The Doolittle Raid, April 1942, Part 1: The Mission

In the early hours of April 18, 1942, just over four months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the USS Hornet, escorted by its sister aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, got within 650 miles of Tokyo when it was spotted by a Japanese patrol boat. The Hornet, on its maiden voyage, was on a mission to launch 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers off its deck to strike Tokyo and other Japanese cities as retribution for Pearl Harbor. The Enterprise was accompanying to provide protection from Japanese air attack, as the Hornet’s fighters were below deck to make room for the B-25 bombers.

This photo provides an excellent view of the Hornet’s deck.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, Japanese

The photo below shows six of the 16 B-25 Mitchells staggered on the deck of the Hornet. With a 67-foot wingspan, the B-25 Mitchell barely fit on the deck. Note that the port-side wings of the aircraft on the left overhang the deck.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseFearing the mission had lost the element of surprise and the carriers would come under attack, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, who was in overall command of the carrier task force, ordered the B-25 bombers to launch, despite the fact that the Hornet was to get within 400 miles from the coast of Japan — still 250 miles away. Although the 1,300 mile range of the B-25 bombers was significantly increased for the mission, the bombers would be lucky to hit their targets in Japan and still have enough fuel to make it to landing strips just outside occupied China.

I’ve modified the map below, captured from Battle 360: Season One, Call to Duty episode to provide a graphic sense of the distances involved. The green circle, at 400 miles, shows how far the Hornet needed to reach for the B-25 bombers to strike their targets and safely land in China. The yellow circle, at 650 miles, shows how far the Hornet actually got before launching the bombers.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseOne by one, the 16 B-25 bombers, each with a five-man crew and carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives, precariously took off from the deck of the Hornet on their four-hour flight to their targets. Colonel James Doolittle, who had planned and led the operation, was the first and, being at the front of the line, had the least runway to take off.

The feat warrants explanation. For obvious reasons, aircraft carriers provide a limited stretch of runway. Aircraft-based fighter planes are specifically designed so they can take off from the short runways on a carrier. Larger bomber planes are a horse of a different color. The B-25 Mitchell, a medium-sized bomber, required 1,500 feet of runway and a speed of 90 mph to take off. With 16 medium-sized bombers parked on the rear of its 814-foot-long deck, the Hornet afforded the Mitchells only 500 feet of runway — one-third of the required length — and permitted acceleration to only 50 mph. In fact, Col. Doolittle’s bomber only had 467 feet of runway.

To accomplish such take-off, the aircraft were supplied with high octane fuel, while the carrier was positioned so that the bombers could take off with the wind at their backs, providing them additional lift. Although the aircraft were also stripped of all non-essential equipment to lessen their weight, that reduction was offset by the extra fuel to allow them to reach and land in China, as it would be impossible to return and land an aircraft the size of a Mitchell on a carrier. Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseAll 16 B-25 bombers took off safely, though at least two dipped down after leaving the deck and seemed to skim the “drink” dangerously before finally lifting up and continuing their trajectory to their targets. While some encountered resistance from Japanese fighter planes, all successfully completed their mission, each dropping four 500-lb bombs on Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka, Yokohama, or Yokosuka. It bears noting that all targets were military — factories, munitions plants, shipyards — though the crews understood that there would be civilian casualties.

I couldn’t resist including this fabulous centerfold painting from The Doolittle Raid 1942, Osprey Campaign 156, by Clayton Chun. The painting is by Howard Gerrard. It is posted here for discussion purposes under the fair use exception to the copyright laws.Doolittle, Halsey, B-25, Mitchell, Tokyo, USS Hornet, USS Enterprise, Japan, Pearl Harbor, JapaneseAs a result of the additional fuel consumption caused by the premature launch, 15 of the 16 aircraft either crash-landed in China or were ditched at sea, killing three crew members. Japanese soldiers in occupied China captured eight crew members and later executed three, while one died in captivity. Only one aircraft, dangerously low on fuel, managed to land safely by flying to the Soviet Union, which was closer than China, though its five crew members were held by the Soviets for more than a year. Thus, of the 80 crew members who participated in the Doolittle Raid, seven never returned.

