Pic 1: The finished model on a scenic base. Pic 2: 'Corregidor', an M12 155mm GMC from the 991st Field Artillery Battalion, fires on targets near St. Lo, France on 16th July 1944, Two days after the Battalion entered combat. Tis is one of the vehicles depicted in the decals in the Academy kit. (US Army). Pic 3: Completed model on it's scenic base with figures. Pic 4: A battery of M12's near Budesheim provide fire support for the 11th Armoured Division during attacks along the Rhine river on 10th March 1944. The closest vehicle is 'Alberta IV' (registration number 4081022) which is one of the vehicles depicted in the kit decals. (US Army). Pic 5: A comparison of several of the available Sherman bogie assemblies. Pic 6: 'Adolph's Assassin', registration number 4081045, another M12 of the 991st Field Artillery Battalion, in action near Korneimunster, Germany on 4th November 1944. By this stage, the battalion was no longer commonly using the regimental crest insignia, probably for security reasons. (US Army).
Additional Notes November 2010: We have heard from Dave Ottoson, whose uncle commanded 'Corregidor', the vehicle featured in photo 2 above. Dave tells us the following -
There had been rumours for over a year that Academy was planning a new series of Sherman kits, starting with some of the self-propelled guns. With the AFV Club M10 3-in GMC already on the shelf, Academy chose wisely to release the M12 155mm GMC as its first release in the series. This is a very nice kit that assembles quite well.
The M12 started off as a simple adaptation of the French World War I-era 155mm GPF to the M3 medium tank chassis. Only a hundred were built, as by the time it was accepted for service in August 1942, the new towed MI 155mm gun was expected. Since these weapons were deployed as corps artillery for indirect fire, there was little perceived need for a self-propelled version. Although the Armoured Force wanted a heavy self-propelled gun, the Army Ground Forces did not agree. In February 1944, a total of 75 M12s were rebuilt to current standards in anticipation of being deployed for the first time during the planned campaign in France. This effort resulted in the use of components more commonly associated with the M4 medium tank, such as the D47527 volute spring suspension.
A total of six field artillery battalions were equipped with the M12 155mm GMC in the summer of 1944: the 557th, 558th, 981st, 987th, 989th and 991st Field Artillery Battalions. Besides the M12 155mm GMC, the battalions also received the M30 Cargo Carrier. A total of 81 M30s were deployed in France which were similar to the M12, except they lacked the rear gun and rear spade, being used to carry ammunition for the guns. The first two M12 battalions were deployed during the Normandy campaign, and the others soon followed. Although they were nominally under corps command, it became common practice to deploy the battalions in support of armoured divisions which made better use of their mobility.
I decided to model a vehicle of the 991st Field Artillery Battalion, and a quick review of its career will give some idea of the combat history of this vehicle. The 991st Field Artillery Battalion descended from the 4th Regiment of the New York State Militia, the famous 'Washington Greys'. This unit traced its lineage back to the honour guard of the first president, George Washington. The 1st Battalion became the 258th Field Artillery Battalion while the 2nd became the 991st FA Battalion. This unit first received the new M12 155mm GMC in February 1942 while still in the United States. It deployed to Normandy in July 1944, and took part in combat for the first time near St. Lo on 14th July 1944 as part of VII Corps artillery. During the subsequent break-out from Normandy and the pursuit across France, the Battalion was mainly assigned to the XIX Corps and the 3rd Armoured Division and remained so for most of the War.
