Renault FT Book Review

French Light Tank Renault FT US Six Ton Tank M1917

By Witold J. Lawrynowicz

Series: Armor Photo Gallery # 15

Softcover, 72 pages, drawings, and photographs

Published by Model Centrum Progres, January 2006

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎ 8360672008

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-8360672006

Dimensions:  8.0 x 11.2 x 0.2 inches

The Renault FT was a French light tank which saw initial service during the First World War.  It is notable for introducing what has since become the standard tank configuration – a rotating turret containing the main armament, engine to the rear of the hull, and driver in the front.  Over 3,000 were produced in France, with several other nations producing copies of the design.  Although obsolete by the standards of WWII, there were several hundred still in service during the Battle of France, and captured examples were retained in Wehrmacht service in secondary roles through the end of the war.

This book is number 15 in the Armor Photo Gallery series and is intended to be a visual reference for modelers.  Two-thirds of the pages are devoted to well-captioned full-color photographs of preserved vehicles presented in a walk-around style.  There are two tanks presented – a Renault FT in the Musée Royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire in Brussels and a U.S.-built M1917 which was at the West Point Museum.  The two vehicles exhibit a number of construction differences which the captions point out.

Also included are drawings in 1/48 and 1/35 scale, but nothing for 1/72 scale enthusiast.  There is a short history of the type and several pages of black-and-white photographs of the tanks in service. I purchased this book at a model show, and was not familiar with the series at the time.  These happy little discoveries are one of the best reasons to go to shows, you can always find something you didn’t know you needed!  It is a quality publication and judging by what is listed on Amazon, somewhat sought after.  Recommended.

Chance Vought F4U Corsair Mishaps Part I

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A birdcage Corsair of VF-17 “Jolly Rogers” bounces high during a landing attempt aboard the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17). The squadron was working up their new mounts during the first half of 1943, but a high accident rate led the US Navy to initially declare the Corsair unsuitable for carrier operations. Note the ammunition coveres prominent on the wings.
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This Corsair has suffered a landing gear collapse and tail separation as the pilot is assisted from the remains of his aircraft. The ammunition covers on the upper wing were interchangeable, and this has led to the white bar of the national insignia being scrambled – a common occurrence and an interesting detail for modelers.
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One of several Corsair mishaps aboard the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17) is this VF-17 Corsair, showing details of the undersurfaces. VF-17 would deploy from land bases in the Solomons later in 1943, where they fought against Japanese aircraft operating from Rabaul. They went on to become the most successful Navy fighter squadron of the war.
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A Corsair misses the wire and noses over aboard the USS Essex (CV-9) in 1945. The paintwork is very sloppy, showing overspray on the tail and runs on the side number. The shuffling of the ammunition covers on the wings has again scrambled the markings and contributes to the disheveled appearance.
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A deck crane is used to right this Corsair aboard the USS Bunker Hill. The ailerons appear to be replacements and are much darker than outer wing panels. The position and style of the insignia are standard for the first half of 1943.
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A Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Corsair loses its drop tank while recovering aboard HMS Victorious during the Sumatra Raid, January 1945. While the Royal Navy Carriers embarked fewer aircraft than their American counterparts, their armored flight decks proved more resistant to damage.
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A bad day aboard the USS Prince William (CVE-31), a Bogue-class escort carrier. The Prince William spent most of the war ferrying aircraft to the combat zone.
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A Corsair crashes through the barrier aboard USS Charger (CVE-30). Charger operated as a training carrier off the Atlantic coast.
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A French Navy F4U-7 has nosed over aboard the carrier Bois Belleau. The ship was commissioned into the US Navy as the Independence-class light carrier USS Belleau Wood (CVL-24). She was transferred to the French Navy in 1953 and served until 1960.
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The Corsair served as the primary US Navy carrier fighter in the years immediately after the war, until new jet aircraft were introduced. Here a F4U-4 goes over the side of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42). Note the twin 20mm Oerlikon mount in the catwalk beneath the aircraft.

