Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tanks and Craters

New Caesar Miniatures First World War German Infantry; with an old soldier the Airfix First World War British Mark I tank. The Germans made few tanks in WWI, but the British, French and Americans made thousands of them. Most of the tanks in the German Army were captured British tanks. This model depicts one of those captured vehicles in German service.

Germans would repaint the British tanks and put many large German crosses on them for quick identification. This gives a great modelling opportunity to make a different version of this tank.

For wargamers, this give you a chance to add tank support to your German army.

These old fashioned tanks were very slow and were built to support the infantry at a walking pace. The tanks were long so that they could cross large craters and trenches.

In this photo, the tank is running up the rim of a crater and will soon fall forward and continue it's drive. These tanks would drive up very severe berms and fall back forward, jarring the crews inside. The tanks had very primitive suspension systems which made for a rough ride. They enabled the attacker to bring direct fire on enemy machine gun nests and allowed the infantry to advance without being mowed down. My WWI German Army has a few German tanks and this one British one.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

LST, Large Slow Target

In World War Two the the US Navy used a vessel called the LST, Landing Ship Tank. They used them to transfer vehicles, from ship to shore; straight onto the beach. These were highly successful ships and naturally the Navy came up with several new versions. These 1/2400 scale models from my collection show some of those. The one at the bottom of this photo is the standard LST. The one behind it has been modified into the Fighter Direction configuration. Amphibious landings were covered by hundreds, even thousands of aircraft and these vessels helped to keep them from shooting friendly targets and direct them towards the enemy.

Once again, the standard LST and behind it a new model, the aircraft carrier version. Yes, aircraft carrier. They placed an elevated runway along the centerline and Piper Cub type airplanes could take off from the deck. They carried about 8 of them sort of stacked along the sides of the hull and runway. It was a one way trip, planes could be launched but not return to land. So they would have to land on a land runway or a real aircraft carrier. These were used in the Mediterranean Set where they could find someplace friendly not too far away. These planes were used for naval gunfire spotting.

This time the ship in the middle is the repair ship version. These machine shop ships could fix almost anything and could make just about anything given the materials and enough time. Mostly these repaired landing craft so they could be returned to their ships, since this repair ship would be on the beach. I suspect if an Army guy showed up with a broken item and a carton of cigarettes he could get something fixed too.

These conversions are quick, easy and simple. Get a book on ships and a few bits from the spares box and in 30 minutes or less you too can have one of these little gems. This gives more variety to your fleet and more capability too.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Craters, Not Just for the Moon

Some of the new Caesar Miniatures 1/72nd scale World War One German soldiers are advancing in a field of craters. The First World War was dominated by the machine gun and the artillery. Craters were everywhere. Are they on your battlefields? They are on mine.

Craters limit mobility and provide cover if they are large enough. Here two of those Caesar Miniatures Germans fight from a 155mm size crater. My craters are made from resin and plastic and are quite durable. They are grouped by size class, with the largest ones being for those massive 16 inch naval guns. They prevent any movement and can really mess up a battlefield.

The big brown crater in the background is for a 155mm howitzer, the tan medium size crater is for a 105mm howitzer and the small crater is for a 75mm gun or 81mm mortar. The large crater is big enough to slow tracked vehicles to a crawl, provide limited cover to a few infantrymen and prevent wheeled vehicles from moving in the area. The 105mm size craters can provide cover for one man and prohibit passage of wheeled vehicles. The 75mm gun size craters provide no cover and prevent the passage of wheeled vehicles that are not four wheel drive; and they are slowed to a crawl.

Only prone troops get protection in these medium size craters. Craters make the battlefield look more realistic, provide obstacles to movement, protect troops in them and should be included in your next wargame.

Atomic Bombs Can Be Fun

The Atomic Testing Museum

When MRS Bunkermeister and I were in Las Vegas recently when we were not at the range shooting machine guns, we visited the Atomic Testing Museum. This museum tells the story of the atomic testing facilities, people and events from the middle of World War Two until the end of the Cold War. I got a nice tee shirt with a photo of Atomic Annie a cannon in service with the US Army for about 20 years from the early 1950s, and a couple of books. They had an interactive display that similated an above ground atomic test. Very cool with vibrating seats and a big gush of wind. Once we got back to the hotel we did practice our "decontamination" skills.

