M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest' , Diorama 1:35

Okinawa 1945

Strung out like hanf strands, 330 miles S.W. of Japan, the Ryukyu Islands Group was to be the setting of the last battle of the Second World War. Appropriately, the main and central island of this group bears the name: "The rope in the open sea" back translated as ... Okinawa.

 

On a warm Easter Sunday in 1945, the main force of Operation Iceberg touched down on the Hagushi Beaches, on the South West of the island. It was to be the largest initial amphibious landing in history.

Expecting an all out fight on the sands as at Peleliu and Iwo Jima, the U.S. Army and Marine Divisions must have been surprised to encounter extremly little resistance. They knew the enemy must be there - but where? Some very strange atmospheric clouds were gathering, made somewhat worse psychologically by the date ... it was the 1st of April.

The Japs were there allright - and in force, albeit … underground. They had also divided their forces.The main part to the rolling open hills of the South - in a myrad of caves and fortifications. A lesser force took up positions in the dense forests and rugged gorges of the North. Their combined strategy being - the longer the battle would rage the more often the U.S. Fleet would be open to kamikaze attacks. This together with the ground battle would result in an unacceptable U.S. casualty list and thereby induce their withdrawal.

They were right about high American casualties but sorely wrong about their withdrawal.

Thus the scene was set for an 82-day kill or be killed hellhole, as it took a very brave man to surrender to the Japanese.

 

During my research, I noted a few points that I wanted to incorporate into the Dio.

The relationship between Marine and Army units were often strained. The former being more aggressive the latter more pragmatic. This was particularly true in the case of the 27th Infantry Regiment. Their commander was relieved by the Marine VAC commander on Saipan.

Post-war books and films of the Pacific War have concentrated mainly on Marine stories, which I think is too unbalanced as the Army commited over 20 combat divisions to that theater, three times more than the Marine Corps.

The U.S. attack on the 19th April between the Kakazu and Nishibaru ridges, which resulted in the loss of some 22 sherman tanks to Jap suicide squads.

The 105mm H.M.C. is mostly seen in the indirect (frequently with gun raised) firing role in Europe. In the Pacific it was it's direct 'bunker busting' usage that made it a very efficient gun platform. Not only for it's punch but for it's mobility.

Okinawan culture is more akin to China than to Japan itself, so I hit upon the Ying-Yang symbol not only as a base but to underline the moral of the story. The greater part always carries within itself a little of it's counterpart. In this case a fraction of madness is necessary to defeat a greater madness.

It would be futile to place all the events of this battle on one Diorama, so I thought I'd concentrate my efforts on this first one (?) in the North.

The 'Priest' here belongs to the abovementioned 27th Inf Div (105 inf regt). The date is around the 3rd of May when the Division was in the process of relieving the 6th Marine Div (note the black code circles on the Marine's slightly greener HBT uniforms).

The vehicle has extra 'padding' on the glacis and is frontally 'cammed' up for a hide and seek duel of 'bunker- sniping'. I've kept the pre-set ammo and casings to a minimum here – as it's not in it's static artillery role. I suppose it's not unlike a Cuckoo itself … putting it's 'egg' (shells) in other birds (MG)'nests'.

It sports old scars (a veteran of Kakazu Ridge) as well as new ones from the recent attack. One Jap grenade has set off a fire in the drivers compartment, another two have set off fires next to the running gear. Having survived the April suicide attack, the five crew (a Priest usually had a crew of 7 - the 27th were allways understrength) have since armed themselves to the teeth, ready for the next time ... 'Once bitten, twice shy'.

 

The 'Gyreens' have noticed the scrap and have come to the rescue, but it's all over apart for the shouting … literally. The carbine carrying medic wears no red cross ID as they were frequently targeted by the Japs. One of the crew is trying to smoke a cigarette(s) while a wary marine offers him a light. The older marine commander at the rear of the vehicle feels duty bound to congratulate the Sgt on the defence, who in turn seems to have his mind on 'somewhere' else.

The starboard side depicts the result of a contest between shovel and sword … 'finders keepers'.

I don't always make Diorama's with bloodshed but I do feel a moral obligation to do so now and again - otherwise my showcase would make warfare look like an innocent day trip … which would be madness in itself.

 

Mopping up operations in the North continued until the end of November, with some guerrilla activity being recorded up to 1947. However, the battle was officialy ended on the 21st June, with the close to total destruction of Japanese forces.

