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- U.S. 81mm Mortar, M29 -
Vietnam War and Beyond

m29-full.jpg (92845 bytes)

The Kit:

   
This kit started out as the 1/35th scale offering from Hobby Fan and is manufactured in Taiwan. A difficult kit to obtain in the United States, and after quite a bit of searching, I was able to obtain two copies directly from Taiwan. The kit is cast in a cream colored resin to 1/35th scale.
M29 Rear I was rather disappointed with the quality of this kit. I purchased two and both had major parts that were warped. I was rather disappointed with the quality of this kit as it arrived. Hobby Fan has a reputation of making excellent models, but both of my examples were terribly warped. The tube straightened out with warm water and applying slight finger pressure. The frailty of the bipod legs made it almost impossible to straighten out without breaking. Fortunately, Italeri makes the M23A1 Bipod assembly that is used with the M29 in styrene plastic.
M29-Extras There were minor mold parting lines to remove that were difficult to do so due to the external threads on the tube. Care with a sharp #11 X-ACTO blade is required there. There were also small pin holes in the resin that needed to be filled. Some of these pits were in rather critical areas and were difficult to fill and sand without some alteration to the parts.
  M29-Front above  
       

The Details:

     
Numerous parts were added to detail and/or to correct this model. The added parts were made mostly from styrene plastic or from other kits.
m29-2 m29-1 m29-3
This Hobby Fan kit is the only model of the M29 mortar commercially available to the hobbyist. This model was a requirement for this collection, not only due to the subject matter, but also due to the personal experiences that I have had with the actual weapon. I was determined to build this model no matter what.
       
M29-Rear M29-Front M29
M29-Left Side High M29-Front 3/4 M29-Front
M29-Extras M29-Extras M29-Extras
M29-Above M29-PRC-25 M29-M79
The Extras:
The 20mm, .50cal and 7.62mm ammo cans are from Verlinden and are very nicely cast in resin. The rolled tarp is an Accurate Armour resin cast accessory and was very well done. The M16 Rifle and the M79 Grenade Launcher are from a DML Vietnam Weapons Set, and to these weapons, I added the slings from thinly cut strips of aluminum foil and the mounting hardware was made from thin formed wire. The C-Ration box is from Hudson & Allen. This was carefully cut out of the thin cardboard sheet, folded and white glued together. I add two thin strips of black electrical tape to form the wire bands that hold the actual box together. The TM as well as the 'Commander's Report' are reduced scans of the actual items. The letter envelope is from Printable Minis, and was printed and cut on regular white paper. The M18 Smoke Grenade was scratch-built.
The AN/PRC-25 Radio as it came, consisted of just the basic 'box', and needed to be detailed. I will let the photos below show the detail added.
PRC-25 prc-25 TM 11-5820-398-12 PRC-25 PRC-25
A - Airborne N - Sound in Air / P - Pack or Portable R - Radio C - Communications
 
Decals:
The white alignment stripe added to the tube came from my spare decal box. In real life, these marks are used as a guide to properly position the mount attachment ring and also as a safety check to ensure the gunner that the tube is properly aligned and locked into place. They are located at 17 and 23 inches from the muzzle.
       
The Figures:      
Were included in the kit and are rather nicely cast. The only modifications required were to add the the wrist watches. These were made from thin strips of Drafting Tape with punched out disks of styrene plastic, and super glued in place. My only complaint about these figures is that they both should be wearing Flak Jackets. They are pegged in place with small lengths of .032" brass rod for added strength.
M29-Figures M29-Figures M29-Figures M29-Figures

The 4th Infantry Division patch decals are a product of Quartermaster's Depot and are quite nicely printed. Adhesion was no problem with a small dab of Future Floor Wax applied to the area prior to adding the decals. The decals should be trimmed from the backing sheet very carefully. Solvaset decal setting solution was applied to the decals when in place and dry. There was no noticeable reaction between the decals and the setting solution. Once all was dry, I added another dab of Future to seal the decals, and then added a dab of PollyScale Acrylic Flat Coat to flatten out the wax gloss.

M29-Figures M29-Figures M29-Figures M29-Figures
The United States' 4th Infantry Division served in Vietnam from September 1966 to December 1970. Its three Brigades were deployed throughout Vietnam and combined, they participated in 11 major campaigns.
 
The Base and Groundwork:
The base is five inches in diameter, and is made from 3/4" thick scrap oak. The wood was stained and sealed with several coats of Polyurethane. There are four felt pads on the underside of the base.
The groundwork is built up from a mix of Sculptamold, white glue and water.

mortar pos.jpg (31321 bytes)

The sandbags (approximately 250 of them) were created with Marblex self-hardening clay, rolled out and cut to a specific length and then flattened out by pressing with a piece of cloth for a 'texture'. The 'bags' were glued in place with white glue.
The mortar position for this subject was based on a diagram found in MCI 03.22h dated 1976. (Marine Corps Institute)
 
Painting, Weathering and Finishing:
PollyScale acrylic paints and flat coat along with some enamel paints from Testors were used to paint this subject. Winsor and Newton Oils thinned with Loew-Cornell Odorless Brush Cleaner and Thinner were used for the washes. Bragdon Enterprises pastel weathering chalks were used for the ground colors after a base coat of paint. Berol Prismacolor colored pencils added to the weathering process.

