DML 1/35 M4A2 Sherman Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|330 parts (287 in grey styrene, 20 in etched brass, 18 in clear styrene, 2 in black vinyl, 1 in green vinyl, 1 turned aluminum barrel, 1 length of steel wire)
|Totally new tooling; probably best Sherman kit to date on the market; great deal of care taken with variant, shapes and components; interesting new touches
|Still has Tamiya-like recessed weld beads on hull sides
For many years, American kids learned about how Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped out Iosef Stalin via the program called "Lend Lease" in the US and "Lease Lend" in the Commonwealth. The same was not true on the Soviet end, as the Soviet leaders refused to acknowledge the huge amount of material they received from the West, and the fact that it was put to good use.
These items included thousands of aircraft (such as nearly the entire production run of P-63 Kingcobra fighters) and hundreds of thousands of trucks (the Studebaker US6 and GMC CCKW influenced Soviet automotive design into the 1970s.) But while they also got thousands of tanks, little or none was said about them. According to the inestimable Hunnicutt, just the USA alone sent them nearly 1,700 light tanks (1,336 M3 and 340 M3 Diesel), 1,386 M3 Medium tanks, and over 4,000 M4A2 Medium tanks - 1,990 M4A2 with 75mm guns and VVSS suspension and 2,073 with 76mm guns and both VVSS and later HVSS suspensions. It was only after the collapse of the Soviet Union that word finally came out about the tanks and aircraft the Red Army called "Po Lend-Lizu."
In 1996 one of the most remarkable books on this subject came out from a retired Soviet colonel and Hero of the Soviet Union named Dmitriy Loza. Translated by James Gebhardt from the old SASO office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the book told the tale of how the Soviets did appreciate their Lend-Lease tanks and made the most out of the Shermans in particular.
The M3 lights were not too popular as they carried a weak gun and thin armor by Soviet standards (the comparable T-70 carried a 45mm gun and had thicker armor) nor were the M3 Medium (General Lee types) as they quickly earned the macabre nickname "Grave for Seven Brothers." But the M4 Mediums - Shermans - were popular as the Soviets liked their performance, reliability, and the twin diesels gave them the additional ability to move in first gear with only one engine so slowly and quietly the Germans would not detect night attacks until they were right on top of the hapless "Hitlerists."
Loza commanded the 1st Battalion, 46th Guards Tank Brigade, for most of early 1945, and was the officer in charge of the detachment that took central Vienna. Photos show tanks of his battalion and his command tank (side number 900) in various spots around the city. These tanks were M4A2 76mm wet stowage types with VVSS suspension, most of the photos also showing them as fitted with T49 "three bar cleat" type steel tracks (the Soviets did not like the rubber ones).
Later, during the race through Manchuria in August 1945 Loza commanded the 46th Guards Tank Brigade as part of the 9th Mechanized Corps. By then the brigade had reequipped with M4A2E8 (HVSS) tanks, which they liked even better for the wider tracks and the fact that they were less likely to get stuck in desert and swampy terrain. But at the end of the campaign, when the tanks were returned to US control, he was horrified that all the US did was take them out to the 12 mile limit off the coast and dump them in the ocean. Many tanks were then kept, and at least one was reported still in use as a railway switching engine (!) in the early 1990s.
Loza notes the Russians really loved the tank, dubbing it the "Emcha" (from its Russianized pronunciation -"Em Chetyriy") and calling themselves "Emchisti." (They also loved the fact that every new one appeared to come with a fifth of American bourbon packed in the gun breech, a gift from American workers to their Soviet comrades!)
I have wanted to do up a good M4A2 for some time, but the resin conversion kits still left a lot of work to do to fix up any other kit. The Academy one really piqued my interest - based on the really great M12 SP 155mm gun kit they did - but was a real disappointment when I opened the box and noted all of the errors and shortcuts taken with the kit.