The Okinawans civillian population caught up in the fighting suffered terribly. Being second class citizens in the eyes of the Japanese, many were murdered by them for what little food they possessed. A great number fell victim to the sickness of Jap propaganda and committed suicide in fear of American acts of vengeance. A third of the population died, 122.000 … a higher toll than the result of the two atomic bombs, that brought Japan to it's senses on the 10th of August.

The Japanese formal surrender took place on the 2nd of September 1945, the Omega of the scourge of the Rising Sun and The Second World War.

 

Finally, I'd like to mention the lines that inspired the building and theme of this Diorama.

A veteran of the last battle - future author/historian William Manchester wrote:

"None of us could have known that the battle would last nearly three months, becoming the bloodiest island fight of the Pacific war … We were all psychotic, inmates of the greatest madhouse in history, but staying on the line was a matter of pride".

For those who only want to see the "naked gun" ...

Completed: 20.09.'17

M7B1 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage 'Priest'

Diorama 1:35 / Building Report:

Riddle me Ho Riddle me Ree, the 'divine wind' whispers to her 'rope in the sea'.

 


COOO-EEE !!
♪ ♫  They can see the island  ... They can see the island ... ♪ ♫

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

♪ ♫  Welcome to the island ... Welcome to the island ... ♪ ♫

Welcome to the ...

Osprey Campaign Okinawa 1945 The last battle by G.L. Rottman

... Madhouse.

Stage 1:

My Onkinawan journey  starts with another 'old badger' of a kit, the ubiquitous  Italeri 'Priest'.

M7 'Priest' Self Propelled Howitzer, Italeri No. 206

Right here goes ... let us pray ;-)

 

From it's debut in the summer of '42 at El Alamein (where it received it's nickname due to the pulpit-like side cupola), to it's last appearance in the Yom Kippur War of '73, the  American M7 Howitzer Motor Carriage was constantly updated/adapted, resulting in a myriad of versions.

Originally based on the chassis of the M3 Lee medium tank, my model is a conversion to the later M7B1 type - based on the M4A3 Sherman tank. The U.S. Pressed Steel Car Company stamped out 826 of these M7B1 'clericals' from March '44 to Feb '45.

 

A quick walk 'round the block reveals the 'bible-punching' required for this. Late one piece transmission cover (which I might have to 'alter' slightly), Sherman late running bogies and rear hull. Cut away/folded upper pannels.

The Eduard photo-etch kit was akin to the proverbial 'curate's egg'. A couple of things were o.k. but the rest not so. The engine bay access hatch is a product of fantasy ... 'Thank Evans' for 'expensive' plastic sheet - it covereth a multitude of sins.

Eduard PE 35140 M-7 Priest / 1:35
M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35
M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

With the weld seams finished, I made a start on some fine detailing to the 105mm gun and overworked the rear of the cupola via original photo's. Normally the engine deck sports a  Shermans grill but as this will be covered 'I bothereth not'. There's a long way to go yet but before I close this first  'verse'- a question - The rear stowage boxes carry ventilation strips, try as I might, I could find no evidence for these on ANY M7's. Any info on these will be blessed ;-)

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35
M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

So, I'll see you in church next week where the sermon will be: "Praise the Lord ... and pass the ammunition!"

 

10.07.'17

Stage: 2

 

Taking a break from the 'Holy Man' last week, I decided to tackle the 105mm ammo and crates. Here's a couple of references:

Osprey New Vanguard, US Field Artillery of World War II by Steven J. Zaloga
Armor No. 38 US Self-Propelled Guns in action by Jim Mesko

and if you visit this site, you can get a very good report of the kits out there and many other things to boot.

 

The problem though about artillery positions is, that they can demand a lot of this stuff. So if you're planning to build one (or more, like me) you may have to get a second morgage.

For example ... the brass set from AFV Club, although exellent will cost you around 14,-€ - note only four 'empties'.

AFV Club - Nr. AG35030, U.S. 105mm Howitzer Ammo Set Brass, 1:35
AFV Club - Nr. AG35030, U.S. 105mm Howitzer Ammo Set Brass, 1:35

I could'nt get the V.P. set(s) and I found the Royal Model ammo to be too much out of scale

(a bit expensive for bulk material).