Part II here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2021/07/28/chance-vought-f4u-corsair-mishaps-part-ii/

Teenage Resistance Fighter Book Review

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Teenage Resistance Fighter: With the Maquisards in Occupied France

By Hubert Verneret, Translated by Sarah Saunders and Patrick Depardon

Hardcover in dustjacket, 146 pages, photographs

Published by Casemate, November 2017

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-61200-550-0

ISBN-13: 978-1-61200-550-8

Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 9 inches

When Germany invaded Poland on 01 September 1939, Hubert Verneret was a fourteen-year-old Boy Scout living in Burgundy, France.  As the war came to France, he kept a dairy of his experiences.  The Scouts were active in civil relief efforts, helping with refugees and troops at train stations, and later rescue operations in areas hit by Allied bombing raids.  After the Allied invasion of Normandy, he and a friend decided to join the Resistance, traveling to the Mont Beuvray area to enlist in the Louis Maquis in August.

Maquis roughly means “the bush”, and the Maquis lived in camps in rough terrain where German pursuit would be difficult and easily detected.  The Marquis could then emerge to conduct ambushes or sabotage, for their part the Germans overestimated their numbers and generally avoided areas where they were operating when they could.  During the withdrawal from France roadblocks and mines funneled the Germans into routes which were more easily attacked by Allied airpower while smaller formations on lesser roads were ambushed.

Verneret kept a journal of his experiences living as a boy in occupied France and his adventures after joining the Maquis.  While he was never in actual combat, this was a matter of chance as he participated in field operations on several occasions.  The Maquis were disbanded at the end of September, its members joining the Free French or other Allied forces, or simply returning to civilian life.

The book is divided into two sections.  The first is a reconstruction of Verneret’s wartime experiences, the second a series of interviews with prominent figures associated with the Louis Marquis.  Also included are diary entries describing the German retreat from a Madame Forneret, and a summary of the Marquis contribution to the war effort.  This is a short read, but an interesting description of life in France during the German occupation and withdrawal.

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Heinkel He 177 Greif (Griffon)

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Note the avionics probe under the starboard wing, DL + AQ is He 177A-02, the second pre-production aircraft.  It first flew on 05MAY41.  It was lost in a forced landing in May 1942 after both engines caught fire in flight.  The crew escaped but the aircraft was destroyed.
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A nice color photograph of an airfield in Russia showing a rather dense concentration of aircraft which carry a tightly mottled upper surface.  Conditions on the Eastern Front were often primitive.
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This is a photograph of two He 177A-1 at Zaporozhye-Süd in Russia during the winter of 42/43 which shows well the harsh conditions on the Eastern Front.  The aircraft belong to I./KG50, the nearest machine is finished in the standard 70 / 71 / 65 splinter scheme while the rear machine has a temporary coat of white distemper to better hide it in the snow.
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6N + SK was an He 177A-3 assigned to 2./KG 100 at Rheine, Germany.  Camouflage is 75 / 76 over black undersides.  (Bundesarchiv photo)
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This is He 177A-3 W.Nr. 2143 coded VD + XS of FFS(B) 16 at Burg-bei-Magdeburg, March 1944.  FFS(B) 16 was a training unit, this aircraft had a black distemper paint applied to the undersides and vertical tail which avoided the call letters on the fuselage sides.  (Bundesarchiv photo)
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Aircrew in a Kubelwagen arrive in front of H for Helga, an He 177A-3 of 2./KG 100.  The unit practice was to give the aircraft a female name corresponding with the aircraft code.
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In 1944 the focus of the Allied air forces was the destruction of the Luftwaffe in preparation for the landings at Normandy.  Heavy bombers attacked aircraft production and fuel supply targets while medium bombers and fighters went after Luftwaffe airfields.  Here is a dramatic photograph of He 177s of 10.(Erg)/KG 100 at Schwäbisch Hall after being strafed by USAAF Mustangs on 25APR44.
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An A-5 of an anti-shipping unit, KG 100 based at Toulouse-Blagnac, France in early 1944.  The He 177 could carry either the Hs 293 or the Fritz–X glide bombs.
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A fine example of a Mäandertarnung or “scribble” camouflage applied to this He 177A-5 of 5./KG 100 operating from Aalborg, Denmark in the fall of 1944.  The Mäandertarnung was often carried for over-water operations.
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An interesting undersurface camouflage has been applied to this Greif, a cloud pattern of RLM 76 or 77 over the darker RLM 65.
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He 177A-5 W.Nr. 550062 coded F8 + AP is an aircraft with an interesting history.  It was assigned to 6./KG 40 and was undergoing servicing at Toulouse-Blagnac in September 1944 when it was captured by the French Resistance, the first flyable He 177 to fall into Allied hands.  It was given a full set of French markings including rudder stripes as well as invasion stripes for good measure.  On the sides “Pris de Guerre” was written.
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W.Nr. 550062 was flown to Farnborough for evaluation where the British applied their own markings over the French.  The French rudder stripes were painted out – some profiles show the rudder color as red but this photograph shows a much better match with the yellow outline of the fuselage roundel.  The aircraft received a RAF fin tab as well as the call number TS439 and a “P” designating a prototype, or in this case, test aircraft.  Note the cloud camouflage pattern on the undersides and fuselage.  The British later passed this aircraft on to the Americans, so modelers have the option of depicting this aircraft in Luftwaffe, French, British, or American markings.

