Monday, October 29

Construction Review: Alpine Miniatures 1/35th scale US 101st Airborne Trooper Set

The release of two new figures in 35th scale from the 101st Airborne in WWII  from Alpine Miniatures will satisfy a lot of modellers who want that Alpine quality in an Allied flavour. We put them together in a detailed review to see if the same passion and quality went into these as the other releases in the Alpine catalogue ...
Construction Review:
Alpine Miniatures two new figures in three packages.

US 101st Airborne NCO 
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms 
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim

US 101st Airborne Trooper 
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms 
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim

US 101st Airborne Trooper Set
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms 
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim

Product Link on the Alpine Miniatures Website
With so many modellers out there wanting new and fresh products, and so many companies aiming to please the demands of their customers, it is funny that in high-quality resin figures in 1/35th scale the mainstream seems to sell - that mainstream being the German (often elite) soldiers of World War Two. So, one would reason if they owned a figure making company to produce what sells the most. 

There are however a lot of calls for model companies to make something that is different, there were several nations that fought in WWII - and as we see more obscure vehicles and scenarios in dioramas why not take a bet on other subjects?

To satiate the needs of those who are calling for more Allied soldiers of the period, this month Alpine Miniatures has released just such a set, this time elite US soldiers of WWII, the men from the 101st "Screaming Eagles" parachute division. 

First, I thought I would give you an overview of the Screamin' Eagles WWII service, and show you some of their uniforms and equipment along the way...

The 101st Airborne in WWII.
The two 35th scale paratroopers belong to the US 101st Airborne Division in WWII. This unit is one of the most famous of the US divisions during the war and it is still in service. This unit was made even more famous of recent times by the Mini-series "Band of Brothers", this unit had many famous images attached to it from the battlefields of France, Belgium, Holland & Germany during WWII.

The 101st Airborne Division (the "Screaming Eagles") is a specialized light infantry division of the US Army trained for air assault operations. The 101st Airborne Division has a history that is nearly a century-long. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord (the D-Day landings and airborne landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France), Operation Market Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands and its action during the Battle of the Bulge around the city of Bastogne, Belgium.

The 101st American Airborne Division officially activated on August 16, 1942, and made its debut at the base of Camp Claiborne, in the State of Louisiana, later moving to Fort Benning, Georgia where the division trained before moving to the UK in time for the D-Day invasion of the European continent.

This one of "Ike" talking to the troops before D-Day is perhaps the best known of the 101st during the war.

101st on D-Day
On the night of June 5-6, 1944, the paratroopers of the 101st jumped into Normandy to seize a variety of bridges, strategic junctions and villages, in order to secure the western allied invasion flank as part of Operation Overlord. Above the Cotentin Peninsula, the C-47 aircraft the 101st travelled in were heavily targeted by the German Flak, many aircraft were hit or forced to fly low or off course and so many of the division did not land in the right place. Some more than 20 kilometres away from their drop zone. 
The 101st's commander General Taylor, gathered a handful of officers foot soldiers to attack the village of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont in a noted action on the day. At the end of the morning of Tuesday, June 6, 1944, the airborne troops made the junction with the troops coming from Utah Beach from the 4th Infantry Division.
On June 10, 1944, the 101st Airborne Division was to seize the village of Saint-Côme-du-Mont and on June 12 the Carentan crossroads (connecting Utah Beach and Omaha Beach) when the German counter-attacked. After heavy fighting, the two American bridgeheads became joined on the 14th June. For nearly three weeks, the 101st Airborne Division remained on the Normandy front. At the beginning of July, it was ordered to return to England in order to prepare a new offensive in Holland.

Paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division holding a Nazi German flag captured in a village near Utah Beach, Saint-Marcouf, France, 8 Jun 1944
Operation Market Garden.
Operation Market Garden was a large airborne and ground offensive in Holland, which was planned to allow the Allies to seize the bridges on the Rhine. Launched on September 17th, Market Garden 20,000 allied paratroopers jumped into the Dutch sky. The 101st is responsible for liberating several cities (including Antwerp) and villages ensuring the front line. The unit suffered several casualties in this operation, mostly from German counterattacks.
Men of the 101st Airborne Division inspect a broken glider, September 1944 during Operation Market Garden.
In December 1944 A fresh German counter-offensive was launched. The "Ardennes Offensive", the "Battle of the Bulge" or in German "Wacht Am Rhein" saw several elite German divisions counterattack between the US and Commonwealth forces in a dash for the Elbe river. The 101st was thrown in to combat to help shore up the line around the Hurtgen forest and the crossroad town of Bastogne. Isolated from help for several days, short on food, suitable clothing and medical supplies,  the 101st division suffered extreme cold and the German onslaught but refused to surrender. When offered an honourable surrender by the Germans a now-famous was given my General McAuliffe (pictured below).

To the German Commander.
The American Commander.
The German major appeared confused and asked Harper what the message meant. Harper said, "In plain English? Go to hell." The choice of "Nuts!" rather than something earthier was typical for McAuliffe. Vincent Vicari, his personal aide at the time, recalled that "General Mac was the only general I ever knew who did not use profane language. 'Nuts' was part of his normal vocabulary."

Two soldiers of US 101st Airborne Division manning a forward post near a road, near Bastogne
Although General Patton and his 3rd Army took credit for the relief of Bastogne none of the soldiers of the 101st saw it as that. The 101st Division then received the Presidential Unit Citation, issued by the President of the United States himself, for acts of bravery in Bastogne.

A staged picture from the soldiers of Bastogne
"The Battered Bastards of Bastogne" as the 101st called themselves.
On to Germany & War's end.
In April 1945, the 101st Airborne Division was sent to Germany to clean up the resistance pocket in the industrial region of the Ruhr. The Allies decided left the city of Berlin to the Soviets, so most of the American divisions were moved south. Thus, the 101st Airborne is sent to fight the last faithful of Hitler near the city of Berchtesgaden, rumoured to be one of the last hold-outs of various members and soldiers of the Nazi party.

The airborne soldiers spent their days hunting members of the Nazi leadership that had gone into hiding and after the German surrender occupying the town. On the 1st of August the 42d Infantry Division relieved the 101st, which moved back to France to train for a possible airborne assault on Japan. These plans were cancelled after the Japanese surrender, and the division was deactivated 30 November 1945 in France.

One of the victorious 101st Airborne Division enjoying the view and a cognac at Berchtesgaden in 1945.

This new figure set from Alpine Miniatures
This new set of figures consists of two resin 1/35th scale figures. Both sold separately or as a matching pair, the kit is sculpted by Alpine Miniatures founder Taesung Harmms, and in the box art version painted by Dr Jin Kim.
Both of these figures are sculpted finely and cast in light grey resin. Both of the figures include two head choices. Both of these figures come with alternate headgear on their two faces included with each sculpt. Both of these figures also have parts of the casting block, and these were fairly simple to remove. I think that these soldiers are wearing a post-jump day gear loadout due to the lack of the US flag often worn on their shoulder when jumping into enemy territory. This, however, was not always the case, and I can find plenty of pictures of 101st soldiers on jump day without the flag on the arm.
The resin in the casts is as usual impressed this reviewer, with only one real instance of a slight seam that I only saw after I took these pictures and blew them up to see the figures in better detail. Only after looking closely under a magnified lens at the Sergeant's stripes and Screaming Eagle logo did I see the slight seam which was the only imperfection I found on either figure.

A little closer look at both figures now...

US 101st Airborne NCO 
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms 
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim
Figure cast in light grey resin
The figure comes with two head choices.

