Softskins of the Afrika Korps in 1/72 Scale

The German Afrika Korps (Deutsches Afrikakorps) arrived in Libya in February 1941, following Mussolini’s appeal to Hitler for assistance in light of Italy’s dismal performance fighting the British in North Africa. Within weeks of arrival, Rommel’s Afrikakorps had reversed Mussolini’s fortunes, handily defeating numerically superior British forces time and again in rapid succession, and in the process becoming a source of fascination for many a WWII buff despite their eventual defeat in 1943.

Countless books have been written on this subject and the reader is directed to them. This post is merely intended to provide collectors a survey of Afrikakorps-specific prebuilt softskins available in 1/72 scale. The reader should note that major manufacturers such as Dragon and Panzerstahl have also produced more than a dozen prebuilt Afrikakorps tanks, but information on these is readily available and not the subject of this post.

By my count, there are approximately 20 prebuilt Afrikakorps softskin vehicles. Photographs are provided below. To provide perspective on the size of the vehicles, included in the photos are figures from six of the eight different Afrikakorps sets released thus far. They range from the Airfix set released in 1973, more than 40 years ago, to the Caesar set, released in 2010. The name provided for each of the vehicles and soldier sets is the one given by the manufacturer, thus the lack of consistency in the use of “Afrikakorps,” “Afrika Korps,” “Africa Corps,” and “DAK.”1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda1. Altaya Opel Blitz 3.6-36S (Kfz. 305), 21.Pz.Div., Medenine, Tunisia 1943. Other than the lack of weathering and fake window flaps on the canvas cover, this is a neat little piece that would greatly improve with a simple umber wash.

Figures: Zvezda 6143 German Medical Personnel set. In my view, Zvezda is now producing the best 1/72 scale figures on the market.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda2. Left: Hobby Master HG3903, Opel Blitz German Cargo Truck, 21st Panzer Div, North Africa 1942. This little truck is a beauty. Note the crispness of the DAK palm tree. The divisional and tactical markings on the fenders are an added plus.

3. Right: Hobby Master HG3911, Opel Blitz German Cargo Truck with 20mm Flak 38, DAK, WWII. The Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun is metal and is detachable. About the only quibble with this piece is the lack of divisional markings on the fenders and rear.

Figure: Matchbox PK35 Sd.Kfz. 232 plastic kit. This is one of two figures included in this 1/76 Matchbox kit. The figures themselves are actually 1/72 scale, however.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda4. Left: Hobby Master HG4501 Horch 1a with 20mm Flak 38, DAK 1941. This vehicle came with a Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun worthy of comment in its own right.  Regrettably, I did not photograph it.

5. Right: War Master Steyr 1500 A/01 + 20mm Flak 38, 10th Panzerabteilung, Tunisia 1942. I failed to include the Flak 38 on this vehicle as well.  Though War Master gets credit for including the swastika on the palm tree, they managed to place it facing left, which is incorrect. One wonders whether the “error” was by design to get around laws in various countries that prohibit Nazi symbols.

Figure: Revell 2513 Africa Corps. This particular figure in the Revell set is one of the most ubiquitous in Afrikakorps dioramas, probably due to its casual pose as the vast majority of a soldier’s time is spent not in battle but performing pedestrian daily activities.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda6. Left: Dragon Warbirds 50120 Me 109G-2 Trop & Kubelwagen, III./JG 77, North Africa 1942. This hard-to-find Cyber Hobby exclusive aircraft model included this kubelwagen. Of note are the balloon sand tires, designed specifically for the desert campaign.

7. Center: Altaya Kfz. 15 Horch + 10.5cm le FH18M, Art.Reg. 119, 11.Pz.Div., Kursk USSR 1943. Admittedly, this model is not marketed as an Afrikakorps vehicle, but given the wide use of the Kfz. 15 Horch in North Africa and its dunkelgelb base color, the straightforward application of DAK palm tree decals would easily do the trick.