While the Doolittle Raid caused negligible damage to Tokyo or other cities, the psychological impact on Japanese morale was immense. Japanese leaders had convinced the populace that Japan was invulnerable to surprise attacks. The Doolittle Raid dispelled this myth and sowed doubt in the Japanese public about its leadership. Moreover, the raid showed the Japanese that the islands were not immune to American bombs, persuading Japanese officials to pull troops from the field to protect the home islands and ships from the Pacific to patrol the coasts. More importantly, it convinced Japanese officials that it was imperative to destroy the U.S. fleet once and for all — something they had failed to do at Pearl Harbor — prompting them to gamble most of their fleet at the Battle of Midway, which was to prove disastrous to the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Conversely, the Doolittle Raid provided a significant morale boost for Americans, particularly its fighting forces, many of whom harbored a thirst for revenge. The Raid also marked the first time that medium bombers had launched from an aircraft carrier and is a textbook example of successful joint Air Force/Navy operations.

Today, 74 years after that fateful day, let us remember the 80 men who selflessly and courageously volunteered for an operation that was in all respects a suicide mission. Of those 80 brave men, only two remain alive today.

I hope you enjoyed the post. Stay tuned next week for Part 2, regarding available B-25 Mitchell bombers in 1/72 scale specifically representing the Doolittle Raid.

Softskins of the Afrika Korps in 1/72 Scale

The German Afrika Korps (Deutsches Afrikakorps) arrived in Libya in February 1941, following Mussolini’s appeal to Hitler for assistance in light of Italy’s dismal performance fighting the British in North Africa. Within weeks of arrival, Rommel’s Afrikakorps had reversed Mussolini’s fortunes, handily defeating numerically superior British forces time and again in rapid succession, and in the process becoming a source of fascination for many a WWII buff despite their eventual defeat in 1943.

Countless books have been written on this subject and the reader is directed to them. This post is merely intended to provide collectors a survey of Afrikakorps-specific prebuilt softskins available in 1/72 scale. The reader should note that major manufacturers such as Dragon and Panzerstahl have also produced more than a dozen prebuilt Afrikakorps tanks, but information on these is readily available and not the subject of this post.

By my count, there are approximately 20 prebuilt Afrikakorps softskin vehicles. Photographs are provided below. To provide perspective on the size of the vehicles, included in the photos are figures from six of the eight different Afrikakorps sets released thus far. They range from the Airfix set released in 1973, more than 40 years ago, to the Caesar set, released in 2010. The name provided for each of the vehicles and soldier sets is the one given by the manufacturer, thus the lack of consistency in the use of “Afrikakorps,” “Afrika Korps,” “Africa Corps,” and “DAK.”1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda1. Altaya Opel Blitz 3.6-36S (Kfz. 305), 21.Pz.Div., Medenine, Tunisia 1943. Other than the lack of weathering and fake window flaps on the canvas cover, this is a neat little piece that would greatly improve with a simple umber wash.

Figures: Zvezda 6143 German Medical Personnel set. In my view, Zvezda is now producing the best 1/72 scale figures on the market.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda2. Left: Hobby Master HG3903, Opel Blitz German Cargo Truck, 21st Panzer Div, North Africa 1942. This little truck is a beauty. Note the crispness of the DAK palm tree. The divisional and tactical markings on the fenders are an added plus.

3. Right: Hobby Master HG3911, Opel Blitz German Cargo Truck with 20mm Flak 38, DAK, WWII. The Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun is metal and is detachable. About the only quibble with this piece is the lack of divisional markings on the fenders and rear.

Figure: Matchbox PK35 Sd.Kfz. 232 plastic kit. This is one of two figures included in this 1/76 Matchbox kit. The figures themselves are actually 1/72 scale, however.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda4. Left: Hobby Master HG4501 Horch 1a with 20mm Flak 38, DAK 1941. This vehicle came with a Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun worthy of comment in its own right.  Regrettably, I did not photograph it.

5. Right: War Master Steyr 1500 A/01 + 20mm Flak 38, 10th Panzerabteilung, Tunisia 1942. I failed to include the Flak 38 on this vehicle as well.  Though War Master gets credit for including the swastika on the palm tree, they managed to place it facing left, which is incorrect. One wonders whether the “error” was by design to get around laws in various countries that prohibit Nazi symbols.

Figure: Revell 2513 Africa Corps. This particular figure in the Revell set is one of the most ubiquitous in Afrikakorps dioramas, probably due to its casual pose as the vast majority of a soldier’s time is spent not in battle but performing pedestrian daily activities.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda6. Left: Dragon Warbirds 50120 Me 109G-2 Trop & Kubelwagen, III./JG 77, North Africa 1942. This hard-to-find Cyber Hobby exclusive aircraft model included this kubelwagen. Of note are the balloon sand tires, designed specifically for the desert campaign.

