Sunday, May 12, 2013
I recently found these GIs on eBay. They did not indicate the manufacturer, but I could tell that they were vintage so I got them (not to mention that the guy throwing the rock is a very unique pose!), assuming that I would be able to track down the manufacturer later. Well, I spent almost a whole afternoon trying to identify them and could not figure it out. It was thanks to a reader who left a comment that we now know that they are early Lido GIs. I'll add them to the corresponding post.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
In the summer of '98 I had the opportunity to tour the Normandy landing beaches for two days. These are some of the pictures I took. Unfortunately this was before the day of digital photography, so some of the shots are not as sharp as I would have liked. On the positive side, having to shoot with film probably kept me from taking several hundred pictures which is what I am sure would have happened had I had a digital camera with me at the time! Anyhow, this is a report on what I did manage to document. If you are reading this blog, you are very likely to be quite familiar with the role that the Normandy beaches and D-Day played in WWII, so I won't dwell on introducing them here. Instead, I'll focus on some of the ground-level details that I encountered during my trip.
Arromanches, France. Gold beach.
View of the left half of what remains of the artificial harbor built by the allies to be able to unload additional men, supplies, and material in the absence of a real harbor. This artificial harbor technology is known as a Mulberry Harbor and it was key to be able to sustain the war effort. A combination of these concrete breakwater blocks and sunken ships were used to afford protection from the rough ocean and allow the unloading to happen. The actual harbor was about twice as big as what can be seen in this composite picture, extending to the right side of where I stood.
Sherman tank located on top of the bluff overlooking the Arromanches (Gold) beach. One of many pieces of ordnance left over from the campaign.
Monument to Kieffer's Commandos in Ouistreham, France.
Kieffer's commandos were the first French troops to land on Normandy. This one is located above Sword beach, the eastmost of the landing beaches.
One of the many pillboxes and small bunkers along the edge of the villages overlooking the landing beaches. Note how this gun is pointing away from the beach though. Seems to be protecting the rest of the position against a flanking move.
Some of the destroyed war materiel has been transformed into monuments along the sightseeing route.
A Churchill tank at Courseulles-sur-Mer, Juno Beach, Canadian sector. Juno was the second landing beach, from the east, after Sword and before Gold and Omaha and Utah (in that order).
Memorial monument dedicated to the Allied forces who liberated France, located at Saint Laurent-sur-Mer above Omaha beach.
Battery bunkers at Longues-sur-Mer, sitting south of the beaches at the border between Gold and Omaha beaches. This battery hosted four 152mm guns and operated throughout D-Day and was eventually captured on D-Day+1. At that point, only one gun remained operational, with the other three having been knocked out of action by fire from ships off shore.
This one shows more damage. Cracks on the left side and a hole in the back.
Looks like this is the one that survived the battle. It continues to guard the channel...
This shot puts their size in perspective.
Standing on top of the west-most of the four casemates hosting the guns. You can see the other three bunkers and the ocean in the background.
The bunkers from a distance. I would not have liked to have to approach that over open terrain.
The observation post. Located about 100 yards north of the battery bunkers, at the edge of the bluff overlooking the beach.
The observation post at sunset. A view that the men guarding the Atlantic wall might have seen many times not knowing what the next day would bring.
The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-Sur-Mer
The morning mist gave it an even more solemn atmosphere...
When you struggle to see where it ends, that's when the magnitude of the cost of war hits you. And this is just a small fraction.
The cemetery contains the remains of close to 9400 men who fell during the Normandy campaign in the summer of '44.
The view from Omaha beach. As you can see, the challenge was not just crossing the beach but going over or around the elevated terrain overlooking the beach.
The view to the west side of the beach. Gives you a better feeling for what the men landing might have felt having to cross what must have seemed like a huge expanse of beach under fire.
The view to the right, the east side. The pill boxes at the edge of the high ground provided deadly enfilading fire.
One of such pillboxes overlooking the beach from the west.
Pointe du Hoc, Isigny-sur-Mer.
This was the site of a daring operation by the US 2nd Ranger Battalion. Three Ranger companies landed and climbed the cliffs under fire to capture and destroy a battery of 6 155mm guns. Ironically the guns had been moved 2 days earlier 1 mile further inland. The rangers nonetheless, located them, destroyed them and went on to fend off German counter attacks until they were releived the next day.
The memorial monument to the 2nd Ranger Battalion, sitting on top of the observation post.
The observation post at the tip of Pointe du Hoc.
The pockmarked terrain reveals how intense the bombardment was in this area. It's all one crater after the next, with bunker ruins in between.
