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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Introducing the PAK 40

The PAK 40 (Panzerabwehrkanone) was a 75 mm anti-tank gun manufactured by Germany. It was initially designed and prototyped during the period of 1939 to 1941, but the invasion of the Soviet Union and the heavier tanks that were encountered there made it go quickly into production. Between 1942 and the end of the war, about 23,500 guns were manufactured, making it their main antitank gun. Another 6000 were mounted on self-propelled guns. It's weight was close to 1.5 tons, which meant that it had to be towed, and in the often muddy terrain of the Soviet Union this could be a big challenge. It could effectively fire rounds up to approximately 2kms, but for optimal armor penetration it was best to fire at about 500m, when it could penetrate armor up to 15cm (6 inches) thick. In terms of scale models we have a couple of examples available.

21st Century Toys PAK 40
This is a nice gun. It comes factory painted and has several moving parts. The muzzle can be elevated/lowered and the carriage can be fully deployed or collapsed together and locked in place so that it can be towed. The downside of this gun is that it was not sold individually, but you had to buy it as part of a set. Luckily, I was able to find several at Toy Solider shows from collectors that no longer needed them.

21st Century Toys PAK 40 with CTS crew
Classic Toy Soldiers recently released an artillery crew set. The set contains an observer/officer and two loaders. They are a welcome arrival to staff the many PAKs that I have without crews.

Britains Deetail PAK40 with CTS crew
This is another nice model from Britains Deetail. Unfortunately I do not have the crew to go with it, so I had to enlist some of the new CTS guys to man the gun. One nice feature of this PAK is that it can actually fire. It has a small lever that you can pull to compress a spring and when released it could fire a round. I don't have the ammo that came with it either, but it should not be hard to improvise some rounds. 

21st Century Toys PAK 40 - Afrika Korps
This is actually the same model as the previous one, except that this one was painted by a fellow collector. It is one of those that I picked up at a local toy soldier show. He did a very good job on the painting. So much that it is hard to tell that it did not come this way out of the box.

Italeri PAK 40 AT gun with 'servants'
The Italeri gun offers what the 21C gun lacks. A good crew. As you can see, it comes with 6 figures. Most of them are ammo handlers. But it does have a man operating the gun and an officer directing the action.  The gun itself offers fewer moving parts and degrees of movement. But once it is setup it looks just as good. Probably a good combination will be the painted Italeri crew with the 21C PAK. One thing that I do find very amusing about this set is that Italeri translated crew as servants.

Forces of Valor PAK 36 with CTS crew
This PAK came with the kfz 70 truck which was used to tow it. The PAK 36 was a 3.7 cm caliber weapon. It was the main anti-tank gun in the German Army until mid 1941, when given its inability to deal with the soviet medium tanks liek the T34, it was replaced by the PAK 38 which fired a 5cm shell. The PAK 36 was initially issued in 1928 and first saw combat in 1936 during the Spanish civil war. It was also used by the Chinese against the Japanese where it was a lot more effective neutralizing the lightly armored Chi-Ha tanks.

Click here to see a post about the 88mm gun.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Introducing the Italian Light Artillery

The Folgore division was an Italian Parachute Infantry unit which fought in North Africa with distinction. During the second battle of El Alamein in the fall of '42, it held back the allied attacks of more than 5 divisions for about two weeks, inflicting heavy casualties to the Commonwealth's infantry and tank units, fighting on until it was out of ammunition. Most of the Itialian men were either killed or captured by the end of the battle. The survivors were organized into an independent battalion and fought on in Tunisia until they were also captured by mid 1943. In terms of toy soldiers, Waterloo 1815 has given us two sets. One with the traditional infantry figures, described in a previous post, and this one with some heavier weapons.

Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division Light Artillery 1942 - Part I
These figures are manning a heavy machine gun. The man with the bullets does not quite get to feed them into the MG, but he's still useful to have close by. The spotter with the binoculars is doing a good job. I might just try to remove the plastic that joins the cap to the hands which looks a bit odd. The machine gun itself looks like it could take out more than just infantry. It could easily knock out soft-skin vehicles and maybe even some lightly armored ones, but probably not very effective against some British 8th army Grant and Matilda tanks.

