The US Army had been fairly slow in appreciating the value of machine guns, even after the European war had demonstrated their worth, and when the US entered the war in 1917 they had few machine guns of their own to call upon. In 1941, when the US entered the Second World War, the situation was very different, mainly thanks to one John Moses Browning (1855-1926) and his weapons, which were to be the backbone of the US machine guns in the war. Both the main models used during the conflict, including of course on D-Day, form part of this set dedicated to the weapon.
Our top row shows the older weapon, the Browning M1917A1. A .30 calibre weapon, this model was an improved version of the weapon introduced at the very end of the 14-18 war, and very widely used by US forces in all theatres. Water-cooled, so a fairly heavy and cumbersome machine gun, it is shown here really nicely detailed and with an ammunition box mounted on the side from which the belt was taken. The tripod is also really well done, and a separate piece, making a very good weapon overall.
The presentation of the M1917A1 is interesting because it is not actually being used at the moment. The gunner has his right hand on the trigger/pistol grip, but his other hand is by his side, not steadying the grip, so he is not actually firing the weapon. This is probably because the water condenser has yet to be attached to the barrel, and this is being brought up by the number two gunner next to him. The condenser has the hose wrapped round the top, and once fitted the gun would then be ready to fire (they could be fired dry, but only for a very short period before over-heating). This kind of arrangement is unusual in this hobby, but perfectly acceptable for all that, particularly as other sets offer this same weapon in action. Row one is approved!
On to row two, and here we find the other major machine gun of the US armoury, the Browning M1919A4. Also .30 calibre, this was a lighter machine gun that was air-cooled and so much better for rapid movement on the battlefield. Here it appears to be in action, although again the gunner should strictly speaking have his left hand steadying his grip (very difficult to mould). However the number two is presenting the ammunition belt, so the impression is of it in use. Again the gun and tripod are separate, and both are very nicely done. This was another common weapon that is found in many other sets, but an essential component for this set too, so another mark of approval for row number two.
This just leaves us with the last row, but the machine guns keep on coming. The first man is carrying another M1919A4 barrel, and his comrade behind him carries the tripod. Since most sets concentrate on weapons being fired, it is refreshing to see one where the weapon is simply being carried. The third man in this row carries another weapon, the M1919A6. This was a stop-gap measure to provide a lighter gun that might more closely match the excellent German machine guns, and was basically an M1919A4 with various improvements, the most visible of which were a flash-hider, shoulder stock and carrying handle. All these elements are clearly visible on this model, although it lacks the bipod that was usually attached too, even if folded under the barrel. Only modelled once before in our hobby, this fairly unusual weapon is a good inclusion, although in truth it was not issued to troops in the European theatre until late 1944, so would not have been seen on the beaches on D-Day itself. Finally in this row we have a man running with ammunition boxes. Of course there were many such men needed to supply the machine guns, so just one pose here is no more than a representative, but very good to see, especially as many sets have no figures bringing up ammunition at all. So the last row offers men simply advancing with a machine gun, holding an unusual model and bringing the ammunition up – all good stuff and certainly meets with our approval once more.
So gold stars all round so far for weapons and poses, but what about the uniform? Well first of all these men are nicely encumbered with kit of various sorts, as they were on D-Day. This largely hides the clothing, but they are probably wearing the M1943 field jacket and trousers, and all have the disliked M1938 canvas leggings. The usual M1 helmet is worn of course, often with netting attached. Several look to be wearing the assault vest too, which is a good touch, and the majority also sport a gas detection brassard on their upper right arm, which was widely worn on 6th June. Three poses also wear the M5 assault gasmask in chest bag, hung high on the chest, and many also have the US Navy M1916 floatation belt with its twin tubes. Unfortunately this could be lethal as it could turn a heavily-laden man upside down in the water and drown him, so some here are wearing it very high to try and avoid this issue. All the gunners here are correctly armed with a pistol as sidearm, and the man with the M1919A6 also has an ammunition carrying bag on him, which is great. Finally several of the figures in the bottom row carry an M1 (Garand) rifle as a personal weapon. All of this is perfectly accurate and appropriate for D-Day, which means we must approve this part of the set too.
Lastly then we come to the sculpting. In general the sculpting is very good, with lots of detail, although in a few places that detail is a bit softer than we might have liked. This is partly because the poses are very nicely animated and anything but flat, which has forced some compromises, but the overall impression is very positive. The first figure in the third row is rather hunched, although if operating under enemy fire then that is hardly to be wondered at. By not having the M1917A4 gunner actually firing, the pose can be done as a single piece, as they all are, which will please many, and we particularly liked the man with the condenser, who is clearly keeping as low as possible, as well he might if his gun is about to open up of the enemy. Flash is very variable, ranging from almost clean lines to quite large tabs of it in places. Some cleaning up will be necessary, but we have seen far worse. We did find that the holes in the tripods needed to be drilled out before the barrel could be inserted – a result of flash, but not a difficult task – so the result is as tight and secure as you could wish for.
That concludes our report on this interesting set, and it is mostly gold stars all round. The weapons are good choices and the sculpting is good, particularly on the weapons themselves, which are very clear. The poses are good, and the crew figures engage very well with their weapon, which is not as common in this hobby as it should be. A comment of ‘could do better’ needs to be placed against the quality of the mould, but otherwise this is a set which manages to please in all departments, and while some elements specific to the D-Day landings mean it has some limitations on use outside of that particular battle, it absolutely delivers what it promises on the box.