The Sherman in 1/72: A Firefly Named “Carole” in Normandy, Part 2 – “Brewing Up”

This is Part 2 of A Firefly Named “Carole” in Normandy. For a description of  the actual tank and a review of the Dragon model, please refer to the previous post.

The Crew of the “Carole” in Normandy

I was intrigued by the photo of the four young members of “Carole’s” crew in front of their vehicle “brewing up” at Gosport just before leaving England on their way to Normandy. The human interest value of the photo is immense, as we know the fate of at least two of these young men — Commander Fred Scamp perished soon thereafter, while Gunner Douglas Kay survived into old age. This type of photo where you look into the faces of men who will soon face their fate is always touching to me, whether the soldiers are American, British, Russian, German, Japanese, or any other nationality.

At any rate, I wanted to recreate the aforementioned photo, or something that evinced its feel. However, the fact that the photo was taken while “Carole” still had the wading trunk made it a non-starter as the Dragon model is of “Carole” after the trunk was removed. In addition, recreating anything that even looked like the background in the scene was beyond my meager modeling capabilities. The only avenue available to me was to depict the scene after “Carole” and its crew arrived in Normandy.

The aforementioned photo is on the left in the triptych below. (See previous post for a larger, uncropped view of this photo.) The middle photo shows “Carole” in Normandy. Note the high grass, the stone wall behind the tank, and the destroyed buildings behind that wall. The photo on the right shows a similar scene of a British tank crew with their Sherman. An interesting feature of the photo is that it includes tankers wearing different clothing. Click on the photo to enlarge it.carole-triptych-blue-lineThe Diorama

The diorama below is a composite of those three photos. The modest effort depicts the crew taking a break in front of their tank somewhere in Normandy. Note the tall grass and stone fence present in some photos taken during the Normandy campaign. I’m not unaware that the stone fence is inexplicably intact while the building is in ruins and the tree next to it is completely charred. Still, I concluded that carving rocks out of the wall to simulate damage would not be worthwhile as it could not match the picture in my head anyway.1-008-best-bwBelow is the same photo in color. Ever the philistine, I’m convinced that color photos are infinitely better than black & white photos. To me, continuing to film in B&W in this day and age, as was done in The Good German, which is actually an excellent film, is as silly as would be continuing to film silent movies even though we’ve mastered sound.

Note that the six tankers sport different uniforms, with the 1st, 4th, and 6th (from left) wearing standard British battledress serge while the 2nd and 3rd figures wear denim overalls. The 5th figure is dressed more casually, reflecting the motley nature of clothing in units throughout the war. These Milicast figures are nothing short of cromulent*. Click on the photo to embiggen* it.1-008-bestNote that all the men wear a black beret, the hallmark of a WWII British tanker. According to Military Modelling Vol.30 No.11, the design of the distinctive black beret was inspired by French berets used during WWI. The unstiffened crown allowed it to be easily stowed in the tight spaces within the tank while the dark color helped hide grime and stains inherent in working inside a tank.

This is not an idle observation as knowing that Brit tankers wore a black beret and Brit paras a red one would greatly enhance the casual viewer’s enjoyment of a A Bridge Too Far, as a red beret would immediately signal that the action is taking place at Arnhem. 🙂 By the same token, recognizing the “Screaming Eagles” patch versus the “All American” patch immediately reveals whether the action is taking place at Eindhoven or Nijmegen.3-032Note that the animals move from photo to photo. The tan horse with a white blaze, in particular, had trouble staying on its four legs so every time it tipped over I placed it somewhere else. 🙂 The photo below is my favorite out of the dozens I took of this diorama, though I’m uncertain why.4-030

“Everyone has a backstory and deserves a guess in the absence of facts,” Ara Hagopian.

For the first time in writing these posts I had an urge to create a backstory for the cat I whimsically placed just behind the turret number. Do my fellow German bloggers, who seem to be cat lovers, or any other readers have any ideas? 5-015The cattle and horses are Preiser HO scale prepainted figures, which at first blush appeared to me to be the same size as the horses and cattle in the unpainted Preiser 1/72 scale 72511 Horses, Cows, and Sheep set. 