A view from the southwest. In the foreground, there is an open circular gun pit that allowed a gun to rotate and be fired in any direction. In the background you can see some more collapsed bunkers and cratered terrain in the distance. Far towards the left-center of the picture that's where the observation post and the memorial are located.
The entryway leading to the door to one of the bunkers that still stand.
German Military Cemetery, La Cambe, France.
21,000 German dead are buried there. The hill at the center is actually a mass grave for about 300 men, most of them unknown.
View from the top of the hill, at the center of the cemetery, where the main memorial stands.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Reisler is a Danish Toy Soldier manufacturer named after its founder Kai Reisler. They made a good range of figures covering many different topics, from cowboys and indians to rangers, aliens, arabs, French Foreign Legion, zoo animals, and of course, some WWII as well. Apparently, they were primarily in production during the 50's and 60's. Their figures are made from plastic. Unfortunately, when it comes to WWII I have only seen the GIs represented and some Danish Navy guys. Being a European manufacturer I would have expected them to have made more of the European combatants. The sculpting and diversity of poses is really good for the time when they were made. I just wish they were easier to come by these days.
Reisler US Infantry
These are just 3 poses out of about 25 GIs that they made. Some of the Reisler figures I have seen online have paint on them, but I don't know if they came this way out of the factory. As you can tell, the figures are well proportioned and have a decent amount of detail on them. Several of the poses that I am missing are even better. Hopefully I can get my hands on them soon and show them.
Reisler Danish Navy
Just 4 poses. It seems that they were originally released factory painted, in blue (1953) and white (1955) uniforms. The guys in this picture must be more recent casts as they came without any paint on them, although they do have the Reisler sticker on them underneath the base. Unfoortunately with so few poses and two of them being so similar, there won't be many possibilities when it comes to setting up a scene with these guys. Still they rank well on the uniqueness factor and seemed worthwhile to add to the collection.
Friday, March 22, 2013
The Ludendorff bridge at Remagen was a railway bridge built during WWI in order to ship men and materiel to the Western front. It was about 1000 ft long. It gained notoriety during WWII for being the first place at which the Allies crosed the Rhine on March 7, 1945. Alexander A. Drabik was the first man across, leading his squad under machine gun fire. Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann the first officer to reach the eastern side. Both of them received the Distinguished Service Cross for this accomplishment. Crossing the Rhine was of great significance as this was the last natural barrier of any significance in the west protecting the heart of Germany and all other bridges capable of supporting heavy vehicles had already been destroyed. The US 9th Armored Division had the distinction of accomplishing the crossing. This was made possible in part by a series of mishaps on the German side who desperately tried to demolish the bridge but were unsuccessful and the fact that it was only defended by a platoon-size garrison. The responsible German officers were subsequently court-martialed and 4 of them were executed. A few days after the bridge was captured and having being subjected to constant bombardment -including some not so well-aimed V2 rockets-, the bridge collapsed, taking with it 28 combat engineers who were working on it. At this point, the loss of the bridge did not matter that much as other pontoon bridges had already been built and troops could continue to flow into the other side. Also, some argue that this bridge was not sufficient to move enough troops across to continue the advance and the offensive had to wait for the armies to the north and south to get to he eastern bank of the Rhine. Even if that's the case, having crossed the Rhine had great phychological impact on both sides and the war in Europe was over just two months later. The bridge has not been rebuilt since then and today, all that remains are the towers at each end and a small portion of the ramp leading to it on the western side. The towers on the western side have been transformed into a Museum dedicated to Peace. Below are some pictures from my visit a few years ago.
The ramp leading to the bridge from the western side. The ramp is actually partially destroyed. There are about two arches left of it and the broken end of it stands about 20 feet off the ground. In this picture I only framed the portion that is still in good shape.
View of the bridge standing at the edge of the broken ramp, as far as I could stand. From here you can also see the towers at the eastern end of the bridge. This is the view that the GIs met with (along with the metal structure of the actual bridge) when they crossed it. With the high ground at the other end of the bridge providing artillery cover and the protection of the towers, the bridge could have been a much more costly affair to capture. Luckily, for the GIs it was not adequately defended. Note that today there is quite a bit of overgrowth on what would have been the road/ramp leading to the bridge.
The view of the west-side towers from the river's western edge. Note that there is nothing left of the bridge. Where the bridge would have begun we only see a clean cut.