7. Center: Altaya Kfz. 15 Horch + 10.5cm le FH18M, Art.Reg. 119, 11.Pz.Div., Kursk USSR 1943. Admittedly, this model is not marketed as an Afrikakorps vehicle, but given the wide use of the Kfz. 15 Horch in North Africa and its dunkelgelb base color, the straightforward application of DAK palm tree decals would easily do the trick.

8. Right: Dragon 7434 Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Mid Production w/Zimmerit & Kubelwagen. This vehicle, which was included as a plus in a Dragon Tiger kit, is identical to the one in the Dragon Warbirds 50120 set described above except for the standard tires and darker desert yellow.

Figure: Airfix 1711 Afrika Korps. Despite its release 43 years ago, the Airfix Afrikakorps set remains one of the most beloved among collectors, for obvious reasons — this was Airfix sculpting at its pinnacle.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda9. Left: Dragon 60514 Sd.Kfz. 223 Leichte Panzerspahwagen, 21.Pz.Div., North Africa 1941.

10. Center: Dragon 60498 Sd.Kfz. 222 Leichte Panzerspahwagen, Unidentified Unit, North Africa 1942. A quick comparison of this Dragon piece with its Altaya counterpart to the right immediately reveals why Dragon has been king of the 1/72 scale hobby. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of detail, finish, and weathering.

11. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 222, 10.Pz.Div., Tunis, Tunisia 1943. Given the existence of the vastly superior Dragon 60498, this Altaya 222 model is only for the hardcore collector.

Figure: Atlantic 88 German Afrikakorps. This hard-to-find set was maligned from its release almost 40 years ago (1977). Today, it’s highly sought-after by collectors.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda12. Left: Altaya Schwerer Panzerspahwagen (8 Rad), Sd.Kfz. 232, 5.le.Div., Agedabia, Libya 1941. Dragon has produced an Sd.Kfz. 232 that is immensely superior to this piece. Unfortunately, Dragon has not released one in an Afrikakorps desert livery.

13. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 250/5, Afrikakorps, Tobruk, Libya 1942. Desert campaign enthusiasts will immediately recognize this vehicle as Rommel’s “Greif.” In retrospect, it would have been more appropriate to use a Rommel figure for the photo. As is Altaya practice, neither vehicle has swastikas on the palm trees.

Figure: ESCI 206 Afrika Corps Soldiers. This ESCI set, their second effort at producing Afrikakorps soldiers, was summed up by Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) as a “perfectly solid effort.” The first set, now extremely hard to find, was somewhat unattractive.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda14. Left: Dragon 60294 Sd.Kfz. 251/10 Ausf. C Unidentifed Unit, El Alamein 1942. Photographs exist of the actual vehicle upon which this model is based. Unfortunately, the actual vehicle was an Ausf. B, rather than an Ausf. C, which is immediately apparent by the location of the hull side lockers.

15. Right: Dragon 60281 Sd.Kfz. 251/2 Ausf. C, Eastern Front 1942. Despite Dragon’s “Eastern Front” label, this piece is actually from the DAK, as can be easily concluded from the 21.Pz.Div. formation marking on the vehicle’s front plate. The actual vehicle upon which this model is based was an Afrikakorps 251/1 Ausf. C, rather than a 251/2 Ausf. C. To make it accurate, one need only remove the mortar from the back of the vehicle.

Figure: Caesar H070 German Afrika Korps. This 2010 release is the most recent Afrikakorps set on the market. According to PSR, the figures have “well-defined detail and faultless proportions” and the use of modern molds allowed Caesar to produce figures that are appealing from every angle without resorting to multiple pieces that require assembly, as Preiser often does.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda16. Left: Hobby Master HG5104 Sd.Kfz. 11, 33d Pz.Art., 15th Pz.Div., North Africa. This vehicle carries an interesting but non-standard Afrikakorps palm tree.

17. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 11, 15th Pz.Div., El Alamein, Egypt 1942. To my mind, this is not a bad effort by Altaya and the difference in quality between it and the HM piece is not that great. Note again Altaya’s failure to include the swastika on the palm tree on the port-side front fender.

