|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale
Sherman Tanks in the Korean War
Article by Doug Chaltry; last updated 10 February 2008.
I consider myself to be an "idea man"; you know . . . one of those guys who has all these great ideas, but never actually accomplishes any of them. (Look how long it took me to get this website off the ground.) One of my wonderful ideas that dates back to around 2001-2002 was to set up a theme page at On The Way! devoted to modeling armored vehicles of the Korean War. I thought that it would be a great idea to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of that war by devoting some space on my website to modeling vehicles from that particular era, but that idea never came to fruition. But it's never too late to implement a smaller version of that idea, hence this article. It's a little brief at the moment, but I plan on expanding it in the future.
Although Korea is known for being primarily an infantry war, armor actually played a much larger role than is commonly assumed. Early in the war, North Korean armor was a significant contributor to their rapid and catastrophic advance down the penninsula, with there being several tank battles pitting US armor against the Korean T-34s. After most of the Korean tanks were destroyed (mostly through air strikes), US armor continued to play an important role in the campaign as support vehicles.
The M26 Pershing is often the US tank most closely associated with the Korean conflict, however, the Sherman tank actually played a more significant role in the war, having participated in the majority of the tank battles. This page is planned to convey as much information as possible to assist modelers in building Shermans from that period.
As you can probably assume, only very late versions of the Sherman saw action in Korea. By the late 1940s, most of the Shermans in the US inventory had been either scrapped or sold. Combat tanks were all later-model Shermans with the big-hatch hull, 76mm-armed T23 turrets, and most had the HVS suspension. As far as I can tell, only the M4A3 Shermans were still in service with the US Army and US Marine Corps at this time. Specifically, all gun tanks were the M4A3 (76)W HVSS (or M4A3E8). All of these tanks had been remanufactured at facilities in the US and in Japan, and they bear several distinguishing characteristics.
In the support role, there were 105mm-armed Shermans, primarily the M4A3 (105)W HVSS. There were also a couple of flame tanks: an M4A3 (105) HVSS with the flamethrower mounted in the turret alongside the main gun, and an M4A3 (76)W HVSS with the flame projector mounted in the hull machinegun position. The only Shermans that still retained the VVS suspension were a handful of M4A3 (76)W with bulldozer blades. One of the reasons it took me so long to build a Korean War Sherman was because of the lack of HVSS kits, but thankfully that is no longer a problem.
Here is a list showing all the versions of the Sherman tank that I believe saw service in Korea. This table is based on descriptions and photographs in various books I own on the Korean War. Note that not all of these vehicles are yet available to us in 1/72nd scale kit form.
What's with those cool tiger markings?
Many of you have probably seen Sherman tanks with the tiger markings on the nose and front face of the hull and turret. This is a popular scheme for kit decals as well as the few aftermarket decal sets that were available. These markings were specific to a couple of tank units during Operations Ripper and Killer in 1951. The belief was that these markings would help to simultaneously inspire the troops and terrorize the Chinese who supposedly were very superstitious and held the tiger in awe. Some tanks in the 89th Tank Battalion were also painted to resemble devil's faces (Rice's Red Devils). Whether or not these exotic markings actually had any effect on the Chinese is debatable, but they certainly do look cool and add a bit of color to a normally drab Sherman tank.
Luckily, most of the tiger markings can be hand-painted on your models, because generally speaking, we are in really sad shape when it comes to decals for Korean War Shermans. The following tables show decals applicable to Korean War subjects. Unfortunately, the two aftermarket sets are now out of print. I've added to the table markings that come with specific kits to show all that are currently available. Perhaps a company with more reliable availability, such as ARMO, may release some more markings in the future for The Forgotton War.
|Modeling the Sherman Tank in 1/72nd Scale