Part II here: https://inchhighguy.wordpress.com/2020/08/26/heinkel-he-177-greif-griffin-defensive-armament/

Liberation of Paris 1944 Book Review

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Liberation of Paris 1944: Patton’s race for the Seine

By Steven J. Zaloga, illustrated by Howard Gerrard

Osprey Campaign Book 194

Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing April 2008

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1846032466

ISBN-13: 978-1846032462

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.3 x 9.9 inches

A campaign to liberate Paris was a battle neither side wanted to fight.  From the American viewpoint, Paris offered little of strategic value.  With the bulk of Germany’s combat strength in France bottled up in the Falaise Pocket, Patton’s 3rd Army was facing little in the way of organized resistance; the only thing slowing him down was finding enough fuel to continue his onslaught.  Attacking Paris would bog American divisions down in urban warfare, and divert much needed logistical capacity away from the spearheads driving deeper into France.

From the German perspective, there was little front-line combat strength with which to mount a meaningful defense.  The German General, Dietrich von Choltitz, was able to form ad hoc units from staff and support personnel based in Paris, but these were not seasoned combat troops.  Armor was scarce, consisting of obsolete French tanks taken over by the Wehrmacht for garrison and policing duties along with a few Panthers, replacements meant for other units which were requisitioned for the defense.  Under orders from Hitler to burn Paris to the ground rather than let the Allies take the city, Choltitz had little means and no desire to raze one of Europe’s great cities.

The French had other plans.  De Gaulle wanted very much to be seen as the liberator of Paris.  This would instantly give him political legitimacy as the leader of the French people after the war.  Leclerc’s French 2e Division Blindée, patterned after and equipped as an American armored division, provided him the means to realize his ambition.  For their part, the French Resistance (FFI) was divided along political lines.  The Communist faction wanted to start an uprising at the earliest opportunity, while the other factions were more pragmatic, observing the results of the premature Warsaw Uprising to the East.  In any case, the FFI was short of weapons.  This only worsened after the Germans confiscated the revolvers of the Paris police force.

In the end, an uprising by the FFI forced everyone’s hand.  They seized several buildings and erected barricades, and as expected were met with some resistance from Choltitz’ garrison forces.  Fearing the situation might get out of control Eisenhower changed his plans and dispatched de Gaulle with Leclerc’s 2e Division and the American 4th Infantry Division.

In many ways this was a political battle for what France would become after the war instead of a battle fought to help win the war.  The Allies wanted to avoid fighting in Paris and even the German defenders did not want to see the city destroyed.  The various French factions were looking to gain political standing to advance their own goals in a post-war France.  As Clausewitz said, “War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means.”

The book follows the standard format for Osprey’s Campaign series, and is heavily illustrated with maps, photographs, and artwork illustrating important incidents.  A good volume which I can recommend to anyone interested in the Liberation of France.

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Elihu Washburne Book Review

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Elihu Washburne: The Diary and Letters of America’s Minister to France During the Siege and Commune of Paris

By Michael Hill

Hardcover in dustjacket, 288 pages, illustrated, index

Published by Simon & Schuster November 2012

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1451665288

ISBN-13: 978-1451665284

Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.0 x 8.4 inches

Elihu Washburne (1816 – 1887) was an American politician and diplomat.  He was an attorney by trade, and represented northwestern Illinois in the U.S. Congress from 1853 – 1869.  He was a close friend and confidant to President Abraham Lincoln and served as a pall bearer at his funeral.  He was also an early supporter of General and later President Ulysses S. Grant.  Under Grant, Washburne served very briefly as Secretary of State and was appointed as Minister to France from 1869 – 1877.  The focus of this book is on Washburne’s experiences in this position during the Franco-Prussian War.