Figure: Caesar H070 German Afrika Korps. See comment in previous photo.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda18. Hobby Master HG5002 Sd.Kfz. 7 German 8 Ton Semi-Track, Luftwaffe, Africa 1942. While this is, in fact, an Afrikakorps vehicle, HM neglected to include the distinctive Afrikakorps palm tree. I pilfered the palm tree decals from the Airfix A02303 Sd.Kfz. 7 Tractor half-track kit.

Figure: Italeri 6099 D.A.K. Infantry. As can be seen in the photo, the detail on this figure is superb. In PSR’s words “detail is everywhere clear and sharp, while clothing looks natural and human proportions are spot on.”


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, ZvezdaFinally, here’s a lagniappe photo of an Opel Blitz bus, widely used by the Afrikakorps in North Africa.

19. Roden 721 Plastic Kit, Opel Blitz Omnibus (model W.39 Ludewig-built, late). This model is not available as a prebuilt. I commissioned this piece from a master modeler in Poland.

Figures: Various Afrikakorps Sets; Nikolai ARB04 Arabs in the Streets 2 resin set. Without a doubt, resin figures allow more detail than plastic ones as exemplified by the three wonderful figures from the Nikolai set. However, the short runs and resulting high cost of resin sets often present an obstacle for collectors.


I hope you enjoyed the photos. As always, comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcome.

A Tank Named “Besposhadniy”: Russia’s Illustrious KV-1 Tank

I have consistently and unabashedly stated my somewhat juvenile affinity for tanks with distinctive markings or colorful artwork. I’m hardly alone in this view, as the KV-1 “Besposhadniy” – meaning “Merciless” – is one of the best known Russian tanks of the Great Patriotic War. Its vaunted kill record – 12 tanks plus numerous other vehicles and guns – certainly contributes to its mystique, as does the fact that artists, poets, and dancers, whose names appear on the sides of the turret, donated the funds to purchase it. The patriotic poem carried on its turret undoubtedly adds to its celebrity, and its skipper, ace Lt. Pavel Khoroshilov, further augments its fame. Yet, I submit that it’s the distinctive and irresistible artwork on the sides of its turret that sets it apart from others, for who could forget a cartoon depicting Hitler being blown to smithereens by volleys from a tank with a red star? The cartoon is an apt metaphor for the resolution of the German-Russian conflict in WWII.

The Actual Tank

The “Besposhadniy” belonged to the Soviet 12th Tank Regiment, 1st Moscow Motor Rifle Division, and fought the German 9th Army Group Center in what was for the Soviets the Western Front, in the winter-spring offensive of the Red Army in early 1943.

Below is a photo of the “Besposhadniy” from the Polish publication Stalin’s Tanks, Wydawnictwo Militaria 212. Note that this photo is from the early days of the “Besposhadniy,” as its occupants had yet to paint kill marks on the sides towards the back of the turret.1 ActualThis photo, from Stalin’s Heavy Tanks 1941-1945: The KV and IS Heavy Tanks (Concord 7012) by Steven Zaloga et al, provides a clear shot of the geometric kill marks added by the crew as their victims accumulated.2 Merciless Kill MarksAccording to Soviet Heavy Tanks (Osprey Vanguard 24) by Steven Zaloga and James Grandsen, the stars, disks, and triangles represent 12 tanks, 10 trucks, 7 armored cars, 7 mortars, 5 motorcycles, 4 anti-tank guns, 3 artillery pieces, a staff bus, and a partridge in a pear tree. 🙂

This photo of Paul Khoroshilov, the tank commander, taken from the “Paul Khoroshilov” entry (“Хорошилов Павел”) of the Russian Wikipedia, provides a clear view of the patriotic poem on the side of the “Besposhadniy.”

П.М.Хорошилов

According to Zaloga and Grandsen in Soviet Heavy Tanks, the Russian inscription on the front part of the turret side is a poem that translates thus:

Storming through fire goes
Our KV heavy tank
From the heartland it rolls
To smash the Nazi flank

Crewed by heroic men
Never showing fear
As they carry out commands
Of their homeland dear

 

 

 

 

 

 

This front-view photo of the “Besposhadniy,” shows that it carried its name on the upper glacis plate. I found references – though no photo3 Merciless Namegraphic evidence — that claimed the tank also carried its name on the rear part of the turret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the markings on this last photo of the starboard side of the “Besposhadniy” are barely visible and almost indiscernible, the photo does provide an excellent view of the drive sprocket, idler, and later-type road wheels. Note also the sharp angle of the rear of the hull.

