Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale
‘39-‘45 Series Kit No. 6283; Dragon Expo 05 Special –
M4A3E8 Sherman "Major Albin F. Irzyk"
by Cookie Sewell
722 parts (680 in grey styrene, 20 etched brass, 18 clear styrene, 2
turned brass, 1 turned aluminum barrel. 1 length of twisted steel wire);
price estimated at US $31-34
Advantages: DML has combined its reasonably good HVSS suspension with
the new parts from its series of M4A2 and M4A3 late model kits
Disadvantages: T80 tracks may be incorrect as well as fiddly to assemble
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: to all Shermaholics and American armor fans
When the terms "tank battalion commander" and "4th Armored
Division" are used together, the one name most fans of US military
history immediately come up with is Creighton Abrams. Abrams commanded
the 37th Armor Battalion in Europe from its landing in the summer of 1944
up until March 1945 when he was bumped up to take over Combat Command
B. But the other primary tank battalion of the division, the 8th Armor
Battalion, was no less accomplished (the last battalion, the 35th, got
less press coverage than the other two, but as with all elements of the
4th , was heavily involved during the course of operations in the ETO.)
For this year's "Dragon Expo" in Atlanta, DML released two
special limited release kits to commemorate the even, one German and one
US. The US one was the command tank of Major Albin F. Irzyk, commander
8th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, in December 1944 during the
Battle of the Bulge. This compliments their previous release of "Thunderbolt
VI", Abrams' command tank at the same time (DML Kit No. 6255.) While
not as famous as Abrams. Irzyk was another "straight-shooter"
and wound up wounded twice in action, and being awarded the DSC, two Silver
Stars, and four Bronze Stars.
The model is a "shake and bake" kit, but with the recent quality
of DML moldings that is far from a bad thing. They have basically combined
their recent M4A2/A3 kit sprues with the suspension components from their
E8 suspension kits and released them as an early production M4A3E8. These
tanks were beginning to be issued to the 37th and 8th Tank Battalions
just prior to the Battle of the Bulge, and photos show them in service
with those battalions.
The kit includes the new hull and turret sprues from the M4A2/A3 kit
with the extra engine deck sprue for the A3, as well as the early production
A3 exhaust deflector sprue. It comes with the complete fender and skirt
arrangement for the A3 with HVSS, but as both the 37th and 8th appeared
to have removed them prior to issue, this is just fodder for the parts
box. Also new are two turned brass 76mm APCBC rounds, which were (from
other sources) one of the great shocks to the Germans at the Bulge, as
they found out the hard way that at combat ranges they could – and
did – penetrate the glacis of a Panther tank.
I only have one problem with the kit: I cannot find a firm answer to
either support or deny the use of the T80 double-pin steel faced chevron
track on the model. All of the extant photos show M4A3E8 tanks during
the Bulge with T-66 single pin tracks. These were issued with the first
production runs of the tank, but due to reliability problems as well as
a preference for double-pin "live" track they were short-lived
in the field. Since DML is the only one that I know of to make a styrene
T66 track, I was quite surprised to find the model fitted with the T80
tracks. While the former are one of the best sets made by DML and are
easy to assemble and fit, their T80 tracks are a pain, as the guide teeth
are separate (to provide the correct "hollow light bulb" shape)
and must be individually attached to the track links, which is a very
tedious chore for both cleanup and assembly. Add the fact that each track
link has two big ejection pin marks on it and this is about a 15 hour
job for the tracks alone.
Decals are provided for the tank as used at the Bulge. While issued with
nice big shiny white stars and registration numbers, they were painted
out at the same time the skirts were removed to avoid presenting the Germans
with aiming points. The model replicas that with the painted out stars
and numbers, and provides correct bumper codes – e.g. HQ-1 –
for Irzyk's tank.
Overall this is a nice, upgraded kit, but as noted it is a limited production
one so any Sherman fan may want to snap it up on sight.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.