The United States began the Second World War with a thick heavy greatcoat as standard winter wear, but this was soon superseded by lighter, better garments. Most troops were happy to see the back of the greatcoat as it was heavy and not ideal when moving in combat, but difficulties of supply, particularly in the severe European winter of 1944/45, meant the Army had to reintroduce it. As a result many still wore this in the final months of the war, which brings us to the figures in this small set.
As far as can be seen, all these figures wear the greatcoat. There is some doubt over the kneeling and sitting poses, where the coat seems rather too short, but there is not the detail to be sure of identification. All the standing figures would seem to wear this, although again this is a little short on a couple of them, so perhaps they have a raincoat or other overcoat. To be honest, the lack of details like pockets mean you can choose to interpret them as you wish to a great extent. What is clearer are the leggings every man here wears, which are long and another item not well-liked by the troops. The only other element of uniform visible is the helmet, which is the standard M1 model, and here none have any netting cover.
Five of the eight poses have a rifle – probably the M1 Garand – and the sitting figure in the second row has a scope on his. The first figure in the top row is firing a Thompson submachine gun, and the last figure in row two is carrying another over his shoulder. Apart from a grenade, the only other weapon here is the Browning Automatic Rifle (‘BAR’) being fired from the shoulder by the first man in the second row. We liked the fact that Mars have avoided the temptation to give out lots of submachine guns and other exotic weapons, and kept the majority of these poses as simple riflemen.
Kit is pretty spartan – most have just a water bottle and their ammunition pouches. However three of them also have the usual M1928 pack, with entrenching tool attached and meatcan pouch on top of that. Also just visible on three of the figures is a small pouch – presumably a first aid pouch – but positioned behind the left hip rather than at the front as per regulation. One other item to mention is the SCR-536 walkie talkie (strictly speaking a handie talkie) being used by the last figure.
Several of the poses caught our attention, and not always for the best of reasons. Some are conventional and reasonable, and we particularly liked the man with the walkie talkie, but there are some odd ones too. We wondered at the man throwing the grenade, who is commendably lively but to our eye perhaps just a bit off-balance? The kneeling figure also caused some concern, and it is only when you look closely at the examples on the box that you realise he is supposed to be deploying a rifle-grenade. Unfortunately the grenade itself is missing (probably just not filled the mould properly), leaving a figure looking like he is in square preparing to receive cavalry from an earlier era. The biggest query of all however is the BAR man, who is using his weapon held against the left shoulder. The hobby has seen figures using their weapons left-handed before, and it is hard to ascertain to what extent such soldiers were allowed to use their weapons in the more comfortable and effective way for them. If they had this freedom, especially in the middle of a battle (when they might do as they please to some degree), then this figure is fine, but it would be fairly unusual.
It would seem that the sculpting is pretty good, but in reducing the models down to 1/72 scale a lot of definition has been lost. The detail is really soft, making kit items very vague and faces almost without any features. Proportions are good, and generally there is little flash, but in a few places there is a noticeable amount, and sometimes quite thick such as on the shoulder of the last figure in row one. Having to remove this will be annoying, yet many seams are perfectly smooth and flash-free, so a mixed bag.
We cannot criticise the accuracy here, but the poses are more controversial, especially the unconventional BAR man and the kneeling figure missing his grenade. Weapons and kit are OK, but the very vague detailing is quite disappointing and almost impossible to remedy. There is not a lot of action here either, so this is not a set to get the pulse racing. Unfortunately the beautifully-painted examples on the box are clearly not actually what you get inside the box, which leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, because had they been as good as those images they would have been a very fine set indeed rather than something of an anti-climax.