An indolent man at heart, I opted for the prepainted figures to avoid: 1) clipping the 72511 figures from the sprue; 2) cleaning the flash and seams; 3) gluing the two halves of each figure together; 4) priming them to ensure the paint adheres; 5) painting them; 6) detailing them; and 7) being disappointed with the results. I learned afterwards, upon actually placing the two sets side by side, that the 1/72 scale figures were proportionately larger than the HO scale figures. Alas, Preiser is a German company, after all.6-066Note the tarps and blanket rolls on the rear hull of the tank. These are Value Gear pieces and they are superb. The stone fence is a Pegasus product that surprisingly looked the part with a simple black wash. 7-060Below is a fairly clear shot of the ruined building, which I had trouble bringing into focus at the same time as the tank and crew. Again, a photographer I am not. The realistic building is from the PMA Stalingrad set. PMA diorama pieces are really quite nice, though difficult to find.8-067“Brewing Up”

Much has been written about the British soldier’s expectation of regular tea breaks to the detriment of achieving the objective. Some have offered explanations of this phenomenon cloaked in scholarly terms. Nonsense. The Brits may love their tea, but as their opponents have found out throughout history, they certainly achieve their objectives.british-drinking-teaFor those of us non-British subjects, the 1977 film A Bridge Too Far was in some respects a formative reference on the peculiarly British affinity for drinking tea. The star-studded film has two important tea-related scenes that left an indelible impression on this blogger. 

The first scene, with Sean Connery, perfectly encapsulates how the British perceive drinking tea:

Major General Urquhart:

“Hancock, I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?”

Corporal Hancock:

“Couldn’t hurt, sir,” as he hands Urquhart a cup of tea.

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKr9eja-1cwa-bridge-too-far-2-bigThe second — this time heated — exchange features Robert Redford, and is more a reflection of how Americans perceive the British love affair with tea:

American Officer:

“I don’t understand, why aren’t you moving, what’s the matter with you guys? Those are British troops at Arnhem. They’re hurt, bad. You’re not going to stop, not now.”

British Tank Officer:

“I’m sorry, we have our orders.”

American Officer:

“We busted our asses getting here. Half my men are killed. And you’re just gonna stop . . .  and . . . drink tea? “

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1EsDkm_r3o

At the risk of belaboring the point, I believe ABTF was simply propagating an incorrect — yet widely held — belief among American soldiers that tea time was fairly important to the British. Still, at least in this case, let’s not blame Hollywood as this was a joint British/American production. ABTF was written by Cornelius Ryan, an Irishman; the screenplay was written by William Goldman, an American; and the film was directed by Richard Attenborough, an Englishman.

(Incidentally, what a cast! Laurence Olivier, Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neal, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, Michael Caine, Gene Hackman, Dirk Bogarde, Edward Fox, Elliot Gould, and James Caan, just to name the Allies. Only Is Paris Burning?, Tora, Tora, Tora, and Midway come close. Also, those were real C-47 Skytrains/Dakotas in the film — eleven of them in total, borrowed from various countries, including Denmark, Djibouti, Finland, and Portugal. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂 )

Irrespective of how it came to be, or whether it’s a fair or accurate characterization, it is undeniable that tankers-teaBritish tankers are now firmly entrenched in the modeler’s psyche as soldiers with a strong love affair with tea. Thus, regardless of the scale, they are often depicted “brewing up” with a “cuppa” in hand. The photo triptych at left, showing tanker figures in different scales, makes the point clearly. At left is the Milicast 1/76 figure used in the diorama; at center is a Dartmoor 1/48 figure; and at right is a Dragon 1/6 figure. The first two photos are from their respective manufacturer’s websites; the third I scanned from an article in the French magazine Steel Masters #58.

