You can’t really field a late war Motor Platoon without their main ride: the M5 half track. There are a couple of plastic kits out there for the very similar M3 half track, but for my Polish 1st Armoured I decided to get the resin kit of an actual M5 from Warlord.
The M5 Half Track
The Germans are most famous for being half track fans in WWII, but the Americans actually built far, far more of them and they were used by pretty much every Allied army. US forces were equipped with the more common M3 version built by several manufacturers, but the vehicles made by International Harvester were slightly different and had the designation M5. Almost all ended up being sent to US allies under Lend-Lease, where they were used as APCs by British and similar units, and as gun tractors by the Soviets.
Both the M3 and M5 descended from earlier Citroen designs, and had a typical layout with a 6-cylinder engine up front and an open-topped crew and passenger compartment. There was a single door at the rear, and troops could debus over the side in an emergency. The main difference in the M5 version was that it wasn’t built with face-hardened armour, but instead had a greater thickness of RHA. This weighed more and gave less protection, which may be why the US army preferred to keep the M3s and send the M5s overseas. Despite this, the M5 actually performed fairly well in service.
US vehicles packed a .50 calibre M2HB heavy machine gun in either a pintle or “pulpit” style ring mount, plus M1919 .30 cal guns. In British (and Polish!) service photos show these were often stripped off, as they were considered unnecessary on a vehicle not intended to directly engage the enemy. It also shows how confident the Allies were of air superiority by this stage of the war.
From a cosmetic point of view the main distinguishing features of the M5 are rounded rear corners, different shaped front mudguards, and the fact that it was welded rather than bolted. You can certainly use an M3 model to represent an M5 though, from across a wargames table you’d struggle to tell the difference unless you’ve got the eyes of a hawk.
Warlord and Rubicon both do a plastic M3 half track, but if you want an M5 you’re looking at this resin and metal kit. I’m not aware of anybody else that’s doing an M5 in 28mm.
I’d seen some bad reviews of this kit online, mostly centring around the amount of cleanup and work it required to assemble. It was quite flashy, and it also suffers from the “bag of mystery parts” problem you get with so many resin kits. One of the best things about the newer plastic models is that they come with excellent instructions, and to be fair Warlord have gone back through some of their old resin kits and done a nice exploded diagram of them, but nothing yet for the poor M5. Luckily it’s not too much of a mystery, and I didn’t actually find the parts too flashy, and the resin parts weren’t warped.
A few parts were a slightly dodgy fit, especially the racks on the side of the vehicle, which were all bent to hell. Looks like I’m not the only one who had trouble straightening them out, even the photos on the Warlord site show them all wonky, and it seems to be fitted wrongly on one side.
I didn’t end up using all the parts in the kit. It comes with the raised ring mount for the 50cal. You also get the 50cal gun and two 30cals. Based on photos I’ve looked at all that hardware wasn’t popular on non-US half tracks. British and Allied users tended to ditch all the guns and the ring mount so that’s what I’ve gone for too. You can model it with the windscreen shield up or down, I went for down because bullets.
No crew figures are included with the kit, so I got one of Warlord’s nice British drivers with the fag hanging out of his mouth. I also really wanted to fit passengers, but the only people doing a section of British troops compatible with a half track are Victory Force Miniatures, who hail from the US. Between the postage costs and the state of the pound post-Brexit vote it was looking like over £35 for eight guys, so sod that. Some clever bods have modified plastics into the seated position, I think I’ll just wait until someone produces some regular Brit infantry passengers then I’ll pop them in.
I’ve added a fair bit of stowage down the sides, scrounged from the bits box. I did accidentally knock off a headlight during the build, and it just vanished, so I’ve had to put on a cam net over a bit of sprue about the right size. Who needs headlights anyway? Besides the missing passengers the other bit that bugs me slightly is the lack of a steering wheel (or any other controls, really). I may go back and add one in if I ever come back to do the passengers.