The concept of the ranger as an elite soldier used for small precision operations and raids behind enemy lines dates back to the 17th century in North America, but while many such units were created (of which Rogers Rangers are the most famous), they were always fairly short-lived. When the US entered World War II in 1941 the need was again recognised, in imitation of the successful British commandos, and initially the early rangers trained and fought beside the commandos to gain experience. By the time of D-Day there were several units of rangers, which had already seen service in North Africa and Italy. Many were to land on the shores of Normandy on D-Day itself, of which the most well-known action was their assault on the Pointe du Hoc gun emplacement, although the film 'Saving Private Ryan' (1998) would also highlight one of their more conventional battles on Omaha beach.
Although Mars sets of late have only included eight different poses, they have often been quite creative in the choices that they make, and that applies to this set too. The first two pictured figures are conventional enough, both using the usual M1 Garand rifle. The third man is a sniper as he has a sight on his rifle, which looks to be the weapon of choice for such men, the M1903A4 Springfield. The fourth man is holding the much-admired Thompson submachine gun, which suggests that he is a commander/leader or first sergeant of a company or platoon, although we would expect him to also have a pistol, which is not evident here. The second row begins with a man holding an M1918A2 BAR. Generally platoons used a machine gun, but the BAR was chosen for D-Day due to its lightness and easier use, so is a good choice for this set. Next we have two very unusual poses. The first is a man holding a couple of Bangalore torpedo tubes, and the second holds a pole charge. Both were useful for attacking obstructions and strongpoints, so again, good choices. Finally we have a man apparently firing a pistol. He too would be some form of officer, but on a battlefield like Omaha his little pistol would not have made much difference to anything, so we are not keen of such poses, even though they are popular in figure sets of the war. Luckily he also holds a Thompson, and the two preceding men are armed with an M3 ‘Grease’ submachine gun and an M1 carbine respectively. So apart from the man with the pistol, who has a much more limited use, we thought all the poses were good and perfectly appropriate.
The title of the set mentions D-Day, and these figures are very much focused on that event. All the men wear the herringbone summer fatigues, with cargo pockets on the trousers. The jacket however is entirely obscured by the assault vest all are wearing, although the use of this unpopular garment is debated, and it seems most discarded it fairly quickly after landing. Nevertheless it was certainly worn, and is properly done here. All wear the long canvas leggings and the ubiquitous M1 helmet naturally. As participants of D-Day, every man has the anti-gas brassard on his right arm.
Apart from the pouches of the assault vest all have a canteen, and most also have the M1926 Navy lifebelt round the waist, which was certainly ditched at an early opportunity once the men were ashore. Some have the M5 assault gasmask in waterproof bag on the upper chest, and a few have a shovel attached to the back of the vest. All the kit, including the case for the sniper’s scope, looks good here, although as we say how much of it was carried or worn at specific moments in the battle varied considerably.
These may not be the sharpest examples of sculpting, but they are still very good with all the right proportions and no obvious lack of detail. The poses are quite lively, without the straight backs you see in some sets, so we would say anyone would find these perfectly acceptable. In places the detail is shallow, and nowhere more so than the trouser pockets, which are so shallow as to be difficult to detect in some cases. This is a bit annoying, especially if they are to be painted, but it also means those pockets are empty, when we might have expected such men to have grenades or other items there. Lightness of kit was certainly an issue for the first wave of rangers on D-Day, but we still felt those pockets should be at least occupied if not bulging. We found virtually no flash on many of these figures, though some do have rather more than others and there is the odd tab too.
We should give a word of warning on our breakdown of the poses above, because the numbers we give are perhaps sometimes more of the ideal than the reality. It seems that there were problems during the production of this set, specifically with the last man in our top row, because although we found four identical sprues in our example of the set, three were missing this figure. Instead, we found three separate loose figures randomly taken from the other poses, as compensation for the missing pose, and we understand that some sets may have none of this pose at all. How widespread this problem is we do not know, but be aware you may find a similar random element in your copy.
There are a good many positives about this set, which is well-sculpted and accurate. The poses are all appropriate too and there are a few really unusual ones, which may please some more than others. Perhaps the main drawback is the very specific nature of the subject. By giving the men the assault vest, waterproof gasmask bag and lifebelt, these are only really accurate for the first few hours – some might say minutes – on the beaches of Normandy. That makes them a perfect fit for the title, and also means they offer options rarely seen before in the hobby, but for those that are sticklers for accuracy the figures will be difficult to use in most other situations.