List of Diorama Pieces

For those interested, below is the source of each piece:

  • Tank: Dragon 60250 Firefly Vc, 13th/18th Royal Hussars, 27th Armoured Brigade, Normandy 1944;
  • Tarp and Blanket rolls on hull: Value Gear Allied Tents, Tarps, and Crates;
  • Crew: Milicast 061 British Squaddies and Milicast 054 British Troops;
  • Animals: Various Preiser HO and 1/72 sets;
  • Trees: Various Woodland Scenics;
  • Building: Precision Model Art PMA P0204 Stalingrad;
  • Stone Fence: Pegasus Hobbies 5202 Stone Walls;
  • Spoked Wheel: Hat 8260 WWI German Field Wagon;
  • Meadow: Woodland Scenics Grass Mat;
  • Tufts of Grass: Noch Scenemaster, Spring Grass Tufts; and
  • Backdrop: Silk poster ordered on Amazon from China.

I hope you enjoyed this simple diorama of “Carole” and its crew. Again, if something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, observations, and backstories for the cat are welcome.

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Once again, I’d like to thank my friend and fellow collector J. Buccellato of NY for his incredible skill and patience in painting the Milicast figures. He’s the sine qua non in creating these dioramas. His “therapy” is my joy. *For those not familiar with the two neologisms in this post, I highly recommend Season 7, Episode 16 of the Simpsons on the episode’s 20th anniversary. 🙂

The Sherman in 1/72: A Firefly Named “Carole” in Normandy, Part 1 – The Tank

Tank enthusiasts frequently admire a tank and blissfully identify its markings as well as its physical features — the version or type of hull, turret, gun, running gear, or tracks. This tendency to focus on the vehicle, rather than what it represents, holds especially true for Sherman tanks, which carry dizzying combinations of  these various elements. We often forget, however, that each of these fighting vehicles was manned by five young men who had names and families and dreams, and many made the ultimate sacrifice inside those very vehicles. “Carole” stands out in that Douglas Kay, its gunner, survived the war and serves as a reminder of the human element we often ignore.

The Actual Tank

“Carole” was a Sherman Mark V Firefly belonging to the 13th/18th Royal Hussars Regiment of the 27th Armoured Brigade of the British Army. In its eight-month operational life, “Carole” participated in the D-Day invasion in Normandy in June 1944 and in Operation Market Garden in Holland in September 1944. It was destroyed in Germany in February 1945.

Below is the best known photo of “Carole” preparing to be loaded onto a Normandy-bound landing craft at the Port of Gosport in Southern England, on June 3, 1944. The photo is from the Imperial War Museum archives (IWM H38995) and is used here under their non-commercial license. Note the deep wading trunk at the rear of the hull, behind the gun, which itself has been traversed to face the rear for embarkation. THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 1939-45 (H 38995) A Sherman Firefly and Sherman tanks of 'C' Squadron, 13th/18th Royal Hussars waiting to be loaded aboard landing ships at Gosport, 3 June 1944. The Firefly crew in the left foreground are Trooper Fred Shaw, Trooper Doug Kay, Sergeant Fred Scamp and Trooper Bill Humphries. Their vehicle was named 'Carole'. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205126259“Carole” and the 13th/18th Royal Hussars took part in the Normandy landings on Sword Beach on June 6, 1944, successfully spearheading the invasion force in support of  the British 3rd Infantry Division. Sword Beach, assigned to the British Army, was the easternmost Allied landing site. All told, almost 30,000 allied troops came ashore at Sword Beach, with losses of 683 men. The IWM photo below shows “Carole” still equipped with its wading trunk.carole-4-2Below is another IWM photo (B5471) of “Carole” in the village of Bréville-les-Monts, on June 13, 1944, a week after D-Day. The Germans had occupied the village in early June and from there had been attacking British positions at Sword Beach. “Carole’s” unit, Squadron C of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars, successfully supported the 6th Airborne Division in securing Bréville, thereby protecting the beachhead. Forgive the graininess of the photo, which has been enlarged from a shot taken at considerable distance. Note that by this time the trunk had been removed.carole-scan-1Once the landings were completed and secured, the British Army disbanded the 27th Armoured Brigade in July 1944, and “Carole” and the 13th/18th Royal Hussars were transferred to the 8th Armoured Brigade. During this time, “Carole” is credited with knocking out a Tiger and a Panther on August 11-12, 1944, towards the end of the Normandy campaign. As part of Operation Market Garden, “Carole” crossed the Nijmegen Bridge, a key Allied objective, on September 21, 1944. The fighting was so brutal at Nijmegen that it came to be known as “Little Omaha” and has been compared to Guam, Tarawa, and Omaha Beach.