These units saw considerable use. For example on 17th August 1944, the dozen M12s of the Battalion fired 1,073 rounds. The Battalion fought in its first direct fire mission on 2nd-3rd September during a confused fight against the retreating German 348th Infantry Division. Strangely, for a heavy artillery unit, the Battalion captured 500 prisoners and knocked out several tanks by direct fire. The 991st FA Battalion became the first US artillery unit to fire on German soil on 10th September 1944 during the initial stages of the fighting for Aachen. During late September-October, the Battalion was split up to support several different operations. The M12s were much sought-after weapons to destroy German bunkers that were part of the Siegfried line and one battery alone was credited with destroying more than 50 bunkers in a few weeks. The 991st FA Battalion fought in the bloody battles for Aachen and the Huertgen forest, and later during the Ardennes fighting. In February 1945, it provided fire support to the 3rd Armored Division during the fighting for Cologne. The Battalion was split up during the April fighting in Germany, and amongst other actions was used in street fighting to support the 104th Infantry Division in Halle.
The Academy M12 is nicely moulded and comes with a lot of optional parts including a choice of spoked or disc wheels, and a number of accessory parts that will probably be common on Academy Sherman kits.
One of the first issues in dealing with the Academy kit, before tackling the hull, is the matter of interior detail. The kit comes with a basic driver's cabin. In addition, the two openings into the engine compartment are fairly transparent if replaced by screening, and a decision has to be made whether to add some detail below the screening. The main problem in detailing the driver's cabin is not the work itself, but the lack of reference material. I went through the US Army Technical Manual, and there is not enough material to detail the rear bulkhead, which is quite visible. In addition, details of the stowage in the right sponson near the co-driver's position is also lacking. In the end, I decided to add some elementary detail to the bulkhead, but to keep the roof hatches closed to minimise visibility of the interior.
Actually, in the firing position, all of these hatches would be closed to prevent the gun blast from shattering glass instrument dials.
Academy had an excellent idea for the screened engine air intakes on the hull roof. The kit comes with the screened areas moulded in solid plastic, except that they are separate pieces. So modellers not wishing to add real screening can use the kit parts, but modellers wishing to detail the areas can do so without having to cut the areas out. I wish other manufacturers would follow suit!
I had a Tank Workshop engine hanging around from a previous M4A1 that I had built using their dry-stowage Sherman interior set, so I added the engine and some of the more visible detail. Actually, not much of the engine is visible once the screen is in place. Modellers not wishing to go to the trouble of including an engine could get by with adding only the most obvious parts such as the two pipes running into the air filters on the rear bulkhead. For modellers lacking access to a library with US Army manuals, a good substitute is the Military Workshop Series MV-24 on the M12, which reproduces most of the illustrations from the manual. I've included some of the most useful illustrations here.
The Academy kit introduces yet another Sherman suspension to the growing range available from other companies. I thought it would be useful to offer a comparative review of the bogie assemblies in this article for those wondering how the Academy offering differs from previous ones. To begin with, a short historical review; the earliest Sherman's such as the M4 and M4A1 began by using the D37893 vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) as was fitted to the earlier M3 Lee/Grant. This was followed in 1942 by a new VVSS bogie assembly called the D47527. This suspension was also called the 'Second Type' in standard nomenclature lists to distinguish it from the earlier D37893 'First Type'. The 'Second type' comes with all the plastic Sherman kits. The bogie came in two varieties, the D47527A which had the track return roller bracket mounted on the left, and the D47527B which had it mounted on the right.
The D47527 evolved through 1942 and 1943 and one of the first changes came when the US Army began to adopt new steel track links to supplement the existing T40 reversible rubber block tracks. To keep weight down, the steel tracks were not as thick as the rubber block track and this required the addition of a small spacer to the initial C95129 bracket. The new bracket with spacer was called C100334. The Army later decided to standardise on the tracks and adopted the new T51 non-reversible rubber block track. This, and subsequent types, also required the spacer. With the new tracks becoming common, Ordnance decided to simply adopt a modified bracket which did not require a spacer, and this inclined bracket was called the C100823.
Besides these structural changes, there were many cosmetic changes on the D47527 suspension especially in terms of the casting details of the central D47526 bracket. These differences were not due to modification of the basic suspension, but rather were casting differences between the various manufacturers of the part. A careful study of these brackets will show a variety of styles of casting, varying from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some samples are shown in the photos here.