Merciless Starboard Side

The Hobby Master Model

Even a passing glance at the following photos of the Hobby Master HG3010 quickly reveals that HM has produced a beauty of a model. The finish is superb, with very subtle shades of the base color throughout the tank. You will also notice a very finely applied wash on the turret that brings out the bolts on the mantlet. Note also the realistic tow chains on the front plate that extend to the middle of the hull. They’re as realistic as can be found in 1/72 scale. Note also the silver dry brushing on the tracks that make the detail pop out. On the down side, note that the name of the tank is missing from the glacis.4 HMThis profile shot shows off the artwork and markings on the turret well. The road wheels used by HM are the earlier road wheels found on KV-1s and are clearly incorrect, as can be easily seen in the starboard side photo of the actual tank above.5 HMThis photo of the starboard side of the model shows that HM used the mirror image of the markings on the port side. Note that there are no kill marks on the starboard side, which looks to be correct from the photo above.6 HMThis last photo from the rear shows that HM used the KV-1 hull with the gently curved rear. Again, the side photo of the actual tank conclusively reveals that this is incorrect. The rear of the hull should have been sharply angled. 7 HMHere’s a close-up photo of the HM turret. The two columns of text just below the Hitler cartoon comprise a list of artists, poets, and dancers who pooled their resources to donate the tank, naming it “Besposhadniy” to distinguish it from other tanks. Interestingly, among them is Sergey Mikhalkov, commissioned by Stalin in 1944 to write the lyrics of the Soviet National Anthem, and almost 60 years later, in 2001, by Putin to write the National Anthem of Russia.Merciless Turret GuideIt’s plainly evident that the HM “Besposhadniy” is an awesome little model – a proud little replica of the original.

The Rub

So what’s the rub? And there’s always a rub! Well, in addition to using the wrong rear hull and road wheels, HM used the Model 1941 initial turret, rather than the Model 1941 up-armored turret. The three-way comparison below graphically demonstrates the problem. On the actual tank the bottom part of the turret goes straight back and then turns in behind the turret ring at a sharp 90-degree angle, whereas on the HM model it curves around the rear of the turret ring. The Easy Model version, on the other hand, used the correct turret, as discussed in the comparison section below.

Merciless Turret ComparisonSecondly, as indicated above, HM used a mirror image of the port side graphics on the starboard side — literally — without regard to the fact that the name “Besposhadniy” would be backwards — as in a mirror. Thus, the port side carries the inscription “Беспощадный”; the inscription on the starboard side, Besposhadny Backwards 2, is gibberish — unless, like Da Vinci, you’re adept at mirror-reading.

Hobby Master / Easy Model Comparison

Let’s compare the HM version of the “Besposhadniy” with the Easy Model 36288. Here are five equivalent photos of the EM version.9 EMLike the HM, the EM lacks the name on the front plate. The EM also lacks the tow cable included on the HM. The EM version has a much darker shade and lacks any kind of dry brushing on the tracks. Here’s a portside view.

10 EMNote that the turret is the correct Model 1941 turret, with the skirt of the turret going straight back and then turning in at a sharp angle, as opposed to curving around the rear of the turret ring. Note also that EM did not make HM’s risible mistake in using on the starboard side the mirror image of “Besposhadniy” used on the port side of the turret. 11 EMNote also that, unlike HM, EM used the correct later type of road wheels. In defense of HM, the wheels could have been changed in the field; a turret swap, however, would be highly improbable.

Here’s a rear-side view. Note that EM also used the correct hull with a sharply angled rear, as opposed to HM, which used the curved rear.12 EMHere’s a close-up photo of the EM turret. While EM used the correct turret, note that the tampo-applied markings are not as well defined as those on the HM. Though they’re not out of register, they’re simply not as crisp.13 EM TurretFinally, here are some side-by-side photos of the two, with the HM on the left and the EM on the right. 14 3-4 Port Comparison15 3-4 SB Comparison16 Front Comparison17 Top Comparison18 FacingHere’s a lagniappe photo of the EM version to show off the Hat 8263 WW2 Russian Tank Riders.19 BonusThe Upshot

While I’m tolerant of most imperfections in a model, I agonize where the inaccuracy lies in the use of a wrong turret or hull – characteristics that I consider immutable. By that standard, the HM “Besposhadniy” — with its incorrect turret, rear hull, and road wheels — is fatally flawed. The absurd error in using the mirror image of “Besposhadniy” on the starboard side exacerbates the problem.

