Ever regretted not buying a certain model kit years ago and finding yourself wanting to build it later on in life? If you have, you will understand my desire to find the old Revell 1/35 LVT-(A1) Amtrak which came with an option to paint it in the grey-blue scheme of the US Army 708th Amphibious Battalion who fought in Saipan in 1944.
I had wanted to build the blue/grey tank on the models box art years earlier and always promised myself that one day I would. A recent read of Eugene Sledge’s “With the Old Breed” his memoir of his time fighting in the Pacific inspired me to build a model from that theatre of operations. Before I had time to think about it, I was already scanning internet auctions in my search for the now out of production kit.
Eventually my searching led to this kit landing in my studio……
A brief history of the LVT A1 Amtrack:
The Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) is an amphibious warfare vehicle and amphibious landing craft, introduced by the United States Navy. The United States Marine Corps, United States Army, and Canadian and British armies used several LVT models during World War II.
Originally intended solely as cargo carriers for ship to shore operations, they evolved into assault troop and fire support vehicles. The types were known as amphtrack, “amtrak”, “amtrac”, etc. (portmanteaus of “amphibious tractor”), and “alligator” or “gator”.
The LVT had its origins in a civilian rescue vehicle called the Alligator. Developed by Donald Roebling in 1935, the Alligator was intended to operate in swampy areas, inaccessible to both traditional cars and boats. Two years later, Roebling built a redesigned vehicle with improved water speed. The United States Marine Corps, which had been developing amphibious warfare doctrine based on the ideas of Lt. Col Earl Hancock “Pete” Ellis and others, became interested in the machine after learning about it through an article in Life magazine and convinced Roebling to design a more seaworthy model for military use.
Both the US Navy and Roebling resisted the idea of a military design, the US Navy because it felt conventional landing craft could do the job, and Roebling because he wished his invention to be used only for peaceful purposes. Roebling was persuaded after war broke out in Europe, and completed a militarized prototype by May 1940. The Bureau of Ships requested a second prototype with a more powerful engine, and the USMC tested the design in November 1940. Impressed by the second prototype, the Bureau of Ships placed a contract for production of 100 units of a model using all-steel construction, for a more rugged and easily produced design, and the first LVT-1 was delivered in July 1941. Another 200 units were ordered even before the first production units were delivered. After more improvements to meet requirements of the Navy, made difficult by Roebling’s lack of blueprints for the initial designs, the vehicle was adopted as “Landing Vehicle Tracked” or LVT.
The LVT-1 design
The contract to build the first 200 LVTs was awarded to the Food Machinery Corporation (FMC), a manufacturer of insecticide spray pumps and other farm equipment, which built some parts for the Alligators. The initial 200 LVTs were built at FMC’s Dunedin, Florida factory, where most of the improvement work had been done as well. The first production LVT rolled out of the plant in July, 1941. Later, wartime LVT production was expanded by FMC and the Navy to four factories, including the initial facility in Dunedin; the new facilities were located in Lakeland, Florida, Riverside, California, and San Jose, California.
The LVT-1 could carry 18 fully equipped men or 4,500 pounds (2,041 kg) of cargo.Originally intended to carry replenishment from ships to shore, they lacked armor protection and their tracks and suspension were unreliable when used on hard terrain. However, the Marines soon recognized the potential of the LVT as an assault vehicle. A battalion of LVTs was ready for 1st Marine Division by 16 February 1942. The LVTs saw their first operational use in Guadalcanal, where they were used exclusively for landing supplies. About 128 LVTs were available for the landings.
LVT(A)-1 :The first infantry support LVT. With the first experience of Pacific amphibious operations it was clear heavier firepower than the usual .50 in guns was needed. Based on the LVT-2, A standing for armored, this fire support version had an armored (6 to 12 mm) hull. It was fitted with a turret nearly identical to that of the Light Tank M3, with a 37 mm Gun M6 in an M44 mount, and also carried two rear-mounted machine guns, 509 units were produced. The vehicle’s hull was covered in 6-12mm of armor plate, and the vehicle was powered by a 262 bhp (195 kW) air-cooled petrol engine. Despite the limitations imposed by the turret, it could still carry a limited payload of 1,000 lb (450 kg) of cargo and had a quite respectable speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) on land and 6.5 mph (10.5 km/h) in water, and an operational range of 125 mi (200 km) on land or 75 mi (120 km) in water.
Revell’s old kit is well, old! It was a simple construction, however track installation was on the tricky side and using the kits rubber tracks was perhaps a short cut too many. That said, the rest of the build was a breeze and painting the unusual blue/grey scheme was a lot of fun. I used a mix of Tamiya Field Blue and Light Grey to get the colour I wanted and mistd on lighter tones with the airbrush to add a faded effect.
The decals included in the kit were next to useless, they were so old that they just broke up when used. Revell Germany did not even respond to my request for a replacement decal sheet, so it was down to me and the spare decal box to save the day!
Somehow, with a mix of old decals from other kits and some very careful brush painting, I think I managed to pull it off!
I had just built an Amtrack-I had to show it in its war time environment and that meant it was going to be hitting the beach! I constructed a wood plinth and sculpted a beach landscape from packing foam. Sand and water were added with AK Interactive’s Desert Sand Terrain paste and Water Effects Gel, the palm trees were modified aftermarket pieces. The figures were converted from an old 1970’s set of Italeri 1/35 US marines.
“C COMPANY, 708TH AMPHIBIOUS TANK BATTALION, SAIPAN, JUNE 1944”
The finished diorama in its display case……
Thank you for visiting! I hope you enjoyed this diorama.
Take care and Happy Modelling!