Marine M4A2 Tarawa
Marine M4A2 Tarawa
Dragon M4A2 in Marine Service

The first Sherman tank that the Marines took into combat during WWII was the M4A2.  The most prominent identification features of this variant were the welded hoods and diesel engines.  These tanks were a good representation of, sometimes hodgepodge, wartime expediency.  From the photographs you can see: an early one-piece differential and final drive housing; appliqué hull armor; an early M34 gun mount; no appliqué armor on the turret; solid drive sprocket and idler; and welded up early spoked road wheels.

The M4A2 with welded hoods is an essential for any Shermanaholic.  Thankfully Dragon offers two pretty nice kits.  The first to appear was the M4A2 “Tarawa.”  The Tarawa kit had a few shortcomings that were fixed with the subsequent release of the Sherman Mk III “Sicily.”   Additional differences between the kits are the tracks, gun mount, and sand shields.

Dragon M4A2 Tarawa Sherman III Sicily

Side-by-side comparison of the two kits shows the following improvements: the hoods were extended forward, Fig. 2 – 3; a much improved early cast differential and final drive housing, Fig. 4 – 5; correctly positioned guides for the locating of the bolts on the rear hull plate, Fig. 6 – 7; corrected engine deck grills, Fig. 8.   While the Tarawa will build into a nice model, I would recommend starting with the Sicily.  The Sicily kit also includes the earlier M34 gun mount.  The downside is that you will need the T54 tracks.

Dragon M4A2 Tarawa Sherman Mk III compared
Dragon M4A2 Tarawa Sherman Mk III compared
Dragon M4A2 Tarawa Sherman Mk III compared
Dragon M4A2 Tarawa Sherman Mk III compared

At times Dragon does some real head scratchers?  When they redid the upper hull, they just decided to add the extra parts in the same shot.  You can tell that the designer was not a modeler, Fig. 9.  They have chosen to add some terribly bulky sprues to one of the most critical areas of the upper hull.  Needless to say, very careful removal and trimming are necessary here.  Another snafu present in some of their 47° hulls is the cutout for the front fender, Fig. 10.  I suspect an unwitting designer noticed the step between the fender and the sand shield strip not realizing that the strip was welded on lower than the edge of the actual hull.  In any case, the cutout needs to be filled.

Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik

I began by cementing in some .060” styrene strip, Fig. 11.  The ruler helped keep things straight.  I reduced the outside excess with a file, Fig. 12.  The tape protects the hull sides from the file.

Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik

I clamped blocks to the side of the hull to act as a guide for my file when reducing the top surface of the styrene addition, Fig. 13.  A little double sided tape between the block and the hull kept the block from slipping.  Dragon got the front of the sponson right with the Normandy kit.  Figures 14 and 15 compare the before and after with the Normandy hull.  Figure 16 illustrates the completed addition.

Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik

I sectioned up the road wheels to add a solid surface between the spokes, Fig. 17.  Rather than using the kit supplied small photo etched bolt heads I used pins made from brass wire, Fig. 18.  I used the technique described here.

Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik

My references are extremely thin for the exhaust deflector fitted to these tanks so what I created is impressionistic and cobbled together.  The only prototype photo that I have is from Hunnicutt, Sherman, Fig. 19.  I also have a Tasca M4A2 with cast hoods that has their version of the exhaust deflector.  The Tasca deflector doesn’t quite fit because the sides of the Dragon hull are thicker.  I used the lower piece of the Tasca exhaust deflector to create a form from hydrocal, Fig. 20.  I vacuformed the center section of the duct and then added styrene strip stock.  Figure 21 shows the completed deflector.

Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik

The fenders from the Sherman Mk III “Sicily” kit can be used for a Pacific M4A2 but you need to cut away the excess as indicated by the red line, Fig. 22.  I chose to use the fenders from one of Dragon’s M4 “Normandy” kits, Fig. 23.  A more detailed description of how to work with Dragon’s photo etched fenders can be found here.

Dragon Photo Etch Fenders
Dragon Photo Etch Fenders

I find it easier to use styrene for the sand shield bolt strips.  I use .010” x .060” styrene strip.  The strip is cemented to place using a simple jig that I made from strips of .030” and .015” strip styrene, Fig. 24.  The jig is held under the sponson with double sided sticky tape.  I used spare appliqué armor panels from the Dragon Normandy.  Remove the weld bead from the bottom as they were usually only welded on the sides and top, Fig. 25.

Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
Dragon M4A2 construction Paul Budzik
References

Steve Zolaga, "Tarawa," Military Modeling (http://www.militarymodelling.com/news/article.asp?a=3242)

R. P. Hunnicutt, Sherman, Taurus Enterprises