Royal Model - Nr. 424, 105mm Ammo with Cases, 1:35

As for the  crates, I found this from AFV Club to be a great asset.

AFV Club - Nr. AF35184, Ammunition crates and containers for 105mm Howitzer, 1:35

The snag here is that only four of the fibre tubes are open and only at one end. Photo's of all 105mm positions show piles of these tubes open at both ends and sometimes crushed. A chaos of ammo and crates is also quite common ... so waddiya do? Right then, you've heared about the fish and loaves of bread ... now it's my turn.

 

I raked all the parts plus some 3.2mm Evergreen and 3mm (brass) pipe together ...

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

... sawed off and drilled out the brass to size:

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35
M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

.... then with the help of a tomato puree casing and a punch:

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

.... I made one of these (not as good as the AFV job but we're dealing with mass here):

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

... and after opening one fibre tube, I 'went off my rocker' and wound up with this little lot:

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

What brought all this on?  Here, blame this fella ...

The Verlinden Way Volume II by Francois Verlinden

... 'tis he hath starteth the 'religion' ;-)

 

16.07.'17

 

Stage 3:

 

This week kicks-off with the figures, begged, stolen and 'borrowd' from various firms:


M7B1 crew. Normally this vehicle was served by a team of seven, but more about that later.

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35
M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

U.S. Marine infantry.

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35
M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

The third batch for this dio includes patrons of the (doss) house of the rising sun. I suppose I could use the old gravestone inscription here: "Not dead, just sleeping", but I'd be fooling nobody.

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

Here's the bits ... I allways like to have them clean and ready so I can press them into the putty of their owners.

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

I bought these figures for my project but they turned out to be more in the drift of 1:32 .. so be warned, maybe the Chinese are getting bigger ;-)

DRAGON 6038 1/35 U.S. Marines (Iwo Jima 1945)

... and while I'm 'wingeing' about scale, this 1:35 hand set from Hornet seems to be drifting toward 1:48.

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

These turned up today ... better late than never.

Tankograd 6007: US WWII 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriages M7, M7B1 Priest
New Vanguard 201, M7 Priest 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage by S. Zaloga

On reading the Tankograd mag, I noticed I'd made a mistake on the exhaust vents. A quick Jack the Ripper correction and it's ecclesiastical bum looks more like the one it's 'creator' had it fitted with.

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

Well then, looks like visiting time is over for this week but before I take my leave - any idea's what type of ammo this belongs to ?

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

V.P. has it as 105mm, but that can't be right. I could  find no evidence for such metal boxes and they are too narrow for 105mm ammo anyway. Any info will be rewarded with half a (clean) cup of communion plonk.

 

 18.07.'17

 

Stage 4:

 

Using the Tankograd Manual as reference, I updated the M2A1 Howitzer and it's mount:

Holes drilled in both ends of the recuperator housing, breech and breechblock have been detailed via dremel and plastic strip. After drilling four small holes in the top edges of the gun cradle,

I fashioned a new trigger shaft out of metal. Although the panoramic sight has been excluded,

a new mount still had to made for it with plastic profile. The equilibrator assembly was left alone as this part is barely visable.

 

The fighting compartment was also overhauled:

Rivets on the inside sponsons, gun cleaning rods fitted, new cuppola rim plus Thomson Mg holster. The drivers compartment looks more acceptable now and yes, the damage is on purpose. The horizontal stowage racks are copied from my Squadron/Signal booklet. This field modification was found on some late M7's to increase the 'ready to hand' ammo and improveit's protection.The warheads on the old vertical  stowage were open to all kinds of 'incoming elements'. Right then, I'd better make tracks ...

Er ... no, I'm not going yet. I'm just ...

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

One ... Hey Ho ...

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

Two ... Ha-Ha!

By the way ...

A M7B1 (Sherman hull) requires 80 links per side but (and here's another weird bit),

on a 1:35 model this can optically seem too many (too much sag), so I normaly fit 79.

Still more than enough to drive 'yours truely' up the walls ...

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

Three ... Ha-Ha-Ha ....

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

Go on ... Count 'em ... and have a good: Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha ...

M7B1 105mm HMC 'Priest', 1:35

Happy Evening from me AND 'thegunbucket' ;-)

 

 23.07.'17

Building Report: Part 2


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Take care &

#FlattenTheCurve

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