View of the eastern side, with the eastern bridge towers at the river's edge and the commanding hills in the background. The day of my visit was a bit cloudy so the towers are a bit difficult to see. This picture also shows the width of the Rhine river at this point.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
This post is a continuation of the 'More GIs' album. I had to split that post because Blogger would not allow more labels on that one. That tells you something about how many manufacturers have produced US GIs! Anyhow, this album covers some of the less common or older sets. They have been harder to find and that's why they have been the most recent additions.
TimMee US Infantry Series 1 - Part I
These guys are actually 60mm figures. The same figures were later released in 54mm by Ideal. These 60mm figures say TimMee on the bottom of the base. These guys are not the best sculpted figures out there, but they hold a special place in my collection simply by being among the oldest. I'm sure that once they are painted they will look just fine next to the rest of the men.
TimMee US Infantry Series 1 - Part II
The prone guy is actually a Lido figure but he came with this batch of figures when I bought them so he ended up sneaking into the picture. BTW in this set you can already see some of the poses that would evolve into the Vietnam Tim-Mee figures: the mine sweeper, the kneeling radio man, the bazooka man with a straight back, the machine gunner...
TimMee US Infantry Series 1 - Part III
The rest of the gang. Again, you can recognize a few more of the guys who evolved into the Vietnam set.
TimMee US Infantry Series 2
These guys are also 60mm figures. They are a bit bulkier than the Series 1 figures, with better sculpting. The highlight of this set is the motrocycle man. The man in the middle seems to be wearing a German helmet so I need to do a bit more research to find out if he is really a GI. It came with the rest of them, so I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.
MPC Ring Hand US Infantry
I only have one figure from this set, and it came without a weapon. Apparently you could put a variety of accessories on them and produce several different figures. I find it an interesting idea. Maybe at some point I will find the rest of his buddies. BTW, he is also a 60mm guy.
Lido 54mm GIs
I recently found these GIs on eBay. They did not indicate the manufacturer, but I could tell that they were vintage so I got them (not to mention that the guy throwing the rock is a very unique pose!), assuming that I would be able to track down the manufacturer later. Well, I spent almost a whole afternoon trying to identify them and could not figure it out. It was thanks to one of our readers who left a comment that we now know that they are early Lido GIs.
Lido 60mm US Infantry - Part I
This is another old set. Originally made in the mid 1950s, although continued to be recast and cloned over the years. Even these guys are from several different batches, even though I bought them all together. Note how they do not have any bases, and yet they are quite stable.
Lido 60mm US Infantry - Part II
Some of the Lido figures were copies of Marx figures. I think the guy on the left is one of those.
Lido/Marx 60mm US Infantry - Part III
Some more guys. I bought them as Lido, but even if they are Lido, they seem to be recasts/clones of the Marx GIs.
Lido 60mm US Infantry - Part IV
Here are a few more alleged Lido guys. They came with the rest of the set, but I have not been able to determine their origin.
Lido/Marx 60mm US Infantry - Part V
These guys are some of the same poses, as those already show above, but they have a smooth helmet, without netting, and are slightly taller.
Marx 40mm US Infantry - Part I
I recently bought these figures without really knowing the manufacturer and scale, but I knew they were old and worth collecting. They turned out to be smaller than I epxected and it took me a while to figure out who made them, but I finally figure out that they are an early Marx set.
Marx 40mm US Infantry - Part II
The figures are made out of hard rubber, heavier and harder than plastic. We can tell from the weapons that they were made after the war. While the poses are not the most exciting or well sculpted, I like having such an old item in the collection.
Monogram 1/35 US Infantry - Part I
I recently came across these figures on eBay. Some of the poses looked really good. They are supposed to be 1/35 in scale, but they turned out to be quite smaller. So much that I thought they were 40mm figures until I confirmed that they were indeed sold as part of a 1/35 kit requiring assembly. There are supposed to be 18 figures in the set. I suspect that I have most of them, but maybe I also got a few extra figures from other sets. Like the guy in the middle holding the artillery shell.
Monogram 1/35 US Infantry - Part II
This picture has some of my favorite figures in the set. The mortar team and the bazooka team are very well done. In fact, they are the poses that made me get these figures.
Monogram 1/35 US Infantry - Part III
Here are the rest of the guys. The previous owner painted them with white helmets, but they seem to be part of the same set, although I do wonder about the mortar team. I doubt one set would have had two mortar teams.
Monogram 1/35 US Infantry - Comparison to a 1/32 figure
Here is a shot with a 1/32 figure next to a monogram guy. The 1/32 guy from Italeri is on the smaller side of the 1/32 scale compared with let's say the Conte or TSSD guys, but the monogram guy still looks quite smaller. I don't think I will be able to use these guys next to my other troops :-(
Maybe they would come handy in a diorama where you need to create the impression of things being farther than they really are.