There were two other obvious external changes to the Sherman bogies during 1942; the skids and wheels. The original bogies had a symmetrical bump skid which is provided in the Academy kit as an alternative (Part A5). This type was not common. It was followed by the B197681 skid which 'leaned' towards the front of the tank. The most common type was the familiar B207881 skid, where the skid leaned over the edge of the bracket towards the front of the tank. This was by far the most common type in use, and is the type provided in all the kits including the Academy kit (Part A7).
The configuration of Sherman wheels changed as well. There were two types of bogie wheel assemblies, the C55573C and D78399 which differed in the bearing cavities. This is not of much interest to modellers as it is not evident on a finished model. The early wheels were fitted with the D38501 bogie wheel body which is familiar to modellers as the five-spoke type with holes. There had been complaints from tank battalions as early as the Philippines campaign of 1941-42 that enemy troops were pushing steel bars though the openings and jamming the suspension. This was handled in two ways. A technical bulletin issued in 1944 authorised ordnance units in the field to weld plates over the openings. A more satisfactory response was the development of the new D85163 pressed disk wheel body familiar to modellers as the convex disk wheel found in many kits. A third body assembly was also developed, the D78009, which is the plain concave wheel seen on some late Shermans.
Now that this exciting account of part numbers has been finished, what does this mean to modellers? It is difficult to definitively state which type of bogie and which assortment of wheels, skids and other fittings go with a given hull configuration. No one has done a detailed month-by-month breakdown of Shermans tied with contracts and production dates like that done by Tom Jentz on some of the German tanks, so modellers will have to rely on photographs of the tank they plan to depict. Even then, there will be problems as some of these parts were replaced in the field during periodic overhauls. There are a couple of simple rules. Most Shermans in the ETO in 1944-45 had the standard B207881 skid depicted on most kits. If using steel tracks like those provided in the Academy kit, the suspension at a minimum should have the spacer on the return roller bracket. As a rough rule of thumb, Sherman derivatives on the earlier hull types such as the DML M4A1, M4A4 and Tamiya M4 should have either the C95129 or the C100334 return roller bracket with spacer depending on the type of track being used. Sherman derivatives on the later hull types such as the 47 degree welded hull (Italeri, Tamiya M4A3) or the late M4A1 cast hull (Italeri) should have the inclined C100823 bracket.
It is very difficult to establish hard and fast rules about wheels since they were often replaced in the field when the rubber tire wore down. But as a general rule, the earlier vehicles had the open spoke wheel while the later vehicles had the convex spoke wheel. Once again, photos are the only sure reference on this issue. That having been said, what do the kits provide? The table summarises the features. All of these depict the standard D47527 suspension with the final B207881 skid. The table also lists the overall diameter of the kit wheels as well as the diameter of the metal centre. In 1:35 scale, the overall diameter should be 14.51mm and the metal centre should be 12.47mm. The overall diameter is given in two dimensions, the diameter right off the sprue, and the actual finished diameter after the seams or depressions are cleaned up.
So, how do the various kit parts stack up? By far the best is the Armoured Brigade Model (ABM) resin after-market set. It is the only one to offer options on the brackets, and it has, by far, the most subtle detail such as the rivets on the wheel inner rims and the holes on the bracket front. On the other hand, it is more expensive and difficult to obtain. All of the plastic bogie assemblies are quite good, keeping in mind that modellers should select the style appropriate to the model they are building. The original Italeri bogie is good, but the mould is getting tired on some examples I have. This is particularly the case with the wheel which has such a seam problem that it tends to end up a bit on the small side after sanding.
The DML bogies are the most confusing. Some of the original DML kits such as the M4A4 Firefly came with the Italeri bogie, then a modified Italeri with casting numbers on the centre bracket (as shown in the photo here). DML was criticised for using this bogie with the later style angled C100823 bracket, and went back and developed a whole new bogie with the early C95129 bracket. This was first issued with their excellent M4A1 kit. This was later included with variations of the M4. On the positive side, DML sometimes includes duplicate sets of bogies in some particular releases so modellers can choose which they want to depict.