Waterloo 1815 Folgore Division Light Artillery 1942 - Part II
These other guys are the crew for the small howitzer. I am not sure about the caliber of the gun. I thought it might be a 37mm which is what was often issued to the paratroopers as it was easier to drop along with them during an airborne operation. However a reader recently commented that it's likely a 47mm Bohler gun. Apparently the wheels were detachable and it could be mounted on a tripod. It might not be clear from the picture, but all these figures come without a base, but they still manage to stand well on their own. One thing I don't quite like about the gun is that you can't change the elevation without messing around with the peg that inserts into the wheel carriage. All in all a good addition to the Folgore infantry.

Atlantic Italian Artillery Support
So this post was originally about the Italian Light Artillery, but given the fact that these guys are also Italian and they don't come with a cannon to operate, I've decided that they will be helping out the Waterloo guys. As is often the case with some of the other Atlantic sets, the figures are very straight and show little action. Not the most exciting figures, but they are rare enough that they deserve a place in the collection.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Introducing the King Tiger

The King Tiger, Tiger II or Königstiger was the last heavy tank manufactured by Germany during the war. Its official ordnance designation was Sd Kfz 182, but it was also known as Pzkw VI or Panzer VI. A more accurate translation of Königstiger would be Bengal Tiger, however King Tiger has become the accepted translation. Design for a heavy tank had begun before the war. Two competing designs were generated. One from Porsche, the other from Henschel. In the end the production contract went to Henschel, however a few turrets had already been ordered to fit the Porsche design. These were then modified to fit the Henschel chassis, which is the reason why there were two turret types for the King Tiger. Production began in 1944. Less than 500 King Tigers in all were produced during the war, with the first King Tigers seeing action in Normandy and continuing to see action through the end of the war on all fronts. The Tiger II combined the thick armor of the Tiger I with the sloping armor features of the Panther, and despite its weight, it was remarkably agile. That, along with its deadly 88mm high velocity gun, made it a formidable opponent on the battlefield with an approximate kill ratio of 10 to 1. There are anecdotes of a King Tiger taking over 24 hits in one action without being destroyed. Kurt Knispel, the tank ace with the highest score of the war, commanded a Tiger II. Unfortunately, the King Tiger was susceptible to mechanical problems which caused many to be abandoned and blown up to avoid capture. In terms of scale models, we have a few variations. Most of them courtesy of Forces of Valor. New Ray has also produced a couple and even 21Century Toys released its own version before going out of business. Unfortunately I did not get to buy this last one. Anyhow, let's take a look at what we have.
Forces of Valor King Tiger - Normandy
This is indeed a heavy tank, and I mean that literally. As usual, the level of detail is all there. The Zimmerit cover, the tank tracks on the turret for extra protection against side shots, the MG ready to fire at any diving P-51s. Forces of Valor released it in multiple color schemes. This one they released as the Normandy model.

Forces of Valor King Tiger - Normandy
Yes. This is also a Normandy model. I believe that this one was the first one to be released.

Forces of Valor King Tiger - Normandy - II
Here we have it deployed in a prepared position. Most likely somewhere on the Eastern Front.

Forces of Valor King Tiger - Germany 1945
A late war version of the King Tiger, possibly like the ones which fought on the Seelow Heights or the defense of Berlin.

Forces of Valor King Tiger - Porsche Turret - France
This one shows the King Tiger with the early Porsche turret. Note how its rounded front created a trap for any round hitting it on the bottom half. This time the called this model the France model. I guess it would have been too mcuh to label it Normandy for the third time.

Forces of Valor King Tiger - Porsche Turret - II
Here we see it from the front. Possibly advancing towards the Norman battlefields.