The Franco-Prussian War was relatively brief, starting on 16 July 1870 and ending on 28 January 1871.  Prussian forces gained the upper hand early in the conflict, sweeping aside the French forces and capturing Emperor Napoleon III in the field.  The French quickly formed a new Government of National Defense, but Paris was soon surrounded and besieged.  Even though Washburne had been granted the authority to evacuate his mission from Paris he felt it was his duty to remain.  He was the only ambassador from a major power who stayed.

Washburne was left in a unique position.  He was able to operate freely within Paris, and maintained contact with the French and the Prussians as well as his American superiors.  Both the French and the Prussians allowed his diplomatic communications to pass through their lines.  As the sole remaining major diplomat, he became the proxy representative of the foreign nationals who remained and was able to evacuate many, while arranging for food and care for the rest.  He was much praised for his efforts on behalf of these people, particularly for his help to the Prussian civilians stranded in Paris.

After the French surrender at the end of January, control of the French capital was seized by a group of radical Socialists who formed what was to become known as “the Paris Commune”.  Supported by National Guard conscripts, they quickly went about arresting their opponents and destroying monuments.  The Socialists remained in control of Paris for two months until French Army regulars marched into the city and regained control.  As a last act the Communards executed their prisoners, including Archbishop Darboy and a number of Catholic priests, and attempted to burn the city to the ground.

Elihu Washburne kept a diary of his experiences during the siege and the Commune.  The book is constructed mainly using his own words from his diary and his letters.  It is a remarkable account as sieges are relatively rare in modern times.  Even though it was brief as sieges go, it does vividly convey the effects of food and firewood shortages on a large civilian population.  In many ways the Commune was worse, and the confusion which dominated those months is vividly conveyed.  This book is a deviation from my usual area of historical focus, but a worthwhile read nonetheless.  Recommended.

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RPM Hotchkiss H35 French Light Tank in 1/72 Scale

This is the 2009 RPM issue Hotchkiss H35 light tank.  This is a small tank and a small model.  RPM have done a good job with this kit, it is crisply molded and without flash.  It is well detailed and features a really good start on the interior if you’d like to model the hatches open.  The tracks are one piece, but there are ample fiddly bits for those who might otherwise feel slighted.  The decals are printed on a continuous sheet of carrier film, I would advise trimming the film back as far as possible as it was a little reluctant to settle in.  The only real down side of this kit is the vague instructions which only add to the confusion of not having parts numbers on the sprues.  Other than that, a straight forward model which builds up nicely.

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Rendezvous with Death Book Review

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Rendezvous with Death: The Americans Who Joined the Foreign Legion in 1914 to Fight for France and for Civilization

by David Hanna

Hardcover in dustjacket, 332 pages

Published by Regnery History June 2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1621573966

ISBN-13: 978-1621573968

Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.1 x 9.0 inches

The French Foreign Legion is one of the more storied of the world’s military formations.  In the Legion a man can make a fresh start regardless of his past – in exchange for the promise of military service to France a new identity is created.  The Legion is famous for attracting men looking for a fresh start for themselves or to forget past mistakes.  The men in this book did not join the Legion for the typical reasons.

Rendezvous with Death is the story of a group of Americans living in Paris at the beginning of the Great War in 1914.  Idealism is what drove them to fight for France against the Germans, and the Legion was their pathway.  At the time France was in dire need of all the help they could get, the German offensive initially met with success but had descended into a quagmire of trench warfare.  Any gains were small and only achieved at terrible costs.

The Americans in the Legion fought at Champagne, Verdun, and the Somme among other engagements.  Some later fought as aviators in the Lafayette Escadrille.  Author Hanna has done a remarkable job in following the actions of these men and describing their experiences whether in the trenches or in the air.

Overall a fascinating read which went quickly.  The Legion is a unique military organization in many ways so that perspective was interesting as well.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book which I can recommend without hesitation.

