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Joe Bianco
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Tamiya 1/35 scale M577 Command Vehicle

October 20, 2021 · in Armor · · 6 · 1.7K

This weekend I presented this 1/35 scale Command vehicle commanded by Cpt. Michael B. Hartgraves (my Father-in-law) who served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Division, in 1969. This was an 80th birthday present my wife and mother-in-law asked I build. I was inspired to tackle this project last Thanksgiving holiday when I spent several hours recording the story of his time before, during and after serving in the United States Army as a young officer. Among other decorations, Cpt. Hartgraves was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart during his tour. The model depicts a time when his Platoon, F Troop was attached to an Australian unit on patrol. The M577 he inherited had a somewhat garish body-count scoreboard on one side (he even thought it was a bit over the top but the troops liked it so it stayed). One evening his and the Australian unit were "ambushed." Mines and flares were tripped indicating something was out there encroaching their perimeter. In the darkness a fierce yet rather one sided firefight ensued. After several minutes the attack stopped and the there was no return fire. It was decided to wait until the morning to investigate as it was too dangerous in the dark of night to venture out for fear of tripping their own mines and other boobytraps that were set. Upon daylight it was discovered, rather unfortunately, that the ambush was a herd of pack elephants being used by the North Vietnamese to haul supplies, usually in advance of their units to trip any mines and boobytraps such as this. The Australian's were somewhat amused at the American show of force. So, the next evening in the middle of the night, the Aussies staged their own ambush on their American allies by embellishing the command vehicle "score board" with the previous nights tally shown in yellow.

Searching online one evening I came across a photo of an M577 showing the body count (with three elephants) on the side. Later, I discovered Star Decals put out a sheet for this vehicle too. So I purchased 's 1970's release and built the model straight out of the box.

This was my first armor build. The decals represent a time later when the body count (in red) had grown larger than what was on it when my father-in-law was commanding so I roughly cut out about half of the red figures (just a wild guess on my part by I was told there were about half as many). I also embellished the right side of the vehicle with 11th Cavalry insignia and other markings as no photo exists (I did find a photo of a different M577 with similar logo and markings so...). I did this mainly because this was a commemorative project and it just looked good. Overall Olive green paint was a blend of several Tamiya paints. Weathering was intentionally light considering the subject and was achieved with a light overspray of brown/red to simulate the red clay dirt ubiquitous to Vietnam. I finished the weathering with a watercolor wash and some dry brushing to bring out the details. The model was mounted on a base with 11th insignia and commemorative name plate (Plexiglass cover is being fabricated).

You can see more of my projects on my website at

Reader reactions:
4  Awesome

7 additional images. Click to enlarge.

6 responses

  1. Very cool story, and nice build to go along with it!

  2. Amazing build and a very touching story, Joe.

  3. Thanks for sharing the story and the great result of this build, Joe @mercenarymodels
    Well done.

  4. From that photo of the gift being received, it looks like you scored a veritable myriad of points.

    Really nice work on this and a great result.

  5. An impressive build with a personnel touch. Nice work. "We were soldiers once..."

  6. Really nice work on your first armor build, it came out looking great! A perfect gift for a father in law who have served in the armed forces.

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