Dragon M4A3 (76) W VVSS Sherman
Battle of the Bulge (6255)
by Cookie Sewell
1,408 parts (1,368 in grey styrene, 20 etched brass, 15 clear styrene,
2 turned aluminum, 2 turned brass, 1 braided steel wire); price estimated
at US $32-34
Advantages: clean kit of standard production M4A3 with tons of optional
parts; two complete figure sets thrown in for good measure
Disadvantages: tracks will give some modelers fits
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For all US Armor Fans and "Shermaholics"
F I R S T L O O K
Without a doubt one of the top US commanders at brigade and below levels
during World War II was Creighton Abrams. As commander of the 37th Tank
Battalion of the 4th Armored Division, he established an enviable reputation
as a tank battalion commander and also as a "lead by example"
tank commander. He was reportedly one of the top-scoring US tankers of
WWII if not the top scorer, and the 37th was generally accepted as the
top US armor battalion in Europe.
Abrams named all of his tanks "Thunderbolt" and numbered them
as he went through the series of tanks issued to him. Of all his tanks
probably "Thunderbolt VI," an M4A3 76mm standard production
Sherman with VVSS used in the fall of 1944, and "Thunderbolt VII",
an M4A3E8 which he used as a combat command commander at the end of the
war, are probably the best known. As with many of the 37th's tanks, "Thunderbolts"
had a large cartoon cloud with three lightning bolts painted on its sides
along with the name and number in the sequence.
In keeping with their recent series of late war tanks, DML has now issued
a kit that may be built up as "Thunderbolt VI" during the Battle
of the Bulge in December 1944. It is based on their recent new molding
M4A2 Russian Army kit and uses some of the same sprues from that model
but with a number of changes and new parts added.
The kit includes the "B" or turret sprue from the M4A2 kit
but now adds an "H" sprue that provides the oval hatch for the
loader as well as a built-up version of the early M4A3 standard production
radiator air deflector that goes above the engine exhausts.
While the number of parts listed may be mind-numbing, most of them relate
to the tracks. 684 are the set of tracks provided with the latest version
of the M4A4 /Sherman V/VC Firefly kit and come with a set of extended
end connectors. Since those tracks have the incorrect (for this version)
British-style steel chevron track, the kit also comes with 192 T48 rubber
chevron blocks. These are the ones for use with the American tracks used
on this model, and the modeler now has a choice of with or without extended
DML's three-piece scale US medium tank tracks are not popular with many
modelers, and I myself have to state up front that assembling them correctly
and neatly can be an 8 to 12 hour chore. If you don't want to use them,
but still want single link tracks, I suggest spending the $16-18 for a
set of RHPS tracks that can be put together in less than two hours. There
are few offerings of vinyl T48 track around, and most of them require
buying another kit first so get expensive to use. I do not recommend the
Fruil or Model Kasten "working" tracks as they take even longer
I put them together as "semi-working" by cementing one end
connector to one end fo a link and then inserting a second link in place,
and then trapping it by gluing the other end connector in place. I use
a small homemade jig for this, making up sets of ten and letting them
dry before joining them. If done correctly they do flex and also permit
painting and installing them after the model is completed.
The model offers a choice of "mid-production" or "late-production"
suspension units, the difference between them being a "straight"
return roller mount with pillow blocks to lift the roller or an "upswept"
mount as found on late-production VVSS tanks. It also comes with either
"spoke" welded road wheels or "cast" road wheels –
actually a pressed steel disk welded in place – with detail on both
There are other options too – either the kit styrene gun barrel
may be used or a turned aluminum substitute is provided; the kit also
provides a "pre-bored" one-piece muzzle brake or a thread saver
fitting for the end of the barrel from turned aluminum. Two turned brass
rounds, one HE and one AP, are also included.
The kit also comes with the clear styrene components for the lights,
vision ports and the commander's cupola; if you use them in that light,
paint the internal (bottom) ends with a dark color (black, blue or green,
based on preference) and let the normal effects of a prism take affect.
Personally I have used the trick of exposed film strips glued to the lens
portion since I picked it up from Ben Cliche and Steve Zaloga, as well
as MV Lenses for the headlights. Still, it gives the modeler some finishing
Some things have not changed, such as the fact that the suspension is
still based on the 30+ year old Italeri M4A1 kit, and while much better
detailed and more accurate still suffers from "rocking" bogies
as it is hard to solidly lock them up. Also, even after comments from
myself and Steve Zaloga among others, the weld beads are still recessed,
rather than flush with the top of the hull, creating an unrealistic "trench."
Since this is a "Bulge" tank, DML has also thrown in two figure
sets – No. 6054, the US Army Europe Tank Crew with five figures,
and No. 6163, 101st Airborne at Bastogne 1944. They account for another
156 parts in the box. One of the figures can be made to approximate Abrams,
as he wore an M1 helmet shell over the normal tanker helmet, and one figure
that comes with that configuration (B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B7, B8, B9,
B11, B13, B20) which the directions suggest should be a sergeant can get
a "battlefield promotion" to lieutenant colonel!
The kit offers six different finishing options: "Thunderbolt VI"
from 37th Tank Battalion, December 1944; 4th Tank Battalion, 1st Armored
Division, St. Lucia, Italy 1944; 760th Tank Battalion, 5th US Army, Italy
1945; 761st Tank Battalion (The "Black Panthers"), Task Force
Rhine, Germany 1945; Pzkw. M4 748(a), Aschafenberg, Germany 1945; and
714th Tank Battalion, 12th Armored Division, Germany 1945. Note that the
761st was a black unit, one of two manned by African-Americans that saw
combat duty during WWII (and the subject of a recent book by Kareem Abdul-Jabar
dedicated to a good friend of his father's when he was growing up.) Of
these tanks, I think only "Thunderbolt VI" was fitted with the
extended end connectors for its tracks; the directions do not provide
Overall, this is a nicely done kit and one with a ton of parts and possibilities.
(Note that once you open the box, you can't get all the parts back in
it!) Once you get into the rhythm of track assembly, the tracks aren't
as much of a bugaboo either, and add to the realistic look of the finished
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.