Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale =9139-=9145 Series Kit No.6499; 105mm Howitzer M2A1 and Carriage M2A1 - Smart Kit; 196 parts (195 in grey styrene, 1 turned aluminum barrel section); retail price (via Dragon USA) US$25.95
Advantages: first new kit of this weapon in styrene in 30 years; one- piece central barrel section via slide molding; several options included
Disadvantages: crew only suitable for NW Europe in the winter of1944-1945
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all US Army and =93Redlegs=94 fans
After WWI the US Army formed the Westerveldt Board to develop American weapons systems for the US Army, as since it had not developed sufficient weapons on its own it had to borrow or buy foreign systems for use in WW I. One of the first designs which was proposed was what was then a medium field howitzer in 105mm caliber. But due to a lack of money and other factors the weapon was not placed into production until 1940; the good news was that in the interim it had been developed and received several useful changes, such as the ability to handle unitary ammunition and employ a split-trail pneumatic tire carriage for high-speed movement and high angle fire.
The new weapon came into service as the M2A1 howitzer on the M2A2 carriage. Able to throw a 33 pound projectile up to 12,500 yards, more than 8500 were built during WWII and production continued on into the1950s. More than 10,200 were then completed, and many were upgraded to the postwar M101A1 standard and served through Vietnam, finally being retired by the Reserves in 1980 when =96 oddly enough =96 the Army bought the British L119 lightweight 105mm howitzer to replace it as the M119. The =93105" still serves with several foreign armies and has received new barrels and other modifications in their service, so it is one of the longest serving weapons in modern history.
The first kit to come out of this weapon was one from Revell in the late 1950s, but oddly enough it had a sharply tapered barrel and did not look the part (it was also in 1/40 scale, which did not help). A slightly better one was also available from Adams, but it too was in1/40 scale so it took until the late 1970s before a proper 105 came out in 1/35 scale. Italeri released one at that time which looked the part, but it was based on the Military Assistance Program M101A1 weapons and missed some of the details of the WWII model. The same upper carriage was also used in the Italeri M7 Priest kit.
Last year Academy released a new kit of the M7 Priest with the upper carriage of the 105, but did not follow up with a towed variant. Now DML has released a kit of the WWII M2A1 howitzer with a crew of four and in general it is a very nicely done effort.
The 105 itself is a =93Smart Kit=94 and has features such as the entire center section of the howitzer molded in one piece (recoil and recuperator sections and barrel tube) by the use of slide molding. The gun is completed with a turned aluminum muzzle section with rifling and a four-piece breech block.
The cradle comes in four main parts with the outside sections and slots for the howitzer to travel in as separate parts. A goodly amount of attention has been paid to the elevating and traversing section gears and also the sights. The gunshield is in styrene and has both of the supplemental flaps installed in the erect position; however, many WWII photos show the left section folded down. As this is the WWII version, the gun shield is swept back and not vertical as with many of the M101A1 versions used postwar.
The lower carriage includes a choice of brake drums (but no indications as to which ones or why other than there are two sets. Note that part C27 =96 the lunette =96 is shown in the combat or firing position, and if the gun is displayed in towed position it needs to be rotated 180 degrees to fit on the towing vehicle (such as a GMC CCKW353 truck). The trails are NOT moveable as the kit comes and you are only given the option of towing (closed) or firing. =93Boo birds=94 will be happy to know that after all of the snarls over their halftracks DML did not mold the tires with a bulge but perfectly round for this model.
The crew is the old =93101st Airborne at Bastogne=94 set and now comes with a set of three new arms and three prepared 105mm rounds for loading. No small arms are provided for the crew, but as it is based on the 101st during the Battle of the Bulge it locks the model and crew into Europe, winter 1944-1945 and gives no other option. While this is a normal DML convention =96 =93rearm=94 an older figure set to get = a new one =96 a new crew in lighter weight uniforms would have allowed for more flexibility and options; however as Steve Zaloga noted these are infantry wearing infantry web gear which is not normally seen on artillerymen in action.
A small set of decals is included for marking the projectiles, but nothing for the gun. This isn=92t too bad as most artillery pieces in US service at the time normally only had small data plates for servicing and not any major markings.
Two finishing options are offered: US Army ETO 1944-1945 in olive drab or US Army ETO 1944-1945 in olive drab with whitehwash streak camouflage.
One thing of note: based on the parts breakdown and the fact that the =93B=94 sprue was gated one can easily surmise that a T19 105mm halftrack and perhaps an M101A1 could follow; the latter seems true as while a large area for a flat gun shield was =93gated=94 off the front splash shield was included (part B22) along with other optional parts and the second set of brake drums (A17). Also, as DML has the bits in place now (new 105mm howitzer, early M4/normal M3 suspension, choice of early M4 hulls and details ) a new mold M7 Priest could also be on the horizon. We can hope...
Overall this is a nicely done kit and other than the crew =93lockdown=94 is useful for just about everyplace the US Army fought in WWII.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.