M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo, 4th Armored Division, Bastogne

The M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo called Cobra King was the first tank of the 37th Regiment of the 4th Armoured Division, Patton’s Third Army, to break the siege of Bastogne, on 26 December 1944. By way of propaganda, they labelled it on the left side of the glacis with the legend First in Bastogne in order to publish the photograph in the American press. The Belgian city, defended by the famous 101st Airborne Division, had been surrounded since 19 December by the troops of the Fifth Panzer Army. This powerful unit was commanded by the veteran general of armoured troops, Hasso von Manteuffel.

The M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo

Faced with heavy losses of Sherman tanks from ambushes and the massive use of Panzerfaust during the fighting at the Normandy bocage, the Americans began to develop field solutions to better protect their tanks. These included the addition of sand bags as extra protection to the tank superstructure. This practice proved not to be very effective, as the heavy added weight ended up spoiling the undercarriage of the armoured vehicle.

At the same time, the American Army engineers developed a more viable solution: the assault trolley.  This was a M4A3 Sherman with added armor plates in the glacis, with a special turret similar to the T23 with 76mm gun but with much more armor.  Officially known as the M4A3E2 Jumbo, around 250 units were manufactured and entered service in September 1944, a few months before the Ardennes offensive. Although slow, its armour was highly appreciated by the crews that used it, usually in charge of opening the march of the American armoured columns along the roads of Northern Europe. Originally armed with the M3 75 mm gun, in February 1945 some 100 units were re-armed with the M1 76 mm (3-inch) gun.

M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo in 1/72 

The Sherman Jumbo that we have chosen to assemble is a 1/72 quick assembly model from Italeri. It is a fast kit that at the level of detail, comes quite fair, more directed to wargamers than to model makers. But being the only commercial plastic model in 1/72 scale of the Jumbo available in the market.So it is a good challenge for a modeler who likes the improvement and detailed work.

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Many of the details of the model are quite rough: the headlights and their protections, the anchor points or the periscopes of the hatches and turret, among others.

To start the improvement work, we have looked in our Pandora’s Box for material left over from other Shermans, especially M4 pieces from Dragon, both in plastic and photo-etched. This is the case of the periscopes and their protections, the lower anchors for towing, the towing cable, the 50 cal heavy machine gun, the rear shelf for stowage, the track spare links, the gun barrel support for displacement… Some custom-made parts have also been made, such as the wooden board used to support the front stowage – complete with an ammunition box -, the anchors to lift the glacis and the turret using old paper clips, and the supports to fix the gasoline can and the HMG made of plasticard.

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Painting the M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo

The American olive drab base has been made by airbrush, using acrylic paints for modulation from AK Interactive. The technique has already been explained in other entries of this blog

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M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo 10

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M4A3E2 Sherman labelling

The American tank crews used to label the sides of the glacis with the nicknames they used to name their vehicles. In the case of the Cobra King, as we do not have available a custom decal, we had to solve the signage with Microscale water decals. In particular the US Armor Codes and Insignia WWII sheet, which includes a fairly comprehensive selection of white stars, letters and numbers to create the complete signage for any American vehicle of this period. One of the features of these decals is that they include several alphabets to allow any name to be created letter by letter. The work is meticulous, slow and tiring but the result is very good. On the other hand, the original factory yellow lettering has been handmade with a fine brush.

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M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo 13

The labelling of First in Bastogne and the symbols of the 4th Armoured Division was carried out in two phases. Firstly, the texts were written with a white Staedtler watercolour pencil, trying to imitate the originals that can be seen in the famous photograph of the Cobra King.

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M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo 14

The text is then reworked in pencil with a Off White acrylic with a brush. During this process some corrections have had to be made

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Once the decals and lettering are finished, all the work is sealed with a layer of airbrush satin varnish and the tank is weathered to the modeler’s liking.

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The snow-covered Jumbo

To finish the model, we need to give it a winter touch with a little snow. For this we have tried a product acquired in bulk in a model shop, without a defined brand. The powder that simulates snow is applied in small doses to some areas of the tank as it is not intended to be completely covered by snow. Once it is in place, with the help of a dropper, small amounts of white glue are applied. In this case we have used a special glue to stick soils and gravel of the model railway brand Busch. But if this product is not available, we can make our own white glue. To do this, we mix two parts of water with one part white glue, to which we can optionally add a little liquid soap to facilitate the final mix.

Once the whole set is dry, we can varnish it in matt with airbrush or spray can, and  then we have our M4A3E2 Sherman Jumbo ready to liberate Bastogne.

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