Operation Detachment, Part 2: Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Models for the Battle of Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought from February 19 to March 26. Thus, a follow-up to the last post is still timely. Here’s a brief photo summary of prebuilt 1/72 scale vehicles available for the battle.

To my knowledge, there are eight such models for Iwo Jima, including the two amtanks reviewed in the last post. In alphabetical order by manufacturer, they are:

  1. Altaya DUKW 353, US Marine Corps;
  2. Altaya Type 97 Chi-Ha, 26th Tank Regiment, Imperial Japanese Army;
  3. CDC 3135 M4A3, “Black-Jack,” B Company, 4th Tank Battalion;
  4. Dragon 60331 M4A2, D Company, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps Tank Bn, Tarawa 1943 (Dragon mislabeled it; Sherman is actually from Iwo Jima);
  5. Dragon 60425 LVT(A)-4, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion;
  6. Hobby Master HG4402 LVT(A)-4, US Marines, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion;
  7. Hobby Master HG4407 LVT(A)-2, 10th Marine Amtrack Bttn., “Beach Yellow 1”; and
  8. Hobby Master HG4201 Willys Jeep with Trailer, 4th Marine Division, 2nd Battalion.

1. Altaya DUKW 353, US Marine Corps

This is an attractive model, though the detail is soft because of its diecast construction. On the plus side, the camouflage is very nicely done. To my knowledge, this is only one of two prebuilt DUKWs — the other being an Amercom piece, clearly a different casting, and without the canvas cover.
1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys2. Altaya Type 97 Chi-Ha, 26th Tank Regiment, Imperial Japanese Army

As with the DUKW above, this Altaya is an adequate diecast model. However, in terms of realism, it pales in comparison to the detail and finish of the all-plastic Dragon Chi-Has. It’s unfortunate that while Dragon released four Chi-Has, not one of them represents a vehicle at the Battle of Iwo Jima.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys3. CDC 3135 M4A3 (105mm), “Black-Jack,” B Company, 4th Tank Battalion

This piece is inaccurate in a number of ways and really only for the hardcore collector. To begin with, the real “Black-Jack” carried a standard 75mm gun — not a 105mm gun, as CDC represented it. Secondly, like other Sherman crews at Iwo, the crew of the “Black-Jack” added wooden planks to the side of the hull to provide additional protection. It was on these planks that the markings, including the name “Black-Jack,” were painted — not on the hull itself, as represented on the CDC model. Thirdly, compared to other 1/72 Shermans, the CDC series is significantly overscaled. Finally, its all-metal content results in soft detail, particularly when compared to the crisp detail of the all-plastic Dragon issues.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 4. Dragon 60331 M4A2, D Company, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps Tank Bn, Tarawa 1943

This is a terrific little piece though, once again, Dragon research leaves a lot to be desired. As the very name of this Sherman indicates, “Destroyer” was assigned to D Company. It is well documented that only the 14 tanks of C Company fought at Tarawa. All 14 carried the elephant with raised right leg and cannon shot coming out of its trunk, which is why Dragon incorrectly assumed that the design of an elephant with a raised foot meant the “Destroyer” fought at Tarawa. Still, this Sherman is a nice piece of work and I plan to do a detailed review of it in the future.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys5. Dragon 60425 LVT(A)-4, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion

Please see review of this piece in the previous post.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys6. Hobby Master HG4402 LVT(A)-4, US Marines, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion

Please see review of this piece in the previous post. 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys7. Hobby Master HG4407 LVT(A)-2, 10th Marine Amtrack Bttn., “Beach Yellow 1.”

This is another fine piece by Hobby Master. It’s a recent release and I’ve yet to assess its accuracy.