The Tamiya bogie depicts the later style, but the convex wheel lacks the grease nipple depression. The AFV Club bogie is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it has some of the nicest casting detail on the main bracket, and the separate arms provide somewhat more delicate detail than on any of the other plastic kits. But the vinyl springs are a nuisance, and the depiction of the area under the springs is not good. The wheels have caused the main complaints. The tyre is too thick when first cut off the sprue, but the moulding has such a notable concave depression running down the centre that I had to sand it down to a diameter of about 15mm to get the surface true. It is still a bit too large, but not as much when on the sprue. Finally, the AFV Club suspension shows the C100334 return roller bracket with spacer, but the detail of the spacer is actually fairly mushy.
Of the plastic sets, the new Academy is the best. Aside from the ABM set, it is the only one to provide detail on the inside face of the wheel. It also provides both the spoke and disc style wheels. I particularly liked the fact that the skid is separate. This makes it much easier to clean up the suspension seam lines and the skid itself. It is not without its faults, however, the casting numbers on the bogie bracket are spurious. The casting should, at least, have the part number (D47526) right. This is a minor matter that I think will be ignored by most modellers. Overall, all of the kit bogies are more than adequate and most of their problems can be remedied with a little work. I would like to thank fellow Sherman enthusiast Kurt Laughlin with his help on many of the details of the Sherman bits and pieces.
Completing the Hull
The kit comes with a set of vinyl tracks depicting the steel cleat track. This was one of the few weak features of the kit, and I don't think that the detail is as good as on the AFV Club's vinyl steel track in their M10 kit. Although I have seen at least one photo of an M12 with what might be steel track, most used normal rubber block track. I used the RHPS individual link T51 rubber block track. This is one of a new line of injection moulded Sherman track. The set goes together well, though some of the blocks suffer a bit from shrinkage which leads to slight depressions in the centre of the block.
Sherman track is probably the most aggravating type of individual link track to assemble. My solution to this has been to build a set of assembly jigs and I originally built these years ago to assemble the individual link Sherman tracks in the DML M4A1 kit, but I find that they work well with the AFV Club T51 track and the RHPS track. I made the jigs out of bass wood, although balsa would work as well. The first jig has a floor and two sides, spaced wide enough to accommodate a thick Sherman track like the rubber chevron type. The jig is closed at one end by a piece of wood. I load this jig with Sherman blocks, which holds them in place while I add track connectors on one side. The second jig is similar, except that it does not have the floor in place. The two spacers that hold the main arms in place are held together with plastic rod, so that one of the arms can be removed after the second run of end connectors are glued in place. The accompanying photo is probably a clearer demonstration of the idea than this description.
With the suspension in place, I continued work on the hull. The sponson braces (C61) should actually be attached to the lower hull via a plate that bolts to the rear-most suspension bogie. The locating hole on the kit is incorrectly positioned and should be filled in. The plate is a simple bar, and the reference photos here show the shape and location.
There should be a row of rivets added down the hull side near the engine exhaust.