The EM version, on the other hand, is accurate throughout, though the lower quality of its finish and markings leave something to be desired. Thus, we’re left with a difficult choice: HM’s inaccurate high quality versus EM’s accurate but lower quality. I leave that choice to the reader as I love them both; they both represent an illustrious tank with a fascinating origin, outstanding combat history, patriotic slogan, and striking artwork.

Final Thoughts

Collectors often forget that these models represent vehiclesekipaj crewed by young men who fought and often died together. As a reminder, here’s a picture of three members of the crew, though I was unable to identify them. I would appreciate help in doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to leave the reader with a first-hand account of the “Besposhadniy” in combat from the memoirs of Yegor Sergeyevich Tsarapin, the mechanic-driver of the tank, taken from the aforementioned Russian Wikipedia entry. The passage vividly illustrates the tremendous courage of the crew:

In February of 1943, defensive fights started in north of Zhizdra. Blazing like a torch, “Besposhadniy” rushed towards the enemy artillery gun. The crew caught on fire, but continued attacking, ignoring the pain from their burns. Twenty meters, ten meters, and now the enemy artillery gun is being crushed under the heavy tank treads. Only then did the crew begin to put out the fire. I had a burnt back, a broken leg, and three fractured ribs. Egorov [the radio operator] could not feel his right hand. Filippov [senior mechanic-driver] wanted to help me out and take over the driver’s seat, but he was not able to as his lower back was badly burnt. We barely extinguished the flames on ourselves. You could see the crew members’ poorly dressed and still bleeding wounds through their ragged overalls, torn and burnt. We shouted to Fateev [the gunner], “you’re quite charred,” and he replied: “start the engine/move forward!” Collecting the last remnants of our energy, we once again rushed forward, knocking a Nazi tank along the way. By the time we reached our troops, Fateev [the gunner] was dead as well as Paul Khoroshilov [the commander]. We buried them together.

The “Besposhadniy” lasted just over nine months, from late May 1942 to early March 1943, before it was sent for repair. During that time, the tank crew shot down 27 enemy tanks, 9 mortars, 10 guns, 17 machine guns, 30 vehicles, and 13 units of armored vehicles, according to the Russian Wikipedia (though Zaloga reports different numbers). After the war, “Besposhadniy” was transferred to the Kubinka Tank Museum in Moscow, where, sadly, it was melted at the “Hammer and Sickle” Moscow plant in 1948.

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I want to thank Tim L., friend and fellow collector who provided invaluable research, photos, and observations. Sincere thanks also to my colleague Elmira B., who translated the first-hand account of the “Besposhadniy” in battle. Thanks also to my friend Joao S., of Cascais, whose incredible painting skills brought the Hat figures to life.

Cheesecake Pin-Up Girls on U.S. Sherman Tanks in WWII

As I previously mentioned in a more general post, I’m fascinated by cheesecake pin-up art on WWII vehicles, particularly armed fighting vehicles. (Please see: http://ww2in172.com/?p=534.) The M4 Sherman being one of my favorite tanks, I searched extensively for pin-ups strictly on such tanks. After poring through numerous websites and books — I have two dozen books specifically on the Sherman — I could locate only eight WWII Sherman tanks with pin-ups. Here they are, with information on the moniker the crew used for the tank, the type of Sherman hull, the unit and location where the tank served, the source of this data, and information on available 1/72 scale decals. To date, none of these tanks has been produced by any of the manufacturers of 1/72 prebuilt models.

I would be grateful for corrections or additional information on these or other tanks — Sherman or otherwise — with pin-up art. Please don’t hesitate to post a comment.