Whenever I travel, I try and look for hobby shops, book stores particularly used book stores, museums and places of historical interest. Museums can be a great source of unique items and information. One of the books I got was a reprint of a report from the 1950s showing the results of the test firing of the Atomic Cannon. They had some interesting photos and a TO&E of firing batteries and sections. Good stuff for my Cold War US Army.

Research can make wargames much more enjoyable. New scenarios, new rules, new weapons can be revealed to you with a bit of research. This is particularly true if you check out of the way sources. Naturally, the Internet is full of great stuff, but libraries, museums, and historical places can have interesting collections of information. Check out military bases too, many have museums and even vehicle collections and gift shops!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Alamo Model Photography

I took these photos outdoors in the early afternoon. I used a flash. Make sure that model photos don't have unnatural shadows. Strange shadows and odd lighting make models look unrealistic.

This is a photo through the front gate of the Alamo. I situated it so that the background was the opposite wall of the Alamo model, my yard and my back wall. The back wall to my yard is fenced by a block wall that looks like the Alamo walls. A good background is important in model photos, it makes the model look much more realistic.

When photographing models, get down low to the ground, at the same level as the model. It gives a perspective that is realistic and not something that looks like a birds eye view.

Adding people to the photo of terrain makes the scale more recognizable. Vehicles and buildings particularly need to have figures in the photo so that the viewer can determine how large or how small the item is in the photo. Model photos are a fun part of wargaming and model building and it only takes a few simple techniques to improve them from good to excellent.

Movies Make Scenarios For Gaming The Plot to Kill Hitler: Brad Davis, Madolyn Smith Osborne, Ian Richardson, Kenneth Colley, Michael Byrne, Helmut.

In December the movie Valkyrie will be released. There is also a similar movie called the Plot to Kill Hitler. They tell the story of the July 20, 1944 attempt to kill Adolf Hitler. This was more than just an assassination attempt, it was a military coup to take over the Nazi government of Germany. Their intent was to sue the Western powers for peace and continue to the war against the Soviet Union after they killed Hitler and forced the other Nazi leaders to give up power.

This makes a great wargame for those who have large collections of World War Two Germans. The people who were involved in the plot had troops standing by to take over radio stations, headquarters and arrest Nazi leaders. I played a miniature wargame and role playing game of this several years ago. We had three sides playing the game. One side was the Russian player who was conducting a regular wargame. The other side was several German players, more is better, and two of them conspired together to take over the government from the other two German players. Only the two conspirators knew the real nature of the game.

The two conspirators had to maneuver their forces into position while fighting the Russian player. Once they made their move they were in effect, fighting two enemies, the Russians and the other Germans. We gave them the lessor numbers of forces so that the Germans loyal to Hitler would be that much more difficult to overcome. Just as in real life the conspirators lost the game, but it was close.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Something Strange in the Air

Squadron / Signal Publications has a series of books called Strangers in a Strange Land. The first book is about American aircraft from the Second World War that were captured by the Germans and placed back into service in the German air forces.

The second book in the series is about American aircraft that landed in Switzerland. Many of those aircraft were placed back into Swiss service. They were used to defend Swiss neutrality during the war.

These two books give new uses for WWII era American aircraft. They can be painted up in German or Swiss aircraft. The Germans used them for many purposes. They would shadow American B-17 bomber formations because they would look just like American planes from a distance, even in full German markings. Others were used for dropping clandestine agents, and reconnaissance. American AA guns would see the silhouette and only know it was an American plane.

Pick up one of these books and give a new life to an old American fighter or bomber.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Even More Alamo

Another view of the Alamo.

I got it from Toy Soldiers of San Diego.

In the early afternoon sunshine the Alamo model looks really great even without being painted. The worn concrete surface of my patio makes a realistic setting. The concrete looks much like desert sands.