Forces of Valor King Tiger - Porsche Turret - III
And full view from the side. Good thing this bridge is made of stone.
New Ray King Tiger
This is one of the few vehicles produced by New Ray. The color scheme is not my favorite, the scale is a bit on the smaller side, and the uniform on the commander also seems out of place, but it does have quite a nice feature. It is battery opperated. I believe New Ray has come up with a newer version of the King Tiger in a darker, better looking cammo color scheme.

Click here to see a post about the Tiger Tank.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Introducing the Panzer III

The Panzer III, aka Sd Kfz 141 or Pz.Kpfw. III, was a German tank designed in the mid-30's as a tank fighter. Equipped with a 37mm anti-tank gun it was adequate against the light allied tanks encountered durig the early war campaings, but it proved outmatched in gun and armor when it went into Russia. The Panzer III was also equipped with a 3-man turret which freed the commander from loading and firing tasks to observe the battlefield and direct the fighting. This was a substantial advantage compared to other early war tanks. Up to 1942, there were multiple variations (Ausführung) of the tank made, from Ausf A to N. Ausf F introduced a 50mm gun but even that was not enough to match the Soviet tanks. Before it was retired, Ausf N actually upgraded the main gun to a low velocity 75mm gun to be used against infantry and 'soft' targets, but this meant that the Panzer III was no longer meant to be used as a tank fighter. Altogether, close to 6000 were built before production stopped in 1943. The Panzer III's chassis was more successful however, becoming the foundation of the Sturmgeschütz III of which close to 9500 were produced, many of them conversions from Panzer IIIs. The Panzer III saw action in Poland, France, the Balkans, North Africa and the Soviet Union. After the Battle of Kursk it was phased out in favor of the Panzer IV and subsequent heavier tanks, with only a few being around by the time the allies invaded Italy and France. In terms of scale models, we have a couple options available to us Courtesy of 21st Century Toys.

21st Century Toys Panzer III - Afrika Korps
This tank was released by 21C Toys after some of the heavier tanks had been issued, so I thought it would be a bit wimpy compared to its predecessors. However I was pleasantly surprised. It is certainly smaller, being true to its scale, but it has sufficiently nice detail making it worthy of one's collection. For instance, you can tell that it belonged to the Afrika Korps because of the insignia with the plam tree on the front of the tank.

21st Century Toys Panzer III - Afrika Korps
Here's another version of the Panzer III from 21C, this time, with a tan color, maybe more in line with what you normally associate with the DAK. I think I actually like this one better than the previous one. Note that this one also has an antenna that folds back down. 

21st Century Toys Panzer III
Here is another version of the Panzer III. Presumably the one that fought on the eastern and western fronts. I find the green color a bit unusual. In the pictures of real vehicles that I have seen, it has always been painted grey, but I trust 21C did their research when they developed this model. In any case, like AK version, it is also a nice reproduction of the original.

