Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 scale =9139-=9145 Kit No. 6462; 499 parts (437 parts in grey styrene, 35 etched brass, 22 clear styrene, 4 DS plastic track runs, 1 twisted steel wire); estimated retail price US $50.50
Advantages: nice new parts provide lots of options, as well as more =93mix and match=94 bits for the true =93Shermaholic=94
Disadvantages: limited number of options for USMC tanks
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all Sherman and USMC armor fans
Thanks to two recently published books on the Marine Corps armored operations in the Pacific we now have a much better view of how and why USMC tank units functioned the way they did. The books, =93Tank Warfare on Iwo Jima=94 by David E. Harper and US Marine Corps Tank Crewman 1941-1945 Pacific=94 by Kenneth W. Estes, as well as some of the many items from Ed Gilbert, show that due to a lack of priorities the USMC was only originally offered the M4A2 or M4A4 variant of the M4 medium tank. When the British opted for all of the M4A4 series, the Marines received 168 M4A2 series tanks =96 112 for the 1st and 2nd Corps Tank Battalions, and 56 for training.
The Marines later added a third M4A2 battalion =96 3rd Tanks - but soon afterwards began to replace them and field new units with the incoming Army standard vehicle, the M4A3. Photographic evidence shows that only the 1st and 2nd Tanks were provided with replacement vehicles from the late production runs of the M4A2, as the 3rd Tanks only had mid production (56 degree hull cast hood type) M4A2 tanks as late as Iwo Jima.
There were therefore only a handful of these tanks provided to the Marines =96 the bulk going to the Chinese Nationalist forces in Asia or the USSR. The good news is that the photographic evidence supports the four finishing options here, so full marks for DML after some of the problems with the British Sherman III kits and their markings (note that is good kit, bad markings info, on those kits.)
This kit is a great one from the point of view of the =93mix and match Shermaholic=94 modeler, for it provides two nice options many will want. First off is a new from the ground up late production M4 75mm =93high bustle=94 turret with loader=92s hatch and a choice of either split hatch or vision cupolas. It has the cast-in reinforced right =93cheek=94 and newly tooled details.
It does not come with a .50 caliber M2HB, but then again photo evidence again shows most of the Marine tanks did not use them and the commanders tended to stay buttoned up. However the late model mounts are provided as well as locking and stowage clips, which bring this turret up to nearly the same level as the ones found in DML=92s =93Smart Kits.=94
The other is a choice between either T54E1 steel chevron tracks or T54E1 steel chevron tracks with extended end connectors. Both are the DS plastic single piece runs, so they are beautifully detailed and considering both VVSS and HVSS suspensions on Shermans were =93live=94 suspensions it would be hard pressed to get more detail from any single link set.
There are other options as well, such as either the mid-production straight return roller mounts or the later =93upswept=94 mounts for the bogies. Also the modeler has a choice between pressed steel wheels and the welded =93spoke=94 type wheels, and either plain or machine driver disks.
A single sprue provides a set of Marine applique armor made of wood as well as the factory style applique panels and a folded luggage rack for the rear of the hull.
This kit uses a lot of the components created for the recent early model M4A2 (Sherman III) kits, so there are some trimming and fit issues which DML itself addresses in the directions to get the details for the lower hull to fit, such as the rear sections of the sponsons and radiator grilles (parts A47 and part A53). You also have to drill holes for the tools from the inside of the upper hull.
In Step 12 the sidebar sketches cover the installation of the etched brass clamps on the tow cable, but they are somewhat fuzzy as to what they are describing or where the lower clamp parts are on the hull. Note that on this kit etched brass is pretty much not an option.
Four finishing schemes and sets of markings are provided: Unidentified tank, Pacific theater, 1944-1945 (with timber applique); C Company 1st Tanks, Peleliu 1944 (C8); C Company 2nd Tanks, Tinian1943 (CAESAR - C40); and C Company, 2nd Tanks, Tinian 1943 (C30).
Overall this a nicely done kit and with the various new bits will be popular with Sherman fans for the =93mix and match=94 with other kits.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.