I’m new to the PTO scene and the Sherman field mods there is so fascinating. I’ve changed my mind multiple times on what I want to build for the Sherman contest – Tawara, Iwo Jima and Okinawa tanks are visually quite different. In the end I chose a photo build of an Okinawa tank from the Son of Sherman book, which is a bit less work than the elaborate mods in Iwo Jima, but still looks awesome. I’ve been scavenging parts for PTO builds, in particular figures seem hard to come by, but the tank I’m building just needs a lot of track armor and some minor scratch building.
The interesting thing about this vehicle is that the hull is considerably lighter color than the turret. Speaking with folks the prevalent theory is that the tank drove through very murky rivers or the mud and slough were so great that the limestone-based soil kicked all over the hull. The very distinctive look was what gave me a bit more affinity to Okinawa tanks.
I asked around and Asuka’s M4A3 75mm “Cougar” is a good kit to base this on.
When I started the build the kit was still being shipped from Japan, so I started on the Bronco tracks. The system is pretty self-explanatory, and I use a piece of masking tape to keep the pieces in place for assembly. It isn’t too troublesome, but keeping it workable with carefully glued pieces isn’t something I’m good at, so to have the track movable I have to eventually resort to heating and bending. The duckbills is another tedium but there aren’t duckbilled T54E1 tracks around so you live with it.
There has been a lot of Asuka build blogs so I’ll fast forward through most of the constructions. From a couple of other references the vehicle appears to be using open spoke wheels with level return roller arms. I chose to paint the parts first before assembling the full bogie. The return rollers are in Tamiya’s OD and not black, while the other parts had a layer of LifeColor’s weathered OD on top.
The paste is easy to work with – easier than vallejo’’s mud paste because they don’t stick to everything. The paste has coarse grains so they needed to be followed up with pigments or else they look terrible in this context. The grains however are difficult to remove from the brush so you are probably not going to use that brush for anything else.
I then installed the bogies and run the track across. The Bronco tracks were undersized; despite the official track length is 83, it needed something close to 85 even with the minimum track tension. I found a good way to get the tracks together by gluing top and bottom halves of track pieces on respective ends. The duckbills came off all the time however. In the photos below I haven’t yet weathered the bogies so this looks a little toy-like.
Another major piece of work is the spare track armor, and the 6th Battalion Shermans are full of them. So it’s back to grunt track assembly. The one thing you have to DIY here are the exposed track pins that were not attached to any cuffs. With these Bronco tracks I made them by clipping segments off the pin pieces. Patience is needed… The pins are a little undersized but it served the purpose. I will do this again and use Panda tracks instead. I held off on buying Panda because they charged $9 shipping on each item you bought… but that’d have been worth the time I spent on this.
I’m doing the HQ vehicle using Star Decals’ Okinawa set. The film is a bit thick and I worried about it’s conformance on the curved turret she’ll with the bumpy cast texture. Good thing I have enough decal solution types to try… Eventually micro all did a reasonable job but Humbrol decal fix did the best on these films. I lightly sanded the edges of the decals to blend them better to the model surface.
Kudos to the Star Decals’ research in this case as I missed the back turret markings in the original photo.
The tools are painted and I got the Alliance works’ PE tie downs on them. They are good if a bit short. I blackened them before painting them, thinking it’s a good way to prime.
This is a good time to talk about my references. I’m trying to build this vehicle, which I’m guessing it matches the Star Decals’ Okinawa set “B Company 2nd Platoon, Company HQ” markings.
One peculiar thing about Okinawa Sherman is that their rear half is significantly lighter than the turret and the front. After asking around, the consensus is that those are serious mud splashes, as Okinawa’s terrain is very muddy with rain, evening out the splashes. I studied some colored film footage of those Sherman and was able to grab a few screen captures, which became valuable color references for how these vehicles looked.
I realized I should probably further weather the “slate armor” around the bogies before I install the tracks. I wanted to a bit of chipping on these beams, so I brushed some AK worn effects on and later an MMP mix of a mud color, chipped it some. If you look at the reference, the Company HQ tank has heavy mud deposited around the bogies and between the beams, more significantly it seems to have what seems rags or vegetation hanging from those beams. I accidentally achieved the effect using Vallejo crushed grass paste. The green grass color isn’t quite right, so I added some Vallejo dry soil paste in. I’ll add some pigments later to harmonize the beams with the bogies.
I could now finally add the spare tracks on. Most vehicles in the Okinawa footage showed them not installing tracks on the make-shift applique armor, but the photo I’m building has them. You can tell the marking was showing underneath the spare track on top. Anyway I’m happy that I’m getting closer to the finish line with these guys on. I weather them a bit with some rust washes to give them some colors, will add pigments later.
Tank crew put varying amounts of sandbags on Okinawa Shermans. Before I started that work I installed the spare tracks onto the turret. Should’ve known this but the track lengths on the left and right sides are not equal because of the port on the left. Hence I had to make another length of 11 for the right side (vs. 8 for the right).
Onto the sandbags. I know the simplest way to make them would be to use epoxy putty and shape. However it is quite difficult to create an in-scale “snout” where you tied the bag with putty alone. After doing a bit of search I found this Youtube video in Russian https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa8QTq890No&list=PLbMJvGGXVyK5cjEAH-rV5wdl158Z4hFaG&index=50&t=0s where the modeler was using plasticine as core and then wrap some cloth tape around it, which allows you to tie a knot to create a very nice in-scale snout. So I began to experiment with this idea. I don’t have whatever he has, but I have Kneadatite putty and Play Doh to choose from. Play Doh doesn’t harden for a long time so I thought it might give the sandbag more malleability and fit, but in the end I decided to go with Kneadatite since it is harder and holds its shape better. I also don’t have his cloth tape which looked really great as it has that texture, but I have some first aid fibre tape. Here was the first batch of bags I created from this set up.
The base was done partially with Model Scene’s steppe mat with sculptamold for the road, inspired by a photo I saw of this platoon’s location at the Naha Airport area after capture which showed quite a bit of grass & rock landscape. The junction between the mat and the road was a bit hard to work as you can imagine, because the edge of the mat and the clay would look very jarring. So I spent some time smoothing that out. I also adjusted the color of the grass with some oblique spraying of Tamiya paint so that it doesn’t look so green.
In my reference photo there was a stockpile of cast shells on the side and I was originally prepared to create that. Now that the deadline has been extended I may just go ahead with that.
There were more detailing around the turret, as the reference photo was showing 3 helmets being hung on the back plus what seemed like .50 cal ammo belt hanging from the side. USMC helmets has these camo wrap around them, and they are not so common as accessories, so I commandeered some from a Dragon USMC figure set.
I then went over and did more weathering here and there, and this is about all I want to do for this build for now. The kit was more work than I expected but I learned quite a bit from the process, especially on how to work with pigments, as well as feeling more at ease at painting figures. I’m quite glad I built an Okinawa Sherman rather than the Iwo Jima ones that I originally planned, which seemed even more work.