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Sunday, February 12, 2012

German Half-tracks

The Sd.Kfz. 251 was the largest and most popular of the German Halftracks. Commonly known as Hanomags, because of their main manufacturer, they came in many different variations, from standard troop carriers to mobile artillery. It was designed before the war and by 1939 was already in production. In total, over 15,000 were manufactured across 23 different types. Their main purpose was to allow infantry to move at the same speed as the tanks, to provide the Panzers with protection. These troops were commonly referred to as Panzergrenadiers. A Hanomag could carry a squad of 10 men, plus two crewmen. The Hanomag was not only a troop tansport, but could also act as a fighting platform. Equipped with 2 MG 34s or MG 42s, it was capable of supporting the squad once it had deployed through the back door, and its open top also allowed the men to fight from within it. Of course, the open top also made them vulnerable to fire from above and indirect fire. Also, the armor was not particularly thick. At most 15mm, which still left it vulnerable to higher caliber weapons. The tracks used the same configuration of interleaved wheels found later on the Tiger and Panther tanks. This was better at distributing the weight of the vehicle, giving them better cross country performance but it also created problems in thick mud or in cold winter conditions which could cause the wheels to freeze in place. In terms of scale models, we have a few varitions from both 21 Century Toys and Forces of Valor. Let's take a look.
21st Century Toys Sd Kfz 259

This half-track was one of the first vehicles released by 21st Century Toys over a decade ago. They labeled the box as Sd Kfz 259, but I don't believe that designation existed in the German armed forces. To me this vehicle looks like a standard Sd Kfz 251/1. In any case, this vehicle along with the Tiger and the Scout Car that were released at the same time caused a revolution in the toy soldier hobby. Prior to this moment all armored vehicles that had been manufactured were unpainted, under-scale, with greatly simplified level of detail. This one came with three figures and moving parts, like the MG and its shield, wheels, tracks, the engine compartment, and the exit doors on the back. The only thing that now seems lacking is a bit more detail on the paint job, but at the time, this was greatly superior to anything that had come before.

21st Century Toys Sd Kfz 259 Tan Cammo

21C Toys also released the same vehicle in a tan cammo color scheme. I suspect that they intended it to be a late war vehicle, but I think it can also pass for an AK version. Again, the box was labeled incorrectly as Sd Kfz 259. I even saw a box which was labeled as Sd Kf2 259...

Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 251/1 Hanomag - Normandy

Forces of Valor also produced their version of the Sd Kfz 251/1, labeled as the Normandy version. This one is a die-cast vehicle in metal, and the level of detail is a bit more precise, as is the paint job. Like other FOV vehicles it also comes with accessories like backpacks, helmets, etc. Two other versions of the 251/1 were released with additional figures: an officer directing the machine gun fire, and a panzergrenadier helping a wounded comrade back to the vehicle under fire. One version comes painted in tan, the other in a green/brown/tan cammo color scheme.

Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 251/1 Hanomag - Lithuania 1944
This Halftrack is not much different than the previous one. The main difference is the color scheme. But what is really nice about it is the figures that come along with it. They have so much action and drama sculpted into them, and they can be used in many other scenes and setups. Of course, if you already have a FOV 251/1 and the main reason to buy it again are the figures, then these are some pretty expensive poses, specially now that some of these vehicles are no longer being produced. But in my case, this is only my second FOV Hanomag, and I always like to have two or three of the same to be able to setup scenes with a small troop of vehicles. And lastly, there's that other aspect of being able to finally check it off the list of missing items from the collection...

Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 251/9 Kanonenwagen - Normandy

Also known as the Stummel (German for stump), the Sd Kfz 251/9 carried a low velocity 75mm gun (7.5 cm KwK37) used in support of the infantry against soft targets. This one was produced by FOV, also as a Normandy model, with the usual level of quality and detail. It also comes with a two man crew operating the gun. FOV also released a second version of this vehicle with additional figures, one of them standing on top of the engine compartment cleaning the inside of the gun's barrel.

Dinky Sd Kfz 251/22 Tank Destroyer

As far as I can tell this is the version of the Sd Kfz 251 that had the 75mm PAK 40 mounted on it. I say that because Dinky only labeled it as a tank destroyer. It is a bit underscale, mabe more like a 1:35 than 1:32 model. But it given its uniqueness, I don't really mind. Since it did not come with a crew of its own, I lend it a couple of FOV guys to operate it, although there's not much room left for them by the mounted gun. Similar to other Dinky artillery pieces, it comes with a spring mechanism that allows it to fire mini projectiles. All in all a nice item to add to the collection.

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