Although the tank was developed during the Great War, the armistice came too soon for the potential of the new weapon to be obvious, and the USA showed little interest in it. Some visionary officers still championed its cause, but it was only after the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, and especially the swift overrunning of France by German Panzer forces in 1940, that the US realised it would need a modern army well-equipped with the latest tanks. Steps were immediately taken to create armoured forces and to provide modern tanks, and over the course of the war in Europe American M4 Shermans and others were the major element of the western allied armies, while they made a less prominent but still important contribution to the war in the Pacific. Several sets of tank crewmen for this period have already been produced in this hobby, but this is the first to depict those of the US.
As the box tells us, these men are in summer dress. For many of the poses this appears to mean the common one-piece coveralls, or else trousers and a shirt. Others seem to wear either a shirt not tucked into the trousers, or more likely the popular HBT fatigues, but actually these figures could be taken to be wearing one of several items, though everything here looks authentic and is appropriate for the 'summer' label. All the men wear the M1942 Rawlings tanker’s helmet, and most have goggles too, which is good to see. Naturally given the limited space available in a tank the men carry no kit as such, though quite a few have acquired shoulder pistol holsters, which were popular but only officially issued to higher ranks.
In this set we are presented with a range of poses covering various aspects of life around a tank, though obviously not actually handling the vehicle in combat, when most of the crew would be invisible and at most you might see the head of the commander at the hatch. The top row shows figures that are handling personal weapons, so have presumably abandoned their vehicle for some reason and are escaping or taking the fight to the enemy. Although a crew would only emerge from a tank when they had to, tanks were equipped with personal weapons for self-defence. Early in the war this was the Thompson submachine gun, but from 1943 it was the M3 'Grease Gun' that became more common, and three poses in this set are holding this weapon. Two on the top row are clearly using it in action, while the other two in that row have drawn pistols and are also in a fight. These are quite energetic and animated figures, and while it would not be particularly common to see tankers engaged in a fire-fight like this, we liked the idea here, although both the men holding the 'Grease Gun' are somewhat strangely posed.
The second row shows figures in more relaxed poses maintaining and resupplying their vehicle. One man passes a shell, another carries a log and a third leans into a particularly tough nut with his spanner. The fourth is more generic, but all would look good around a tank, and it must be remembered that frequent resupply and maintenance were crucial for any tank in service over a long period of time, so these are very typical poses. The bottom row holds more generic figures. The first two are presumably sitting on the tank while the third is probably meant to be standing inside it (as he has no base and is wearing his goggles), and the last man is again fairly generic. The fighting poses are less likely, but they add some energy to the poses and their inclusion is understandable in a set with all worthy poses.
These figures are made in the Ukraine, a particularly fertile source of plastic figures just at the moment, and these follow the same pattern as many others from that region in being very well sculpted, with plenty of good detail and fine proportions, but suffering from quite a lot of flash. Some seams are perfectly clean, while others such as the right arm of the last pictured figure have large lumps of it. Some small amount of excess plastic hidden from the mould does not detract from the figures however, which are generally not flat. In particular several of the heads are neither facing the mould nor turned through ninety degrees to it, resulting in a more realistic pose than some companies produce. These men are not smartly dressed - we would not expect otherwise - but they are what we look for most in a set of figures - they look natural.
So, really nice figures accurately rendered and well sculpted in mostly very good poses, so it is really only the quality of the finish (i.e. the amount of flash) that lets down an otherwise very creditable collection.