One of the major irritations 1 encountered with the Academy kit was the transmission cover (El, E42-43). The kit places the attachment flange for the cover on the front of the upper hull, rather than as an integral part of the transmission cover as it should be. To make matters worse, I found that there was a significant gap between the transmission cover and the upper hull piece. Finally, the main transmission part (E-1) shows a lip running the whole way across the top of the part, instead of on only the centre casting. To make a long story short, I cut the flange off the hull top part, attached it to the transmission cover, and then filed away the offending lips on the outer edges of the cover. This required the addition of a sheet plastic spacer to extend the hull top forward. The transmission cover detail is not too good, and parts E-42/43 should blend into the main housing more smoothly. I accomplished this by smoothing the joints with several liberal applications of Gunze Sangyo Mr. Surfacer 500. The casting numbers on this parts are quite apparent, and I added these from Aber photo-etch. Once the whole assembly was finished, I painted the whole thing with Mr. Surfacer 500, stippling the surface to build up some cast texture. The rest of the hull front is fairly straight forward. I replaced the kit headlight guards with photo-etched parts as the kit parts are shown as being circular in cross-section and are unredeemable. As I was showing a vehicle in firing position, I left the headlights off, and added the appropriate plug from a Grandt Line rivet and washer set. The stowed tools on the engine deck provided in the kit are good, and can use the usual attachment straps for better accuracy. The grouser box (C-48) is provided with some spare track links. It should, in fact, be filled with grousers like those provided in the AFV Club M10 kit. An easier way around the problem is simply to put a lid over the box, which was the way it was issued. The hand winch for the rear spade (Parts C24-C27) is fine, but the assembly lacks the forward gear shaft. In addition, the winch handle (C29) can be fitted to the assembly instead of being stowed as shown on the instructions. I thinned this part down with files as it is too thick.
The gun compartment can use a fair amount of work. The vertical walls and shelves towards the back (C44, 55, 60, 64-67) are a bit chunky due to the limitations of injection moulding. I replaced all of these with sheet plastic, using the kit parts as patterns. The seats (C46, C56) have cushions that are too thin and lacking in bulk. I thickened them up using epoxy putty. The air filter cover (C59) is depicted as being completely symmetric. In fact, the face of the pyramid facing forward towards the bulkhead is bulged to accommodate the air hose coming from the engine. I added a piece of half-round plastic tubing, and faired it in to the kit part to get a more accurate shape.
The 155mm projectiles provided in the kit are of incorrect shape, being much too conical in the upper portion. I used the far better 155mm projectiles provided in the AFV Club accessories set for 155mm and 8-inch ammunition (AFV Club 35017). The plastic projectiles in the AFV Club set are the configuration suitable for the stowed rounds in the rear of the M12. These have the protective strips over the rotating bands and the lifting eyes in the fuse pocket. The turned brass rounds in the AFV Club set depict rounds prepared for firing with the fuse in place and the brass rotating bands exposed. I used two of these on the base of my model. Incidentally, the AFV Club ammunition depicts the later World War Two style of 155mm projectile with a single 2-inch rotating band. The World War I style, which was still used during the 1944 campaign until stocks were exhausted, had two narrow rotating bands, but was otherwise of similar shape. The kit's depictions of the circular depressions for the stowage of the projectiles are too shallow. They should in fact be about 2mm deep, not flush with the floor as shown in the kit. This doesn't matter if the ammunition is shown stowed, but remember to cut down the base of the ammunition a bit to account for the depression in the pockets.
The bag charges were stowed in the usual fibre-board tubes. These were stowed in the left sponson compartment and on the floor in racks behind the gun. The kit does not provide any of these, but they are simple enough to make from plastic tube. They usually were black with a yellow tear-strip. The kit provides two bag charges outside the tube (B-19, 20) but these are a bit large and poorly detailed. A drawing from the wartime manual shows the proper shape. These were made of a pale khaki fabric with the base of the bag being red.
The entrenching spade is not one of the better items in the kit. Academy has simplified the shape of the side arms (C13,14). The depiction of the triangular projection at the bottom of the arm is too simple. This doesn't matter too much if the spade is shown in retracted position as I did with my model. But it should be corrected if the spade is shown in travelling position. The arms which lock the spade when in travelling position (C62, 63) are too thick and of square cross-section when they should be round. I removed the locating mount and added new parts fabricated from sheet plastic and plastic rod. The kit provides thin thread for the cable used to lower and elevate the spade, but I thought this was a bit heavy and replaced it with some 6-mil carbon fibre, a material used by aircraft modellers for rigging biplanes.
