While the Allies may have triumphed over the Axis armies who sought
to enslave the world in the 1940s, German AFVs and figures have dominated
the modeling scene since the early 1970s. This, of course, has created
much consternation among modelers who prefer to focus on Allied subjects,
which combined make up perhaps a tenth of kits available. If you model
American vehicles and troops, you've got considerably more options
than our British, French or Russian allies. But still, if this was
a real war we'd all be eating sauerbraten and singing "Deutschland
fascination with the Third Reich's military might is puzzling. An
outsider might say that these modelers are nothing more than Hitler
worshipping neo-Nazis. Of course, nothing could be farther from
the truth, since any sane modeler detests the evil that Hitler and
his henchmen wrought. There may be a few addled Adolf lovers in
this hobby, as there are in any other walk in life, but you don't
hear them spouting Reich rhetoric on the AFV newsgroups. They would
be immediately vilified and ostracized by their more sensible fellow
there remains an overwhelming compulsion of the majority of AFV
(and aircraft) modelers to focus exclusively on German armor and
troops. Manufacturers seeking to build profits for their companies
feed them a steady diet. And this has meant fewer opportunities
for those of us who prefer to model "The Good Guys."
are numerous reasons why German subjects have captivated modelers
since Tamiya began offering AFV kits in the early 1970s. Tamiya's
largest market segment is its home country, Japan. This provokes
a "chicken and egg" question, as to whether Tamiya created
the market for German AFVs, or was there a demand from the Japanese
hobbyists for more German subjects. Was (or is) there some sort
of nostalgic "underdog" kinship with their fellow Axis
power? It's interesting to note that Tamiya produces even fewer
Japanese military subjects than it does Allied subjects. A reflection
of the Japanese renunciation of militarism? Is this Tamiya-san's
ironic revenge on the Western victors? Remember, many of these early
kits were motorized for play on the living room floor, and modeling
was seen more as a kid's pastime than an adult hobby.
any event, Tamiya has consistently churned out more German kits
than any other subject and were later joined in this regard by Italeri,
DML and a host of other companies. These businesses were not addressing
local markets (can you see Italians or Hong Kong modelers clamoring
for more Tigers?), but saw these German kits were selling more than
others. Perhaps that's because there were more of those kits available
to modelers. Unless you're one of a few amazing scratchbuilders,
you can only make what the manufactures give you. Consequently,
I contend, this has become a self-perpetuating cycle that has maintained
the German stranglehold on the hobby. If the only kits on the shelves
are German, and everyone else is talking about their Panther or
Tiger, that's what you're going to be building, too.
So extreme is this domination that for many years the box art for
Warriors figures featured a grinning caricature of German soldier,
while proudly proclaiming that it was a product "Made in the
U.S.A." You have to wonder how that sat with veterans!
I got back to modeling in 1990, I started with U.S. subjects, those
being the few Tamiya kits I could find. But everyone in the modeling
magazines (this was pre-Internet, mind you), was building Tigers
and Panthers. It wasn't long before I'd exhausted the available
American tanks and figures and started in on German kits. And I
enjoyed them as much as anything else I'd built. My first diorama
was set in the cold rubble of Stalingrad.
the Internet brought modelers together worldwide, it was vividly
clear how strong the German fixation held sway. But there were other
voices out there wondering why this had to be, and the discussion
groups then and now debate this issue with some regularity.
myself making a conscious decision to focus more on Allied subjects,
beginning with a yet-to-be-finished diorama of the battle at Arnhem,
and carried through with my completed dioramas "Taking Aachen"
and "Between Life and Death in the Hürtgen Forest."
And while I have nothing against anyone who models German subjects,
I decided to shift my efforts back to The Good Guys and make their
case. Hence this web site.
Why Model the Good Guys?
German aficionados are quick with their stock answers for why they
are so compelled to build this subject. Clearly, the question one
is left with is, why would anyone want to put down his Mk. VIII
Einheitsfamohanohummelwagenschlepper and take on a Sherman or GI
named Joe? Olive drab is just so . . . drab!
look at the reasons often cited by the German fans and come up with
some of our own why we should pay more attention to modeling The
tanks were technically superior.
buy that reason that if you're really into the mechanics of
a vehicle, own the Spielberger collection and can expound on
the changes in oscillating pumps over the course of Pz. IV production.
But most modelers just parrot what they hear from other modelers,
ignoring the fact that these finely machined German tanks were
notoriously prone to breakdowns because they had little tolerance
for significant changes in climates or hard usage. So maybe
Shermans were "Ronsons" and "Tommy-cookers"
and didn't have the range to knock out a Tiger or Panther at
a distance. But a Hellcat, Pershing or upgunned Firefly could.