The first of the figures see an NCO of the 101st, the "Screaming Eagles" as the subject. The soldier comes with two headgear choices that are close to each other in that they both have the same M1 parachutist helmet with the large chin strap to better secure the helmet on a parachute drop, but one of these comes with burlap (hessian) or some type of similar material fed into the loops of the Jump helmet's mesh for better camouflage.
Note - both of thee are repro-helmets so the wear of them would be slightly different in wartime use.
I like very much the fine detail of not only the helmet, but the netting patterns which pinch, shrink and expand when needed, but also of the facial features, note lips and chin of the sculpt.
The torso of this NCO (a Sergeant) is a very well detailed bit of work. You can see that this paratrooper is wearing the regular battledress of the US Paratroopers, with the M42 jumpsuit which featured slanted below's pockets and flaps secured by two snaps on each flap. The 101st M42 suits were turned-in after Normandy, to be replaced by green M43 combat suits for the duration of WWII, so it would depend on when you wanted to depict this soldier as to what you wanted him to wear. The First Airborne Task Force used them in Operation Dragoon in August 1944, and the 504 PIR (82nd Airborne) jumped into Holland wearing them in September 1944.
The helmet is a little like the one on this man from the 326th - part of the 101st in Bastogne in 1944. You can see the stripes just below the Screamin' eagle emblem on this Sargent on the left also - just like the sculpt.
Turning his torso more, you can see he wears the Airborne Riggers modified M42/ m43 jump trousers with an added strip of treated canvas to the edges of both cargo pockets. The rear of the back of the figure shows the medical pouch on the rear of the belt, with straps for his gear really finely sculpted and cast here that give the figure even more depth. 
They also applied knee patches of the same material and attached tie-down tapes of 3/4" khaki web material to the inseam of each thigh. The tapes could be wrapped around each cargo pocket and tied, as shown to help secure the pocket's contents. In his webbing, he carries the water bottle, spare ammo pouches, M6 carry bag, an entrenching tool, and a medic pack on his rear. The NCO carried an M1911 pistol in its holster in his belt.

A lot of the gear on this figure including pouches and webbing can be seen in this collection of Airborne gear.
The resin block included with this kit houses the Thompson Sub-machine gun, the entrenching tool with straps to hold it in place and the water canteen standard issue of the Airborne. Note the wristwatch on the soldier's left hand...
You can see the reverse side of the same block housing these parts. Note the fine work done by the sculptor on the fingers and tendons of the hand of the soldier, as well as the lugs that fit into the torso of the soldier to keep these in place. A little trimming of excess casting material is needed to clean these up ready for prime and paint.
You can see this NCO is carrying a squad leader's weapon, the Thompson Submachine Gun, popularly called the Tommy Gun, the Thompson in all of its variants served on virtually every front during World War II and the nature of the rapid-fire 9mm bullets combined with the box clip of twenty bullets and compact size and weight made this a highly desirable gun for the paratroopers.  The only real drawback of the Thompson was that it was a time-consuming gun to manufacture. By late 1944, the M3 "Grease Gun" and the Thompson were serving side by side, with the soldiers normally jumping with 300 rounds equipped, 14 x (20 rnd) clips in jumpsuit pockets or M6 carrying bag.

Putting him together
It took me about ten minutes to put this figure together - there are a few things to note about putting him together I thought I would show you...

The heads simply sit inside the recess of the neck which is covered on the sides by the soldier's collar for a no seam fit that holds without glue if needs be.
 The entrenching shovel - sometimes used as a weapon in dire straights by these soldiers - has a lug on the rear of it that fits into the socket in the read of the hip of the torso.
 The water canteen on the other side fits into another lug on the other side of the figure.
The hands of the figure fit again into a recess on the NCO - the cuffs cover the hands and give us again, a snug fit and hold without glue so I could remove and paint these after it was fitted if I wanted to.
It fits snug as a bug! just make sure you eliminate that very slight gap between the butt and gun with super glue (below this one is simply dry fitted without glue showing fit)
Here is the NCO built up with the first head choice - the netted M1 helmet with burlap camo threaded into it.

 The second head choice without the burlap in the netted helmet.

US 101st Airborne Trooper 
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim
Figure cast in light grey resin
Figure comes with two head choices.

