When the US went to war in December 1941 the Marine Corps (USMC) numbered almost 66,000 personnel, but by the war's end that figure was approaching half a million. During those four years the Corps had mostly been employed in the Pacific theatre, winning back island after island from the Japanese and eventually threatening the home islands themselves. The many bloody steps of that journey have been well documented, and the Marines themselves have been immortalised in 1/72 scale plastic several times, so the question is, does this set offer anything that the hobby hasn't already seen?
The many photographs of Marines show that they wore a huge variety of clothing, dictated partly by what was available and partly by local preferences. All the figures in this set are dressed in much the same way, which in itself is far neater than the reality, but that is a very common observation for figure sets. They appear to wear 'utilities', which was the herringbone twill fatigue uniform most commonly worn in combat. The 'jacket' - really more of a shirt - has two skirt pockets and one on the left breast, which matches the 'utilities' garment, although here it is a little too long and gives the appearance of a thicker, true jacket rather than the creased and crumpled appearance of the real thing. The trousers and boots look OK, and a few of the poses wear the trousers tucked in to short gaiters which were so often discarded by the men. All have the M1 helmet, which in all cases have a cover, which was a mark of the Marines.
Marine kit, referred to by the men as '782 gear', was similar to that of the Army, but the Marines preferred to be as lightly encumbered as possible when in action (although naturally such things as amphibious assaults required a great deal of kit). Nevertheless we felt that these men are rather too lightly equipped. Some of the men have one or two canteens, and a few have the upper knapsack with entrenching tool attached, although none have the lower haversack. Many have the necessary ammunition pouches on the belt, although these are sometimes too few. However that is the limit of the kit, which means all manner of possible items are missing including bayonet scabbards, extra pouches and, most importantly, knives. None of these things are absolute essentials, but we felt they should have been represented in such a set.
If the range of kit is relatively narrow then the variety of weapons is anything but. Several of the men are naturally armed with a rifle, although we could not decide whether these were Springfields or Garands (Garands would be much more likely by 1944). One man is carrying an M1918 BAR, while another is using the A2 model mounted on a bipod. A third is using a Thompson sub-machine gun, which may also be the weapon carried by the dog handler (Thompsons were not common but frequent enough to be represented here). The first figure in the second row is firing a bazooka, while the man next to him is about to fire a rifle-grenade, both of which look good. At the end of that row is a man with a 60mm M2 mortar, which was the standard company-level mortar for the USMC. However this is a really poor model as the bipod is in fact a monopod, a single stem in front of the barrel. While the mould would have needed to be more sophisticated to model the correct bipod, or else a separate bipod could have been provided, this shortcut makes the figure useless. The heavy machine gun in the bottom row, mounted on a low tripod, looks to be a Browning M1919A4, which again is a suitable weapon for the Marines. The barrel is well done but the tripod, which is one piece with the barrel, is completely the wrong way round, as a reference to the many other sets which contain this weapon will illustrate. Also worthy of note is the gunner, who is sitting. The men were trained to be prone so as to look along the barrel and therefore aim their fire, so for this figure to be correct he would need to be sitting on a lower level than his gun so his head is on a level with the barrel. A particularly feared weapon was the flamethrower, and one figure here is carrying such a device, which looks to be the M2 model and quite well done. Although not a requirement this figure, like some of the others manning heavy weapons, could have been given a pistol. Finally there is a man operating a radio and what we assume to be an officer waving a pistol. In total that makes for a pretty good range of weapons, but this does mean that, spread over 15 poses, there are relatively few riflemen. Of course you can't have a good range of weapons and lots of riflemen, and with the same number of figures for each pose the balance is not good here, yet we could also complain that there are some missing weapons, most notably grenades. With other sets providing more riflemen, perhaps this set should be seen more as augmenting those rather than being a complete solution by itself.
Given our comments on the range of weapons we thought that the poses were very well chosen. There are a lot of crouching and kneeling figures, which fits well with the image of Marines either coming ashore on a hostile island or else attacking some enemy strongpoint. Even those standing seem to be keeping their head down, which is a welcome contrast to some World War II sets which have most of the men with straight backs and apparently indifferent to the volume and accuracy of the fire they are facing. Most prominent of the poses is the dog, which has not been done before. The Marines used dogs to locate enemy positions and carry messages, so it is an appropriate and interesting element here.
The sculpting of these figures is very good indeed, with great proportions and no flash. Excess plastic is minimal on most figures, although some do have noticeable amounts, but the general style reveals these figures to be from the same kind of stable as those from Caesar, which is no bad thing at all. Some of the finer details on weapons are not quite what they might be, but that apart these are very fine models.
This set seems to be a conscious attempt to deliver a lot of Marines with all the major weapons they utilised, without regard to the actual proportions of each that a company might have either in reality or in some games rules. As a result it is not a great reflection of an actual Marine unit, but more a useful addition to the sets that have gone before (see our comparison below). Some missing pouches and a rather too neat and uniform look are the chief problems here, apart from the absurd mortar and poor heavy machine gun that is, but this remains a very good set of figures which does indeed add something to the hobby.