Click here to see a post about the Panzer IV



Introducing the Panzer IV

The Panzer IV was a medium tank of the German army in service throughout the entirety if the war, and consequently seeing action on all fronts. Its official name was Sd Kfz 161 or Pz. Kpfw IV. Due to its long service history, it went through multiple adaptations/versions, from Ausführung A to J, with the first models coming out in 1936. The initial model carried a low velocity 75mm gun, meant primarily to fire explosive shells against 'soft' targets in support of infantry, although -by pre-war standards- it did have some reasonable armor piercing capabilities when using armor piercing ammo, which inevitably turned it into a tank fighter when the Panzer Is, IIs, and IIIs proved inferior to some of the allied tanks.The earlier versions of the Panzer IV were a bit unique in that the turret contained a double hatch for the commander, one of them being on the side of the turret. By the time the war began, Ausf D was already in production, with greater speed and some armor improvements. By the end of 1941, Ausf F2 (later G) was upgraded to use a short barreled version of the 75mm PaK 40 high velocity gun which gave it better tank-fighting capabilities. The reason for the short barrel was to be able to accommodate the recoil within the existing turret. Later versions of the Ausf G, were produced a longer 75mm barrel after making adjustments to the turret, which removed the side hatch. Ausf H was further upgraded in terms of armor, with side skirts for the hull and turret being added (they had been prototyped with Ausf G). Finally, Ausf Jwas a 1944 model which saw some simplifications introduced to speed up production and reduce cost, in response to the manufacturing challenges of the late stages of the war. One of those simplifications being that the turret now had to be traversed manually. In total about 9000 Panzer IVs were produced across all models, making it the most popular tank of the German armed forces. In addition to these models, the Panzer IV chassis was found to be very versatile and it was further used for a variety of other vehicles such as self-propelled anti-tank guns and anti-aircraft guns. As far as production of scale models, both 21C Toys and Forces of Valor have released versions of this panzer. Unfortunately I only have those from FOV as shown below.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf F
This is one of my favorite FOV models. The paint job is realy nice with mud splattered where it should be and the rest of the tank seemingly covered in dust. The side hatch with a sitting figure and the short barrel give it a very unique look, and again, the metal feel to it makes you feel you have a real panzer in your hands.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf F - Cammo
Here is another variation of the same vehicle. In fact, FOV released this same model in at least one more color scheme with winter cammo paint (or maybe it's just meant to be snow?). Anyhow, the same good things to say about this one as for the previous one, although I do prefer the one above.  

21st Century Toys Panzer IV - Ausf D
21C Toys also released their version of the short-barreled Panzer IV. I bought this one second-hand, as they are no longer in production, and I suspect that the previous owner sprayed it with a greenish paint, because the pictures I've seen of the original show it in a 'purer' grey. In terms of detail it is OK, but not as nice as the one from FOV. For instance, the side hatch does not open. BTW, this vehicle was sold as a kit that you could assemble yourself. I guess it was an attempt by 21C Toys to keep costs down (or achieve greater profits) by letting the customer take care of the assembly.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf G
This is also a very interesting vehicle. The side and turret skirts give it a very unique look. The side skirts show some nice leve of detail with dents and bends caused by the fighting. FOV advertised this model as the 'Kursk' version. Note that the side hatch is no longer there, which as explained earlier, had to be removed to make room for the recoild of the longer 75mm gun.

Forces of Valor Panzer IV - Ausf G
This is the same vehicle as above in a different color scheme. FOV does this with many vehicles. A good money-making strategy on their part. They sold it as an 'Easter Front' version. I actually felt that the tan color was better suited for the North African desert and remembering that Panzer IVs were part of Rommel's army, I decided to photograph it in such a setting. It was not until I was checking my facts that I realized that Ausf G was relased right about the time that the Afrika Korps was surrendering in May of '43, so I doubt that any such models ever reached them. But if you are willing to overlook that 'Ausf detail' it look just great next to some AK guys doesn't it?

Click here to see a post about the Panzer III
Click here to see a post about the Tiger I which came after it.





Introducing the Tiger I

The Tiger Tank was Germany's first heavy tank of the war. It's also known as Sd Kfz 181 as well as PzKpfw VI Ausf. H (later PzKpfw VI Ausf. E), or Panzer VI for short. The 'I' was added retroactively to the name after the Tiger II (King Tiger) came out. The Tiger tank was designed and built in response to the Soviet Tanks encountered during the invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of '41, which outgunned and were better armored than the Panzer III's and Panzer IV's. By September of '42 the first Tigers were already being sent into action around Leningrad, but as it was rushed to the front prematurely, it initially suffered from mechanical and reliability problems. Besides the Eastern Front, the Tiger Tank also saw action in North Africa, Italy and the Western Front. Its thick armor, 88mm gun, and decent speed for a heavy tank, made it a formidable opponent, able to destroy enemy tanks at very long ranges, and being very hard to knock out unless the opponent managed to get very close to it and hit it from a vulnerable angle, usually the sides or back. Its good performance in combat enabled multiple Tiget tank commanders to become 'aces' with over 100 kills to their credit. It is said that one Tiger was able to destroy 22 Soviet tanks in a single engagement.
Unfortunately, the Tiger's design was a bit too complex. For instance, due to its weight, it was not able to go over small bridges, so it was designed to ford water up to 4 meters in depth. This meant that it had to be equiped with additional systems for breathing, ventilation, and engine cooling, the hull had to be sealable, and some of the compartments had to be floodable so it would not just float and get dragged downstream. Likewise, it introduced a new design for several rows of overlapping, interleaved wheels which gave it a wider track, better able to distribute its huge weight. All this increased its manufacturing complexity and cost, which resulted in less tan 1500 being manufactured during the war. By mid-1944, it was phased out of production in favor of the Panther and the Tiger II.
Stackpole Books has a two volume narrative of Michael Wittmann's exploits as a Tiger I commander, which provides great insight into the Tiger's development, the operations of a tank battalion, and the Tiger's performance in combat. In terms of Toy Soldier manufacturers, we have a couple good examples courtesy of the usual suspects, 21C and FOV.

