In May 1918 Germany's 'window of opportunity' closed, and many in the German High Command realised that the war could not be won, for at the end of that month significant numbers of US troops entered the battle in France. With her home front nearing starvation and her allies crumbling, Germany had failed to take advantage of the brief period when she was able to outnumber the allies on the Western front following her victory in the east. Now with large numbers of 'Sammies' or 'Doughboys' to face, the German army was soon to experience final defeat.
When the first US troops landed in France they were dressed in fairly modern style but were not ready for the trenches (see the Airfix set). To the annoyance of the troops they found they had to rely on Britain and France for much of their supplies, so that by the time they first saw action they resembled the British soldiers in many respects, and this is the look that has been portrayed here. They wear the M1912 or M1917 tunic with the stand collar, and all bar the officer have the British-style helmet. Most wear the practical puttees although a couple still sport the gaiters with which they crossed the Atlantic. Almost all have the M1910 pack, plus the meatcan pouch, pack carrier, entrenching tool and bayonet. This represents the full marching order, and so is fine for the marching figure, but the meatcan pouch and pack carrier would rarely be taken into combat, so most of these men are over-equipped. All have their indispensable gas mask, based on the British model, mostly held high on the chest in the 'ready' position, which was normal when at the front. The officer wears a coat and a version of the overseas cap, although most soon decided to dress more like their men to avoid excessive attention from the enemy, and would certainly have normally worn the helmet when in battle. Finally, some carry extra bandoleers of grenades or ammunition. The one item missing from most of these men is the first aid pouch, which was worn below the belt. Although these men are over-burdened with their kit and are missing the first aid pouch, the kit that is on show here is accurately done.
The poses are a fair selection, with the emphasis being on the men moving forward, reflecting the eagerness which the American troops displayed when finally committed to battle. In our view the most interesting pose is the man firing his Chauchat automatic rifle (bottom row, third figure), an imaginative but perfectly usable pose that only requires the man to be placed or glued to the base (which is fine as the plastic glues very well). Another man is advancing with a Chauchat at the hip which he may be firing - a method intended for the weapon but very hard to do in practice. A third man is ready to launch a grenade from his rifle, which was another common American weapon (actually often French), but all the poses are quite lively, very natural and completely appropriate.
Emhar figures have always been well sculpted and these are no different. Detail is in all the right places and nice and clear. There is very little flash, and we thought the proportions and poses were very well done. However the helmets do seem a little shallow, mainly because they have been given a thick rim. Also both the Chauchats already mentioned are missing their muzzles.
So, this is a very nice set that depicts its subject well although the heavy extra kit is a pity. Given the shortcomings of the Airfix set this is a very important addition to the range of Great War figures, and they look a lot better than the HaT set of the same subject.