I am using Imex Alamo sets, and their Lewis and Clark, Pioneers, Eastern Friendly Indians, American Revolution sets together with cannons from almost any source.

As you can see from the close up photo the detail on this set is incredible. The foam construction is lightweight and durable. With the addition of the Alamo / Southwest Accessories from Imex many of the other items needed to make this a really fine model will complete the complex. They include two flag poles, stumps, cacti, and hitching rails. The Pioneer set has women and cattle. There were several women at the Alamo until the end and they had a cattle herd for food.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Olive Drab is a mysterious paint color. Just like Panzer Gray and Panzer Yellow it is the holy grail of plastic model colors.

I got a note from Wayne Wanner the other day and he says "I've been using Krylon Olive for my stuff for a while, much cheaper and lasts longer,(11oz vs 3oz). I still use Model Master OD for tarps and such. Just another secret out of the bag." I use just about every olive drab paint there is for sale. Since it seems impossible for anyone to agree on just what constitutes the perfect olive drab, I have stopped looking. I use Model Master, Tamiya, Gunze Sanyo and even several other dark green colors from other companies.

Paints made over a number of years, at many different companies, and then applied by many people in many types of weather, in many circumstances, all over the world will lead to many variations in the paint. During wartime conditions making and applying the exact color, tone and texture of paint is not always high on the list of the average soldier.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Alamo Photos

Hudson & Allen make a 25mm size Alamo that I have had my eye on for about a decade. It was well worth the wait. The front gate is at the lower right corner of this photo.

Here are a few photos of that Alamo on my patio. I got one from Toy Soldiers of San Diego a couple days ago. It is really nice. It is just a bit large at 25 mm size compared to 1/72nd scale; but I like the extra space to place and move troops.

This view shows the Chapal in the lower right corner of the photo. I placed a few gray, tan, and brown figures here for scale.

Placing the Alamo on a concrete patio makes a great surface for the model. I have seen many photos and even models of the Alamo and it's large size surprised even me. A great model and I will have more photos later.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nazi Army Men

Nice ships, they are Winter Relief premiums. In the 1920's in Germany their were few social services. and so political parties often filled that gap. The Nazi Party collected money to give to people to needed money to help pay for heating expenses in the winter. In exchange you would get a small premium as a token of thanks.

I have included a couple of HaT WWII German soldiers to show the relative size of these premiums. The ships are made of a hard plastic, like styrene, and are two halves glued together. There is a wave down the side of each ship.

These are the first ever small scale plastic army men. While not exactly to an exact scale, they are just about 1/72nd scale. These figures are also two parts glued together.

Again, two HaT figures have been used for scale. These old German figures are very close in size to the original Airfix figures, German Infantry and Infantry Combat Group.

They also did slightly larger figures too. These, like the others are rather flat, but have nice details. The radio set is particularly nice. I am looking for more of these, I have seen a few others, some men on horseback, and some guys in an assault boat. If you have more information about these grandfathers of the hobby, post a comment.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Studebaker Information

Bill Jr. is up to his old tricks again and now he is just about done with a whole string of Studebaker trucks in HO scale, 1/87 resin models.

He has been making the Studebaker US-6- U3, U4 & U5. So far the only one that he is not going to be releasing just yet is the U5 Fueler, due to issues he is still trying to work out with the bed itself, but he is working on it.

The way his kits are going to be set-up, each kit with the exception of the U5 Fueler & U6 Semi Tractor, will be 1 kit per bag, with the option of making either the U1 or U2 in the SWB Kit or the U3 or U4 in the LWB Kit. Each kit will be $12.00 USD, plus $5.00 S&H. Check out his webstore,

These large sturdy trucks were very important to the Soviet Army in the Second World War, they got thousands of them from the USA. The US also used a small number of them in CONUS.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jeeps Until You Are Sick of Them!

Recently I wrote a couple articles about Jeeps. The Roco M-38 HO scale Jeep is one of their oldest kits but holds up pretty well, even today. Some armies still use these old soldiers in one of the many versions. Wayne Wanner a master modeller has contributed a few new photos of some Jeeps in his collection. They were tired and sorry looking not too long ago and inspired by my Jeep work he dragged these out of his spares box, fixed them up and is ready to ship them off to war!

