Thursday, November 22, 2007
US Paratroopers Army Update 0: Officers Lead from the Front
Finally, we come to the last article on the modeling and converting of Easy Company -- the Officers and hero characters for the unit. Obviously this group had some of the most evocative images to draw upon from the Band of Brothers miniseries, and several of them screamed for justice. I really had a lot of fun making the independent teams for my paratrooper company, and had such a hard time deciding which scene to represent for some characters that I just went ahead and made two for a few of them.
In game terms, I could never use all of these at the same time. For instance, aside from the multiple pieces based on certain characters, I've got several teams that could be used for the Company Commander, depending on who one wanted to be in command or what time frame one wanted to represent. I left out Lt. Mehan and Cpt. Somebodyorother and instead made models for all the guys we actually see leading Easy Company for any appreciable length of time: Cpt. Sobol, Cpt. Winters, Lt. Dike, and Cpt. Speers. I also made a few other interesting folks.
Starting with their first commanding officer while in training, the scene with Sobol and the barbed wire fence just jumped off the screen when I started looking for moments that I could represent in miniature. I mean, in this scene, you've got three guys standing in a loose triangle in close proximity -- how is that NOT a command team?
To get the older style uniforms and the pose right, none of these figures started out as paratroopers. Green stuff was used to add pack straps and cargo pockets, as well as the lapels of Sobol's jacket. Their poses were slightly adjusted, but nothing crazy. The fence along the back of the base was made from plastic fence posts from an old west settlement model kit strung with copper wire.
Who could ever forget Lt. Dike? While by no means heroic, his antics are at least memorable. With this piece I wanted to at least suggest the presence of the hay stack without actually modeling the whole thing. While the two enlisted men are stock Battle Front castings, Dike is a modified Old Glory miniature, adjusted to make him look as pathetic as possible.
Every body loves Speers. But what scene do you make? His heroic arrival at Bastogne? His cold treatment of prisoners? His storming the last gun alone on D-Day? Or maybe just Speers walking around intimidating people? How do you choose? If you are me, you take your two favorites and make them both. I was always struck by the stories about Speers shooting prisoners after giving them cigarettes, so I've got this little three-man number featuring Battlefront seated Germans and a green stuff cigarette pack.
With three men on the base, it would work OK as a command team if I ever want to field the boys under Speers' direct command, but that's not really the battlefield scene people think of for him. Since he ran into Bastogne alone, I decided to make another piece of the moment when an 88cm gun started firing at him personally.
The base itself is simple, plane even, with a small twist of wire coming up from the ground and fitting into a small hole in the miniature's right foot. The explosion is made in the same manner as my burning tank markers -- stretched stuffing out of my dog's stuffed-animal style chew toys.
The figure is a modified Battle Front casting. I started with a new release NCO with a Thompson and repositioned the other arm and the legs to make him look more like he's leaping through the air. A head swap with an old style BF paratrooper gave me a properly smooth helmet, and a little green stuff added in a distinctive bag Speers was carrying on the day, as well as hiding an ugly seam where I'd pried up the arm. When it’s all together, you can't see the wire at all and the figure seems to be leaping from the explosion. Now, THAT'S a hero model!
Moving up the chain of command, I wanted to have the officers on hand for higher-level formations. Hence, Colonel Sink.
Two stock BF castings provide his support staff, while the colonel himself was heavily modified with green stuff to move his arm and add cargo pockets and a wide jacket collar. I also gave him a very small green stuff rank pin on the front of his helmet.
I've got teams made up for pure Battalion Commander and Battalion 2iC teams, as well. The battalion command team features Winters, Nixon, and a runner. If you recall the scene, the little green stuff fire is OK, because they are in a dell. Other changes were minor, just body position changes with pliers and a bit of green stuff.
The battalion 2iC team is based on a scene between Nixon and Welsh. Hay, it was a decent scene, and it gave me something to do with the cast log that came with the new company boxed set. The figures are stock.
As inspiring as some of the officers were, it was always the NCOs that held Easy together, none more so than Sgt. Lipton. I was in the mode of doing single hero pieces, so I figure this one could serve as a hero, perhaps, as well as serving as a 2iC. And then I put him in shallow hole. When watching the mini series, the shelling Easy took in the Bua Jauc was impressive and terrifying and it really needed to be highlighted in my force. Granted, second platoon was based primarily on the scenes just before and after the shelling, but I still wanted something set in the thick of it. Lipton, as the narrator of that episode, seemed the natural choice. I started with one of the machine gunners, to get a pose that was very low to the ground, and cleaned up the marks made from removing the MG with green stuff. I also gave him little helmet chin straps. His base features a fox hole just like all the others, only a fraction as deep -- I think I only used a single layer of cardboard to make the hole nice and shallow. And then I buried him under a plastic tree branch.
