm B-4 howitzer through the streets of Berlin in 1945.
A S-65 tractor with cab towing a 203mm B-4 howitzer is accompanied by armour on a street in Berlin, 1945. In the foreground to the left of the tractor is a 122mm IS-2 heavy tank. To the right of the tractor is a T-34/85 tank. In the background on the left is another IS-2 tank which is followed by a ISU-152 SP. The 203mm howitzer would be setup to fire at point blank range at enemy fortified strongholds and bunkers.
After the war, many of the surviving tractors went back to the farms . . .
Film: Stalinets S-60 tractor. Fellow travelers. Soviet Russia (1946)
Prior to the Korean War, the Soviet Union supplied North Korea T-34/85 tanks, planes (no jets), trucks and heavy artillery.
This Soviet built 122mm M1931/37 (A-19) field gun (similar to the US 155mm howitzer) towed by a S-65 tractor was abandoned by North Korean forces in the Kum River area, north of Taejon (today Daejeon), South Korea, in late September 1950.
This is my close up of the S-65 tractor in the photo above.
Clarence Leo Best (born: 21 April 1878) remained chairman of the board of the Caterpillar Tractor Company until his passing on 22 September 1951 in San Francisco, California. He was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland, California.
Video: 1929 Caterpillar Sixty starting and pushing dirt
Video: Caterpillar Sixty Engine Startup Demo
This tractor had been under water for 70 years in the river Urussa.
Video: S-65 Stalinets
Video: “Сталинец” завели
Video: “Stalinets” tractor (2018)
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