1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys

1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys8. Hobby Master HG4201 Willys Jeep with Trailer, 4th Marine Division, 2nd Battalion

At least five manufacturers — Amercom, Cararama, Dragon, Hobby Master, and Zylmex — have tried their hand at producing the Willys Jeep in 1/72 scale. The Dragon, which is all plastic, is probably the best. Yet the weight of the diecast Hobby Master is satisfying to the hand and, at least in this case, there appears to be no sacrifice in detail in using metal. The Amercom model is an inferior copy of the Hobby Master, right down to the War Department number of the vehicle. By my count, there are 17  prebuilt WWII 1/72 scale Jeeps available and I intend to do a review of them in the future.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, WillysFinally, here’s a lagniappe photo of all eight of these vehicles so the reader may better appreciate the difference in the respective sizes of the vehicles as well as the various camouflage schemes. Also of note is the difference in size between the CDC and Dragon Shermans.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, WillysItaleri 6098 Iwo Jima Flag Raisers

For the sake of completeness, the reader should be aware that in 1977 ESCI issued a set of plastic 1/72 scale soldiers (ESCI 8062) depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima portrayed in Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo. Though the ESCI set is now hard to find, Italeri reissued the set more recently (Italeri 6098). The set is a disappointment. In addition to the poor detail, the figures have disfiguring sink marks on their backs and pronounced seam marks along their sides. Moreover, being almost 40 years old, the set is beginning to show its age as the figures are rather poorly engineered — some with separate limbs — and a couple of hours of effort yielded endless frustration and a less than satisfactory result. I would not recommend this set to anyone except those of stout heart, steady hand, and monk’s patience.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, WillysI hope you enjoyed the post. If the reader knows of any other 1/72 vehicles for the Battle of Iwo Jima, please do leave a comment or send me an email. As always, thanks for your indulgence.

Operation Detachment, Part 1: Amtanks in the Invasion of Iwo Jima, 1945

On February 19, 1945, 30,000 U.S. Marines of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions landed on the beaches of Iwo Jima, a tiny pork chop-shaped island measuring eight square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Tokyo and Saipan. Many more Marines, including those of the 3rd Marine Division, followed in subsequent days. Iwo Jima was of immense strategic importance to the U.S. war effort in the Pacific, as fighter aircraft, whose range was far less than that of larger bomber aircraft, would be able to use it as a staging area to escort U.S. bomber aircraft taking off from the Marianas on their way to Tokyo, providing indispensable protection from Japanese Zero fighters. In addition, U.S. bombers returning from Japan would have an airstrip to use as a refuge should they be damaged or otherwise incapacitated while carrying out their missions. In fact, 859 U.S. bombers made emergency landings at Iwo Jima beginning in March 1945.

I’ve modified the map below, from Collins Atlas of the Second World War, to show the strategic importance of Iwo Jima as a staging area for fighters escorting bombers originating in the Mariana Islands (Guam, Tinian, Saipan).

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

For a detailed history of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the reader must consult other sources, as my focus here is on 1/72 scale vehicles. Suffice it to say that the Marines took Iwo Jima after over a month of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting the Marines had ever faced, costing the lives of almost 7,000 Marines plus over 19,000 injured. Of the estimated 21,000 Japanese who defended the island, just over 200 survived. The Japanese had hoped that the high cost in American lives at Iwo Jima would deter America from invading Japan. They succeeded. Based on the casualty count at Iwo Jima, American military strategists estimated that invading Japan would cost approximately 1 million American and 2 million Japanese lives. Ironically, to keep from invading Japan, the U.S. made the fateful decision to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki three days later.

This map of Iwo Jima, from the Wikipedia entry for the 28th Marine Regiment, shows the landing beaches well.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

Today, on the seventy-first anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, let’s remember and honor the almost 28,000 American and Japanese soldiers who forfeited their lives on that tiny speck of an island, as well as the over 19,000 others who were injured during that battle.