Some of these Jeeps will end up in his commo platoon and so they have extra radios and antennas. Most of these Jeeps had no windshields and were in sorry shape. Wayne used a bit of wire to form a framework and then covered the frame with aluminum foil. He dropped a bit of superglue into the aluminum foil and blew it into the folds to keep it together. Wayne did a great job with these Jeeps and I am happy to see his work! Thanks Master Modeller Wayne!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Test Fire

Mrs. Bunkermeister is on the range with a Thompson Submachine Gun. She also fired the .45 caliber Grease Gun as well, both on full automatic fire. Despite being a short woman she was able to handle both weapons well, and scored excellent hits on the targets. This test firing was a first for her as she had never fired a fully automatic weapon before this trip to the range.

When devising wargame rules, first hand knowledge is important. Not all of us have had to participate in actual warfare, but we can test many aspects of warfare without really joining the army. My wife and I went to the pistol range and then the submachine gun range to test fire various weapons. This gave us a good understanding of how these weapons function and how easy modern firearms are to use, with only a little training.

Many wargames have rules about how to see a target. Walk outside on any given day and see how far away your unaided eye can see a pedistrian. There is a road near my home that allows a view of a mile. While people look very small, you can see a lot at that distance if you take a few moments to observe. With binoculars or other optics you can see even more. The longest range sniper shot was nearly two miles away from the target. So get out of the wargame room and do some field work to validate those rules.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Websites to Check Out

There are many websites out there that are very helpful for the hobbyist. These are three that I check on every day. Plastic Soldier Review writes reviews of nearly every new 1/72nd scale original plastic figure set. They have archives with photos of nearly every set you ever heard of and many you never did. Updated every few days.

Hat is the website for HaT Industrie, makers of the 1/72 and larger scale HaT figures. The site has a forum were hundreds go every day to discuss issues of importance to fans of little plastic soldiers. HaT is probably the largest maker of 1/72nd scale plastic figures and they make very good products. I am really hoping to get some of their WWII German Horse Drawn Wagons when they come out in about a year.

Finally, Classic Wargame is my Yahoo group for discussion of wargames, history and other military topics. There is a good exchange going on about the war between Russia and Georgia.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Soviet Tank Park

These are some of my T-34/76 tanks. This was the most important Soviet tank of the Second World War. The Russians had tens of thousands of them and they were in combat from the beginning of the war until the end of the war. It was sturdy, had good armor, a good gun, was mechanically reliable and well liked by the crews.

Many people say it was the best tank of WWII. I don't think that is true. The Germans considered making their own version of it, but rejected that notion pretty fast. The Americans and the British made tens of thousands of tanks and did not copy it either. The American made tanks for the British to British designs and did not even make T-34 for export only.

My collection is transitioning from storage in a number of different kinds of cardboard underbed storage boxes into plastic underbed storage boxes. So far I have moved over 100 boxes of tanks and trucks and vehicles into the new boxes. At over 100 vehicles per box; that's a lot of vehicle. Naturally, some of those boxes contain airplanes, and buildings, and boats and even some empty space, so I don't have 10,000 vehicles, but I am working on it!

Here are some of the stacked boxes and you can see the buildings and even boxes within boxes to keep units together. My Soviet WWII collection is two tank regiments, one with T-34/76 and one with T-34/85. In Berlin there are two T-34/76 mounted on plinths that are the first two Soviet tanks into the city. It was very interesting to see them mounted there on display last year.

Friday, August 15, 2008

4.2 Inch Mortar Carrier

The US Army used a 4.2 inch mortar in Chemical Corps units in World War Two. They were ground mounted and carried by men or in trucks. They did experiment with putting them in halftracks and so I built a battery of four in halftracks. My wargame army now has more mobility for it's mortars. There were 48 4.2 inch mortars in a battalion, and all my other ones are the standard version.

