by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
introductionThe U.S. Army 155 mm Guns M1 and M2 (later M59), widely known as Long Tom, were 155 millimeter caliber field guns used by the United States armed forces during World War II. The M1 155 mm Gun was a development of the WW1 French Canon de 155 mm GPF, with a similar barrel but an Ashbury breech. Continued development lead to the M1A1 for the U.S. Coastal Defense Artillery. In 1940 the gun was mated to a new split-trail carriage with ten pneumatic tires, the Carriage M-1. The gun mount was lowered from the suspension to rest upon the ground when firing, a configuration that took the 15 man crew 30 minutes to prepare. Firing 95-100 pound projectiles up to 15 miles, the gun was occasionally fired over open sights, such as at Japanese fortifications on Peleliu. During the postwar U.S. Army reorganization, the system was redesignated the M59 and served past the Korean War.
The KitIn the 1970s Bandaiís 155 mm "Long Tom" introduced the modeling world to heavy artillery larger than 1/72 scale.* One of their U.S. Army models in their huge 1/48 WW2 series, the gun was also used in Bandaiís 1/48 155mm Gun Motor Carriage M12 self-propelled gun (kit 8289). These two kits were complemented by a third, the Cargo Carrier M30 (kit 8283), an armored munitions carrier. Both of those models featured a basic driver and radio compartment, and a beautifully detailed 340 hp Wright (Continental) R975 EC2 radial engine. Unfortunately, the engine compartment cooling screens are molded solid; fortunately, minor cutting can open them. The "Long Tom" was subsequently reissued by Bandai, then again in the 1990s by their subsidiaries FROG and Fuman. My sample is the Fuman box with Fuman instructions (merely Bandai instructions with "Fuman" printed over "Bandai"), Bandai sprues and FROG decals.
The model is built with one hundred forty parts (one hundred eighty-one including the sprue of six guncrew) of hard dark olive styrene. The parts are sharply molded but suffer from flash and seam lines. There are no mold and ejector marks or sinkholes on visible parts. In-scale casting of many smaller pieces is inconsistent.
Bandai textured the two-piece gun barrel, cradle, trail and some other pieces. No attempt was made to simulate any weld seams. Fine details such as wiring is molded on the split-trail carriage. The ten tires are single parts with bolt detail. Bandai did not make the trunion so that the gun will raise and lower. The suspension is built either lifted for firing, or lowered for travel.
The guncrew figures of figure set No. 16 are well detailed but scaled badly. Humans are approximately seven heads high. These figures are pinheads. Resin 1/48 heads are available to if one wants to fix the figures. The helmets are undersized, too.
Several rounds of ammunition are provided. Six lifting eyes are included for the projectiles, as is a cradle for the rounds and propellant. On the figure sprue is are two powder bags, while casings are included on a gun sprue.
INSTRUCTIONS, PAINTING guide and DECALSThe instructions are in diagram format and easy to follow. Basic painting guides are noted. The decals are very basic markings and "Long Tom". Fortunately, these are the FROG decals as Fuman decals are vinyl stickers.
CONCLUSIONThe years have proved hard on the molds for this kit; hopefully original Bandai issues are free of flash. The gun can be improved upon with detailing and reworking of some parts, but the reviewer asks artillery aficionados to identify specifics. Still, this is currently the only 1/48 heavy artillery piece available, unless one can find a cottage industry limited-run kit.
*Aurora producted a 1/48 155 mm gun and a 1/48 8 in. Howitzer M1 in the early 1960s. Tamiya also produced a 1/21 scale M1 155 mm Long Tom. Stand-by for a review.