The contribution of the US Navy in the Second World War is very well documented, particularly in the Pacific War, yet there have been few figure sets for these men in the past. Naturally the prospect of a full 1/72 scale model of a destroyer would be somewhat daunting for most modellers, never mind a battleship or aircraft carrier, so finding a suitable setting for sailors is not particularly easy, but the box artwork gives us a clue as to the intended action. Dramatic, though telling us absolutely nothing about what the product looks like, it has a strong feel of the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941, the 'Day of Infamy', which is the most famous occasion when sailors found themselves in battle while on shore.
Navy uniforms did not change greatly during the four years of war, and all these figures look to be properly dressed. Four of them are wearing the dress or undress jumper with the square sailor’s collar and the black neckerchief. The suit could be navy blue or white, but the neckerchief was usually only worn with the white, so while the figures could be painted with either, everything suggests it is the whites that are intended here. The slightly bell-bottomed trousers these four also wear are also well done apart from the rear seat pockets on two of them, which the actual garment did not have. The rest of the enlisted men seem to wear the fatigue uniform of chambray shirt with two breast pockets plus denim dungaree trousers with front and rear patch pockets. All these men have their sleeves rolled, adding to the impression that the environment is tropical or at least hot. Five of the poses wear the classic and widely worn cap known as the 'dixie cup', and three more wear the M1917A1 'dishpan' steel helmet, which was only replaced by the M1 helmet in 1942, firmly making this set suitable for the early months of the war. The helmet was to be worn when at battle stations, so the fact that several men are clearly in combat, yet still wear their caps, strongly implies a surprise attack such as at Pearl Harbor (though even then many men would be able to reach their helmets soon enough).
Two figures in this collection have particular features of their costume that are worthy of note. The first figure in the second row seems to wear ordinary fatigue uniform and a cloth helmet and goggles, which was worn on carriers, but we are not sure if this also happened on land. The other interesting figure is the first in the bottom row. This man wears a peaked cap and a double-breasted eight-button reefer jacket over a shirt and tie, so would be a chief petty officer. He is generally accurate, though there is no sign of the pocket that should have been on his left breast.
There are only 10 poses in this set, making room for the anti-aircraft machine gun promised in the title. We struggled to be sure of an identification here and the model is pretty crude, but it must surely be a Browning .50 calibre M2 water-cooled machine gun, partly because it has a 'tombstone' ammunition chest attached that held 200 rounds. While this gun could vary considerably, we found this model greatly over-simplified and with some basic design flaws. Firstly the mounting is very crude. It rests on a small plate, which means it must be bolted to either a concrete surface or a ship’s superstructure, which is fine, but it would have been nice if the large anti-aircraft tripod had also been supplied as an option. Second, the pipes for the water coolant simply plug into the mount rather than a canister containing the water or pipes coming from the deck, as happened on some ships. Thirdly, it has a very chunky aircraft sight, through which little, including an aircraft, is actually visible.. Also too large is the barrel itself, and too thick. Finally, it has a strange pair of arms emanating from where the trigger handles would normally be. It seems this unusual arrangement did exist (a photo on board USS Wyoming shows this), though a much more typical setup might have been better. A general lack of most detail makes this a very unimpressive model which strays far too far from the actual weapon, though these were certainly used by the Navy at this date.
Again assuming Pearl Harbor or similar, we thought most of the poses were very suitable. We have three men shooting, all aiming high, which could suggest an emergency response to air attack. One of these clearly has a rifle (too poorly done to identify), but the other two are perhaps holding Thompson submachine guns, though if so then they are really much too large as they are both 14 mm in length, which is about a metre to scale, and so noticeably longer than the correct 81 cm. Another man handles his rifle, and then we have the interesting poses in the second row. The first is quite nice and is of a man running with a fire extinguisher, followed by a very useful figure carrying two boxes of ammunition. Unfortunately this man is so clumsy that both boxes are somehow open, yet have their lids still on, and both have belts of ammunition spilling out. The third man is something of a favourite, despite being a non-combat pose. This is simply a sailor carrying his seabag, which contained all his personal possessions. A nice pose somewhat spoiled by the bag seeming rather too small, even bearing in mind that no hammock is lashed to it. At a pinch you could turn this into a sandbag, though we are sure it is a seabag that was intended. Finally we have a petty officer blowing a boatswain’s whistle and pointing, so presumably a boatswain or boatswain's mate. This man is interesting because he has a sidearm and chevron rank insignia on his left sleeve, as well as a service stripe on the lower sleeve indicating four years’ service.
The bottom row contains the chief petty officer and the man who is operating the gun. This is an odd pose, because while his left hand could well be gripping a trigger, he is pointing with the other hand. Also he is not square on to the weapon, but more side on to it, so he is clearly not actually firing at the moment. We thought he was much the weakest of the poses, which are otherwise commendable.
The general standard of sculpting is pretty good for Strelets, without the usual stocky and chunky feel we associate with this manufacturer. Smaller detail is still a bit basic, and largely missing in places like the machine gun, but these are not particularly demanding figures so to an extent they get away with it. The gun has one piece for the barrel/ammo box and another for the mount, plus the crude sight, so very easy to put together. The barrel can elevate but not rotate. The two water pipes are soft and flexible plastic tubes which attach to pegs on the main piece, which works quite well and allows the customer to move them freely as required, though the actual pipes would not have stuck out that far. Both men and gun are largely free of flash, so quite nicely presented.
Despite issues with the quality of the weaponry we liked nine of the figures in this set, which offers an interesting and unusual twist on the many sets of WWII fighting men already available. The machine gun, like so many Strelets accessories, is a very poor effort with an odd gunner, and while a nice idea it could perhaps have been left for a proper kit manufacturer so a couple more figures could have been included here. Another great idea for a WWII set with an unusual twist, and one which we thought worked well for the most part.