21st Century Toys Tiger I
This tank was the first of its kind to be produced. Released about 10 years ago, it is a realistic vehicle, at a good scale, factory-painted, with moving turret, gun, tracks, hatches, and a factory-painted crew for less than 15 dollars. At the time it came out I would be making trips to my local Toys R Us every weekend to try to catch the next shipment as they were flying off the selves. It was the best thing that happened to the hobby in terms of vehicles. After that, many more and even better models followed, but this one (and the half track) are the ones that started it all.

21st Century Toys Tiger I - Afrika Korps
A short time later, 21C Toys released another version of the Tiger I. Essentially the same vehicle in a different color scheme. I preferred the original colors, but I still got three of these to give Rommel's army a heaftier punch.

Forces of Valor Tiger I
A couple years later FOV came into the military vehicle landscape and released their own versions of the Tiger I. Several paint schemes were released. Unfortunately I only got one of them as I already had several of the 21C ones. FOV's Tiger is even better than 21C's. Aside from the fact that is made out of metal, the level of detail and realism is higher. For instance, notice the anti-magnetic Zimmerit paint cover to defend against mines, or the bent fenders above the tracks. Definitely a nice piece of equipment for your collection.

Click here to see a post about the Panzer III.
Click here to see a post about the Panzer IV.
Click here to see a post about the Tiger II.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Introducing the Panther Tank

The Panther Tank, aka Sd Kfz 171, was a medium tank deployed by Germany from mid-1943 onwards. It was designed in 1942 in response to the Soviet T-34 and KV-1 tanks encountered the previous year during Operation Barbarossa, which were a tough match for the Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs. The Tiger was also built for the same reasons, but it was more difficult and expensive to manufacture and was about 30 tons heavier and slower than the Panther which came in a little under 50 tons. Initially the Panther was designated as Panzer V, but I suppose that because it was released after the Tiger, eventually the V was dropped from the name. The Panther was close to being ready just before the German summer offensive of '43 -what became known as the Battle of Kursk-. The intention was to have another Blitzkrieg type of battle, and with the Germans wanting to have their latest and best tanks play a role in it the offensive was delayed by two months. During this time, the Soviets built several defensive belts, with anti-tank ditches, emplaced anti-tank guns, and they also increased their tank numbers. In the end, the German offensive faltered and of the approximately 200 Panthers that were delivered, most were quickly out of action due to mechanical breakdowns or were knocked out due to the inexperience and insufficient training of the crews. One month after going into action, only 9 remained operational. Eventually the reliability of the tank was improved (although never entirely), however by that time the tide of the war had turned and the German manufacturing industry was already under heavy air attack, which further reduced the number of Panthers as well as the availability of spare parts. So, even though the Panther was a good tank in principle, with a high velocity muzzle firing 75mm projectiles capable of penetrating enemy armor at long ranges, good speed and good frontal armor, it was not enough to turn the tide of the ground war. During the course of the war, over 6000 of them were built, seeing action on both the Eastern and Western fronts, and a few other variations of the vehicle were produced, like the Jagdpanther tank destroyer. As far as Toy Soldier manufacturers go, both Forces of Valor and 21st Century Toys have treated us to some very nice vehicles. Let's take a look.


