Wednesday, July 10

Preview: Alpine Miniatures come out fighting with two new figures from the 761st in 35th scale.

These two new figures from Alpine Miniatures offer you the choice of either a Caucasian or African American crew as singles or a set. We look at the history of the 761st tank battalion & these new figures in our preview...

Preview: Alpine Miniatures come out fighting with two new figures from the 761st in 35th scale.

The Subject: Tankers of the 761st Tank Battalion

The African American 761st Tank Battalion, better known as the Black Panthers, arrived in Normandy, France in October 1944 and entered combat shorty after their landing. They would endure a record 183 straight days in combat and would liberate 30 towns on their crusade into Germany.

The patches of the batallion...
Before they became the first African American tankers in the U.S. Army to see combat though, their quest began back home in the deep south where some of their first battles were with white comrades and civilians who were reluctant to accept them as equals. Black Panthers of the 761st Tank Battalion in Coburg, Germany. By the end of the war in Europe, the first African-American armoured unit to enter combat had fought through six countries

Two African American tankers in an M5 Stuart Light Tank during training exercises. c.1943
The 761st was formed in early 1942 in Louisiana. The battalion was eventually moved to Camp Hood, Texas, where they would train for over two years. The men trained in M4 Sherman medium tanks and the M5 Stuart light tank. Although their extended training was more so the result of Army commanders not willing to give African Americans the chance to prove their worth in combat, the extra training would prove invaluable when they engaged German armor in combat. Once on the battlefields of Europe, the 761st set out to prove they were just as good, if not better, than their white comrades.

This tanker from the 761st wearing an M1 & M43 tanker jacket as we see in these figures...
Upon arriving in Normandy, France in late 1944, the 761st was assigned to Patton's Third Army. Patton, himself a skeptic of African American tankers in combat, would wind up welcoming the 761st into his Third Army and motivated them with a rousing speech right before they set out to engage German forces. As they fought their way into Germany, the 761st would participate in four major campaigns through six countries, all the while earning several battlefield commendations and honors. From the time they entered combat until the end of the war in Europe, the men of the 761st received seven Silver Stars, 246 Purple Hearts and 1 Congressional Medal of Honor. The battalion would play a major role in the infamous Battle of the Bulge as they successfully countered the German's last-ditch offensive. The 761st helped break out and rescue the encircled American army in the town of Bastogne.

Corporal Carlton Chapman in his Sherman tank, days before the Black Panthers faced combat for the first time 
By the end of April 1945, the 761st would be one of the first U.S. battalions to meet up with Soviet forces. On April 26th, 1945, the 761st rendezvoused with the Red Army in Steyr, Austria. The convergence of the Russian and U.S. armies split the final remnants of the German army in two, hastening an end to World War II in Europe.

A tank crew from the 761st sit in their M24 Chaffee tank in a snowy field around Bastogne, waiting to engage German forces during the Battle of the Bulge.
VE day (Victory Europe) on Tuesday, May 8th, 1945 officially ended hostilities in Europe. The 761st would remain in Germany for another year before being deactivated on June 1st, 1946 and sent home. Although these Black American heroes fought just as courageously as their white comrades, their homecoming receptions were not the same parades filled with streaming ticker tape and grateful open arms. More often than not, returning African American soldiers were greeted with renewed skepticism, disdain and even overt hostility. It would be another three years until the U.S. armed forces began to integrate when then-President Harry S. Truman signed executive order 9981 on July 26th, 1948.

Soldiers from Dog Company of the 761st Tank Battalion check equipment before leaving England for combat in France in the fall of 1944. You can see these tankers wearing much the same gear in these photos as our figures in the preview...
Normally Alpine Miniatures provide a resin figure set with a choice of two heads for the modeller to change the look or feel of the scene. This time, Alpine's Taesung Harmms has innovated smartly with something different. Each of these figures can bus made as an SS or a Heer tanker with the simple change of the supplied head gear.

The figures: Two new figures from the US 761st TB "Come Out Fighting" in 35th scale.
Alpine Miniatures are well known for being a pioneer in the inducstry for having two heads with the same figure. Last month, we saw an adaptation in that theme, with the choice of two DIFFERENT heads this time, one a tanker in the SS and another of the Heer.

This month, we look at two tanks from the 761st Tank Battalion, the switch up this time is that there is a choice this time of making the two figures, but either as caucasian males or African american males, one of both, or whatever you would like.

We will look at them both now, with the single figures, and the n the set of two figures together

