Figure References
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Just about any photo of a soldier battling his enemy or environment will be both revealing and inspiring to modelers who like to add figures to their AFVs and dioramas. These books are my favorite sources for determining the timing of uniform and equipment changes, colors, uses, etc.

The World War II GI: US Army Uniforms 1941-45 in Color Photographs, by Richard Windrow and Tim Hawkins, Motorbooks International, 1993, ISBN 0-87938-832-3. ($40)

Until the following book came out, this was the best, most comprehensive book on topic, with scores of contemporary photos of actual wartime issue uniforms, gear and weapons. It covers infantry, airborne and armored troops. If you want to populate your AFVs and dioramas with figures, this is definitely and the one below are the first two books you should invest in. Richard Windrow is a noted modeler and author of Terrain Modeling Masterclass, published by Osprey.

Government Issue Collector's Guide: Army Service Forces Catalog, U.S. Army European Theater of Operations
, by Henri-Paul Enjames, Histoire & Collections, 2003, ISBN 2-913903-87-8. ($45)

Following the format of the 1943 Quartermasters Corps supply catalog, this book is an astounding compilation of U.S. WWII militaria. It includes insignia, uniforms, personal equipment, weapons, tents and bivouac gear for regular infantry, as well as items used by armored troops, paratroopers, military police, medics, signal corps, chaplains, etc. The items come from the personal collections of the author and other collectors as well as museums. They are photographed in color, augmented by a small number of black and white period photos from technical manuals. The book runs nearly 300 pages and each one is a gold mine for diorama builders, especially those who want to scratchbuild items like cook stoves, airborne handcarts, or carrier pigeon box. The Windrow and Hawkins book has an advantage in seeing the uniforms and gear worn and used by reenactors, but this is much more comprehensive.

Government Issue: US Army European Theater of Operations Collectors Guide, Volume II, by Henri-Paul Enjames, Histoire & Collections, 2008, ISBN: 978-2-35250-079-7.

Says Rod Crisman, "Don't get me wrong, the book is useful, to an extent. It does contain a nice order of battle for infantry, armored and airborne divisions. But, beyond that, it goes into areas that most, if any, of us modelers would seldom need or have an interest in. It was said that after the first volume was published, that many collectors and even veterans, sent mail discussing what wasn't in the book, hence Volume 2, said to contain everything that not included in the first. Well, there's a reason for that. It's not that interesting!" [read more]

The US Army Handbook 1941-1945, by George Forty, Barnes & Noble Books, 1998, ISBN 0-7607-0848-7. ($10)

This book will give you all the basics on the US Army of the era, including:

  • Army and Airborne divisional units and strengths down to platoon level
  • Uniforms and equipment
  • Weapons
  • Vehicles and Markings

There are plenty of historical black and white photos. The book does not offer a great deal of depth on these topics, but will answer most of the general questions you might have. And for $10 at Barnes & Noble it’s a steal.

Shooting the War in Color, 1941-1945 USA to ETO, by Jonathan Gawne, Histoire & Collections, 1996, ISBN 2-908-182-40-8. ($40)

This is a compilation of historical color photos including stateside training and locations in the Mediterranean, the UK, Normandy, Southern France, and through Europe into Germany. Good photos of soldiers, vehicles and artillery. Use caution when relying on them as examples of “true” colors of paints and fabrics, however. Not only did colors of materials fade from wear and weather, color film dyes can shift over time, and not all color printing processes for books are exact.

Spearheading D-Day: American Special Units of the Normandy Invasion, by Jonathan Gawne, Histoire & Collections, 1998, ISBN 2-908-182-793. ($40)

This is undoubtedly the definitive photographic record of the myriad US groups involved in the invasion of the Normandy beaches (airborne units are not covered). Landing crafts, assault units, demolition teams, regimental combat units, Rangers, Naval Beach Battalions, engineering units and post-invasion support are covered here in revealing detail. Uniforms typical for many organizations are modeled in color photos. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in modeling — or just learning more about — this pivotal event.

Patton's Third Army, GI Series: The Illustrated History of the American Soldier, His Uniform and His Equipment, by Christopher J. Anderson, Stackpole Books/Greenhill Books, 1997, ISBN 1-85367-290-4. ($14)

The Fall of Fortress Europe from the Battle of the Bulge to the Crossing of the Rhine, GI Series: The Illustrated History of the American Soldier, His Uniform and His Equipment, by Christopher J. Anderson, Stackpole Books/Greenhill Books, 1997, ISBN 1-85367-290-4. ($14)

These two books by Christopher Anderson are similar in format, with a brief narrative of the war and changes in uniforms and equipment during that time. The following 65 pages include a few pages of color photos and a lot of black and white shots of soldiers at work and rest. The captions are very helfpul in identifying clothing and gear.

U.S. Paratrooper 1941-45, by Carl Smith, illustrated by Mike Chappell, Osprey Publishing, 2000, ISBN 1-84176-258-X. ($17)

If you're just getting into building paratrooper figures, this book is a good starting point to understand the unique uniforms and equipment used by these truly special forces. Following the typical Osprey format (this was previously published under the same title as #26 in the Warrior series), the book provides basic nuggets of information. About half the book covers the formation of the airborne divisions and basic training, and the rest of the book deals with their combat roll. While lacking the vigorof Ron Volstad's work, the color plates by Mike Chappell are nicely illustrated and will be a good guide for getting to know the paratrooper's equipment and working out painting details. One big revelation this book provided: airborne glider troops wore the same uniforms and used the same equipment as infantry. The only distinguishing feature that identified them as airborne was their shoulder insignia! That opens up larger possibilities for figure choices in your dioramas once you determine where glider troops and paratroopers fought as integral units.

The GI in Combat, Northwest Europe 1944-45, by Steven J. Zaloga, illustrated by Ronald Volstad, Concord Publications, 2002, ISBN 962-361-690-2. ($15)

This is a must-have source of inspiration for anyone who enjoys building U.S. figures and dioramas. While a slim 52 pages, this book is chock full of excellent photos, many never before seen, of American soldiers in all sorts of activities "over there." Most notable are the half dozen photos of 2nd Armored Division soldiers in the ill-fated camo uniforms that were soon discarded after too many soldiers were mistaken as German SS. There are also good shots of men equipped with .30 and .50 machine guns, bazookas, mortars, and artillery pieces. There are four color plates from Ron Volstad, including box art from the DML tank crew and Bastogne airborne sets, and two that may be from DML's action figure line. They serve as good uniform and painting guides. Highly recommended!

Comments by Tim Streeter (unless otherwise noted)


Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2009 Timothy S. Streeter