The “Uzbekistan” SU-100 Tank Destroyer, 3rd Soviet Guards, 1945

Dragon Armor released four 1/72 scale Soviet Tank Destroyers — two SU-85s and two SU-100s — around 2006. Of the four, the Dragon 60305 SU-100 Tank Destroyer is the most captivating, a handsome piece whose compelling slogan not only personalizes the vehicle but broadcasts its unique origin. “SU” stands for “Samokhodnaya Ustanovka,” literally “self-propelled carriage” in Russian. The number following the “SU” designation is the size of the gun in millimeters.

The Actual Tank

The Dragon 60305 SU-100 Tank Destroyer is almost assuredly based on the photo below of the Soviet 3rd Guards taken  in early 1945, ostensibly on the Belorussian Front. Dragon incorrectly attributed this tank to the 1st Guards Mechanized Corps, rather than the 3rd Guards, and placed it in Hungary, rather than Belorussia.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

Immediately apparent are the varied markings on the hull side. In addition to the tactical numbers, the slogan “20 Years of Soviet Uzbekistan” is barely discernible, a reference to Uzbekistan’s integration into the Soviet Union in 1924 and to its citizens, whose sacrifice and hard work had paid for this and other tanks that bore the slogan.

Ivan Antonovich Vovchenko, Commanding General of the Soviet 3rd Guards Tank Corps, recalled the arrival of the Uzbek-funded tanks in his memoirs:

“In the forests of Smolensk our unit received new tanks. On the turret, each of them had the inscription “20 Years of Uzbekistan” and the emblem of the Uzbek SSR. I went to the place where the tankers took the new vehicle, and saw Major Ayrametova, the commander of the Health Battalion. The Major touched the letters and coat of arms and I understood his excitement as this big tank column was built with money collected by the workers of Uzbekistan. News of the arrival of the machines quickly spread through the division, and soon two Uzbek tank drivers came running . . . .”

(Follow this link http://tankfront.ru/ussr/colums/20_let_sovetskogo_uzbekistana.html# and hit “Google translate” if you’re interested in finding out more about the Soviet 3rd Guards.)

The passage above confirms that such slogans significantly improved morale among the troops and evokes an image of the Major pining for his family as he caressed them – or rather, the side of the tank.

The Model

Here’s a three-quarter view of the 60305. At a length of 17.5  feet, the 100mm barrel made the SU-100 a colossal 31 feet long, making maneuvering in tight urban settings extremely difficult. Although no frontal photos of the “Uzbekistan” exist, Dragon placed spare track links on the glacis, a sensible decision as it was common practice to add the spare links to provide the crew additional protection.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

This eye-level profile photo provides an excellent view of the track sag. Note that Dragon applied light, silver dry brushing on the tracks and road wheels, resulting in a realistic worn, weathered look.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

This close-up gives a good sense for the 75mm sloped front armor.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

Note the light dry brushing throughout the roof of the destroyer, which effectively highlights the detail on the hatches. Note also the thickness of, and cut marks on, the front plate.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

There are subtle darker tones throughout the tank, most evident in the back and rear of the hull.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

This starboard three-quarter view shows that Dragon used markings identical to those on the port side. Dragon is to be commended for its tampo application as the markings neatly curve around the turret base of the cupola. Note also the realistic weld marks on the base of the turret base of the cupola. In my enduring quest for improved photography, I continued experimentation with lighting, illuminating specific parts of the vehicle with a small flashlight, with mixed results.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

Dragon’s attention to detail is evident on the side of the front slab, which shows cut marks consistent with a torch. Note the grab handle below the slogan as well as the two-man saw beneath it.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

The Rub

This model is a beauty in every way save one — Dragon botched the slogan! A close review of the slogan reveals three mistakes in the phrase, one in each word:

Dragon: “20 лст Соввтского Узбеккстана”

Correct: “20 лет Советского Узбекистана”

Translation: “20 Years Soviet Uzbekistan”

Whenever markings are incorrect on a model, one can usually find the source of the problem in a color profile of the actual tank. This illustration from the Polish book SU-85/100/122, Wydawnictwo Militaria No. 240 carries all three mistakes in the slogan and, in addition, refers to the 1st Guards, rather than the 3rd Guards, confirming conclusively — for me, at least — that Dragon used Militaria 240 as its source. 