Steve Zaloga was a major consultant on this particular kit, and as we see each other regularly I was able to follow this kit in its evolutions. Having seen two different "test shots" I was eager to see the final result, and while not perfect it is really a very nicely done effort, easily being the best overall Sherman kit on the market up to this point in time.
DML has really "tightened its shot group" and is aggressively going after the intermediate to advanced level modeler, and this kit shows that to a great degree. It comes with some of the most requested items by that level of modeler - turned aluminum gun barrel, wire for the tow cable, etched brass, choice of suspension parts for intermediate or late production tanks - as well as one other modelers have again begun to request in larger number s- one-piece vinyl tracks. These latter are something new for DML in 1/35 scale, but are really pretty much right on the money to meet requests. The tracks are a bit thin in comparison with scale, but the goal appears to have been to provide tracks with realistic connectors (e.g. between the track links, not on them) and thus still leave them flexible, Anyone familiar with the old Tamiya M3 track with connectors ON every link and Italeri M4A1 tracks which cause the suspension to bow up as they do not flex will understand this compromise as a rational one.
If you're still not happy, RHPS makes a great set of 1/35 "pop together" three-piece link sets of T49 tracks.
Also the "included" accessories come fastened to a separate sheet of cardboard inside a bag, so they are easy to spot and not get lost. They also include (as well as the tracks, barrel and cable) a set of etched brass for the light guards, cable tiedowns and viewer guards, as well as a large selection of clear styrene viewports and the headlights. Originally the solution had been to mold the commander's vision cupola in clear styrene as well, but this makes better sense. Also included is a olive green vinyl mantelet cover simulating canvas, somewhat like the one provided with the Skybow M41A3 kit a few years back. However, I could not find seam one on this part, so kudos to DML for a great job of molding!
The rest of the kit comes from four different main sprues. A covers the new M4A2/A3 main hull components (however, this seems odd, as this kit is clearly an A2 from the ground up); B the T-23 type 76mm turret with oval loader's hatch; two D sprues, with the "spoke" type welded wheels and idlers plus "raised" idler mounts. as well as an M4A2 lower hull with the correct access panels; and two V sprues, simply labeled "VVSS suspension." These provide the pressed steel type wheels (with backs) and "straight" idler mounts. These appear to have been reworked for the retooled Sherman Firefly VC kit, as they contain all of the British "bits" such as smoke grenades and glacis spare track racks.
Many of the parts provide optional settings or choices. Viewer mounts are separate so the viewers may be turned, fuel cap covers are separate and may be shown either open or closed, the muzzle brake, M2HB and bow .30 caliber all come with their muzzles pierced (no drilling!!!) And the former is in one piece as well. The engine deck and grille doors are also separate, and there is a "tuck up" grille (Part A53) for the rear part of the hull where the original had one. Model companies are finally deciding that "you wouldn't flip it over" is no longer a reason to leave out parts.
The turret does go a far piece down the road capturing the subtle shape of the "T-23" style turret, and with some work and good assembly will make most modelers quite happy with the result. The hull DOES have an accurate slope to the rear plate unlike the unhappy Academy one, but still bears engraved weld beads that should be flush or slightly proud of the top of the hull edge. While niggling details, they do sort of prevent the kit from making a 10.0 splash in the pool. (Enough of the Olympic references.)
The model comes with decals for two tanks: one from the 2nd Tank Army, Berlin 1945, and one from the 8th Guards Mechanized Corps, 1944-1945. For no reason that I can determine, the person making the directions seemed to put HVSS tracks with extenders on the head-on and top view of the tank - while totally meaningless as they have nothing to do with markings (except to show overall colors) it is somewhat comical considered the accuracy shown in the rest of the kit!
Alas, Loza's tank was not one of the chosen few, but that's a small price to pay to get a good basic kit to start with when building one. Well, I was going to have to add logs, 200 liter fuel drums, and a lot of kit anyway...
Overall, this is a very good kit and should make most "Shermanoholics" happy. I know I am.
Thanks to DML for the review sample.