This is the Roco M-16 quadruple .50 caliber anti-aircraft gun halftrack. A few months after the Normandy invasion there was such a shortage of infantrymen that many anti-aircraft units were disbanded and the troops transfered to the infantry. I postulate that a few of those surplus units had their halftracks taken and converted into mortar carriers. A not unreasonable conversion and one that any competant maintence battalion should have been able to accomplish.

I had some Roco M-106 mortar carriers with the 4.2 inch mortar that I used for another purpose and so I took those mortars and put them in the back of the halftrack. The British converted many of their American supplied AAA halftracks into infantry carriers, so a conversion to a mortar carrier did not seem unreasonable. I used the .50 caliber quad machine gun turrets as trailer mounted versions, so nothing was wasted.

Roco Covered Halftrack

Prior to and during World War Two, General Patton liked to have specialized vehicles built for his use and for experimental projects.

This is a halftrack he had modified as a command vehicle. It has overhead cover, but it is built up so the men inside can see an shoot all the way around. There is a hatch in the middle and a forward machine gun position.

The side has the top of the tracks with armor plate and a radio antenna on the side and the rear roof. In the pre-war years vehicle mounted radios were sometimes rare. This is a Roco Minitanks, M-3 halftrack with the roof from a Roco Dodge Ambulance. The hatch is from a Roco Sherman tank. The antenna mount is from a Roco M-151 Mutt and the rest is bits from the spares box.

An interesting vehicle that never saw combat, but I like to have a few "what if" type vehicles for special scenarios.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

White Scout Car

This is a Paul Heiser Models White Scout Car in HO 1/87th scale. It is a resin model that is very easy to assemble. The canvas covered version has only the tires and roller to put together. The open version has seats to glue into the passenger compartment.

The White Scout Car was an armored car that eventually led to the development of the halftrack. The essentially slapped tracks on the back to replace the rear wheels, and bingo, M-2 halftrack. This was a pre-war vehicle that stayed in service until the end of the war. The Scout Car was common for US Army troops in training and in North Africa and Bataan. As the M-8 and M-20 armored cars came in service these were withdrawn from frontline US service.

Military Police units continued to use them and may have used them after Normandy. Free French units has many of them and the Soviet Union used them in large numbers. This is a useful vehicle to have for WWII and this kit is easy to assemble. Sold by Fidelis Models.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not Sick of Jeeps Yet?

For a while, Roco did a conversion kit to give a hardtop to their old M-38 series of Jeeps. I have seen these in military service, usually in areas where the weather is really bad. These were in use near the end of the service life of this vehicle. This would also work if you chose to make a civilian version of this model.

This M-38 has the standard Jeep canopy but with radios and the antennas added to dress it up a bit. Canopies are not seem much in combat, but in bad weather, or when shade is needed they can be helpful.

A final group photo of all the Jeeps together. Just a few minutes work on one of these old workhorses can really dress them up and make them into a much better vehicle. Check out the spares box and see what you can do. There are a few here that did not get individual photos, note the Jeep with roll bar. Another one Roco did for a short period of time that works well for both military and civilian applications. Near the end of their service life I saw a few Army ones with roll bars.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More M-38 Jeeps

This is a rear view of the ambulance version. You can see there is quite an overhang which was typical for these small vehicles.

This time a watercooled .30 caliber machine gun has been mounted in the back of the Jeep. While not typical, sometimes watercooled machine guns were mounted on vehicles. Without the cooling watercan they ability to keep the barrel cool is limited. Note the white square in the back of the vehicle, I have removed the rear set and replaced it with a square of styrene to make an open space for the gunner.

Roco gave us the 106mm recoilless rifle version and I modified it a little by placing the fuel can and spare tire on the side, as I have seen them that way in photos.

Another Jeep with radio mounts. These radio mounts are very easy to do using parts from the Roco M-151 Jeep or one of their accessory sets. They really make a big upgrade in the Jeep.

I have used Roco models in all these photos but the same conversions can be done in other scales or using other versions of the Jeep, the Willys, M-151 both had similar versions of most of these with the US and other armies.