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan

It bears noting that, subsequent to Dragon, Trumpeter produced a 1/16 kit of this same model and repeated Dragon’s exact mistakes, presumably following the same Militaria 240 profile. On the bright side, all three errors are conveniently bungled, such that an advanced modeler could correct all three with a very sharp blade and a dab of white paint. Below is a photo of Trumpeter’s decal sheet. I easily modified the three incorrect letters in this jpeg in Paint, though I lack the courage to do it on the real model. Smile

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan, Trumpeter

(Subsequent Note: As pointed out in the comment below, the source of Dragon’s mistakes was not Wydawnictwo Militaria 240, as originally stated. A blowup of the profile shows that WM 240 was actually correct. Thanks to ez for pointing it out.)

Here’s a lagniappe photo of the “Uzbekistan” next to its Dragon 60299 “K-17” sister, the only other Dragon SU-100.

1/72, 60305, Belorussia, Dragon, Eastern Front, Hungary, Russia, Soviet, SU-100, Tank Destroyer, Tanks, Uzbekistan, K-17

The Upshot

The Dragon 60305 SU-100 Tank Destroyer is quite a handsome piece with subtle tones in its finish, very light dry brushing, neat weld seams and cuts, good track sag and, perhaps more importantly, a documented historical basis. For those of us with a penchant for slogans and art on a tank, the phrase “20 Years of Soviet Uzbekistan” makes it irresistible — more so in this case, where the slogan speaks to this particular tank’s origin. While the botched slogan somewhat detracts from this wonderful piece, I’ve opted for blissful ignorance as I can’t read Cyrillic anyway. 😉

Operation Eiche: The Liberation of Benito Mussolini in 1/72 Scale

I recently read Fallschirmjager at the Gran Sasso: The Liberation of Mussolini, by Oscar Gonzalez Lopez. The Fallschirmjager’s daring rescue of Mussolini on September 12, 1943, is one of the most famous raids of WWII and needs no recounting here. Suffice it to say that Lopez’s account is an excellent read with a somewhat new interpretation of the raid — essentially giving credit to Major Harald Mors, who planned the rescue operation, rather than the flamboyant Otto Skorzeny, who it is claimed was given credit at the time for propaganda purposes.

Here’s one of many photos taken during the rescue operation. Skorzeny, with binoculars, appears on the far left, next to Mussolini.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

On the book cover was this wonderful illustration by Ramiro Bujeiro, inspired by several photos taken during the raid, including the one above. In addition to the colors, I loved the way Bujeiro captured an entire event with just six elements: Mussolini smack in the center, Skorzeny walking behind him, the paratrooper representing the 82 Fallschirmjager who took part, the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch essential for the escape, the Campo Imperatore alpine meadow, and the Gran Sasso Mountain in the background.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

Following up on Bujeiro’s painting, here’s the recreation in 1/72 scale — just six elements.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

I don’t know whether this photograph was originally in color or was later colorized. Either way, I tried to capture the fall season look of the grass at the Campo Imperatore meadow.

1/72, 6134, Bujeiro, Campo Imperatore, FA724005, Falcon, Fallschirmjager, Fi 156, Fieseler Storch, German, Gran Sasso, Italeri, Italy, Kriminalpolezei, Luftwaffe, Mussolini, Operation Eiche, Paratroopers, Skorzeny, TQD

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Mussolini: TQD Castings TQD112 WWII Era Kriminalpolezei metal figure set with machine gun cut out;
  • Skorzeny: Italeri 6134 German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform) set;
  • Fallschirmjager: Italeri 6134 German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform) set;
  • Aircraft: Falcon Models FA724005 Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, “Gran Sasso”;
  • Meadow: Styrofoam base painted with acrylic colors to look like Campo Imperatore;
  • Background: Photo of actual Gran Sasso Mountain.

I hope you enjoyed the post.  As always, your comments are welcome.

The Sherman in 1/72: M4A3E8 “Thunderbolt VII,” 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, Germany 1945

The Dragon 60297 “Thunderbolt VII” Sherman is a particularly special release because the actual tank it represents was commanded by then-Lt. Col. Creighton Abrams, considered the best tank commander in the U.S. Army by General George Patton, and in whose honor the M1 Abrams Tank is named. Here’s my modest attempt to review this tank. I know it goes without saying, but please don’t hesitate to point out errors or guide me to additional photos so we can do justice to this tank.