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Panzerwaffe Series Book Review

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Panzerwaffe Volume One:  The Evolution of the Panzerwaffe to the Fall of Poland 1939

Classic Colours Series

By Rainer Strasheim, John Prigent, Carlos Caballero Jurado, Lucas Molina Franco, and William Russ, edited by John Prigent

Paperback, 96 pages, profusely illustrated, color profiles

Published by Ian Allan Publishing November 2007

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0711032394

ISBN-13: 978-0711032392

Dimensions: 9.0 x 0.4 x 12.0 inches

 

Panzerwaffe Volume Two: The Campaigns in the West 1940

Classic Colours Series

By Mark Healy, edited by John Prigent

Paperback, 96 pages, profusely illustrated, color profiles

Published by Ian Allan Publishing June 2008

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0711032408

ISBN-13: 978-0711032408

Dimensions: 9.0 x 0.2 x 12.0 inches

 

This is a review of a series which never was.  Ten volumes were planned, the first two volumes were actually printed.  The subject was and is in demand as evidenced by the continuing popularity of other publications and issuance of new model kits in all the major scales.  If it’s a Panzer it sells, even the what-if napkinwaffe types.

The format is identical to that of the excellent Jagdwaffe series from the same publisher.  96 pages jamb-packed with excellent photographs, beautiful color profiles, and authoritative text.  The Jagdwaffe series ran for 20 volumes with another 15 covering additional Luftwaffe types.  This series had the potential to be just as successful.

Volume one begins with German tank development during the First World War and concludes with the end of the Polish campaign, volume two ends with the fall of France.  The major revelation for me was the camouflage of German armor is shown to be not just the expected overall Panzer Gray but one third of the vehicle surface was painted brown.  The color separation is invisible to my eye in black and white photographs, even when the captions call it out in the book.  I may be coming late to the dance but this is the first time I have encountered this and will have to look into it further.

So why did the series end with the second volume?  It is a mystery to me.  Almost certainly some combination of high production costs and low sales.  I found both volumes at a model show for the princely sum of $10 each and didn’t think twice about snatching them up.  If you can find them pick them up – they are nice books.  I only regret the series stopped at two.

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RPM Hotchkiss H35 French Light Tank Build in 1/72 Scale

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The Hotchkiss H35 was a French light tank used during the Second World War.  It had a two-man crew and was armed with a 37 mm gun.  The design was developed into the similar H38 and H39 series, and the Germans utilized captured examples in several modified forms.  This is the 2009 issue of the RPM kit.  I had no previous experience with RPM kits but thought the subject would make a nice addition to my small collection of French armor.

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The parts are well molded with no flash.  The sprues contain additional parts to allow for variations in engine deck configurations and armament need to produce some of the subsequent variants.  I am no expert on French armor so I cannot advise if everything you’d need for the H38 or H39 is present in this boxing but there will definitely be parts for the spares box when you’re done.

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I found the instructions a bit confusing, and had to stop several times during construction to try to figure out just what they were trying to show.  There is a parts map but the sprues do not have parts numbers which just adds to the confusion.  Arrows would be helpful, but RPM only superimposes numbers on or near parts which are shown floating near where they are supposed to be attached.  It can all be sorted with enough time, but it could be made much easier than it is.

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Tracks are molded as single pieces, built up by adding the running gear assemblies.  This is much easier to build than other methods, but imposes an inherent inaccuracy in how the guide teeth must be molded.  It’s a trade-off, this is not a bad choice if the guide teeth limitation is not too obvious on the finished model.

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The model has a lot of interior components, a good start for those who wish to super-detail the inside.  The hatches are molded separately so some of this could be seen if you wanted to display it that way.  No crew figures though, and the aftermarket is of little help here.  I decided to close the hatches on mine and leave the interior parts for the spares box.

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Here’s everything all built up.  I replaced the gun barrel with brass tube, and had to replace the padeye on the port side with stock as my part went pinging off into the ether.  The turret and tracks are posed together here for the picture, I left them separate for easier painting.

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Basic camo is applied in this picture.  The tracks press fit tightly without glue but are mush easier to paint when off.  The turret just sits in the opening and is not mechanically secured in any way.  I attached mine with LiquiTape, with provides a solid bond but still allows for some deflection if I want to traverse the turret.

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The kit decals were applied using MicroScale products over a gloss coat.  The decals are printed on a continuous sheet of carrier film.  I would advise cutting back the film as much as possible as the film does not settle well, as can be seen in the picture.  I trimmed mine back and got them to settle down but they resisted.

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The black border between the camouflage colors was applied with a drafting pen and then re-sealed with more GlossCoat before weathering.  The tracks have been coated with brown Tamiya panel line wash and dry brushed with silver.

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Here is the model after weathering.  The mud is weathering powder over brown artists oils.  The tank was sealed with a layer of DullCoat mixed with a bit of light tan paint to simulate dust.  An unusual subject and a nice little kit, but the instructions could have been a lot clearer.