21st Century Toys Panther Tank
This tank is a nice, good looking model, but it is made entirely out of plastic. I actually have two of these models and one of them already lost its antenna, which broke off going in and out of the shelf. Nonetheless it is a faithful reproduction of the original. One thing to note is the overlapping design of the wheels, first introduced with the Tiger and repeated with the Panther.

Forces of Valor Panther Tank
The FOV Panther comes with the rounded gun mantlet. This was a liability of the design as it allowed shots to be deflected downwards into the hull. Later designs -Ausf G-, like the one from 21C Toys, had a flat mantlet with a 'chin' at the botom, which would help against this problem. A nice thing about the FOV Panther is that is also comes with two infantry figures who can ride the tank, not to mention that it is actually made out of metal, which is a good thing when it comes to tanks.

Click here to see a post about the Panzer III.
Click here to see a post about the Panzer IV.
Click here to see a post about the Tiger I.
Click here to see a post about the Tiger II.




Saturday, January 14, 2012

German Mobile Anti-Aircraft Guns

At the beginning of the war, Germany's Flak (Fliegerabwehrkanone) guns were all static or towed. As the war progressed they developed a set of new vehicles in which they mounted the guns to provide them with greater mobility. The caliber of these mounted guns however was smaller than that of the ground-based 88s, with most of them carrying a 20 mm flakvierling (quadruple anti-aircraft gun) or a single 37mm gun on top of the modified chassis of other existing vehicles. The development of these vehicles was more of a reactive approach than a well thought out AA defense strategy. This, in combination with insufficient numbers of fighter aircraft on the part of the Luftwaffe, allowed the allies to achieve total air supremacy, which further increased the need for these guns, but they were never produced in large enough numbers to make a difference against the ever increasing number of fighter and fighter-bombers diving down on them. The situation became so bad that eventually most troop movements had to be carried out under the cover of darkness. In any case, the vehicles that were produced were an interesting bunch and the toy soldier manufacturers have done a decent job representing them. Let's review a few of them.


Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 7/1
The Sd Kfz 7/1 was a modified prime mover which was originally used to tow the guns. The last two rows of seats were removed and a 20 mm flakvierling was mounted. This model from FOV is nicely detailed as usual. The sides of the truck fold down to allow the gun to turn 360 degrees. The quadrupple gun also moves up and down, although it only goes about 3/4 of the way up relative to the vertical plane.  

21st Century Toys Flakpanzer IV Mobelwagen
This is again a 20mm quadruple gun, but this time it is mounted on a Panzer IV chassis. Most of these were disabled Panzer IVs from the eastern front sent back for repairs and refitted as self-propelled AA guns. Note that the sides of the vehicle fold down to allow it to rotate and fire, however this also left the crew completely exposed to shrapnel and strafing fire. When the sides of the vehicle were folded up it makes it look like a big box, probably the reason for it's nickname, the furniture truck. What is unusual about this vehicle is that when you read about it, it appears that only the first prototype carried the 20mm guns. In production it was equipped with a 37 mm cannon. It became available in April of 1944 and less than 300 were produced.


21st Century Toys Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
The Wirblewind or Whirlwind was developed in late 1944. It offered a bit more protection to the crew than its predecessors, but it still contained an open turret, a necessity given the smoke produced by the quadruple 20mm guns. The 20mm flakvierling had a practical rate of fire of about 800 rounds per minute. Each magazine held 20 rounds and would have to be changed 10 times per minute to achieve that firing rate. These guns were also very effecgtive against ground troops and soft skinned vehicles. There is a scene in Saving Private Ryan in which a quad 20mm gun is used with devastating results against some unaware infantrymen who are inspecting a Panzer that they had just disabled.