General Creighton Abrams

Twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism, Abrams, who was known for standing tall in his turret and leading from the front, made a name for himself during the Battle of the Bulge, when he led the 37th Tank Battalion in relief of an encircled American division at Bastogne. According to Steven Zaloga’s The Sherman at War (1): The European Theatre 1942-45, “besides being a superb unit commander, Abrams was probably one of the highest scoring American tankers during the war, as his battalion saw more tank-vs-tank combat than nearly any other and Abrams’ was the highest scoring crew in the battalion.” The New York Times reported at the time that “the retreating Germans were said to be fascinated and terrified by Colonel Abrams because they assumed from his name that he was Jewish, and that he saw himself as a wrathful Jehovah taking destructive vengeance on the Germans for what they had done to the Jewish people.” (http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/colonel-creighton-abrams-at-the-battle-of-the-bulge/) A West Point graduate, General Abrams eventually served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. 

The Actual Tank

The “Thunderbolt VII” was an M4A3E8 Sherman, with a 76mm gun and Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension (HVSS), considered stronger and more stable than previous suspension systems. Here are photos of the actual “Thunderbolt VII,” taken in early 1945. Abrams, who commanded seven tanks during the course of the war, including four in the U.S. during training, used colorful thunderbolt motifs for his tanks that made them easily recognizable. Note the stowage on the engine deck. Our models would be even better if Dragon and other manufacturers included such items.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

Note the appliqué steel armor plates on the hull and turret. General Patton prohibited the use of sandbags for extra protection of tanks in his Third Army, so many units in the 4th Armored Division used steel armor plates cannibalized from destroyed tanks. Of particular interest is the white turret star, which by this time had been painted over by many other tank crews in the division because they provided German crews with convenient targets.

This March 1945 photo, from Zaloga’s Sherman at War (2): The US Army in the European Theater 1943-45, shows the appliqué armor well.1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

The Dragon 60297 “Thunderbolt VII” Model

The Dragon 60297 is easy on the eyes (lame pun intended). Easy Eight Sherman tanks are inherently attractive but the applique armor plates on the “Thunderbolt VII” make it really stand out among Dragon Shermans. As far as I know, it’s the only Dragon Sherman that received this special armor treatment.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

 Here’s another portside view. Note the HVSS suspension and the detail on the rear deck.1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

Here’s a starboard side view. Dragon got the “Thunderbolt VII” wrong on this side. The design was identical on both sides. Thus, the cloud should have gone around the “VII” rather than the “T” in “Thunderbolt,” exactly the same way it is on the port side. In other words, the motif was identical — rather than symmetrical — on either side of the hull.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. ArmyHere’s a close-up of the appliqué hull and turret armor plates. As previously mentioned, Patton prohibited the use of sandbags for extra protection, so many units used cannibalized steel armor plates. Note also the colorful “Thunderbolt” motif Abrams used on his tanks. Note the white turret star, which by this time had been painted over by many other tank crews in the division. Also evident is Dragon’s signature dry brushing.1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

Here’s a close-up of the turret. Note that, in addition to the standard .50 caliber machine gun, the “Thunderbolt VII” also packs a .30 caliber machine gun added by Abrams’ tank crew. As far as I know, only two Dragon Shermans have the extra .30 caliber machine gun, the other being Dragon 60298, another Easy Eight also from the 4th Armored Division. It is also of interest that unlike “Thunderbolt VII,” the 60298 has its turret star painted over in black. Finally, note Dragon’s impressive attention to detail in adding the casting numbers on the rear of the turret.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

Note the additional applique armor on the glacis plate. I believe the only other Dragon Sherman with applique armor on the glacis plate is the aforementioned 60298.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

The Profile

Here’s a color profile from Steven Zaloga’s The Sherman at War (2): The US Army in the European Theater 1943-45. Judging from the profile, it’s pretty hard to complain about Dragon’s effort. About the only niggle is that the .50 caliber machine gun on the Dragon should have been further back. You can better appreciate this placement in the photos of the actual tank above.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

Here’s a lagniappe photo of the Dragon “Thunderbolt VII” side by side with its Easy Model 36260 Sherman brother, the “Thunderbolt VI” (erroneously labeled “Thunderbolt IV” by Easy Model).  The “Thunderbolt VI” was Abrams’ first 76mm Sherman and the one he commanded at Bastogne.

1/72 37th Tank Battalion 37th Tank Btn 4th Armored Division 60297 Abrams AFV Dragon HVSS M4A3E8 Sherman Tanks Thunderbolt U.S. Army

The Upshot

I hope you will agree that as an Easy Eight Sherman with additional hull and turret armor panels, extra .30 caliber machine gun, distinctive colorful markings, and historical significance, Dragon’s “Thunderbolt VII” is a real gem.