Landing Vehicles Tracked (Armored) at Iwo Jima

The U.S. Navy had bombarded Japanese positions at Iwo Jima for three days prior to the invasion on February 19. When bombardment ceased to allow the Marines to land, 68 amphibious armored landing vehicles (LVT(A)-4’s) of the four companies of the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion accompanied the Marines to provide protection, suppressing fire from entrenched Japanese positions.

By February 1945, the armored tracked landing vehicle, commonly known as an “amtank,” had evolved from the LVT(A)-1 with its 37mm peashooter to the LVT(A)-4, which carried a 75mm howitzer gun in an open turret and a 50mm caliber machine gun to protect against infantry attacks. In addition, the experience gained in the Mariana Islands had by then taught the Marines to utilize the LVT(A)-4’s effectively in amphibious operations, using them during the landing at the beaches and then relying on M4A2 Sherman tanks inland for close fire support. An additional 380 LVTs – landing vehicles without the 75mm gun turret — ferried Marines and cargo to the beaches.

These drawings, from Jim Mesko’s Amtracs in Action: Part One, provide a good idea of the differences between LVT(A)-4’s and LVT(A)-2’s. I’ve added the numbers of each at Iwo Jima.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

To save a trip to Wikipedia for those not familiar with the LVT(A)-4, here’s a synopsis from David Harper’s Project LVT’s: Amtanks:

“The LVT(A)-4 Amtank was a direct descendant of the earlier LVT2 Amtracs. Production of the new “Amtank” vehicles began in 1944. The LVT(A)-4 came about from the US Marines’ request for increased turret fire power from the earlier LVT(A)-1’s high velocity 37mm weapon (mounted in an M5 type turret). The result was the mounting on an M8 “Stuart” type turret which mounted a 75mm Howitzer. . . . The LVT(A)-4 was first used in the Marianas campaign during the invasion of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan. The US Marines used 535 of the vehicles to equip three Amtank battalions while the US Army equipped seven Amtank battalions with the 1,300 LVT(A)-4s they were issued.”

To my knowledge, only Hobby Master and Dragon have released 1/72 versions of the LVT(A)-4. To date, Hobby Master has released two, the HG4402 and the HG4408, while Dragon has also released two — the 60425 and 60500. This comparison review covers the HG4402, named “Grzmot,” and the Dragon 60425, named “Corps,” both based on vehicles from the 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion at Iwo Jima. (HG4408 and Dragon 60500 are based on vehicles used in other campaigns.) It bears mentioning that this is one of the few instances where two major manufacturers have produced the same vehicle in the same scale. Perhaps both Dragon and Hobby Master were looking to capitalize on the success of “The Pacific,” a television series widely acclaimed for its portrayal of the Pacific war where LVTs were extensively used.

The Actual Tanks

As always, let’s start with photos of the actual vehicles. First here’s a photo from the Naval History and Heritage Command (photo 80-G-303914) of the “Corps,” whose tactical number “D35” on the sides of the hull superstructure identifies it as being from D Company, being hoisted unto the USS Hansford in preparation for the invasion. Tactical numbers had by this time become smaller, as the larger numbers previously used on the side of the hull presented an alluring bull’s-eye for Japanese artillery. 1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

Here’s a photo from the Naval History and Heritage Command (photo NH-104216) of the “Grzmot,” whose “A21” tactical number pinpoints it to A Company. We can reasonably assume that there was a Pole in the crew as “Grzmot” means “Thunder” in Polish.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

The Models

Here is the Hobby Master HG4402: LVT(A) -4, US Marines, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, Iwo Jima 1945.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

And here’s the Dragon 60425: LVT(A)-4, US Marines, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion, Iwo Jima 1945.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

The markings on the Hobby Master HG4402 are terrific. Markings are extremely important in models, as they individualize the vehicle, and most collectors are far more likely to purchase a model with markings than without. The vertical red bar indicates that “Corps” landed at Red Beach 1, on the southeastern coast of Iwo Jima. The map of Iwo Jima above shows the locations of the various beach landing areas.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

