Home > Reviews > USA WWII > Academy M4A2 Sherman US Marines (13203)


Academy M4A2 Sherman US Marines (13203)

by Frank De Sisto

Contains: 390 styrene parts, two vinyl track lengths, one piece of nylon string, five waterslide decal options and 12 pages of instructions in 17 steps. Price: $39.00 USD.

This is Academy’s second version of the M4A2 and is a logical follow-up to the previous 76mm-armed version of the venerable and popular Sherman tank. This kit will allow the modeler to produce a late-production tank with a 75mm-armed turret, as seen in use by some US Marine Corps’ tank battalions in the Pacific, during World War Two.

From the ground, up, Academy has provided the following: T48 rubber chevron tracks with extended end connectors, two full sets of road wheels and their accompanying idler wheels (stamped or welded), two styles of drive sprocket (open or solid) and straight-arm VVSS bogies. There are also two extra dished road wheels as well as four extra welded road wheels, the latter including the plates sometimes added between the open spokes. Also, for some reason, Academy has added a completely new set of swing arm/axle moldings for the VVSS bogies.

The lower hull has the proper panels on its belly to represent the diesel-engine version, a natural hold-over from the original M10 kits. The lower hull rear panel has the proper radiators and baffles, as well as the curved exhaust shroud to compliment the exhaust system. The bow is covered with a late-style, sharp-nose one-piece cast differential cover.

The upper hull has been improved, compared to this manufacturer’s earlier M4A2 76mm kit in that the angle of the rear panel has been re-set correctly. Details added to the rear panel include stowage rack and spare track block holders, although for reasons I will later explore, they are not noted in the instructions. All detail parts for the upper hull, such as gas caps, vents and fire extinguisher pull handle guards are separate parts. The engine deck and its doors are also separate parts as are the crew hatches. These last items feature nice details such as separate periscope heads, flaps, brush guards and rotating plates. The two periscopes situated at the forward edge of the hull are also separate parts. The remainder of the hull receives standard Sherman items such as head- and tail-lamps with their associated brush guards, lifting hooks, bow machine gun and travel crutch for the 75mm gun. The turret represents a high bustle type with oval loader’s hatch, but without the built-in cheek armor. It is nicely textured and features the M34A1 mantlet for the 75mm gun.

As was the case with the hull, all periscopes are separate items, along with their flaps, brush guards and rotating plates. There is a choice of either the early split-hatch, or later vision cupola for the commander, both with separate hatches. There are some other nice detail touches included such as separate springs for the loader’s hatch, separate hold-open catches for the hatches, commander’s blade sight and various fittings for the .50-cal. M2 machine gun. The M2 itself is well done and features separate grips, cocking handle and ammo box/cradle. The M34A1 mantlet has foundry casting part numbers on its surface (a first in plastic for this type of mount), but surprisingly, the turret roof does not.There are parts to depict the kit in USMC service, such as spare track and wood plank stand-off “armor”, as well as deep wading stacks.

The stacks are very nicely done, include weld details, the proper adapter for this particular engine deck, and can be depicted partly or fully erected. However there are some small details missing such as various strips that would represent braces, as well as the cables used to release the top parts. There should also probably be some sort of a seal for the exhaust pipes, where they enter the curved shroud.

The remaining parts come from all previous Academy kits and include various jerry cans, packs, ammo boxes, racks, spare track, canteens, tools and boxes. There are also tiny wing nuts as well as bolts that can be used as detail parts.

Another very handy item included in this and all Academy Sherman-based kits are the small foundry symbols, as well as letters and numbers that are seen on cast parts. These will be very useful to those that like to add the last little detail.

Three of the five markings schemes given are not accurate for USMC M4A2s.The only ones correct for an M4A2 are:
1. M4A2 “Caesar”, of C Co., 2nd Tk.Bn., on Tinian in 1945.
2. M4A2 “Goldbrick Jr.”, of the 4th Tk.Bn., also on Tinian in 1945.

The remainder of the markings are only correct if used on the Tamiya M4A3. They are:
3. M4A3 “Nitemare II, LA Bound Via Kitano Point” of the 5th Tk.Bn. on Iwo Jima in 1945.
4. M4A3 “Boomerang”, of B Co., 4th Tk.Bn. on Iwo Jima in 1945.
5. M4A3 “Doris”, of D Co., 4th Tk.Bn. on Iwo Jima in 1945.