A few other independent teams round out the company HQ slots. Up first is Shifty Powers, my main sniper.
There really wasn't much to this one, just a stock instance of the kneeling rifleman from the new paratrooper line on a base with a tall, removable tree. He looks better with the tree, I think, but there will be times when I don't want it - hiding behind the only tree left standing in Berlin might not be good sniper tactics, ya know?
The other sniper is also based on, or rather in, a tree. Hay, Lipton did it in one episode, so I can do it here, even if I'm not calling him Lipton! In this case, the tree is removable just for storage purposes.
The casting is the same one I used for Shifty, with its entire base tab removed and his legs bent to make him look like he just might be holding himself in the tree without the use of glue.
From the very beginning I wanted a paratrooper with a mohawk. Further research revealed that, in fact, very few paratroopers ever actually shaved their heads like this, but there is just enough debate over who in fact did that I feel like I can get away with doing this on my pathfinder.
The casting itself required a weapons swap to give the kneeling figure a Thompson -- not that I had to do this, I just wanted to. The bald head was swapped in from the first run of BF paratroopers with the helmet shaved and filed down. The mohawk and ears were added with greenstuff.
The rest of him is pretty standard for this army project -- a rock on the base with the casting removed from its base tab and pinned into place, with plastic rod cut up for shell cases and the beacon added to the side of the base for flair.
I've got an idea for one more sniper, but I'm still looking for a model of a 1920s type truck in the proper scale that is hollow enough to put a sniper in. Filling out the rest of the HQ slots, I've got a few bazooka men:
And since I can't do more than two stock models in a row, one of them had to have a custom sculpted bazooka ammo bag:
Since I was knocking out all these HQ types, I had a few official Battlefront hero models lying around and decided to just kick 'me on out now. Using stock figures, the little fence casting in the company box, and a bit of match stick, here's my Turnbull:
I based Darby up to match the Glider Intel & Recon platoon, just for fun.
And Commando Kelly is basically stock with a few extra Old Glory dead Germans on the base:
Using left over troops of various types, preferably castings that I could get into a submissive pose, I made up a few bailed-out vehicle tokens. Here I've mixed together a few official bailed out tanker castings from Battlefront, along with some artillery boys and unarmed machine gunners (with a tank wheel to cover up the ugly hole from the MG), together with some Old Glory figures that also lacked weapons. I may not get much usage out of them with this force, but I'm sure they will come in handy eventually.
And finally, I used the craptastical collectable prepaints from Wizards of the Coast, sold under the Axis and Allies brand, to make my pinned markers, which will probably see far more action than the bailed out markers. Since the plastic is so soft, these are really easy to make -- when I want to bend them I warm them up in hot water, when I want to cut them I cool them down with cold water, than smash them down on a penny and glue them in place. You can really turn any of these into casualty figures -- since they will end up face down in the mud you can bend any limb you can hack loose into an uncomfortable position. I even got away with shaving off arms that were laid across the chest in contact with the entire body, and just twisted them so that the ugly parts were against the ground.
Well, that about covers it. I don't think I made anything else really note worthy for this army. I mean, I've covered everything and everyone, haven't I?
OK, lame joke, and no one's going to fall for it. I've still got to show you Winters. Ya, you've already seen the three-man command team I made that includes the good Major, but I also made a hero model for him. I just kind of had too. Based on the scene in Holland, (then Captain) Winters stands alone on an embankment, firing from the hip:
This model was not as straight forward as it might look. To get the wide-legged pose I had to remove one foot from the base tab and carefully reposition the legs. To get the rifle up to the shoulder like that I stared off by removing another weapon -- I think it was a Thompson, which Winters never carried -- and replacing the rifle and forearms with those cut from another piece. The head was swapped on from one of the older paratroopers, and a bayonet was added to the end of the rifle. But I still wasn't done. After puttying up the joints in the arms, I decided to go nuts and try and make the face of the miniature look more like the actor from the miniseries, so I added a small bit of green stuff to lengthen the model's chin.
Then I put him up on his embankment, which was made by just stacking up strips of card board and smoothing it all over with epoxy paste before putting on the coffee.
OK. Finally. We're done. Everything for the army is built and modeled. Oh, sure, I'm not done collecting Americans -- we'll need proper armored support if we're going to get the job done right. But my humble rendition of Easy Company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division is assembled and ready.
Now all I gotta do is paint 'em...