8. Right: Dragon 7434 Sd.Kfz.181 Tiger I Mid Production w/Zimmerit & Kubelwagen. This vehicle, which was included as a plus in a Dragon Tiger kit, is identical to the one in the Dragon Warbirds 50120 set described above except for the standard tires and darker desert yellow.

Figure: Airfix 1711 Afrika Korps. Despite its release 43 years ago, the Airfix Afrikakorps set remains one of the most beloved among collectors, for obvious reasons — this was Airfix sculpting at its pinnacle.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda9. Left: Dragon 60514 Sd.Kfz. 223 Leichte Panzerspahwagen, 21.Pz.Div., North Africa 1941.

10. Center: Dragon 60498 Sd.Kfz. 222 Leichte Panzerspahwagen, Unidentified Unit, North Africa 1942. A quick comparison of this Dragon piece with its Altaya counterpart to the right immediately reveals why Dragon has been king of the 1/72 scale hobby. There is absolutely no comparison in terms of detail, finish, and weathering.

11. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 222, 10.Pz.Div., Tunis, Tunisia 1943. Given the existence of the vastly superior Dragon 60498, this Altaya 222 model is only for the hardcore collector.

Figure: Atlantic 88 German Afrikakorps. This hard-to-find set was maligned from its release almost 40 years ago (1977). Today, it’s highly sought-after by collectors.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda12. Left: Altaya Schwerer Panzerspahwagen (8 Rad), Sd.Kfz. 232, 5.le.Div., Agedabia, Libya 1941. Dragon has produced an Sd.Kfz. 232 that is immensely superior to this piece. Unfortunately, Dragon has not released one in an Afrikakorps desert livery.

13. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 250/5, Afrikakorps, Tobruk, Libya 1942. Desert campaign enthusiasts will immediately recognize this vehicle as Rommel’s “Greif.” In retrospect, it would have been more appropriate to use a Rommel figure for the photo. As is Altaya practice, neither vehicle has swastikas on the palm trees.

Figure: ESCI 206 Afrika Corps Soldiers. This ESCI set, their second effort at producing Afrikakorps soldiers, was summed up by Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) as a “perfectly solid effort.” The first set, now extremely hard to find, was somewhat unattractive.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda14. Left: Dragon 60294 Sd.Kfz. 251/10 Ausf. C Unidentifed Unit, El Alamein 1942. Photographs exist of the actual vehicle upon which this model is based. Unfortunately, the actual vehicle was an Ausf. B, rather than an Ausf. C, which is immediately apparent by the location of the hull side lockers.

15. Right: Dragon 60281 Sd.Kfz. 251/2 Ausf. C, Eastern Front 1942. Despite Dragon’s “Eastern Front” label, this piece is actually from the DAK, as can be easily concluded from the 21.Pz.Div. formation marking on the vehicle’s front plate. The actual vehicle upon which this model is based was an Afrikakorps 251/1 Ausf. C, rather than a 251/2 Ausf. C. To make it accurate, one need only remove the mortar from the back of the vehicle.

Figure: Caesar H070 German Afrika Korps. This 2010 release is the most recent Afrikakorps set on the market. According to PSR, the figures have “well-defined detail and faultless proportions” and the use of modern molds allowed Caesar to produce figures that are appealing from every angle without resorting to multiple pieces that require assembly, as Preiser often does.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda16. Left: Hobby Master HG5104 Sd.Kfz. 11, 33d Pz.Art., 15th Pz.Div., North Africa. This vehicle carries an interesting but non-standard Afrikakorps palm tree.

17. Right: Altaya Sd.Kfz. 11, 15th Pz.Div., El Alamein, Egypt 1942. To my mind, this is not a bad effort by Altaya and the difference in quality between it and the HM piece is not that great. Note again Altaya’s failure to include the swastika on the palm tree on the port-side front fender.

Figure: Caesar H070 German Afrika Korps. See comment in previous photo.


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, Zvezda18. Hobby Master HG5002 Sd.Kfz. 7 German 8 Ton Semi-Track, Luftwaffe, Africa 1942. While this is, in fact, an Afrikakorps vehicle, HM neglected to include the distinctive Afrikakorps palm tree. I pilfered the palm tree decals from the Airfix A02303 Sd.Kfz. 7 Tractor half-track kit.