And so could a lone GI with a bazooka. What really counts is
the technical superiority of the simple design and production
of the countless Allied AFVs that ultimately overwhelmed their
foe. Besides, if you really want to be building technically
superior tanks, why are you putzing around with 60-year-old
armor? Surely "modern" AFVs have much more sophisticated
weaponry and mechanics than those tired old Tigers and Panthers.
German army had more diverse vehicles and more kits are available.
this is important to a modeler. We enjoy a range of AFV types
and the minute differences from one variant to another. But
all sides had their range of light, medium and heavy tanks
and myriad utility vehicles. There are more varied German
vehicles for the modeler than U.S. simply because of what
the hobby manufacturers offer us. It's to the point that Heller
re-releases the French Somua with artwork and decals portraying
the tank in German service because anything with a balkenkreuz
will automatically ring up at the cash register.
the Allies fielded as wide a range of AFVs as the Germans.
All told there were a couple dozen variants of Shermans used
as attacking armor and support. The Sherman chassis also served
numerous other AFVs. Manufacturers could offer early, middle
and late versions of the M7 Priest as they have with German
Stugs. They could produce the numerous versions of U.S. halftracks
as they have with Sdkfz. 250's and 251's. They could give
us the U.S.-made Staghound and British Humber in plastic as
they have with the many German armored cars.
Thankfully, as the well dries up for German subjects we're
seeing more releases of U.S. armor and softskins. We've finally
gotten decent models - from two companies - of the M8 and
M20 armored cars. We've gotten the more esoteric Dragon Wagon.
that the U.S. actually produced vehicles that were made for
water travel and used in quantity during the war: the amphibious
jeep, the Weasel, the Amtrac, the DUKW, not to mention adaptations
to tanks for wading onto the shores of Normandy. For 20 years
we've had one of these kits available to us, Tamiya's GMA
amphibious jeep. Finally in 2001 Italeri gave us plastic kits
of the Amtrac and in 2002 a DUKW. Let's hope a Weasel is not
far behind!So this argument will, in time, be turned on its
head by the very fact that the variety of German armor was
indeed finite. Of course, Tamiya and its brethren could decide
that the only way they can sell more Shermans is to put black
and white crosses on them and label them "Captured Sherman
tanks have more interesting colors and camouflage schemes.
Allies got it right the first time - olive drab, or some such
shade of green. No dark gray, then yellow, then multicolored
camo. OD was the basic color for U.S. equipment throughout
the war. But if you think that U.S. AFVs were just OD, pick
up any of Steve Zaloga's books or The Modeler's Guide to the
Sherman and you'll see enough camo schemes to make old man
maybe it's time to come clean here about painting our tanks.
What's easier - creating a visually interesting surface with
three colors, or just one? Take a good look at the better
OD tanks and trucks on the web or in the magazines and you'll
see an amazing variety and subtlety of shading that most German
AFV modelers ignore with their three-tone schemes. Panzer's
Tactics, Armor Model Painting and Weathering Techniques by
Chris Mrosko is an excellent step-by-step guide to mastering
are more references available.
was true at one time but has changed significantly over the
past decade to where nearly all U.S. AFVs have basic coverage
through Squadron, Concord or Osprey publications. Richard Hunnicutt
has covered U.S. halftracks and light, medium, and heavy tanks
in unrivaled depth. And the Internet has made photos, documentation
and collaborative help more widely available than ever before.
soldiers had cool camo uniforms.
but apparently they weren't very effective! Again, OD won
if you want to speckle dots on a figure, check out the camo
uniforms wore by units of the 2nd Armored Division for a few
weeks in the summer of 1944 until they'd incurred too many
accidental casualties from being mistaken as SS soldiers.
DML kit # 6129 and a couple Warriors figures feature this
on the other side of the world the U.S. Marines were winning
their war in multicolored uniforms, too!
tactics and leaders.
guess this is kind of like building model Toyota Corollas
or Boeing 747s because those companies are so well run and
profitable. It's not unusual that we appreciate how the quality
of a product reflects its creator's business ethos.
this reason is probably the least compelling for such a domination
of the market, as it pertains to AFV modeling, for the simple
reason that it invites discussion of the reason the Germans
needed superior tactics and leadership -- to invade, enslave
and annihilate peaceful citizens of Europe.
is on much firmer ground extolling the Allied command and
the determined soldiers who masterminded and carried out the
exceedingly complex and successful invasions of North Africa,
Italy, Southern France and Normandy. The Germans lost the
war for many reasons, including its tactics and leadership.
the past four or five years we've a slightly higher rate of output
of Allied subjects from Tamiya, Italeri, DML and Academy, and the
welcome presence of Skybow, which has focused exclusively on U.S.
subjects. With so many smaller Eastern European and Asian companies
picking up the more esoteric German vehicles, it may be that the
tables are finally turning and The Good Guys are beginning to get
the recognition they deserve. Against all odds they persevered,
and we should be able to honor their heroic sacrifices in plastic,
resin and brass.