Note that the Dragon 60425 has no markings other than the tactical number “A21”. Note also that Dragon inexplicably — and unforgivably — omitted from its model the name “Grzmot,” clearly seen on the front of the hull on the starboard side in the photo of the actual tank. While the “Grzmot” did not have bars indicating the beach to which it was assigned, one internet source indicates it landed at Blue Beach 1. See the map of Iwo Jima above. On the plus side, note the superb weathering on the tracks of the Dragon 60425, which makes them really stand out.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

The escape hatches on the Hobby Master HG4402 are more realistic and the hooks are separate pieces, whereas on the Dragon 60425 they are molded into the body.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

Seen from the back, the Hobby Master HG4402 looks to be in pristine condition fresh off the factory, whereas it’s pretty clear that the Dragon 60425 has been dry brushed, giving it a weathered effect. Note the more detailed cable ends on the Hobby Master HG4402. Note also that the company letter and tactical number were also carried on the rear of the hull.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

The surprise comes from this top view of the interior. The Hobby Master HG4402 does not have seats. The Dragon 60425, on the other hand, has a fairly detailed interior, complete with a turret basket, and seats. Also note the black weathering on the inside of the barrel on the Dragon 60425. Note that neither model has the protective tub for the machine gunner — very likely a field modification — seen in the photos of the actual vehicles.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

Here’s a lagniappe photo of the two, side by side.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

The Profiles

For those of us who love profiles, here’s one of each of these two models. This first one of the “Corps” is from Amtracs in Action: Part One, by Jim Mesko, Color by Don Greer & Tom Tullis, Illustration by Joe Sewell.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, Tanks

This profile of the “Grzmot” is from US Amtracs and Amphibians at War 1941-45, by Steven J. Zaloga and George Balin, Color plates by Arkadiusz Wrobel. Note that the artist did not include the name “Grzmot.” I firmly believe Dragon failed to include it because it relied on this profile.

1/72, 60425, AFV, Amphibian, Amphibious, Amtank, Corps, Dragon, Grzmot, HG4402, HM, Hobby Master, Iwo Jima, Japanese, Landing Vehicles, LVT, LVT(A)-4, Mariana, Marines, TanksThe Upshot

This being a comparison review, the reader will naturally wonder which model is more accurate. Let’s compare the various features:

  • Heft: The lower hull of the Hobby Master HG4402 is metal, while the rest is plastic. The Dragon 60425 is entirely plastic. The weight of the Hobby Master HG4402 feels considerably more satisfying on the hand.
  • Surface Detail: Given that both have plastic upper hulls, which allows more crisp detail than metal, they’re about even, though the hatches on the Hobby Master appear to be more realistic.
  • Markings: The Hobby Master has all the standard markings found on the real tanks. The Dragon does not. In addition, it’s unforgivable that Dragon did not include the name “Grzmot” on its model.
  • Interior: No contest. The Dragon has far more interior detail, including a fairly elaborate turret basket.
  • Weathering: No contest again, the Dragon has been very lightly dry brushed. The tracks on the Dragon have been weathered and are superior. In addition, the inside of the Dragon barrel has been blackened, contributing to an overall realistic effect. The Hobby Master, on the other hand, appears to be in factory fresh condition.
  • Camouflage: Although both have a three-color scheme using olive drab, sand, and red brown, the appearance is very different. The Dragon’s appearance is dominated by olive drab, while sand is much more prominent on the Hobby Master. The camouflage on the Hobby Master more closely resembles most color profiles and is likely more accurate.
  • Historical Basis: Both models have solid historical photographic support, with at least three photos of the “Corps” and one of the “Grzmot” known to exist.

As can be gathered from the above comparison, the two models are fairly evenly matched. However, Dragon’s boneheaded omission of the name “Grzmot” tilts the balance — at least for me — in favor of the Hobby Master.

