Although many countries employed paratroops in World War II, only those of Germany were entirely controlled by the Air Force. They soon acquired the nickname 'Green Devils' and were very much an elite force. They played a major role in the invasions of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, as well as on the Mediterranean island of Crete. After Crete however their airborne role largely lapsed and for the rest of the war they were mainly used as elite infantry, with no parachuting required.
Some poor early attempts at Fallschirmjäger sets have meant this subject has been playing catch-up for a long time now, but this set from Caesar finally delivers some much-needed quality. The figures follow the usual Caesar formula in that they are all beautifully sculpted with great proportions and all the detail you could ask for. Weapons are well defined and slim, clothing has realistic folds and all the items of kit are crisply done. Despite the sometime multiple split lines (where moulds meet), there is no flash to spoil the view, so these are yet another excellent technical success.
Caesar have done their homework on historical accuracy too, as all the men have the paratrooper helmet and jump smock (probably the type 2 version) that made them so recognisable. Items of kit are the standard bread bag, field flask and the cloth version of the gas mask case which was exclusively issued to paratroopers. None are wearing knee protectors, which is good as these were rapidly discarded upon landing, and all have the appropriate ammunition pouches for the weapon they carry, including the special ammunition belt that hung around the neck and was another unique paratrooper item.
Weapons are the standard ones of the Mauser Kar 98K rifle, MP40 submachine gun and MG34 machine gun, while one man is using a Panzerfaust. This simple but effective weapon was as popular with paratroops as everyone else, being both light and easy to use. Two of the figures are carrying the FG42 assault rifle which was specifically designed for the Fallschirmtruppen. Both the FG42 (introduced naturally enough in 1942) and the Panzerfaust force these figures to be for the later part of the war, but the rest could be for almost any time, although technically the type 2 jump smock only became common from 1941, and by 1944 many Fallschirmtruppen wore some ordinary army items.
In the past poses have been a particular problem with German Paras. Sets have been full of either poor or simply sedentary poses, which have hardly conveyed the excitement and action of an elite group of soldiers. This set from Caesar includes all the usual poses for the period but has managed to inject some pace and life into them, with figures you can actually believe are advancing under fire or about to throw a grenade. The poses are not exceptional, but all are perfectly good, and some have clearly benefited from a more sophisticated mould which means they have real depth rather than the flat efforts we sometimes see, yet there is no excess plastic and no assembly necessary.
Looking at the figures in general we would have liked to have seen at least some of the smocks bulging with grenades and other items in the pockets as is so often seen in photos of the time, and equally we were disappointed that none of the figures have a visible sidearm, which again is common in photographs. As a result the figures look a little neater and better dressed than the real thing often achieved, but that is true of most sets of figures ever made. Germany's paratroops have not been fortunate with some of the early sets depicting them, but things have improved more recently and this set from Caesar is undoubtedly the best yet.