The global commitments of the US Army between 1941 and 1945 meant the soldiers had to handle all weather conditions, including freezing winters. By the start of the war in 1941 the Army was already experimenting with the concept of having multiple layers to allow greater flexibility in soldier's clothing, and over the war years some of this was put into effect, making the US infantrymen the best clothed and equipped of any in any army of the day. A set of winter uniform figures such as this could find a use in several theatres, of which the Ardennes is the most famous, and with the exception of the set from Revell this is a subject that has been little covered up until now.
The current Italeri standard of 12 poses, with three of each, means there is not so much in a box as many other sets, but the poses themselves are pretty good. By the 1940s much fighting was conducted from cover, or prone, or at least while moving rapidly, and while there are no prone figures here almost half the poses are kneeling, which is a good start. While there is movement the remaining poses are not especially vibrant, so we have to think of them mainly acting from the corners of buildings, behind low walls and so on, and as such they are OK. The two walking poses are probably not in the presence of the enemy though, but the figure in the bottom row is interesting as he seems to be tapping an ammunition clip against his helmet, in the belief that this helps avoid jamming. The machine gunner in the middle row has found a convenient but extremely thin wall on which to rather precariously perch his weapon, which is not a great pose but does the job, and those with a mind to could easily carve away the wall and replace it with something more substantial.
All the men have the ubiquitous M1 steel helmet of course, but as a specifically winter set the rest of their apparel is different to most sets. There are three poses with the standard double-breasted overcoat, which was warm but heavy and not standard issue except in the hard winter of 1944/45, when all winter clothing was needed. Four more seem to have the M1943 field jacket, which is reasonable as not all US troops got good winter clothing in time. Two more have some sort of parka-type coat with a hood, one has a mackinaw coat and one something that looks like a Winter Combat or ‘Tankers’ Jacket, although if so then it is rather too long in the body. The twelfth man, the machine gunner, has too little visible in order to make an identification. All these coats and jackets are properly done, and all are appropriate for the last years of the war.
Most of the men seem to wear the M1942 overshoes with the straps across the front – a garment that was not as widely available as its presence here would suggest. However while all this is accurate enough we felt that Italeri have missed a trick here, in that none of these men wear any scarves, gloves or any of the numerous other items that soldiers in freezing conditions certainly availed themselves of, particularly when not actually in action. Many photographs of the campaign in Europe in 1944/45 show very shabby-looking men using all available resources to keep warm, and these figures are just too neat and tidy to really convince the viewer. Nothing here is inaccurate, it is just that the whole impression is not very convincing.
The same is true of the kit these men wear, which is all accurate but just a bit too perfect to be particularly convincing. Almost half the men carry the haversack with meat can pouch, but none have any form of entrenching tool. All have the standard canteen, and all have the usual modified M1910 webbing as appropriate for their weapon. One man has extra bandoliers of ammunition, which is just the sort of thing we like to see, and one has a pair of wire cutters in a suitable pouch, but other than that these are quite lightly and very neatly equipped.
There is nothing to complain about in terms of the weapons here. Five of the men carry the usual M1 Garand rifle, while the kneeling figure in the top row looks to have the M1903 Springfield with a sight, as was still in use by snipers and others during the War. Two men carry a BAR (‘Browning Automatic Rifle’) without bipods, and two are armed with the Thompson submachine gun. Apart from the radio operator, who is correctly furnished with a pistol, that leaves the crouching machine gunner in the second row. This weapon looks to be the Browning .30 calibre M1919A6, which was basically the common M1919A4 with a stock and bipod. This is an interesting choice as we do not think this weapon has been done in our hobby before, although this is because relatively few were ever issued to front line troops.
All these figures are very nicely done, with lots of excellent detail and good proportions. In a few inconspicuous places there is a little extra plastic, as you might expect, but nothing that isn’t worth the better poses this produces. There is precisely zero flash, and while a couple of the weapons have slightly odd designs (such as the BARs) they are mostly a great testament to the high level of detail achieved here.
Although they are a bit neat for our taste the effort has been made to include a lot of accurate kit and clothing, and to mix elements up, such as some helmets having netting or covers. So many sets are too neat that we do not want to make this set sound any worse, although cold weather does tend to make even the best enforced regulations deteriorate. The lack of smaller items like scarves is a pity, and of course other items could have been included too such as ponchos, but these are very nicely done (mostly late war) figures that deliver what they promise and are a worthy addition to the growing range of Italeri’s home-grown World War II figure sets.