Forces of Valor Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind
This is FOV's version of the Wirbelwind. It was actually released in two color schemes, the other one being a gold/dark green cammo color scheme. If you have been reading along you might have realized by now that this vehicle did not fight in North Africa. I took this picture before I checked when it was manufactured, but I suppose that you could pretend it did as the color is well suited. Coming back to the Wirbelwind, about one hundred of them were built and it was soon replaced by the Ostwind, which had the same turret but mounted a single 37mm gun.

Atlantic Mobile Anti-Aircraft Gun Flakvierling 38 - Part I
This is one of the more elaborate sets that I have seen from Atlantic. They had to inject quite a few pieces to make it all come together. The assembly is still pretty straight forward, but it makes you appreciate the design challenge to cast it. The quad gun has some movement up and down and it can also turn on its vertical axis.
 
Atlantic Mobile Anti-Aircraft Gun Flakvierling 38 - Part II 
From the back you can appreciate the crew a bit better. The two men on the side appear to be holding/loading the ammo clips and the one on the back is the main gunner, who seems to be adjusting the sight on top of the gun. The only odd thing are those 'handles' on the side of the chasis. I wonder if they were meant to be there or they are left over from the casting process.

Atlantic Artillery Tractor Sd Kfz 1 Klein
This is a nice complement to the AA gun, as they both fit perfectly and now you have a way to tow the gun into position. The tractor comes with a driver who can be removed so that you can close the hatch, which is necessary of you want to move the machine gun from one side to the other. As far as the name, I tried to dig up pictures of the real Sd Kfz 1, but it does not look anything like this tractor. I think the Sd Kfz 1 was in fact a staff car, so I don't know if Atlantic's name is accurate. Anyhow, both of them go well together and once I get around to painting them, I think they will display nicely. Better than their bright blue factory color, which is a bit intense on the eyes.

Click here to see a post about the 88mm Flak gun.
Here you can see pictures of other Sd Kfz 7 models.


Introducing the 8.8 cm Flak 36/37

The dreaded 88mm German gun saw its initial designs during the inter-war period. The most popular desing being the one from 1937. By the time WWII started it had already seen action and proved itself in the Spanish Civil War.While initially developed as an anti-aircraft weapon (Flak comes from Flugzeugabwehrkanone or gun to defend against airplanes), primarily used by the Luftwaffe ground troops, the 88s were used extensively in the role of anti-tank weapons. This was not initially meant that way, but the appearance of tanks on the battlefield with armor thicker than what other anti-tank guns could deal with, pressed it into this role. What made the 88s very well suited for both purposes, were multiple factors: the high-velocity muzzle gave it a very long range (25,000 - 39,000 ft vertically) and up to twice that distance horizontally when firing indirectly as traditional artillery. When it comes to direct horizontal fire, it could knock out well armored tanks comfortably at a range of 6,000 feet, well out of range of their return fire. Its mobility, the fact that it could fire while still being towed, its quick delpoyment time (under 3 mins), and that it could depress the barrel below the horizontal plane also made it very effective and versatile. In addition to that, it could fire high-explosive (HE) shells, useful against aircrafts and infantry, as well as armour-piercing, and anti-tank HE shells. This gun was so effective that after a while it was incorporated as the main armament on other tanks and anti-tank vehicles. Before and over the course of the war over 20,000 of them were built. There was another model designed in 1941, but it never became as popular and less than 600 were built by the time the war ended.

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Towed
Forces of Valor produced a very nice version of this gun. Here we see it attached to the 8 Ton prime mover that would tow it. The factory paint job gives it a weathered look, and as usual, the fact that it's mostly made out of metal gives it a nice feel.

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Rear View
As you can see from this angle, the attention to detail is substantial. The gun can rotate 360 degrees around the vertical axis and the gun can be elevated up to a vertical position, allowing it to fire virtually in every direction.


Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Artillery Mode
Here we see it already deployed as traditional artillery. There is a scene in Band of Brothers in which the screaming eagles are being shelled with 88mm HE shells while in a forest, causing shrapnel and wood splinters to rain down on them with nasty consequences. Also note that the carriage is actually made of two separate sections. The front and rear wheel axles can be attached and removed independently. It also comes with a nice ground crew to operate it.