“Carole” was destroyed on February 12, 1945, in Goch, Germany, by an 88mm round that entered through the mantle and lodged itself in the radio box at the rear of the turret. The round killed Sgt. Fred Scamp, the commander, and Trooper Wilson, a substitute gunner who was filling in for Douglas Kay, who was on leave that particular day. Kay refers to himself as the “luckiest man” in the world because of this tragic but fortuitous event.

The Model

The Dragon 60250 Sherman Firefly is a special Dragon release issued during the 2006 Dragon Expo in Europe. It is one of the most sought-after Dragon fireflies, and for good reason. A look at the photos below reveal a finely crafted model from Dragon’s heyday, when workmanship was at its apex. The model represents “Carole” after the landing at Normandy, once the wading trunk had been removed. “Carole” was assigned to “C” Squadron, necessitating that its name begin with that letter. Sgt. Fred Scamp, the tank commander, named “Carole” after his daughter, who was born in 1944. In the photo below, note the red circle indicating “C” Squadron, just aft of the name. A triangle would indicate “A” Squadron, while a rectangle would indicate “B” Squadron.1-port-3-047-3Below is a front view photo. Note that “Carole” has the early bolted three-piece transmission cover, as opposed to the cast one-piece cover. Note also that the model does not have the stowage box above the transmission cover visible in the first photo of the actual tank above. This is not a mistake. The stowage bin was temporarily moved from its permanent place at the rear of the hull to the front of the hull to allow the wading trunk to be installed. Once the tank landed and the trunk was removed, the stowage bin was reinstalled in its original place on the rear plate of the hull. Finally, note that while Dragon has often bungled the tracks on its Shermans, “Carole” is equipped with the correct T54E1 steel chevron tracks recognizable in the aforementioned photo.

Dragon faithfully rendered on the transmission cover the colorful and distinctive markings so characteristic of British tanks. Starting from the left, the “33” inside a yellow circle is a bridge classification number, indicating that the Firefly weighed 33 tons, as compared to a standard 30-ton Sherman. The “51” inside the red box identifies the regiment to which “Carole” belonged. The 27th Armoured Brigade had three regiments: the 13th/18th Royal Hussars were assigned “51”; the Staffordshire Yeomanry, “52”; and East Riding Yeomanry, “53.” The yellow seahorse on a blue shield, colloquially known as the “pregnant pilchard,” is the emblem of the 27th Armoured Brigade. The seahorse was a reference to the cavalry roots of its regiments. 2-front-043-3Below is a starboard profile photo of “Carole.” Note the cast surface on the cheek of the turret, which differs from the smooth surface of the metal on the hull — another example of Dragon’s outstanding attention to detail. The British Firefly wielded a 76.2mm gun and the length of the barrel was a whopping 13 ft. 9 in. Incidentally, each troop comprised four tanks — one 17-pounder Firefly and three 75mm Shermans. The other tanks in “Carole’s” 2nd Troop were “Charmer” (68), “Cameo” (69), and “Cavalier” (70).3-starboard-2-037-2Note the “71” on a square black oilcloth on the face of the blanket box in the photo below. The black square was intended to provide more contrast with the red number, making it more visible. As previously mentioned, the model represents “Carole” after it had landed and the wading trunk had been removed with the stowage box moved back to its original place on the rear plate of the hull. Finally, note Dragon’s signature drybrushing that highlights the edges throughout the tank, providing a “worn” look.5-back-039-2The semi-overhead shot below provides a view of the commander’s round hatch as well as the loader’s rectangular hatch on the top of the turret. Note the radio box attached to the back of the turret. In order to fit the huge 76.2mm gun in the 75mm turret, the British removed the radio from the interior and attached it to the rear of the turret. Attached behind the radio box is a blanket box. Note the War Department identification number “T 228789.” Of course, the “T” indicates “tank.” Among others, an “L” before the number would indicate a lorry, an “M” a car, and a “S” a self-propelled gun. 4-port-4-049-3Beyond the Call of Duty

