U.S. Army Tank Riders 1944-45
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Dragon Models Limited

American soldiers didn't ride tanks into battle as a matter of practice like the Germans did, but there are a number of photos that show GIs sitting on the engine deck of a Sherman here or there, most famously during Operation Cobra breakout from Normandy and crossing the Siegfried Line..

From a modeling standpoint, Yanks was the first company to offer U.S. tank riders back in the early 1990s. A reincarnation of Yanks, which evolved into Mustang Productions, added a few more riders in winter garb. Verlinden followed suit in the early 2000s with two pair of riders. Not until 2008 did this set from DML present a bona fide option in plastic.

The poses are casual and can be used either on a tank or on terra firma. It's nice to have a couple soldiers actually kneeling on both knees, an exceedingly rare pose. Some mentioned that kneeling on a moving tank would be quite uncomfortable and hard on the joints, but these guys could be on blankets—or a tank that is not yet moving.

All four are dressed similarly in the M1943 combat jacket and trousers, and the leather boots with the buckled gaiters. So they will be most appropriate in a setting from September, 1944 onward. As has become DML's practice, the lower portion of the jackets are cast as four separate pieces, with gives a more convincing undercut below the hems. Likewise, the jacket/shirt collars and the shoulder tabs are also separate pieces. The three riflemen has mutli-piece bandoliers. We've come a long way when a plastic figure was comprised of just a body and two arms!

This is DML's much-vaunted "Gen2" product, which mainly offers improvements in the detailing of the weaponry. But the approach to the figures has been altered somewhat, most significantly with two-part torsos that are hollow, rather than the thicker one-piece solid parts, which often were afflicted with crazing on the surface because of uneven cooling of the hot plastic. The heads, also, are two-piece affairs. Interesting facial expresions has never been a forte of DML's sculptors, and these are no exception. I'm a big fan of replacing these with heads from Hornet or another source. The weapon sprues have ammo clips—though we have yet to see a set of figure actually reloading their Garands. The fret of photoetched slings will present some puzzlement; you might find some guidance with these photos.

But there are other refinements that set these apart from previous figures. There is texture to the soles of the boots and fine mesh covering on the helmets. Unfortunately, the four M6 lightweight service mask bags are identical, and that's sooooo Gen1.

It's easy to think of numerous ways these figures can be employed in diorama settings. DML has produced several fine sets of GIs over the past couple of years. Let's hope we see the streak continue.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2009 Timothy S. Streeter