Figure: Italeri 6099 D.A.K. Infantry. As can be seen in the photo, the detail on this figure is superb. In PSR’s words “detail is everywhere clear and sharp, while clothing looks natural and human proportions are spot on.”


1/72, Afrika Korps, Afrikakorps, Airfix, Altaya, Atlantic, Caesar, DAK, Desert, Deutsches, Dragon, El Alamein, ESCI, Flak 38, German, HM, Hobby Master, Horch, Italeri, Kubelwagen, Libya, Matchbox, Nikolai, North Africa, Opel Blitz, Panzerspahwagen, Revell, Roden, Sd.Kfz. 11, Sd.Kfz. 7, Softskin, Soldiers, Steyr, Tunisia, War Master, ZvezdaFinally, here’s a lagniappe photo of an Opel Blitz bus, widely used by the Afrikakorps in North Africa.

19. Roden 721 Plastic Kit, Opel Blitz Omnibus (model W.39 Ludewig-built, late). This model is not available as a prebuilt. I commissioned this piece from a master modeler in Poland.

Figures: Various Afrikakorps Sets; Nikolai ARB04 Arabs in the Streets 2 resin set. Without a doubt, resin figures allow more detail than plastic ones as exemplified by the three wonderful figures from the Nikolai set. However, the short runs and resulting high cost of resin sets often present an obstacle for collectors.


I hope you enjoyed the photos. As always, comments, suggestions, and questions are always welcome.

Operation Detachment, Part 2: Prebuilt 1/72 Scale Models for the Battle of Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought from February 19 to March 26. Thus, a follow-up to the last post is still timely. Here’s a brief photo summary of prebuilt 1/72 scale vehicles available for the battle.

To my knowledge, there are eight such models for Iwo Jima, including the two amtanks reviewed in the last post. In alphabetical order by manufacturer, they are:

  1. Altaya DUKW 353, US Marine Corps;
  2. Altaya Type 97 Chi-Ha, 26th Tank Regiment, Imperial Japanese Army;
  3. CDC 3135 M4A3, “Black-Jack,” B Company, 4th Tank Battalion;
  4. Dragon 60331 M4A2, D Company, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps Tank Bn, Tarawa 1943 (Dragon mislabeled it; Sherman is actually from Iwo Jima);
  5. Dragon 60425 LVT(A)-4, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion;
  6. Hobby Master HG4402 LVT(A)-4, US Marines, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion;
  7. Hobby Master HG4407 LVT(A)-2, 10th Marine Amtrack Bttn., “Beach Yellow 1”; and
  8. Hobby Master HG4201 Willys Jeep with Trailer, 4th Marine Division, 2nd Battalion.

1. Altaya DUKW 353, US Marine Corps

This is an attractive model, though the detail is soft because of its diecast construction. On the plus side, the camouflage is very nicely done. To my knowledge, this is only one of two prebuilt DUKWs — the other being an Amercom piece, clearly a different casting, and without the canvas cover.
1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys2. Altaya Type 97 Chi-Ha, 26th Tank Regiment, Imperial Japanese Army

As with the DUKW above, this Altaya is an adequate diecast model. However, in terms of realism, it pales in comparison to the detail and finish of the all-plastic Dragon Chi-Has. It’s unfortunate that while Dragon released four Chi-Has, not one of them represents a vehicle at the Battle of Iwo Jima.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys3. CDC 3135 M4A3 (105mm), “Black-Jack,” B Company, 4th Tank Battalion

This piece is inaccurate in a number of ways and really only for the hardcore collector. To begin with, the real “Black-Jack” carried a standard 75mm gun — not a 105mm gun, as CDC represented it. Secondly, like other Sherman crews at Iwo, the crew of the “Black-Jack” added wooden planks to the side of the hull to provide additional protection. It was on these planks that the markings, including the name “Black-Jack,” were painted — not on the hull itself, as represented on the CDC model. Thirdly, compared to other 1/72 Shermans, the CDC series is significantly overscaled. Finally, its all-metal content results in soft detail, particularly when compared to the crisp detail of the all-plastic Dragon issues.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 4. Dragon 60331 M4A2, D Company, 1st Marine Amphibious Corps Tank Bn, Tarawa 1943

