The US Army took no notice of the flamethrower until 1940, when reports from the war in Europe were coming in and the potential of the weapon was beginning to be realized. The military initially gave the Kincaid fire extinguisher company 90 days to develop a working model. The initial design, the M1, was put into production but had some serious shortcomings, particularly a failure to ignite. However, the weapon was found to be most useful in the savage fighting in the Pacific.
The next flamethrower was more carefully researched, improving the design, changing the ignition system and fuel carried and was finally sent into action in mid 1944. Designated the M2-2, for M2 flamethrower and M2 wand, it was considered the most valuable weapon for use in destroying Japanese strongholds in the close quarters fighting on the Pacific islands. It's first use was during the Marianas campaign. It could provide 6 bursts, of one to one and a half seconds each, with the flame reaching out to a distance of 40 meters. In Europe, the weapon was not as widely used as the combat distances there were farther apart and the terrain was more open than the dense jungle. None reached the Italian theater until July, 1945.
The weapon was complex and had to be maintained carefully or the tanks would corrode and burst. Pressure testing equipment was issued along with the flamethrower to ensure the safety and reliability of the weapon.
For such an important weapons system, there is surprisingly little information available online, or in reference. One of the best sites I found was flamethrowerexpert.com/ , a site maintained by a man who actually maintains and rebuilds flamethrowers and demonstrates them at various events.
kit, no. 375, is a detail set of the M2-2 flamethrower. Packaged in a small box with a photo of the completed set on the front, it consists of 7 resin parts, a small photoetch sheet and decals, all carefully packaged in bubblewrap. The parts are a large crate with very nice handle detail on the sides and small hinge and latch details on the front and rear, a cloth pack with strap and handle details, two 5 gal jerry cans, the flamethrower tanks as a single complete unit, and the wand. I believe the crate held the pressure regulator and testing equipment and the pack was for carrying a jerry can full of fuel to refill the tanks. The etch parts include straps for the flame tanks, a top bracket for the tanks to attach the straps, and the pack frame for the tanks.
Also included are two lengths of copper wire, the smaller diameter for the metal frame of the flame tanks, and the larger to make the tube from the tanks to the wand. One other resin part is included as a form for the frame for the flame tanks. The decals consist of three black decals for the jerry cans and pack and three yellow for the crate, all with symbols for the chemical warfare unit. The instructions are very basic, showing assembly on one side and decal placement on the other.
Assembly was fairly simple. I used a razor saw to remove the casting plugs and a file to clean up and smooth out the bases. I had to clean out the straps on the pack, the handles on the jerry cans (which are molded in place) and around the individual tanks. I noted that the two top straps on the backpack were broken off in my sample and there was a small crack in one of the backpack straps, but all the other very fine details were undamaged.
I studied the instructions carefully but there were some details I wasn't too sure on, especially how the wire frame attached to flame tanks. After the build I found these good detail photos at Flamethrowerexpert
showing particularly the appearance of the flame tank wire frame. Note here the difference in the M2-2 unit from WWII, with the hourglass frame and vent on the left hand tank, and the appearance of the M2A1-2 unit from Korea. The author mentions that there is very little information available on these units, and most surviving units are of the Korean war type. All the accessories look spot on. The vent for the tank can be easily made from bent wire and a spare bolt head. No other flamethrower kit I have seen even includes the lacing detail for the pack frame. This is the only website I have seen the hourglass frame detail mentioned.
I thought the wire for the flame tank frame was flimsy, but once I straightened it and bent it into shape it felt fine. The photoetch was easily cut with a #11 blade. I promptly lost the small strap bracket, part M2, but was able to replace it was some scrap etch. The straps are thicker on the lower portion and might best be preformed.
Once assembled, I painted each item in OD green, with a lighter shade for the backpack and a darker shade for the flame tanks. The decals were very fine and thin but once placed on the surface were also very difficult to position. With some decal setting solution they settled into the details on the face of the jerry cans. Everything in the kit could be weathered, with the jerry cans taking a beating, but the flame tanks would be kept in excellent condition to protect the operator. No corrosion, dents or other visible damage would be permitted. The testing equipment in the crate would be carefully maintained behind the lines.
Overall, I was very impressed with the level of detail on each item, particularly the cloth pack. I will have to fix the two handles at the top of the pack on my sample, but overall the look is very nice. I feel the small nitrogen tank on the flame tank assembly would have been better molded separately, but it still came out quite well. I think this set is intended more for use as a diorama accessory, although the flame tanks could be placed on a figure. With the extra items the set could easily go in the back of a jeep or weapons carrier. I think this is a most useful accessory.
A review of some extra boxes can be found Here