Italeri 6389 US Marines M4 Sherman
|Inside a new-style
box with military pattern stencilled kit name and "Military Vehicle"
wording, this is a mix of old and new parts very similar to the
now-deleted kit 288 "M4A3 Sherman with Calliope" without that kit's
rockets but with two extra sprues to depict tanks used in the Pacific
Campaign. As such, many parts are very familiar. The lower hull and
suspension sprue is common to all Italeri Sherman and variants models.
Upper hull was used in the M36B1 and badly misnamed "M4A2 Jumbo" kits as
well as the Calliope and depicts a late-style M4A3 with 47 degree hull
front and large hatches with some items left over from its original
existence in the M4A1 76mm and M32 kits. Turret is from the Calliope kit,
giving a later 75mm turret with high bustle and loader's hatch though the
commander's two-flap gun-ring hatch parts are not included. Also on this
sprue is a set of pressed-steel roadwheels and idlers. Tracks are T54E1
metal chevron pattern also from the Calliope. These are combined with two
new sprues. One gives an M4A2 engine deck, commander's vision cupola, .5"
Browning, the lowest part of the hull rear wading trunking and several
spare track links.
There are two sets of four metal chevron links in a frame, fifteen individual track links and twelve more with attached end connectors. Most of these have one or two ejector pin marks on each one which spoils the effect when these are on the chevron side, and there is more sinkage on my example than I would like to have. Second new sprue gives the wading trunking, two sets of the vertical sections with curved tops, the adapter for the rear hull trunk and separate adapters for M4A2 and M4A3 hull tops grills, as well as a small cylindrical tank to go on the hull top and the wooden side armour. These last parts have the usual mock wood-grain effect which sometimes spoils their appearance but does match come of the planking seen in photos. A small sheet of nylon mesh is included for the wading trunking openings.
Also new is a small decal sheet with markings for two vehicles listed as US Marine Corps Pacific Theatre 1945, of which more later. So, just what is the kit? It is not an M4 in that it depicts either a late M4A3 75mm Wet Stowage vehicle - by accident or design, much the same as the recent revamped Tamiya kit 35250 - with an option to replace the engine decks with M4A2 pattern ones. To make this diesel type, you have to cut out the original kit decking which can be done by repeated scoring with a suitable blade (I have done this myself to convert the M4A3 hull to an M4 using the Italeri M4A1/M32B1 decking). No parts for the rear hull plate and exhausts for the M4A2 are included however, though the kit is intended to be built with the exhaust trunking which covers most of this area. As well as the wading trunking, wooden plank side armour is included as used in the Pacific island-hopping battles to defeat Japanese magnetic mines. Spare track links are used on the turret sides also to increase protection, while other measures included nails or metal mesh pieces fixed over the crew hatches. Of these extra items, the wading trunking looks close to that shown in photos, while the side planking is perhaps a little too thin. The upper, vertical parts of the wading trunking would be jettisoned after landing, though the lower section was often retained and even had its own separate mesh cover which the kit includes. To be strictly accurate the kit needs some additions.
One option, the tank NITEMARE II shown on the box top, appears in Steve Zaloga's "Tank Battles of the Pacific War 1941-1945" (Concord 7004) which identifies it as a vehicle from 5th Marine Tank Battalion on Iwo Jima in March 1945. This tank had mesh over the hatches, tracks with extended end connectors and other small details need to be added and it does not seem to have the hull top tank. Other tanks from the same Battalion and the 4th Marine Tank Battalion are also shown, they have the side planking, hatch protection, carry sandbags on the hull top and some have the small tank. The other option depicted is as an M4A3 which is most likely to be a US Army tank despite its Marine identification on the instruction sheet. Their vehicles seem to have used the two-digit turret numbers provided on the decal sheet, often with white stars on the turret or hull sides though these were sometimes painted out.
They also lacked the wooden side armour. Other finishes for a Pacific campaign vehicle can be found in the Concord book, or you could just use the kit as the basis for a European theatre late M4A3 more or less out of the box by leaving off the wading gear and side armour. The applique side armour from the Calliope kit is included here but not the older style commander's hatch, unfortunate as this would have increased the range of options for the kit and doubly so as other parts from the older sprues which are of little value are included but not used. Having two sets of road wheels is good as one is available for spares, though the likelihood is that tanks of this build-standard would have the pressed steel pattern.
So, a mixed package, not perfect but with some useful parts now available in a plastic kit and at a recommended price - at least here in the UK - of well under half that of the new Tamiya M4A3 75mm albeit without that kit's extra stowage and figures and still cheaper than the original Tamiya 75mm, this is good value for money and a useful addition to the range of Sherman kits. It may well also the the US Marines M4A2 which was listed as due from Dragon some time ago but which has not as yet appeared.