Building the Gun
The 155mm gun in the kit is basically acceptable except that much of the detail can be thinned down closer to scale. The base parts (E2, E4) are shown with the ribs solid due to moulding limitations. In fact, there should be a series of holes around the base. This is easy enough to cut out using a burr in a power tool. I also thinned down the reinforcing ribs around the base which are a bit thick. The kit depicts the top of the base (E3) as rotating with the trunnion mount (E5, E6). In fact, if you want to depict your gun off centre, the front locating pin should be removed from E3 and this part fixed to the base (E4), not the trunnion mounts.
The breech area can use some small detail work as the details are simplified. I replaced the gunner's splinter shield (E46, 47) with a new one made of sheet plastic, along with the attachment plate that forms the upper part of E21. I replaced the forward portion of the gun tube with a length of plastic tube as the kit barrel opening is too thick, and I wanted to show the barrel rifling. It was easier to replace the barrel with some tubing than thin it down before adding the rifling, however, most modellers probably won't want to bother with this. I did the rifling using some spare photo-etched grilles.
Painting and Markings
The schemes available for the M12 155mm GMC are quite limited as there were only six battalions equipped with this vehicle. A useful photo reference on the M12 is the Squadron Signal booklet on US Self-Propelled Guns. All the vehicles I have seen in photos are painted in the normal Olive Drab without evidence of camouflage. The 991st Field Artillery Battalion was certainly the most colourfully marked. It was the only battalion to use its regimental crest. The kit decals cover three guns from this unit, 'Corregidor', 'June Gil', and 'Adolph's Assassin'. The kit decals do not show the marking in the proper colours. The regimental crest should be red with grey, not white stripes and stars. This is tied to the Battalion's lineage to the Washington Greys.
The 1st Battalion which became the 258th FA Battalion had the shield without a border, while the 2nd Battalion which became the 991st had a gold or yellow border. So the trim should be in yellow or gold, not dark blue. The crest for 'June Gil' was not in the proper order, having the stars and centre bars in red, and the background in light grey. 'Adolph's Assassin' did not carry the crest when it was photographed during the fighting in Germany. It's likely that by this time, the crest had been painted over as Army regulations discouraged the use of regimental crests as tactical markings.
I made a new set of decals using my computer and ink-jet printer. As I mentioned several issues ago in an article on the KV-1S, decal sheets are available now which can be used with ink-jet printers. I used a sheet of Micro Mark solid white decal sheet (item 82277) for this project. I illustrated the regimental crest using Adobe Photoshop, then scaled it down to the proper size. I copied it several times on the basic artwork, as I have found that this decal sheet tends to have many small imperfections due to the ink beading up on its surface. This is probably more trouble than most modellers are willing to endure, but the 'Adolph's Assassin' scheme doesn't need the crest. These field artillery battalions seldom used the normal bumper codes as they were not usually attached to the same higher formations for any period of time.
A few notes should probably be made about ammunition colours. The standard 155mm projectiles were painted olive drab for high explosive rounds and grey for white phosphorus smoke rounds. I painted a few of the stowed projectiles grey, and most in Olive Drab. The markings on the rounds were painted in yellow, not in white as depicted on the kit decals. However, if using the AFV Club projectile set, there is a good set of yellow decal stencils for the markings.
I depicted my M12 with two crew, one pulling the lanyard, and another solider preparing the ammunition. The gunner pulling the lanyard is from the Nemrod set of US tanker figures depicting a tanker in HBT coveralls. This was a straightforward conversion, as I simply repositioned arms in the set for the pose. The kneeling figure with his hands over his ears is the Royal Models' US tanker figure (No. 165) with new arms and Historex resin hands. I added the arms the usual way, by first attaching the arms and hand using an aluminium wire armature, and then bui
lding up the arms from epoxy putty. Both figures use Hornet resin heads.
First published in Military Modelling Vol.30 No.10 2000
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