This is a terrific little piece though, once again, Dragon research leaves a lot to be desired. As the very name of this Sherman indicates, “Destroyer” was assigned to D Company. It is well documented that only the 14 tanks of C Company fought at Tarawa. All 14 carried the elephant with raised right leg and cannon shot coming out of its trunk, which is why Dragon incorrectly assumed that the design of an elephant with a raised foot meant the “Destroyer” fought at Tarawa. Still, this Sherman is a nice piece of work and I plan to do a detailed review of it in the future.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys5. Dragon 60425 LVT(A)-4, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion

Please see review of this piece in the previous post.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys6. Hobby Master HG4402 LVT(A)-4, US Marines, 2nd Armored Amphibian Battalion

Please see review of this piece in the previous post. 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys 1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys7. Hobby Master HG4407 LVT(A)-2, 10th Marine Amtrack Bttn., “Beach Yellow 1.”

This is another fine piece by Hobby Master. It’s a recent release and I’ve yet to assess its accuracy.

1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys

1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys8. Hobby Master HG4201 Willys Jeep with Trailer, 4th Marine Division, 2nd Battalion

At least five manufacturers — Amercom, Cararama, Dragon, Hobby Master, and Zylmex — have tried their hand at producing the Willys Jeep in 1/72 scale. The Dragon, which is all plastic, is probably the best. Yet the weight of the diecast Hobby Master is satisfying to the hand and, at least in this case, there appears to be no sacrifice in detail in using metal. The Amercom model is an inferior copy of the Hobby Master, right down to the War Department number of the vehicle. By my count, there are 17  prebuilt WWII 1/72 scale Jeeps available and I intend to do a review of them in the future.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, Willys1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, WillysFinally, here’s a lagniappe photo of all eight of these vehicles so the reader may better appreciate the difference in the respective sizes of the vehicles as well as the various camouflage schemes. Also of note is the difference in size between the CDC and Dragon Shermans.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, WillysItaleri 6098 Iwo Jima Flag Raisers

For the sake of completeness, the reader should be aware that in 1977 ESCI issued a set of plastic 1/72 scale soldiers (ESCI 8062) depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima portrayed in Joe Rosenthal’s famous photo. Though the ESCI set is now hard to find, Italeri reissued the set more recently (Italeri 6098). The set is a disappointment. In addition to the poor detail, the figures have disfiguring sink marks on their backs and pronounced seam marks along their sides. Moreover, being almost 40 years old, the set is beginning to show its age as the figures are rather poorly engineered — some with separate limbs — and a couple of hours of effort yielded endless frustration and a less than satisfactory result. I would not recommend this set to anyone except those of stout heart, steady hand, and monk’s patience.1/72, AFV, Altaya, Amphibian, Amphibious, CDC, Chi-Ha, Dragon, DUKW, ESCI, HM, Hobby Master, Italeri, Iwo Jima, Jeep, LVT, Marine, Marines, Sherman, Tanks, Tarawa, Type 97, WillysI hope you enjoyed the post. If the reader knows of any other 1/72 vehicles for the Battle of Iwo Jima, please do leave a comment or send me an email. As always, thanks for your indulgence.

Cheesecake Pin-Up Girls on WWII Vehicles in 1/72 Scale

I have always been fascinated by the way U.S. airmen decorated their aircraft during WWII. I have a fairly extensive collection of WWII 1/72 scale aircraft and those with elaborate nose art are some of my favorites. It’s not the art per se that interests me – a lot of it could be considered amateurish and sometimes crude by professional standards – but the fact that the art was created by young men going to war. That art is a reflection of their state of mind, their optimism, their interests, and sometimes, their loved ones. How did the crew come to name the vehicle? How did they select it? Who painted it? Did the young artist have a preference for brunettes, or blondes, or short hair, or long, or . . . . ?