1. “Trooper”

  • Hull: M4 Composite
  • Unit: 175th Tank Battalion, Philippines 1945
  • Source: Sherman in Action (Squadron 2016), by Bruce Culver, p.31; Profile at p.26.
  • Notes: The Sherman just behind “Trooper” also appears to have pin-up art but it’s not included on the list because of uncertainty.
  • 1/72 Decals:
    • Included in Peddinghaus EP785, US Fahrzeug Beschriffungen;
    • Included in Out of the Blue EP785, US Army Vehicle Numbers & Slogans (appears to have same content as Peddinghaus under different name) (photo of decal from Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale website);
    • Included in UM 370, Medium Tank M4 kit.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

2. “Annabelle”

  • Hull: M4A1 with T-34 Calliope Rocket Launcher
  • Unit: 48th Tank Battalion, France 1945
  • Source: The M4 Sherman at War: The European Theater 1942-1945 (I), by Steven Zaloga, p.60; Profile at p.38.
  • 1/72 Decals:
    • Included in Aleran Miniatures US-3, US Sherman Markings (NW Europe 44-45) (1/76 scale);
    • Included in UM 376, Rocket Launcher M4A3 with T-34 Calliope kit. (Note that UM censured the pin-up, giving the redhead a matching red bathing suit, though the pin-up on the actual vehicle clearly had none.)

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMCAleran Mins US-3

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

3. “Lightning”

  • Hull: M4A1 Wading Tank
  • Unit: 767th Tank Battalion, Kwajalein Atoll 1944
  • Source: Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in WWII, by Steven Zaloga, p.303; Profile from Wojna na Pacyfiku Daleki Wschod 1938-1945, by Janusz Ledwoch, p.24.
  • Notes: “Lightning” has a pin-up on the barrel itself. The Sherman to the right of “Lightning” also appears to have pin-up art just behind the star on the hull side but it’s not included on the list because of uncertainty. Note that the pin-up is missing from the barrel on the profile, which may be correct. Absent a photo of the port side of the actual vehicle, it is impossible to ascertain the profile’s accuracy.
  • 1/72 Decals: None available, to my knowledge.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

4. “Black Orchid”

  • Hull: Possibly M4A2
  • Unit: Unidentified unit, Pacific Theater
  • Source: They Called it the Sherman: The M4 Tank, by Scot Laney and Gary Mortenson, p.44.
  • Notes: Japanese flag kill marks indicate Pacific Theatre, which implies USMC, which itself implies an M4A2 hull. Still, this is only conjecture.
  • 1/72 Decals: None available, to my knowledge.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

5. “Fight or Frolic”

  • Hull: M4A4 Sherman 
  • Unit: 1st Provisional Tank Group, Burma 1944
  • Source: http://www.cbi-theater.com/1ptg/1ptg.html
  • Notes: “Fight or Frolic” had different pin-ups on each side of the hull as shown in the two photos below. In addition to the pin-ups, the tank carries the triangular insignia of the Armored Corps on the turret port side and a skull on the turret starboard side.
  • 1/72 Decals: None available, to my knowledge.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

6. “Brownie”

  • Hull: M4, M4A2, or M4A4
  • Unit: Unidentified, but photo was purportedly taken in Italy.
  • Source: Found on some obscure corner of the Internet, never to be found again.
  • Notes: Hull type unknown but welded hull rules out M4A1; early glacis angle of hull rules out M4A3.
  • 1/72 Decals: None available, to my knowledge.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

7. Unreadable Name

  • Hull: M4
  • Unit: 6th Armored Division, Europe
  • Source: The M4 Sherman at War: The European Theater 1942-1945 (I), by Steven Zaloga, p.27.
  • 1/72 Decals: None available, to my knowledge.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

8. Unreadable Name

  • Hull: M4A? with M1 Dozer Blade
  • Unit: Unidentified
  • Source: Internet
  • 1/72 Decals: None available, to my knowledge.

1/72, AFV, Aleran, Annabelle, Black Orchid, Brownie, Cheesecake, Decals, Fight or Frolic, Lightning, Marines, Peddinghaus, Pin-ups, Sherman, Tanks, Trooper, U.S. Army, UM 370, UM 376, USMC

Please forgive the poor photo quality of the decal sheets. Those of you who have worked with decals appreciate the challenges of differentiating white decals from a light background in photography.

It should be readily apparent to the reader that decals are only available where an artist has produced a color profile of a tank. Artists are the sine qua non of our hobby, as without their “translation” of black and white photographs into color representations most modelers and hobbyists would have little idea about the colors, camouflage schemes, or markings of the actual tanks.

If you have corrections — particularly on the type of Sherman hull of “Black Orchid,” “Brownie,” or the dozer — or additional information on any of these tanks; or if you know of additional Shermans or other tanks with pin-ups, please contact me. I would also be grateful for information on the source of the original internet photos so I may provide proper attribution. Once again, thank you for your indulgence and I hope you enjoyed the peep show.   🙂

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.

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.