Saturday, October 8, 2011
Introducing the US Paratroops
The United States raised 5 airborne divisions during WWII. The two most famous ones are the 82nd and the 101st -a.k.a. 'The Screaming Eagles'. Three lesser known airborne divisions were the 11th, 13th and 17th. The 82nd and the 101st were both activated in August of '42, and by july of '43 they conducted the first combat drop in the history of the US, parachuting one regiment into Sicily. A couple months later, they participated in the Salerno campaign, although they were brought ashore by landing craft. By January of '44 one of its regiments was dettached to help with the fighting at Anzio. By the the time Operation Overlord came by, the 82nd, the only US airborne division to have seen combat, was joined by the 101st and the 6th British Airborne Division for what was up to that point the largest airborne operation in history, involving both glider and parachute landings. The 82nd remained in combat for 33 days, suffering over 5000 casualties of all kinds during that time. After a couple months of rest and refit, the 82nd and the 101st next saw action as part of Operation Market Garden, which was even larger than the Normandy landings in scale and complexity. The 82nd fought around Nijmegen and the 101st around Eindhoven. The 82nd had a challenging time capturing the bridge at Nijmegen and distinguised itself performing a battalion-size river crossing under fire using canvas boats. The 101st was also unable to capture a couple of bridges before they were demolished. All this caused serious delays for the ground troops moving up what came to be known as 'Hell's Highway', eventually leading up to the destruction or capture of most of the 1st British Airborne Division at Arnhem. It should be pointed out that this had a lot more to do with inadequate and far too optimistic planning and less with the paratroopers' execution. In the meantime, the 11th Division, which had been activated in february of '43, was now ready for its baptism of fire, which began in the Philippines in the form of a ground attack on Leyte in november of '44. Then suddenly, while the 101st and the 82nd were recovering from Market Garden, the Germans broke through the Ardennes and both divisions along with the 17th which had been activated in april of '43 and had not yet seen combat, were thrown into the fray. The 101st's fame increased during this time, when they defended a surrounded town of Bastogne against far superior forces for 6 weeks, and when the Germans asked for their surrender their reply was 'NUTS!', and even after Patton's troops broke the encirclement, they never acknowledged that they needed rescuing. The 17th Division fought in the Battle of the Bulge for about a month, and in just a 3 day period suffered close to 1000 casualties trying to hold 'Dead Man's Ridge' northwest of Bastogne. The 82nd and the 101st saw no further significant action. Both divisions lost approximately 2000 killed and 6500 wounded during the course of the war. The 11th took part in a couple more operations in the Philippines in january and february of '45: a regiment-size action, landing from the sea at Luzon, and a company-size drop with a battalion providing ground support to liberate a POW camp at Los Baños. The 17th Division saw its last action as part of Operation Varsity, the crossing of the Rhine in March of '45, arguably an operation that could have been carried out without airborne troops and which cost them an additional 1346 casualties in 6 days of fighting. Lastly, the 13th Division, which was raised in august of '43 never got to see combat. Lack of supplies and transport, or the fast pace of the ground troops, often sidelined it or canceled the operations in which it was supposed to participate. As far as toy soldiers go, for many years there was only one set of figures available, but in recent years the situatuion has improved. Let's see what we have now.
Airfix US Paratroops - Part 1
Usually I have nothing but good things to say about the Airfix figures, however with the US paratroopers I do have mixed feelings. It's great that they produced 13 poses -almost twice as for most other WWII sets, and for the most part, the figures are OK.
Airfix US Paratroops - Part 2
There are however a couple of things that could have been better. One is the scale. These guys are really closer to 1/35. The other is the posing of some of the figures which in some cases feels a bit unnatural.
Airfix US Paratroops - Part 3
Maybe it's just that I've come to expect a certain standard from Airfix, but for instance, the guy on the far right, throwing the grenade really looks strange to me. But don't get me wrong, for a good 30 years, these were the only US paratroopers around and I am quite glad they made them.
Conte Collectibles US Paratroops - Part 1
Conte released their US paratroopers as part of their D-Day set that represented the landing at Sainte-Mère-Église, and as was the case with all his other figures, he gave us quite a treat.
Conte Collectibles US Paratroops - Part 2
We have a total of 15 figures, all in nice action poses. A couple of the guys have detachable arms which made their manufacturing possible without that awkward plastic filler that earlier methods would leave between the arms and the body.
Conte Collectibles US Paratroops - Part 3
I think Conte pioneered the guy standing with the bazooka. For decades, bazooka guys had traditionally been kneeling. Since then CTS has incorporated a similar pose into their GIs set and Forces of Valor also included one with one of its Halftracks. The only tricky thing with Conte's guys is that a couple need a bit of hot water treatment to get them to remain standing, like the guy on the right.
ESCI 1/35 US Paratroops
These are some hard to find guys. I actually had to order them from a hobby shop in Greece. For being 1/35 they are actually really close in size to the 1/32 guys. The poses are a bit too straight in my opinion, but the level of detail is nice. The commander reminds me of the one in the Airfix set.
Forces of Valor US 82nd Airborne Division - Part 1
Forces of Valor released these over the past few years in two or three different series, each with 4 or 5 guys, with some poses being repeated across sets. Similar to their other figures, their hands and facial features are a bit thick.
Forces of Valor US 82nd Airborne Division - Part 2
If I remember correctly, the guy on the right was the guard who came in a set with the three German prisoners. That would explain why his uniform and sculpting look a bit different. The other thing about the FOV figures, is that they come with these detachable bases, which are a bit tricky to keep on them, particularly when you store them.
Marx US Paratroops
These are some old production US paras. They might be among the first ever made to represent this service branch. Unfortunately I do not have the canopies that came with them originally. They were hollow semi-spheres made out of hard plastic. I'd say the fully extended parachute would be more appropriate for the man on the right who is still floting down, than for the one on the left who already landed and you'd expect his parachute to be mostly crumpled up. Anyhow, It's probably not too hard to make some cloth parachutes for them and they would probably look more realistic. A couple of good guys to add to the unit in case you want to represent a drop/landing scene.
Unknown US Pratrooper - Part I
This guy came in a large batch of mixed figures. The detail and quality are not the best, but he gets points for being so unusual that I can't figure out who made it. The sculpting style reminds me of the FOV figures. Not the ones that come with the vehicles, but the 4 or 5 figure sets. The hands and upper body are large and the waist and lower body seem a bit smaller, but I already checked and he is not a clone of those. If you happpen to know, please leave a comment!
Unknown US Paratroopers - Part III found a few more of his buddies. They are clearly not WWII figures as their weapons are more modern. But I think that painted the right way, they might still pass as WWI guys. The medical kit on the helmet will tie them together with the WWII style figures. And I still don't know who makes them...
Click here to see a description of British Airborne troops.
Click here to see a description of US GIs.
Here you can see pictures og GIs in action.