The following quote from Nose Art, by Cary M. Valant, succinctly captures the essence of this issue:

The origin of nose art goes back to some ancient time when the first proud charioteer decorated his vehicle so that it would be distinguishable from the other. The desire to personalize an object, a machine, to make it unique among the multitude, is basic to man’s nature . . . . A thousand B-17s, identical in every way, roll off the assembly line and fly to an uncertain fate, but each one can be different. The difference is not in the tail number. Those are for record-keepers and ribbon clerks. The difference is in the imagination and talent of the crew. 

It is this “imagination and talent of the crew” that Valant refers to that interests me. The Germans didn’t have a similar practice and must have been dumbfounded by what they saw as the lascivious, promiscuous, immature Americans and their nose art. This quote from Luftwaffe Emblems 1939-1945, by Barry Ketley, considered the textbook on WWII German aircraft emblems, explains the German perspective:

There are two types of emblems that rarely, if ever, appeared on Luftwaffe aircraft: those featuring women (totally unlike Allied forces, particularly the Americans) and presentation aircraft markings. The non-appearance of women, clothed or otherwise, is probably due to the influence of Nazi ideology, which greatly idealized the role of women as the subservient wives and mothers of soldiers and, officially at least, frowned upon anything remotely prurient.

Like soldiers from any other country, U.S. soldiers suddenly found themselves in a world populated only by men, resulting in many men inevitably longing for the women in their lives. Unlike other soldiers, Americans had pin-up art to help fill the void. To its credit, the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) wisely issued Regulation 35-22 authorizing the decoration of Army Air Forces equipment with individual designs to help morale, although a “sense of decency” was expected. Pin-up art thus became widespread in the USAAF but was rather uncommon in the other services, such as the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines.

I wondered whether the phenomenon manifested itself in allied fighting vehicles, as opposed to aircraft. In particular, I wanted to find cheesecake pin-up art similar to that found on allied aircraft. Although books on aircraft nose art are abundant, I immediately discovered that books on AFV art were nowhere to be found. Despite perusing numerous WWII books and countless websites, I identified less than a dozen tanks (6 Shermans, 4 Stuarts, and 1 Hellcat) with pin-up art. I also found four softskins (3 trucks and 1 jeep). I intend to do a post specifically on the six Shermans in the near future. In this post, I only want to present those vehicles available in 1/72 scale. 

WWII Vehicles with Pin-ups in 1/72

To my knowledge, there are only two 1/72 scale vehicles with pin-up art, both from the U.S Army, of course. One is the Hobby Master Hellcat “I DON’T WANT A” and the other is the Altaya Dragon Wagon “545592.”

1. “I DON’T WANT A”

  • M18 Hellcat
  • 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion, Company A
  • Brest, France, August 1944
  • Hobby Master HG6002

Here’s a photo of the actual vehicle from Steven Zaloga’s M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer 1943-97. According to Zaloga, the name “I DON’T WANT A” is a joke because the crew was required to name the tank starting with the company letter, in this case “A.”

1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

Here’s the Hobby Master HG6002. 

1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

Note that the model is missing the Rhino hedge cutter welded to the bow seen on the photograph of the actual tank. Note also that the pin-up was not repeated on the port side. I wonder if HM got the “643TD” on the front starboard side wrong, since, according to Zaloga, the tank was actually from the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion. 1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

Here’s a close-up that provides perspective on the size of the pin-up. This may very well be the smallest pin-up on any 1/72 scale model — aircraft, AFV, or softskin.1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

2. “545592”

  • M25 Dragon Wagon
  • 464th Ordnance, 9th U.S. Army
  • Geilenkurchen, Germany, December 1945
  • Altaya gift to “Panzer” subscribers

Here’s a photo of the actual vehicle pulling a wrecked Panther tank, from Dragon Wagon, A Visual History of the U.S. Army’s Heavy Tank Transporter 1941-1955, by David Doyle and Pat Stansell.

