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M4A2 Tarawa

Dragon, 1/35 scale

by Steven J. Zaloga

Dragon's 1/35 scale M4A2 is available online from Mission Models


Dragon continues to favor Shermans among its Allied releases, and the forthcoming Tarawa M4A2 is a major step forward, including a fresh M4A2 hull and a new 75mm turret. The initial release depicts a US Marine M4A2 on Tarawa, but Dragon has already announced a British Sherman III which will apparently include a somewhat different hull configuration and presumably British features such as the rear stowage bin, sand shields, etc.

I received a test shot of the kit a few weeks ago and the model was not entirely complete when I received it, so some details of my model may differ slightly from the final release.


To begin with, the kit represents a few departures from recent Dragon Shermans. Most notably, the kit includes Dragon's DX soft track rather than the usual individual link track. I am not a big fan of the usual vinyl track, but the new Dragon semi-styrene soft track has remarkably good detail; the end connectors have much finer detail than the Dragon hard-plastic track. The other big change is that the box is not full of the usual spare bits from a half-dozen other kits. So much of this kit is new that it hasn't been necessary to include the usual assortment of redundant parts.

The parts that are familiar have been modified. For example, Dragon includes the usual mid-production heavy VVS bogie, but it has been improved (again) in a variety of ways, such as a much thinner track skid, and (finally!) rear detail for the stamped idler. This bogie assembly is currently my favorite for Shermans, even over the more elaborate Tasca Type A kit, if for no other reason than the clever placement of the mold lines on the Dragon road wheels near the edge instead of the center. This means that cleaning up the road-wheels is very easy process compared to the usual tedious process of removing the centerline mold! Furthermore, this leaves the edge detail sharp. I would still use Tasca if I wanted to fully articulate the suspension on a diorama, but for 99% of Sherman building, I would use the Dragon because it is simpler to assemble with excellent detail and not the fiddly Tasca spring gimmick. And of course, the DML suspension is in the same price range as Tasca but with a full Sherman kit attached to it!


The new M4A2 parts are a joy to behold. The new 75mm turret is gorgeous and for the first time includes both the early and late gun shield (the bolted bit behind the mantlet). The two-piece commander's hatch is the earlier style (no exposed springs) and has some lovely locking pin details. The ejector port on the left side is left open, complete with the interior opening arm. The casting effects are superb and rival the better resin examples.

The hull depicts the welded driver hood type, and is a completely new mold with very crisp details. The new driver/BOG hatches are superb, right down to the springs detail.

I built mine pretty much out of the box with a few improvements. The Tarawa Marine M4A2 had a jerrican rack on the rear as well as the usual deflector which I added. The kit decals show the IMAC Tank Battalion Elephant in grey, but I have seen color footage of the tanks on Tarawa which them to be yellow. So I repainted the decals in the appropriate areas. The decals include markings for several tanks, but strangely enough, not for "China Gal" which was involved in the duel with a Type 95 Ha-go of the 7th Sasebo SNLF. So I did a new name from dry transfers.

The accompanying Marine on my model base is fron the excellent "Gen 2" Dragon Tarawa set. I made two changes to the figure, substituting a Hornet head as I didn't have the time to clean up the Dragon two-piece head, and adding shoe-laces to the boot.



These new Gen 2 figures are excellent, but are very much unlike previous plastic figures. They really are little miniature kits in their own right with numerous parts. They take longer to assemble, but the detail is much better than previous Dragon figures, and set a new standard for plastic figures.

Model, Images and Text by Steven J. Zaloga
Page Created 27 September, 2006
Page Last Updated 08 October, 2006