General Mortar Info:

The M29 81-mm mortar was a smooth bore, muzzle loading, high angle-of-fire weapon. This weapon was organic to Infantry Battalions, and was used by the Battalion Commander to support on-going land operations when other supporting weapons systems were not available.

This weapon was manufactured by the Watervliet Arsenal and entered US service in the early 1950's. I have not found any documentation to state that the M29 was used during the Korean War of 1950-1953.

It was man-portable when broken down into 3-man loads... tube and sight, bipod, base plate. It was also transportable in the self-propelled mode by the M125 and M125A1 Mortar Carriers that were based on the M113 Armored Personal Carrier.

The M29 was replaced in US service by the M29A1 81mm Mortar that was standardized in 1970. The main differences between the M29 and M29A1 were the improved tube that allowed for an increase in the rate of fire, and the new and lighter M3 base plate (although, the M29 could also be found with the lighter M3 base plate). The M29 series of mortars are being phased out of service within the U.S. Armed Forces, and is in the process of being replaced by the M252 81mm Mortar. The M29 series could very well be totally phased out by this writing (10-03).

Actual Mortar Data:    

Weights:

FM 23-90-55.jpg (7257 bytes)
      Barrel: 27.95lbs
      Bipod: 39.95lbs
      Base plate: 24.91lbs
      Sight M53: 5.22lbs, M43A2: 3.99lbs
      Mortar, complete: 93.5lbs

Dimensions:

TM 9-1015-200-20&P.jpg (23224 bytes)
      Overall length: 51in
      Width in carrying position: 14.3in
      Maximum width: 21in
      Overall height on bipod: 37.5in
      Diameter of base plate: 21in
Elevation: MCI 03.22h
      Elevation (approx): 700-1500 mils
      Per turn of elevation crank (approx): 10 mils
Traverse:
      Right or left from center (approx): 95 mils
      Total turns of hand wheel for full traverse (approx): 19 turns
      Total traverse by movement of bipod w/o moving base plate: 6400 mils

Rate of fire: (for charge 8 only):      

TM 9-1015-200-20P
      Maximum (for first minute of firing only): 24 rounds per minute.
      Sustained: 2 rounds per minute.
Crew: 5
  TM 9-1015-200-35P.jpg (45559 bytes) canm29.jpg (17079 bytes)  

Ammunition Types: (with Maximum Ranges)
M374 High Explosive - 4,934 yards

FT 81-AT-3

M374A1 High Explosive - 5,180 yards
M362 High Explosive - 3,991 yards
M362A1 High Explosive - 3,991 yards
M370 White Phosphorous (Smoke) - 3,991 yards
M375 White Phosphorous (Smoke) - 4,934 yards  
M375A2 White Phosphorous (Smoke) - 4,934 yards  
*M301A1 Illumination - 2,296 yards  
*M301A2 Illumination - 2,296 yards  
M68 Training - 300 yards  
*The M301A1 and M301A2 Illumination Rounds will burn for 75 seconds (suspended by parachute), provide 500,000 Candle Power and will illuminate an area of 1,200 yards in diameter.

Personal Experience with the M29A1:

While I was assigned to the S-3 Shop, (Battalion Operations), I had the opportunity to visit the firing lines quite often. Knowing the mortar platoon guys quite well, they would always invite me up on the firing line to 'drop in a few'. I was lucky enough to have been able to fire off both HE (High Explosive) and Illumination type rounds. Quite exciting for me, and I was always very appreciative of the mortar guys (B Co. 3rd Battalion 35th Infantry 187th Infantry Brigade). Of the approximately 30 rounds of High Explosive and Illumination that I've fired, not once did I ever hang a round.

On more than one occasion, I was able to view night time illuminations while flying in aerial observation missions in UH-1Hs... quite a different perspective.
Had I not been basically RIF'd (Reduction in Force) in the early 1990's, my next assignment would have been to be the Mortar Platoon Sergeant.

Veteran's Day weekend, 2003.

 
This photo was taken at the First Division Museum in Wheaton, IL.
A good friend of mine with a couple of veterans set this display up to recreate the diorama of the M29 that I have recently completed. Obviously, the sandbags are not there, but these guys took the time to set this up and to duplicate as many of the details as possible. Right down to the M18 Yellow Smoke Grenade! Needless to say that I was thrilled to receive this photo. I only wish that I had had this photo as a reference prior to building my model.
The man on the right is a Vietnam War Veteran and is a Bronze Star Recipient. 1st ID M29
I thank you guys... I am honored!

Sources:  
Mr. Michael H. Pruett - United States  

Mr. Dave Willett - United States

 
Mr. Jerrill F. Janik - United States  

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Unless otherwise specified, all models built, painted, photographed and are owned by the author.
Mortars in Miniature, Created and Maintained by
Kevin Robert Keefe, Copyright 2014
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