part of the new halftrack program from 1941, the U.S. Army also had the third
type produced as a mortar carrier for the 81mm battalion-level mortar. Using the
chassis of the M2 halftrack, the new carrier had a stiffened floor plate and racks
for up to 96 rounds of 81mm mortar bombs around the interior of the hull. It kept
the "skate" ring inside the hull, but also added a door similar to that
used on the larger-bodied M3 halftrack for either access (limited by the skate
rail) or ammo resupply from the ground. Provision was made to mount an SCR-510
radio set and amplifier unit on top of the right hand forward ammo box.
572 of these vehicles were built, and after some modifications based on field
experience, another 600 M4A1 vehicles with a new mounting for the mortar were
also built. This required the addition of a 7 3/8" base spacer to be placed
under the vehicle's mortar baseplate to provide for proper traverse when firing.
The plate at the rear of the had holes spaced at 100 mil intervals (about every
5.6 degrees) for the points of the bipod to engage. From the ground, the main
external differences were the provision of the winch and the "combat"
headlights (M4s had the roller and "highway" headlights).
2nd Armored Division found that the rearward firing mortar was awkward to aim
and use, so they took the components from the M4A1 and reversed them with some
other modifications (one ammo rack was removed, the other mounted in the center
of the vehicle, and the baseplate and traversing plate were reversed). The rear
door was no longer useable, but the increase in tactical effectiveness outweighed
the shortcomings. Later, a refined design on the M3 chassis designated the M21
was built with this feature, but only 110 were built and it did not see wide combat
battalion headquarters in tank and armored infantry battalions had a platoon of
three mortar carriers and a command halftrack, so there were at least 18 to 27
of these vehicles in an armored division.
kit is a beautifully executed early production M4 version of the mortar carrier
and uses the entire M2/M2A1 verbatim with the addition of another 32 parts to
cover the altered internal components of the rear body, the new rear end with
door, and the mortar itself. Only the alternate radiator covers for the "combat
headlights" version of the grille are missing as the M4 only used the "highway"
headlights out on the fenders.
bulk of the kit is identical to the M2/M2A1 set. Four sprues provide the parts
for the chassis and drive train, including a complete White engine and transmission.
While the hood is molded in one piece, DML has notched the back side as well as
the insides of the "cab" sides to permit easy cutting to open them up
for display. The tires have caused a lot of controversy as DML molded them with
a slight bulge to show underinflated tires under load; this has been a love/hate
feature of the kit, but personally I think it is not as bad as some of the "boo
birds" have claimed. To each his own on taste.
bogies and track runs are very impressive, as the idlers and drivers are "slide
molded" with respectively thin details and openings. Each bogie assembly
consists of 18 parts and is very petite; the mounting suspension provides five
more with the track tension adjusters nicely portrayed. The tracks are very interesting:
DML molded them in hard styrene plastic in two halves, cut in such a way that
the "chain" plate drive tooth guides in the center are represented as
they are found on the actual vehicle. Since the tracks were metal with rubber
"endless belt" casings vulcanized onto them, this is a neat way to portray
model again comes with two sets of body panels for the rear compartment, but as
all M4s only had the skate rail the other set is not used, nor is the very nice
M49 ring mount. DML again provides two beautifully done .50 caliber M2HB machine
guns and four equally well done .30 caliber Brownings, all with the correct mounts.
new rear end provides the "split" bumper needed with the new door as
well. These contain the lights, which are correct for WWII. There is an oval on
the left top for the taillight, a rectangle on the right top for the stop light,
and two rectangles on the bottom for the combat blackout taillights. Again, as
this is an early M4, so no rear stowage bins are provided.
cabis neatly done but with only the set of grille mounts included. One is provided
closed and one with the folding louvers removed (these have to be made from etched
brass, as no plastic parts are provided for the louvers.) The model has the "civilian"
style dashboard, so note that the instruments are a brushed aluminum color on
preserved/restored vehicles and not the more common black with white numerals.
winch and roller each come with their own bumper and accouterments, but the M4
only used the roller so the winch goes into the parts box.
new body has the ammo lockers molded in place on the floor pan, but the molding
is neatly done. However, all of the racks are full so it will take some work to
show an "in action" version with some of the bomb stowage tubes missing.
The well for mounting the mortar is present, as are the covers for the well and
the extra frame braces under the floor. The mortar consists of five styrene parts
and a two-piece turned aluminum barrel with the "knob" fitting for the
baseplate turned on the base section.
is again as this is a Smart Kit kept to a minimum and covers the
aforementioned louvers, the headlight guards, the mud flaps, wipers and some small
kit does provide a generic driver with tanker's style jacket and helmet. Note
he comes with his own seat cushion, but it's not for use in this vehicle!
and finishing instructions are provided for three vehicles:
unidentified labeled "Prowler" with the bumper code "SP HQ 13,"
USA 1944 (possibly the demonstration regiment at Fort Knox; painted overall OD)
unidentified (no markings and just serials), USA (overall OD)
Battalion, probably 41st Armored Infantry, Belgium 1944 (1-32 tac number in yellow,
overall OD). This last one is wrong as it is a modified M4 with the forward-firing
mortar as well as fitted with the mine racks and other differences, not called
out in the directions.
this is another great kit from DML and a much more useful (and better executed)
model than the hoary old Tamiya M21 kit. I am a bit surprised that the few parts
needed to convert this to an M4A1 were not included in the kit.
40 Chassis and suspension
B 28 Armored cab assembly
C 29 M49 mount and
front bumper assemblies
D 48x2 Bogie assembly and wheels
E 7 Clear styrene
H 2 Front grille (open/closed)
J 37x2 Machine guns and radio set
40 Rear body components
L 8 Driver figure
S 25 M4 body parts
T 5 81mm
W 8 Slide molded drivers and idlers
MA 20 Etched brass
2 Turned aluminum mortar tube
to Freddie Leung for the review sample.