The second figure in this set is a regular soldier of the 101st sports the same M1 steel helmet like his NCO comrade, again he has the net covering the helmet on both, but the choice here is whether you like the extra burlap material threaded through the helmet as camouflage.
Below are a real (on the left) and a reproduced M1 Jump helmets (really hard to find real original WWII examples) The burlap in the repro helmet mirrors the choice on the figure.
You can see the rear of these helmets and the pattern of the webbing, and on the one threaded with burlap camouflage material that extra texture.
The torso of the soldier: Again, this soldier wears the M43 combat jacket, this time with added pockets sewn into the sleeves to give him more places to carry all the gear that he could into an unknown drop zone. 
In many period photos of the 101st taken during the fighting in Normandy and after, a notable percentage of their jumpsuits had been modified by the addition of extra pockets (as these soldiers from the 101st do below). 
The  M1 bandoleer draped over one soldier of the torso and the M1923 ammo pouches on his belt dominate the torso of this sculpt. The straps for this and the other gear gather over his shoulders and pinch the material of his combat jacket as it travels close to his body. The thick elbow and knee pads look thicker and stiff, while the loose cloth of his riggers pants and M43 jacket are much thinner and wrinkly. Speaking of the jacket, you can see the split int he rear seam that folds and looks great, also the pinched back seam of the jacket under the straps of the figure really add a lot to the discerning eye.
The straps tie around each of the legs holding the pockets to the legs firmly are really nicely brought to life here. Continuing down to his beautifully detailed laces on his drop boots you can see the very common in the field and a really nice addition of the combat knife tied to his shoes with a strap that then dangles down the leg a little.
A lot of the gear on this figure including pouches and webbing can be seen in this collection of Airborne gear.
The resin cast block that comes with the torso and two head choices contains the folded entrenching shovel with canvas cover, the canteen - also with a canvas cover to hold it in place on the body and lastly, the barrel end of the M1 Garand he carries.
 The rear of this cast block shows a little secret - the lugs that fit snugly to the torso of the figure in the recesses provided that you could see on the figure. Notice again the fingers that are sculpted, I mean blown up here I can almost see his nails! amazing work in sculpting and casting to ring out that detail.
This trooper carries with him the M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle. This was the primary weapon for most U.S. soldiers throughout World War II. It shot .30-'06 bullets from an eight-round clip, and a paratrooper might typically jump with 136 total rounds of ammunition. The rifle had a maximum effective range of 440 yards, but could still do damage in excess of 1,000 yards. What really made the Garand so effective was its semi-automatic firing. 
Putting him together
This figure also took me only ten minutes to clean and put together - there are a few things to note about putting him together I thought I would show you...

The heads simply sit inside the recess of the neck which is covered on the sides by the soldier's collar for a no seam fit that holds without glue if needs be.
 The entrenching shovel is here just like his companions - this time a folding shovel - It has a lug on the rear of it that fits into the socket in the read of the hip of the torso.
 The water canteen on the other side fits into another lug on the other side of the figure.
The left hand of the figure fits again into a recess on the trooper's cuff while the seam of the hand that covers the M1 rifle hides the joint where the barrel joins to the gun. The cuff cover the left hand and give us a snug fit.
Here the gun is located int he joints provided - again great engineering on these figures makes them a pleasure to put together.
Here is the Trooper built up with the first head choice - the netted M1 helmet with burlap camo threaded into it.

 The second head choice without the burlap in the netted helmet.

US 101st Airborne Trooper Set 
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms 
Boxart by Dr Jin Kim
These two soldiers are also sold as a set, both with two head choices and both with the same equipment as we looked at earlier. These soldiers are similarly dressed, but the sculptor has made subtle changes in their equipment and faces to denote the uniform, but individual nature of each soldier's dress.
 More pictures of the pairs, the headgear on each are changed in order in these shots...
You can see in these photos of the two in slightly different stances, and when you position them in a different way to the box art they can be facing each other, talking or both looking on into the distance, or both standing to the side watching something or someone. It is your choice if you fancy them as a set.

With sharp detail from the netted M1 helmet with burlap down to the jump boots with a knife strapped to them, these two are another great painting from Alpine Miniatures. The heads and faces, the wrinkling of the clothing, the details of the uniform patches, the pouches and weapons - this goes to show again that this figure maker isn't a one-trick pony who only makes Germans pointing at things. 

Again, they set the benchmark in this scale for others to aspire to.

Adam Norenberg

You can get these new figures from the Alpine Miniatures Online Store
If you are in the USA, you can now purchase Alpine products directly from alpine via their website with Free Shipping on all orders within the USA only.

Here are these figures painted up by the box art artist Dr Jin Kim. In this scene, you can see both of these figures painted by the box artist Dr Jin Kim who shows just how nice these two can look under a talented paintbrusher's hand...