Forces of Valor 88 Flak - Anti Tank Mode
Here we see it deployed the way it would be used to fight against tanks. The air and land 'kills' on the shield add a nice touch of realism. FOV also manufactured this gun in a tan color scheme however I did not get around to buying that one.

21st Century Toys 88 Flak - Afrika Korps
21C Toys also produced a very nice 88mm gun. Not quite at the level of the one from FOV but far superior to anything that had come before in plastic. Here we see it ready to be deployed to fight the British in the deserts of North Africa.

21st Century Toys 88 Flak - Grey
Deployed in an anti-tank role. The wheel axles are also detachable. Note how the level of paint detail is not quite the same as the one from FOV, both for the carriage and the gun itself. The crew consists of just 2 figures.

21st Century Toys 88 Flak - Side View
Here is a view from the side. This gun also moves 360 degrees around and from horizontal to vertical, so it is just as functional as the one from FOV. And from this angle it looks just as lethal.

Dinky Toys 88 Flak - Part I
Here is an earlier model of an 88 courtesy of Dinky Toys. Not as detailed as the newer versions from FOV and 21C, but still fairly nice. Made in metal, it has a good, solid feel to it. The round knob/gear visible on the side, allows you to lower and raise the barrel. It comes with three crew members. The crew is made in some very light, stiff plastic, so you get the feeling that they might easily break. 

Dinky Toys 88 Flak - Part II
The gun also comes with its carriages to allow it to be towed. And it also happens to have a few shells that you can fire using a spring mechanism. The sticker on the barrel may or may not be present, as the glue loses its binding power over time. All in all a nice item to add to the collection. Unfortunately there are not many complete sets left, so getting one of these can get a bit pricey or you must settle for an incomplete set. I actually got lucky and managed to get the complete set for the price of what you usually pay for the gun by itself.

Click here to see a post about the 8 Ton Prime Mover used to tow these guns.



Friday, January 13, 2012

Introducing the SD KFZ 7

The SD KFZ 7 -Sd Kfz stands for Sonderkraftfahrzeug or special motorized vehicle- was a half-tracked heavy truck used by the German armed forces primarily to pull artillery pieces or anti-aircraft guns such as 88s or heavy howitzers. It had enough power to tow up to 8 tons -therefore it's sometimes referred to as an 8-ton truck- and it could seat about 12 men, usually the crew of the gun being towed, with some additional room in the back for ammunition. It was introduced in 1938 and saw action throughout the war in all its different fronts. A few variations were made, some of them replacing the seating area with mounted 20mm anti-aircraft guns. It was issued primarily to the mechanized panzer and panzergrenadier divisions so that they could tow the artillery attached to them. Non-mechanized divisions, which were many, still relied heavily on horses to tow their equipment. In terms of available vehicles, both 21st Century Toys and Forces of Valor have provided us with a couple variations. Let's take a look.

21st Century Toys Sd Kfz 7 - Grey
This vehicle comes with a canvas top that can be removed and a foldable windshield. Ideal for early war campaigns.

21st Century Toys Sd Kfz 7 - Cammo
21C Toys also produced the same vehicle in a cammo color scheme. Nice for a mid to late war campaign. As in the previous picture, the top can be removed.

Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 7
If I recall correctly, Forces of Valor sold this one as a Normandy edition. I personally find it that it's the one that could fit better in a deset setting as part of Rommel's army. The six figures that come with it complement it nicely. In contrast to the 21C vehicles, this one is made of metal which makes it feel much heavier, as a heavy tractor ought to feel.

Forces of Valor Sd Kfz 7/1
This is the AA version with the quadruple 20mm guns. The sides of the back can be folded down to provide greater rotation freedom to the gun. A nice piece of equipment as usual from FOV with greater attention to detail. And it also comes with a good looking crew.

Click here to see a set of 88mm guns in action.