Probably the most outstanding feature of the Dragon piece is the accuracy of the turret. The close-up photo below clearly shows that the turret of the “Carole” did not have a pistol port.carole-scan-biggest-2 Firefly turrets were converted 75mm turrets, which had a pistol port on the rear port side of the turret. In April 1943, the U.S. Ordnance Department determined that it was a ballistic hazard and ordered builders to eliminate it from the turret. The response from the field was so negative, however, that the Ordnance Department reversed the order in July 1943. Still, a number of 75mm turrets without the pistol port were produced during those three months, and “Carole” appears to be one of those. 

The side-by-side photos below from the Sherman Minutia Website show the two different Sherman 75mm turrets as regards the pistol port — the common one with a pistol port and the uncommon one without. 2-pistol-portsDragon brought us two terrific British Fireflies: the Dragon 60250 “Carole” (right) and the 60251 “Velikye Luki” (left) in the side-by-side photo below. Other than the markings and the addition of the blanket box on the “Carole,” the two are nearly identical. Obviously, the most important difference is the absence of the pistol port on the turret of the “Carole” – highlighted in yellow on the “Velikye Luki.” Dragon could have easily taken a short cut and simply used the same common turret on both. Instead Dragon was faithful to both tanks, and produced two different turrets — in my view, a commendable decision.004-2-paint-2In that same vein, note the siren on the front port side fender just above the tracks. If you click on the photo you will find that the siren has a “V” for victory grill used on the actual sirens — a minute detail but indicative of Dragon’s erstwhile zeal.

A Little Back Rub

Forgive the lame pun, but “Carole’s” only fault — the “rub” — is that Dragon failed to include markings on the rear plate of the tank hull. There are no clear photos of “Carole” from the rear, though barely visible on one of the photos above is the “51” regiment number on the port side of the rear plate. However, the photo below from British Tanks in Normandy by Ludovic Fortin clearly shows that other tanks of the 13th/18th Hussars — this is “Balaclava” — carried both the “51” regiment number and seahorse markings on the rear plate.balaclava-markings-scan-paintBelow is a corresponding rear view photo of “Carole” sans markings.003-2The Upshot

There is no question that the Dragon 60250 Firefly is a little gem — a rare combination that brings together human interest, historical significance, and accuracy in detail. From the transmission housing to the rear plate and from the steel tracks to the turret hatches, this piece is well crafted. The accuracy of the turret — with its cast surface, radio box, blanket bin, lack of a pistol port, and markings — makes for an outstanding model. The superb finish, light drybrushing, and crisp markings throughout the tank make this an exceptional piece.

The Profile

In 2005, Military Modelling magazine conducted a series of interviews with Douglas Kay, resulting in a terrific, well-illustrated article in its July 2005 issue that featured “Carole” on its cover. The beautiful color profile below comes from that article. It’s a sure bet that Dragon used this profile as its guide. 6-carole-profile-military-modelling-1024x378What little information there is about the actual “Carole” comes from that issue. Should the reader be interested in finding it, below is a photo of the magazine cover. The triptych also includes a photo of 19-year-old Kay in 1944 and Mr. Kay in his 80’s in 2005.

douglas-kay-tryptichThe Crew

Finally, so we can put faces to “Carole,” below is a lagniappe photo of the crew brewing up. From left to right: Fred Shaw (loader/radio operator), Douglas Kay (gunner), Fred Scamp (commander), and Bill Humphries (driver).

 5-crew-439x369

I hope you enjoyed the post. If something looks amiss, please let me know. I would be delighted to correct inaccurate information so that this may be useful for other 1/72 scale collectors and wargamers. As always, comments, questions, corrections, and observations are welcome. Stay tuned for a simple diorama of “Carole” in the next post.

