by: Pat McGrath [ ]
Introduction Fourteen M4A2 Shermans from C Company 1st Marine Tank Battalion took part in the assault on Tarawa of which only ten reached the beach. In the fierce fighting nearly all were put out of action and one, Colorado, was only saved by the crew driving it into the sea to put out the flames after it had been hit by Japanese A/T fire.
The kit portrays an intermediate production M4A2 with welded driversí hoods. Although the box top and decals portray USMC tanks this version was extensively used by British Commonwealth troops and by Polish and Free French armoured units in North West Europe and Italy.
The Kit The M4A2 Tarawa kit seems to be following a trend with DML kits where you can easily fit the sprues back into the box after examining them.
The box contains:
An eight page instruction leaflet
6 sprues of crisply moulded grey plastic
A separate lower hull tub.
A separate upper hull.
A photo etch fret with sand shield attachment strips, headlight guards, foundry casting marks and fenders as well as other small parts.
A sheet of Cartograf decals with options for 7 USMC M4A2s on Tarawa
A metal tow cable
A set of T54E1 tracks in Dragon Styrene
A clear plastic sprue with lights and periscopes
InstructionsThe instructions come in an eight page leaflet of line drawings. The first page shows the box art again in Black and white and the layout of the sprues with the parts not to be used highlighted in blue. Mike Canaday and Pawel Krupowicz are credited for technical assistance. The assembly is shown in typical exploded view diagrams in eleven steps starting with the suspension followed by the lower hull, the upper hull and details and finishes with the fitting of the photo etch sand shield attachment strips, fenders and foundry casting marks. The assembly seems fairly straightforward and having built several DML Shermans before I couldnít find any missing steps (Well maybe one- see part V33 in the next section) or misleading diagrams. The marking and painting page round out the diagrams with seven examples of USMC M4A2s, six from C Company 1st Marine Tank Battalion, Tarawa and one from D Company of the same Battalion.
SuspensionThis at first appears to be the generic DML V sprue with the straight arm VVSS bogies but closer examination reveals some alterations and additions and the casting of the whole sprue, compared to one drawn from my stash for comparison, seems a lot crisper. One of the new additions which will please Sherman modellers is an insert for the rear of the pressed idler wheel, which in previous kits was left hollow. We also get a plain sprocket added to the sprue which is correct for M4A2s on Tarawa. The return track skids are now thinner but they do have a noticeable seam top and bottom which needs to be removed. Adjacent to the track skids on the sprue are twelve tiny parts V33 which are not mentioned in the instructions but are, I think, the four bolt heads for the track skids. These are really tiny and I look forward to fitting them Ė not!
The bogies have the horizontal return roller support with the raised pillow block to increase the height of the roller. The bogeys lack the four bolt holes on the opposite side to the return rollers. The wheels are the stamped solid six spoked type with an insert for the rear.
Interestingly the suspension sprue contains some parts marked not for use that are needed if modelling a British or Commonwealth M4A2 such as the bottle type fire extinguishers and the track mounting brackets for the front glacis.
TracksThe Dragon Styrene tracks are very finely detailed. Some people have complained that the track teeth have been distorted by the way they were packed but my review sample shows only two twisted teeth.
Lower HullThe lower hull is detailed with hatches, bolts and drainage hole. I donít have photos or drawings of the underside of the M4A2 so I canít vouch for its accuracy. I did test fit it against the upper hull and itís a perfect fit. The transmission housing is the early one piece rounded type which comes with foundry marks cast in place. The texture on the transmission cover is a little heavy I think but is easy enough to tone down with some sand paper.
Upper Hull This is the first time this hull type has been cast in styrene and it looks fantastic. It has well done raised welds which are properly built up around the hoods. The rear hull plate has pre painted spots to mark the placement of the etched bolt heads. Moulded to the glacis plate are the plug holders for the headlamp socket plugs. A part missing from previous DML Shermans Ė the front cable clip beside the left roof top ventilator is now included. The location marks for the tools are on the inside and need to be drilled through if using them. I like this as if you decide to leave the tools off there arenít any annoying holes that need to be filled.
There is a problem with the placement of the periscopes on the hoods in that they are too near the front edge. I think the remedy for this may be to add some plastic card to the front of the hood and redo the bottom weld.
Upper hull detailsMany of these are familiar from previous M4A2/76 and M4A3 kits and many parts on the A sprue are not for use but can used to fix up old Tamiya and Italeri kits.
The tools come with the clamps moulded on and no straps or buckles. The handles on the engine deck are moulded as raised strips and could be shaved off and replaced with wire to improve the look of the kit. The filler caps come with detail on the interior and can be shown open or closed. The hull hatches come on a sprue attached to the upper hull. The detail is good with separate springs although these will need careful cleaning. The inner detail is a little thick on the underside of the rotating periscope plate. The periscopes themselves are moulded in clear plastic and will need careful painting. An interesting addition not seen before is an etched brass cable clip for the transmission housing and the left rear hull in three parts, which will need careful assembly.
TurretThis is an all new low bustle turret with very nice texture and great details. The commanderís hatch is detailed inside and out with separate handles and latches to keep the turret open. The pistol port hatch is also detailed inside and out and so can be depicted open. We also now get an American style aerial. The gun tube is plastic using slide mould technology and will need careful removal from the sprue and even more careful sanding to remove the moulding seam.
The commanderís blade gun sight is a two piece etched metal part which has a corresponding groove in the turret to help placement. There are some very fine plastic tie downs (B31) for the turret bustle and some photo etch straps with buckles (MA7) to attach to them.
Decals and PaintingThe decals are all for tanks of the 1st USMC Tank Battalion, Tarawa with its distinctive Elephant insignia. The tanks depicted are Colorado, Cobra, Cuddles, Charlie, Cannonball and Condor of C Company and Destroyer of D Company. And the paint scheme for these tanks isÖ yes you guessed it -Olive Drab.
in ConclusionThis is for me the best Sherman in a box to date. Apart from the problem with the hoods which is easily fixed. The only aftermarket part modellers might want to add is an aluminium gun barrel. Most of the M4A2s on Tarawa had a jerry can rack on the rear hull plate but this can be easily made from plastic strip. As this version was used in the Italian Campaign and in North West Europe it would have been nice if Dragon had included some more diverse decals but the aftermarket producers will take care of that.
Recommended readingM4A2 Sherman Part 1 (Armor PhotoGallery #11) By Wojciech J. Gawrych, Model Centrum Progres, Warsaw, Poland