So, as I said, although the markings are accurate, in checking them out, I found the kit’s only major flaw, as well as several minor ones. All are workable, but read on!

For starters, all tanks (‘A2s and ‘A3s) for which markings are provided in this kit need the later, up-swept return roller arms on the VVSS bogies. By far the easiest and most economical way for the Shermanoholic to fix this is to simply swap these for the VVSS bogies in the Tamiya early-production (actually a mid-production) M4 kit. They are a drop fit, but it would have been nice if Academy did a new suspension set, especially if they plan on doing other later Sherman types.

Secondly, if you use the remaining markings on the Tamiya M4A3, the plank armor is not properly presented. All photos of these particular tanks show that, where the detail can be seen, there were two wide planks on the hull sides, not five narrower ones. The modeler can either fill, sand and re-scribe the kit parts, or replace them with the appropriately configured pieces of styrene sheet or bass wood.

Next in line are the kit’s instructions. They do not tell the modeler which marking scheme has which type of commander’s cupola. Simply stated: “Caesar” and “Goldbrick Jr.” have the early split-hatch design; the other three, which are M4A3s, have the vision cupola. Interestingly enough, although these are large-hatch wet stowage hulls, both “Caesar” and “Goldbrick Jr.” feature hull side appliqué armor panels, which are included in the kit and shown on the decal segment of the instruction sheet. The other three tanks have the wood planks on their flanks.

Finally, photos show that the M4A3 “Doris” had the additional water tank on the rear of the engine deck. This is not included in the Academy kit, but can be easily scratch-built from styrene tube, or sourced from the Italeri M4A2 75mm kit. Note also that some tanks had the small racks to store three track links on either corner of the upper rear armor plate, and that the stowage tray seen there would not be fitted when deep wading stacks were present. The parts are supplied in the kit, but the instructions ignore this point entirely.

Wheel styles vary on these tanks, but Academy has that covered with what they give you in the box. RHPS or AFV Club (or a good Sherman spares box) will cover the difference in track styles. The best currently available books are Zaloga’s “Tank Battles of the Pacific War 1941-1945” (Concord Armor at War #7004). But, beware since all Iwo Jima tanks are described by Zaloga as being M4A2 (w) when in fact, Gilbert’s “”Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific” (Combined Publishing, ISBN 1-58097-050-8, published in 2001) states quite clearly, from veterans accounts (and other documents) that they were M4A3 (w). In examining the photos that Zaloga uses in his book (published in 1995), it is quite impossible to make out the differences in types. So, if that’s the reference Academy used, they can be forgiven their error.

I have built an Academy M10, so I can say with confidence that such things as the suspension and lower hull components exhibit excellent fit. I assembled this kits upper and lower hull, rear plate, engine deck, differential cover and turret components; likewise I found the fit to be excellent. Overall, molding is crisp with easily visible ejector pin marks limited to the inside surfaces of the hatches. The usual parts such as brush guards exhibit some chunkiness, but that’s the nature of the beast and also why God invented photo-etched brass. Although the turret and mantlet have a nice cast texture, there is none on the differential cover or the front section of the hull roof. As is the case with almost all Sherman kits that have welded hulls, Academy shows the weld beads as being indented, when they should be proud of the surface. There should also be a line of bolts across the top, and down the center of the hull’s upper rear armor plate. Molding constraints prevented this detail from being cast on, but there are bolt heads included on the kit’s accessory sprue that will allow the modeler to add this detail.

All in all, this kit is not too shabby. It is more accurate than the previous effort from Academy and is certainly superior to the earlier Italeri offering. It has one main drawback (the suspension bogies), which shows that Academy still must do better research, especially if they will market later Sherman variants. The minor drawback is the markings, but on the plus side, they can be used on the Tamiya M4A3. But the kit’s strengths also ensure that a fine model will result with just a bit of extra effort. This can also be said of some of the “best” kits ever made.

Recommended with reservations.

Model Rectifier Corp. is the North American distributor of Academy kits. Available from retail and mail order shops. For images see Academy’s site at: www.academy.co.kr.