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.

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 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.

The Sherman in 1/72: M4 “Cannon Ball,” 70th Tank Battalion, Utah Beach 1944

I had intended to write a brief review of the Dragon 60369 Sherman “Cannon Ball,” a wading Sherman that landed at Utah Beach on D-Day. However, as I tried to understand where it fit in within the framework of the D-Day landings, I found that my knowledge of tank warfare on D-Day was quite limited. I had no real sense for how many tanks landed at each beach and how many were lost. I decided that, at the very least, I would get a rudimentary “big picture” grasp of tank landings at Utah Beach and try to understand the other four beaches at a later time. For those not interested, please skip to the photos below. 

Sherman Tanks at Utah Beach

On D-Day, June 6, 1944, approximately 100 U.S. Army Sherman tanks attempted to land at Utah Beach in support of the 4th Infantry Division. The U.S. deployed two tank battalions at Utah Beach, the 70th and 746th – each consisting of 48 Sherman tanks.

The 70th Tank Battalion was comprised of three tank companies, each with 16 Sherman tanks. Companies A and B were equipped with Duplex Drive Shermans; Company C was made up of 16 wading Shermans, including 4 dozers. “Cannon Ball” was one of the wading tanks in Company C. (Note: Each tank battalion also had a D Company made up of Stuart light tanks.) 

The 70th lost 9 Shermans during the landing — 5 DD Shermans and 4 Wading Shermans, including “Cannon Ball.” Throughout the day, the 70th lost another 7 tanks, for a total of 16. Thus, by the end of D-Day, the 70th had lost one third of its Sherman tanks.

The 746th Battalion, on the other hand, did not have Duplex Drive Shermans, and all 48 Wading Sherman tanks landed safely, though the Battalion did lose two Shermans throughout the day.

It bears mentioning that by the end of D-Day, all objectives at Utah Beach had been achieved and the area was securely under control of the Allies. This is in sharp contrast with Omaha Beach, where the Allies suffered tremendous casualties and did not reach all objectives.

The chart below provides context regarding how “Cannon Ball” fit within the organizational framework of the 70th Tank Battalion at Utah Beach on D-Day. (I made the chart for learners like me who want to visualize where a small piece fits into a larger whole. I’m just an amateur so please use at your own risk.)

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

The 70th Tank Battalion

Before we get to “Cannon Ball,” here are a few bullets on the storied 70th Tank Battalion, to which “Cannon Ball” belonged:

  • Formed in July 1940, the 70th Tank Battalion was the first independent tank battalion in the U.S.
  • The Battalion fought in every major U.S. campaign in WWII, beginning with North Africa, through Sicily, Italy, and France, and finally in Germany itself.
  • While in Algeria, the 70th trained the Free French soldiers who later formed the 2nd French Armored Division.
  • The 70th was called the “soixante-dix” (meaning “70”) by the French, a phrase that later appeared on the sash of their mascot, Joe Peckerwood.
  • Among other achievements, the 70th participated in the D-Day invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, and eventually crossed the Rhine to see the end of the war in Germany.
  • In Normandy, the 70th supported the famous 101st Airborne Division during combat at St. Mere Eglise.
  • Considered the most experienced U.S. tank battalion, the 70th was one of the most decorated of the war and received a Presidential Unit Citation for its role in the invasion of Normandy.

The Actual Tank

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information specifically on “Cannon Ball,” other than a well-known photo of it stuck in a shell hole at Utah Beach (see photo below). Nonetheless, here are a few bullets on what little I could gather from books and various corners of the internet:

  • On D-Day, “Cannon Ball” was one of 16 Sherman wading tanks in C Company of the 70th Tank Battalion.
  • It landed at Utah Beach but got bogged down in a shell hole.
  • “Cannon Ball” was pulled out of the hole and put back into action.
  • The tank had been previously fitted with a T4 Whiz-Bang Demolition Rocket Launcher in advance of D-Day. Following tests, the U.S. Army concluded that the launcher presented a risk to the crew and decided to remove the launcher prior to D-Day.
  • “Cannon Ball” is one of very few D-Day tanks with wading trunks for which we have reliable marking information. But beyond that, it’s representative of the hundreds of amphibious tanks that fought the waves to reach shore at Normandy. Numerous DDs failed to make it, particularly at Omaha, while most wading tanks made it to shore.
  • I searched numerous books and the internet and, as far as I know, the two photos below are the only existing photos of “Cannon Ball.” If anyone knows of any other pictures, I’d love to see them.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