1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

Here’s the Altaya model. Other than the soft detail, Altaya models also suffer from a total lack of weathering but their markings are usually excellent.

1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

Note that the pin-up was also present on the starboard side.

1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

Here’s a close-up for perspective.

1/72 40145192 464th Ordnance 545592 705th AFV Altaya Dragon Wagon Hellcat HG6002 HM Hobby Master M18 M25 Nose Art Pin-ups Softskins Tank Destroyer Tanks U.S. Army USAAF

I hope you enjoyed the peep show. 😈 I would respectfully ask that anybody who knows of other pin-ups on 1/72 models or photos of non-aircraft WWII vehicles with pin-up art post a comment. Perhaps at some point in the future someone will use our collective research to write a book on the subject — a book that is sorely missing at the moment.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and Happy New Year

The Tiger in Winter: To celebrate the season, here are photos of 1/72 Tigers in winter camouflage.  

Front Row, L to R: Dragon 60001, Dragon 60410, and Dragon 60097.

Back Row, L to R: Dragon 65004, War Master TK0031, Easy Model 36214, and Easy Model 36208.

The Santas and hot Santa Helper chicks are made by Preiser.

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master Winter

Here’s a portside view.

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master WinterWhite Rhino and Bumblebees: Here is a photo of a Nashorn and a couple of Hummels.

L to R: Altaya Nashorn, Dragon 60288, and Dragon 60190.

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master Winter

Other German Winter Vehicles

1/72 AFV Altaya Christmas Dragon Easy Model German Hummel Nashorn Preiser Tanks Tiger War Master Winter

Cheers!

Luftwaffe Flakartillerie 88mm Flak Gun Crew in Action in North Africa in 1941

This photo is from Waldemar Trojca’s 8.8cm Flak 18-36-37, Katowice-Speyer 2005. Erwin Rommel used the 88mm Flak gun extensively as an antitank weapon in North Africa, having learned its value in that role in 1940 at the Battle of Arras, in France. Some mistakenly claim Rommel was the first to use the 88mm as an antitank weapon. All that can be said with confidence is that he was among the first.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here’s the recreation. The original photo doesn’t depict the detail or disarray surrounding the gun but photos of other 88 guns do. Thus, as you will readily notice, I took lots of artistic license.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here’s a view directly facing the gun. The 88s could take out enemy tanks a mile away but you first had to spot them. The soldier up front has a range finder, while the officer on the right has binoculars. At the far right are scissors binoculars, which are sometimes present in these scenes. I “borrowed” them from the Revell German Armoured Infantry set.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here are a couple of photos of the gun itself. The gun suffers from several inaccuracies, which I’ll cover at some point in a separate review.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Here’s a close-up of the gun.  Note the awesome kill rings.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

I converted the Altaya Flak 37 from its traveling position to a stationary gun and then pilfered the trailer. The trailer is plastic with metal axles that had to be cut from the metal base of the gun. I painted the trailer desert yellow, applied decals, and gave it a wash. The detail on the trailer is quite nice as it is plastic and compares well with the Airfix and Hasegawa kits, though it’s not as detailed as the Revell kit.

Note the detail work on the towing bar and on the “forks” to which the gun attaches. Because the plastic is very hard, it was actually easy to carve them out. For the first time in many years, I reluctantly applied decals using Microsol on very old Afrikakorps palm trees from Almark. The result exceeded my expectations and I cursed myself for not having tried decaling sooner.

This photo also shows the brass ammunition and wicker ammunition baskets well. Note that I drilled out two holes in one of the baskets. It turned out to be easier than I expected.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

The crew was included in the Italeri 8.8cm Flak 37 AA Gun kit. Of note is the soldier with a Hermann Meyer cap, to my knowledge one of only two modeled in plastic. (The soldier talking to Rommel also wears a Meyer cap but that figure is made of white metal.) Plastic Soldier Review (PSR) described this set as follows: “All the figures are crisply sculpted and crisply moulded, and while some of those handling ammunition have a little excess plastic, no one has any flash and these are very good quality figures . . . . At an average 24.5 mm the height of the men is good, so with the very good detail these are excellent.” (See PSR’s review at http://www.plasticsoldierreview.com/ShowFeature.aspx?id=48.)

