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By Thomas Wheeler

This vehicle from the G.I.Joe 12" Collection has actually been out about a year or so, but I only recently was able to save up the funding necessary to acquire it. It is a large and not inexpensive vehicle, but if you're a reasonably dedicated follower/collector of the 12" G.I.Joe line, then you will definitely want to give serious consideration to the M3 Tank Destroyer.

The vehicle's origins are from World War II, and the background information on the package reads as follows:

The invasion of Saipan by the United States began on June 15, 1944. Saipan, the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean, became strategically important as the ideal place to launch aerial bombardmenton Japan. The Americans planned to target Japan's industrial base and needed the geographically suitable Marianas for their plan. First they took the other islands in the central Pacific to clear a safe path for the Allied forces, destroting resistance island by island, until they reached the Marianas. Of the over 127,000 U.S. military personnel converging on Saipan, two-thirds were Marines of the 2nd and 4th Divisions. Battleships and destroyers shelled Saipan and Tinian for two days before the landings. The invasion force swarmed the beach under heavy Japanese shell fire, but the Americans fought on until July 9th, when the Saipan resistance ceased. The cost was high; American losses on Saipan were twice the amount as on Guadalcanal.

One of the pieces of equipment used by the Marines on Saipan was the M3 Tank Destroyer, technically known as the M3 75mm Gun Motor Carriage (GMC) and nicknamed the SMP (Self-Propelled Mount) by the Marines. The M3 Tank Destroyer was a variant of the M3 Half-Track personnel carrier. This version had, instead of seats for carrying troops, a 75mm M1897 A4 gun mounted on a metal box bolted to the chassis frame behind the driving compartment. Under the box was a ready rack containing 19 rounds of ammunition. The M3's gun was effective in destroying Japanese tanks they encountered in Saipan. With the help of the M3 and the strength and courage of the American forces, Saipan became another important milestone in the fight for victory in World War II.

The vehicle is a highly impressive piece of work. It measures 2-1/2 feet in length and is over 10 inches in height -- not counting the adjustable gun. It's very sturdily built, too. It's heavy enough so that one time, not long after it came out, I saw a father with two small boys buying one, and it took both boys to carry the thing to the cash register. Granted, part of this was because of its size, and I still think this was a near-violation of child labor laws... But the M3 is not a lightweight or fragile item.

The vehicle has plenty of moving parts. The mounted gun was a spring-loaded recoil, even though it does not actually fire a shell. A shell can be loaded into the rear of the gun. It comes with a supply of shells. The steering wheel turns, and the front wheels of the vehicle also turn, although there is no direct connection between the steering wheel and the vehicle's actual wheels. The half-track treads in the rear of the vehicle are actual treads, and they do turn along a series of wheels as the vehicle is pushed along. There is also a "ditch roller" on the front of the vehicle which also turns. Assorted removeable accessories include a shovel, axe, and gas can.

The figure that comes with the M3 is a fairly basic World War II Marine, dressed in a green uniform with a helmet that looks like some sort of early desert camouflage. Odd combination if you ask me. His hands have the Gung-Ho Grip but fortunately the body is not the "super-articulated" version. I like the Classic Collection style body better. The head is what I call the "40's-style" head that was used extensively within the Pearl Harbor Collection last year. The uniform has a nice weave pattern to it that in my opinion makes it look realistic.

The only real down point, as is often the case with G.I.Joe items, is getting the vehicle out of its own blasted packaging. If you do not own a strong pair of scissors and maybe a good pair of wire cutters, I suggest you purchase them. The M3 is lashed down with enough strips of ridged plastic and plastic-coated wire twist-ties that you'll be spending a fair amount of time getting it loose from some very uncooperative corrugated cardboard, and then trying to get the figure loose from the vehicle. Some of the twist-ties were in areas that I would dearly love to know how they tied all this down, because I almost couldn't get to them. Come on, Hasbro, I can understand wanting to secure the item for a safe trip from the factory to the store, but I'd still like to be able to get it loose without that much frustration!

Overall, the M3 is one of the standouts from a year or so ago, that (in my opinion) may be running out of major pieces to do. There just aren't that many 12" G.I.Joes that impress me anymore as being truly distinctive. Too many of them look like slight variations of existing themes and figures. With most of the major pieces from WWII already having been done, many of the newer items may interest perhaps more dedicated military historians, especially of the World War II era (a period of time of admitted considerable interest to me, but only so far). The M3 is a decidedly unique piece, with plenty of play, display, and diorama potential, and you should still be able to find it at your local Toys "R" Us, and if you have the money for it, I definitely recommend the G.I.Joe M3 Tank Destroyer. You won't be disappointed.