US Tank Crew 761st TB #1
From Alpine Miniatures
1/35th scale
Figure No #35318
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Box Art by Dr. Jin Kim
Two heads are included with the figure
The first figure in this set gives us the choice of two different heads. One, with a M1 helmetted man on the left (below) and the right the tanker with an unusual and rare US Tankers helmet.
The tanker's "ETO Contract Helmet" was a rare helmet not worn by many crew and only a small number were made. These are different from the French helmets of the time it must be stressed, but made with the assistance of a French company in 1944. 
Only 278 of these helmets were made by September 1944 due to material shortages and lack of electricity in the factory. The helmet was based on the French M.33 Casques du motorcyclistes mod. 1940. The main modification was that the helmet lining was adapted to receive the standard U.S. R-14 radio receivers by adding an inner rubber circular ear cushion and an outer leather cup which was attached or detached by means of small screws. The helmet bowl was made of stamped or pressed aluminum, had a leather pad on the front brow. Examples are known to exist with and without a rear neck protector of aluminum.
The second choice is the "vanilla" M1 steel helmet, the grainy surface and large dome were synonymous with GI's of WWII. Tankers did wear these in their vehicles, but more so when they had to get out for a prolonged time, especially near the front lines.
Pretty easy to find an example of these huh!
Tank crews had specially designed trousers, helmets and other clothing to facilitate their work in cramped quarters that were always too hot or too cold. This tanker wears the U.S. Tanker in Bib Overalls on his torso under this jacket. Soldiers assigned to tank and reconnaissance units and armored infantry units in half-tracks needed cold weather gear when fighting from their armored vehicles since they did not have efficient space heating. 
The tanker is wearing what looks like a U.S. M43 field jacket which hangs loosely open over his tanker's overalls. The jacket is very nicely draped open and tucked in behind his arm that sits in the pocket of his pants. The collars, lapels and pockets of this jacket are very nicely wrinkled and pulled as they would be if this was a well-worn item of clothing on a living person.
Underneath his jacket is the U.S. Army M3 Pistol in its shoulder holster. The M3 shoulder holster was used extensively by paratroopers, aircrew and tankers. It was the standard holster used with the M1911 A1 Colt .45 automatic pistol throughout WW2. These were made from a single piece of leather folded over and stitched together to make a pocket, has a lift-the dot fastener to the top flap. At the bottom of the holster is another strap, that ends in a female snap fastener, in which the male mating piece is stuck, that folds back on itself and would normally snap to the front of the holster to create a loop. A leather strap is reinforced stitched to the topmost corner of the holster that mates to a brass, single prong buckle. Stamped to the front of the holster is "U.S.".

A WWII era shoulder holster, designed to fit 1911 (M9) style pistols.

US Tank Crew 761st TB #2
From Alpine Miniatures
1/35th scale
Figure No #35319
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Box Art by Dr. Jin Kim
Two (different) head choices included with the figure
The second figure is seen below in bare resin, and the details of the sculpt are easy to pick out without colour. The choice of the two  headgear choices (and faces) are on show here again, with the M1 steel helment at the Ridel type M1938 tanker's helmet the choice on offer again.

The disticntly different faces uder an M1 (left below) and the padded tanker's helmet on the right below.
The M1 helmet is one of the choices, with the tanker - seen in several angles painted here by the talented Dr. Jin Kim that enables you to see some details that you may not notice in the unpainted version. This figure is seen sitting down in a resting pose. The winter weight of his clothing and the gloves tip the observer as to what the climate is around this tanker here...
M1 - standard.
The second choice features the M1938 tanker's helmet, often referred to as a crash helmet, since it provided no protection against projectiles and only protected the head against sharp objects in the tank. Prior to 1938 the Infantry and the Cavalry both had their own designs for tank helmets. It was decided that the use of two helmets added unnecessary costs to the supply chain. 
The helmet consists of a fiber resin shell with leather ear flaps and a fiber resin rear neck guard. Evenly spaced around the crown are ten ventilation holes. 
A study of the period correct helmet below..
Some more details of the winter tanker's overalls that this tanker is wearing - they were made of cotton twill in the OD#3 (a shade of olive drab), with the wool knit cuffs of the jacket in a similar color. Dark olive, Melton wool lined the garments for warmth. Nickel plated talon zippers closed the jacket front, the bib trouser fly, and side access pocket. Eventually, other ground fighting infantry, artillery, and ancillary units were also issued the winter combat uniform while fighting in frigid cold. The jacket itself became very popular in many of the services due to its thermal protection and ease of wear.

A look inside the lined overalls shows you why these were so favoured, especially in the colder climes like northern Europe.
Seen sitting down, either on the tank, some boxes, a fence, anything you like. His body language is seen to be quite releaxed in this pose by the sculptor.
The thick leather gloves and shoepacs were much loved inth colder slimates. The US Army overshoes / shoepacs were often in slighly different shades depending on the wear on each soldier's gear and environment - mud, dust snow and sand could change the look of the shoepacs especially. These were made of brown leather construction with high rise rubber soles and original leather laces.
The US 1943 M43 wool gloves OD with leather palms were standard issue winter glove for the entire War. They are made from olive drab wool and have brown leather palms to increase their service life. These were great for tankers who had to handle hot rounds and cold hulls and hatches on tanks in a colder northern Europe.
The jacket this tanker is wearing is the well known tanker's jacket, made from olive drab #3 cotton twill and lined with brown kersey wool. It was designed for armored vehicle crews, but troops in all branches of the service endeavored to acquire them. Far superior to the fair-weather M41 Field Jacket. The jackets were particularly popular and many were obtained by by infantrymen, artillerymen and paratroopers.

US 761st Tank Battalion Set Set (2 figures)
From Alpine Miniatures
1/35th scale
Figure No #35320
Sculpture by Taesung Harmms
Box Art by Dr. Jin Kim
Two head choices included with each of the two figures in this set.

Sold as a set of two complimentary figures, both of them have two head choices each, the same as the single figures do. The men here are undoubtedly from the same unit at the same time, but dressed just differently enough to be complementary as a set or by themselves used singularly.

These two figures in singles and a set will be available from Alpine Miniatures Online Store or their distributors worldwide. If you are in the USA, you can now purchase Alpine products directly from their online store with free shipping (within the US) on all orders.