Of interest are the two mounting attachments on either side of the top of the turret. As mentioned, prior to D-Day “Cannon Ball” had been equipped with the Whiz Bang rockets (see profile below). The photo with the red arrows was posted by Steve Zaloga on another forum.

D-Day Shermans: Only “Cannon Ball” and “Carole” in 1/72

As far as know, the only two D-Day Shermans in 1/72 scale are “Cannon Ball” and “Carole,” a Firefly with the 13th/18th Royal Hussars of the 27th Armored Brigade (Dragon 60250). 

Dragon produced another Normandy M4, the 60370 “Tonto,” representing the U.S. 37th Tank Battalion, but that battalion didn’t arrive in Normandy until July 13, 1944, incidentally, at Utah Beach. 

Dragon also produced another Normandy Firefly, the 60251 “Velikye Luki,” representing the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, but the unit didn’t arrive until June 12 at Gold Beach. 

The Dragon 60369 “Cannon Ball” Model

  • This is the only U.S. tank in 1/72 representing D-Day and makes a fine pair with “Carole,” its British D-Day counterpart.
  • “Cannon Ball” is something of a unique tank in 1/72, as it’s the only tank with wading trunks that represents an actual tank. (Note: Dragon included a 75mm M4A1 with its LCM(3) but it has no markings and did not represent any particular tank.)
  • The markings on “Cannon Ball” are colorful – and distinctive. The turtle is “Joe Peckerwood” the Truculent Turtle with a tanker’s helmet and the sash carries the words “soixante-dix” meaning “70” in French. (See inset in the profile.)
  • The model is missing the T4 Whiz Bang brackets and gun sight pointed by red arrows in the photo above.

And finally, here are the photos:

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

Note the dark band around the turret. Mastic glue was used as a sealant to waterproof the tank over the opening of the turret ring and hatches.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

Note the red number with white trim, a distinctive feature of the 70th. Note also the applique armor on the starboard side of the turret.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

Note that the stars have been obscured. The black and white photo towards the bottom of this post graphically illustrates why.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

Here’s a close-up of Joe Peckerwood the “Truculent Turtle” and the waterproofing label.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

The U.S. Army began to obscure the white stars because they made excellent targets for German tank crews.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

The Profiles

For those who love profiles, this is what “Cannon Ball” looked like on D-Day, from Zaloga’s Sherman at War (2): The U.S. Army in the European Theatre 1943-45.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4 Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

This is what “Cannon Ball” looked like before D-Day, when it still had the Whiz Bang rockets, from Steve Zaloga’s U.S.  Armored Funnies: U.S. Specialized Armored Vehicles in the ETO in World War II.

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For those interested in what a wading dozer looks like, here’s a profile of the “Double Trouble,” also from the 70th Tank Battalion. The profile is also from Zaloga’s Funnies.

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

Here’s a lagniappe photo of the “Cannon Ball” with “Carole” (Dragon 60250), its British D-Day Sherman brother (or sister).

1/72, 60369, 70th Tank Battalion, 70th Tank Btn, AFV, Cannonball, Cannon Ball, D-Day, Dragon, M4, Normandy, Peckerwood, Sherman, Tanks, U.S. Army, Utah Beach, Wading

The Upshot

The Dragon 60369 M4 Sherman “Cannon Ball” is almost flawless.  Other than the two mounting attachments for the Whiz Bang rockets missing on either side of the top of the turret, the 60369 is a fine and faithful representation of the actual Sherman tank that landed at Utah Beach on D-Day.

I hope to do a review of the Dragon 60250 Sherman Firefly “Carole” in the near future.