While I had the figures painted previously, I decided that I would paint shoulder straps, buttons, belt buckles, and other details. This is a Luftwaffe Flakartillerie regiment so shoulder straps are silver on a red base. I developed a headache as I focused my eyes on these suckers. If you’re over 50, don’t try this at home. 🙁 

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

The Rommel figure came from the ACE Desert Fox’s Kfz.21 kit. I have several different painted Rommel figures in 1/72; this is the best of the bunch. As previously mentioned, the officer talking to Rommel wears a Meyer cap, clearly identifying him as Luftwaffe. He comes from an SHQ white metal set that includes a Rommel figure leaning over a map. This vignette is based on a well-known photo of Rommel talking to Generalmajor Hermann-Bernhard Ramcke, wherein he wears a Meyer cap.1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

The half-track is Hobby Master’s Luftwaffe Sd.Kfz.7 8-Ton Semi-Track, with decals poached from the Airfix half-track kit. Disappointingly, Hobby Master lazily released it without markings despite the promise implicit in their pre-production photos, which included the DAK palm trees. I had intended to apply divisional markings to the half-track as well but held off because I wasn’t sure to which division the gun belonged. Trojca attributes the gun to the 1./Flak Rgt. 33, which was attached to the 21.Pz.Div., while Panzerstahl attributes it to the 1./Flak Rgt. 43, which was attached to the 15.Pz.Div. In retrospect, I wish I’d given the half-track a wash to bring out its details. The tarp and Jerry cans are from ValueGear.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Note the faded Luftwaffe marking on the helmet of the soldier with the dark tunic. To my old eyes, he came out better than I expected.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

Finally, this bird’s-eye view shows the entire layout well. Note the tracks in the sand. Kinetic Sand is simply amazing.

1/72 88043 ACE Afrikakorps Airfix Almark Altaya Artillery DAK Desert Deutsches Flak Fujimi German Hasegawa HG5002 HMX Hobby Master Italeri Kinetic Sand Luftwaffe Meyer Cap North Africa Panzerstahl Preiser Revell Rommel SHQ Softskin Soldiers Thor ValueGear Waba Fun

For those interested, here’s the source of each piece:

  • Gun: Panzerstahl 88043, 8.8cm Flak, 43rd Flak Reg., 15.Pz.Div., Deutsches Afrikakorps, 1942; 
  • Trailer: Altaya 8.8 cm Flak 37, 2.Pz.Div. Moscow Area 1941 (cut out from metal base) (decals from Almark T1 Afrika Korps Palms);
  • Half-Track: Hobby Master HG5002, Sd.Kfz.7 8-Ton Semi-Track, Luftwaffe, Africa 1942 (decals from Airfix 2303 kit, 88mm Gun & Sd.Kfz.7 Tractor);
  • Crew: Italeri 7512 kit, 8.8cm Flak 37 AA Gun with Crew;
  • Field Marshal Rommel: ACE 72289 kit, Desert Fox’s Kfz.21 with Rommel Figure;
  • Generalmajor Ramcke: SHQ DK20, Rommel Command Group;
  • Dog: Preiser 14165, Dogs and Cats;
  • Scissors Binoculars: Revell 02511, German Armoured Infantry;
  • Ammunition Baskets: Hasegawa 31110 kit, 88mm Gun Flak 18 (4 baskets); and Fujimi 76026 kit, 88mm Flak 18 (4 baskets);
  • Ammunition: Thor Hobby A7203, Brass WWII German 88mm L/71 Gun Ammunition (Set 2);
  • Sandbags, Crates, Fuel Drums, Jerry Cans, and Tarp Roll: ValueGear, various sets;
  • Grass: Noch Scenemaster, Spring Grass Tufts;
  • Sand: 150-101 Kinetic Sand by Waba Fun. Had to wrest it from my kids. 😈 

I hope you enjoyed the post. Please forgive the long-winded narrative and thanks again for your indulgence and encouragement.