I hope you enjoyed the post. As always, comments, questions, corrections, etc. are welcome.

A Sherman Tank Named “Battlin Basic” and the Liberation of Santo Tomas, Manila 1945

Seventy-one years ago today, on the evening of February 3, 1945, a Sherman tank barreled its way through the front gates of the University of Santo Tomas, in Manila, Philippines. The tank, a composite hull M4 Sherman named the “Battlin Basic” by its crew, belonged to Company B of the U.S. 44th Tank Battalion and was the first glimpse of liberation for over 4,000 civilians – mostly Americans and British citizens, including Australians and Canadians – interned at the university from January 1942 to February 1945. Santo Tomas was the largest of several internment camps established by the Japanese throughout the Philippines and liberated in February 1945.

Here’s a photo of the “Battlin Basic” from Steven Zaloga’s Tank Battles of the Pacific.

44th Tank Battalion, AFV, Battle of Manila, Battlin Basic, Internment, Japanese, Liberation, Manila, Pacific War, Philippines, Santo Tomas, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Yamashita

The Battle of Manila, which raged throughout the month of February 1945, cost the lives of over 100,000 Filipinos and completely destroyed Manila, considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world at the time and commonly referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. According to General MacArthur, next to Warsaw, Manila was the most devastated city in WWII. It is ironic that whereas Hitler’s order to burn Paris went unheeded, thereby saving Paris, General Yamashita’s command to leave Manila without defending it, which would have saved the city, was also disobeyed, but with contrasting and devastating consequences. Yamashita was later tried at the U.S. High Commissioner’s Residence – now the U.S. Embassy in Manila – and later hanged for war crimes. (During my years of service in the Philippines, I sat many times at the very table where Yamashita was tried in Manila. I also spent several nights in Yamashita’s room in the U.S. High Commissioner’s Summer House in the mountains of Baguio in the northern region of the Philippines.) 

These sobering photos of internees at Santo Tomas and of the devastation of Manila need no caption.

44th Tank Battalion, AFV, Battle of Manila, Battlin Basic, Internment, Japanese, Liberation, Manila, Pacific War, Philippines, Santo Tomas, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Yamashita

This story – an oversimplification, to be sure – is personal to me. While serving in the Philippines years ago, I made friends with an American who had been interned at Santo Tomas. As with many others who gathered every year on this date to commemorate the liberation of Santo Tomas, the striking image of the “Battlin Basic” followed by five other Sherman tanks coming to their rescue was emblazoned in his memory. A member of the crew of the “Battlin Basic,” Corporal Hencke, wrote that “when the internees realized we were Americans there to free them, they went wild and were all over us.”

A Sherman crew listens attentively as a survivor of Santo Tomas relates his years of internment.

44th Tank Battalion, AFV, Battle of Manila, Battlin Basic, Internment, Japanese, Liberation, Manila, Pacific War, Philippines, Santo Tomas, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Yamashita

My dear friend passed away three years ago and as I read that another member of the Doolittle Raid had passed in 2015 and only two remained, I wondered how many Santo Tomas survivors were left. At any rate, on this 71th Anniversary of the Liberation of Santo Tomas, I want to remember those 100,000 Filipinos who gave their lives during the Battle of Manila, many not understanding why. And I want to remember the many Filipinos, Americans, British, Australians, Canadians, and others who perished in Japanese internment camps as well as those who survived, some to witness the beautiful sight of a Sherman tank coming to end their misery.

Finally, here’s a painting of the “Battlin Basic” by Yoshiyuki Takani. The artist clearly understood the importance of this tank.

44th Tank Battalion, AFV, Battle of Manila, Battlin Basic, Internment, Japanese, Liberation, Manila, Pacific War, Philippines, Santo Tomas, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Yamashita, Yoshiyuki Takani

For those wondering why this article appears in a 1/72 scale site, the answer is simple. I intend to build the “Battlin Basic” in 1/72 scale in the near future.