Auburn US Infantry - Part I
I was not familiar with these figures until a recent Toy Soldier Show, but a fellow collector who was also digging through a bin that I was looking through identified them for me. They are about 70 mm tall, so a bit beyond my scale however I liked the sculpting work, particularly that of the two guys on the left who look very confident. I was told they were Korean War figures, but I think they can pass for WWII GIs.
Auburn US Infantry - Part II
Here are a few more guys that I recently found. The grenade man is pulling the pin with his teeth. A nice touch that I have not seen replicated by any other manufacturer. The guy crouching is a bit odd. As far as I can tell he is delivering a note. The other guys are solid guys, in a similar stance as the guys above. All solid guys, nicely sculpted.
Auburn US Infantry - Part III
And yet three more poses. A bazooka, always good to have some heavy weapons in your unit. The guy with the bayonet, might come handy in some pacific scene. And the guy standing around and having a smoke is a nice detail from a grunt's every day life. Definitely a figure manufactured in an earlier time. I doubt such a pose would be released today.
Auburn US Infantry - Part IV
Here are the last four poses as far as I know. The guy firing, the one with the sub machine gun and the crawling guy have become standard poses in most infantry sets of most nationalities, so it makes a lot of sense that they would also be part of this one.
Bonnie Bilt US Infantry - Part I
This is an interesting set. Not very realistic as they are flat figures, but unique in the sense that they are made out of plastic, but are flat like many lead soldiers used to be. The prone man on the right was supposed to have a maching gun, but I suppose those were easy to lose, so I wonder if there are many left.
The stretcher set is very interesting. The carriers have two small holes on their hands where the handles of the stretcher fit in. I am not sure when these guys were originally manufatured, but it must have been in the 50s or 60s. The material is actually hard plastic. Later in the 70s they were still made -probably cloned- in soft plastic and came in three colors: red, yellow, and blue, so you could have different color armies fight each other. If you ever 'shot' at these guys using marbles, then you know how hard they were to hit given how thin they are..
Timpo US Infantry - Part I
These are the nicest among the Timpo figures that I have seen. There are quite a few poses for this set -probably close to 20- Unfortunatley I only have a handful. They are hard to find. I found this guy going through a big toy solider bin at a Toy Soldier Show.
Here are two more guys that I managed to get by chance when I bought a lot of mixed soldiers. They used to be factory-painted but as you can see, most of the original paint is gone.
Timpo US Infantry - Part III
Here is another batch of Timpo GIs with some more color on them. I find the sculpting quite good in terms of the poses. The level of detail could be finer, but they are still quite well done for their time. For instance, take a look at the man running with the sub mg. That is a very nice pose.
And a few more. Note that the radio man is also featured here. I could have removed the other pic, but since it is a close up I figure it's worth leaving it there. I should also point out that these figures were later reissued but a company called UNA. You can tell them apart because the UNA figures have the company name stamped underneath.
Timpo US Infantry - Part V
The latest Timpo GI. Not a very exciting pose. He seems to be carrying a suitcase with a blanket roll attached to it. The strange thing is that it also has a backpack with a blanket roll on the back, so I am not really sure what the suitcase is or why he would have two packs. The paint quality on this figure is still very good. And BTW, note that this paint color scheme is different.
UNA US Infantry - Part I
OK, here are the UNA guys. As you can tell they are recasts of the Timpo figures.
UNA US Infantry - Part II
The only difference is that the UNA bases contain an extra layer with a small hole where the manufacturer's name is imprinted. This makes the bases twice as thick and the UNA figures slightly taller than the Timpo guys.
Solido Belge US Infantry
Solido Belge was a Belgian Toy Solider maker. As best as I can tell this guy seems to the a US GI. The sculpting is fairly good for an older figure in terms of the pose, although the figure could have used a bit more detail in terms of accessories. The paint job is acceptable, but nothing extraordinary. All in all a decent figure and based on its rarity a good addition to the collection.
Reisler US Infantry
Reisler is a Danish Toy Soldier manufacturer. These are just 3 poses out of about 25 GIs that they made. Some of the Reisler figures I have seen online have paint on them, but I don't know if they came this way out of the factory. As you can tell, the figures are well proportioned and have a decent amount of detail on them. Several of the poses that I am missing are even better. Hopefully I can get my hands on them soon and show them.
If you would like to see some painted GIs, click here.
Click here to see More unpainted GIs.
Here's a post of the GI's breaking out of Normady.
And here is another post with GIs defending an italian farmhouse.