This 'Late War' set is clearly intended to be primarily depicting the US infantry as it battled its way from the beaches of Normandy to the heart of Germany, an epic story that needs no retelling here. The campaign holds any number of interesting actions including the breakout from the beaches, the Ardennes and crossing the Rhine, but in the past sets have tried to cover all aspects of the war, or concentrated on the war in the Pacific, so we were intrigued to see how this set would distinguish itself from those others in showing just the final months of the conflict in Europe.
The first thing to say is there are a good number of poses on offer here, which matters more when you are modelling soldiers that would not fight in formation. There are several men firing, including firing on the move, and several poses cautiously advancing while keeping their heads down - exactly what you should see in a set of soldiers from this era. There are a lot of kneeling figures too, which is great, and the number of poses allows for some useful extras as well as the riflemen. The last figure in the second row seems to be pulling the pin from a grenade – not the most elegant pose ever made but worth having and a refreshing change from the 'grenade-throwing' standard we often see. The first figure in the bottom row is a medic, and that row also includes a backpack radio and a smaller hand-held device. Many of the figures require some assembly, which helps to improve the poses, although the two kneeling firing figures (which have no assembly) are very flat and not well done. The other observation to make of course is that there are three of every pose, so you get quite a lot of radios and medics in your 51 figures (not the 57 claimed on the box).
One obvious question is what makes these men 'late war', and the answer seems to be not a lot. They all seem to have much the same uniform, the highlights of which are what looks like the Parsons jacket ('1941 OD Field Jacket'), and canvas leggings covering the lower leg. These are both elements that spanned the whole of the war, and so are perfectly appropriate for any soldier on the day Germany surrendered, but in a set labelled like this we would have expected features that were particular to the late war - the 1943 combat jacket and two-buckle combat boots or shoe-pac boots. Now the Army in North-West Europe resisted accepting the M1943 until late 1944, so a full set with these items would not be ideal either, but we felt that at least a few examples of these items should have been provided, particularly for those wishing to depict the army in Italy during the same period. Certainly photos of the time suggest much more variety of clothing and gear than we see here.
Other elements of the clothing are fine. All the men wear the classic M1 steel helmet of course, and most have netting engraved on the surface. Even when it held no camouflage items, as here, it helped to counteract any sheen from the helmet when wet. However there are issues with the webbing on these figures, because none have the usual multi-pouch arrangement on their belt that you would expect from riflemen. Instead, most have the 'Belt, pistol or revolver M1936', with a pistol magazine pocket on the left and a first aid pouch on the right, despite most quite correctly having no pistol. Since there are no other pouches to be seen, and no sign of anything in the pockets (such as they were on the Parsons), we have to wonder where the riflemen expect to get their next clip from. Equally, the only man carrying a BAR also has this highly inappropriate belt, so again, where is his ammunition? Each man does have a canteen, but absolutely nothing else - no entrenching tool, bayonets, knives etc., and hardly any haversacks. In fact the rear belts are almost empty, which differs greatly from photos of these men in action. We should also mention that medics usually carried two canteens, but this one has just the one. This figure also lacks the common medics double bag and yoke arrangement, and also lacks the haversack that sometimes substituted for it - in fact he simply has nothing in which to put his equipment, just as the men have nowhere for ammunition. Also the absence of packs (not in itself a problem as they were rarely carried in action) reveals that the sculptor has given all these men braces that meet to form a 'Y' shape at the back, when they should cross to form an 'X'.
Any review of World War II soldiers generally has a section on weapons, so here it is. If the clothing is surprising and the belts simply wrong then the news on the weapons is much better. Six of the poses are armed with the usual M1 Garand, which like all the weapons has been quite well done and easy to identify. The kneeling figure in the second row with the scope is holding an M1903 Springfield, which was recognised as a better weapon for accurate fire over longer distances, so that is good too. There are no less than three figures carrying the Browning Automatic Rifle (M1918A2), all of which are without a bipod (often removed to make the weapon lighter), and two men carry the Thompson submachine gun, so they are likely to be junior officers or squad leaders. Apart from the man with the grenade, who is otherwise unarmed, as are the medic and the casualty, the radio team both carry pistols, which is fine. Other weapons could have been included of course, and perhaps a carbine or two would have been nice, but all these weapons are appropriate so no problems there.
The sculpting is pretty good, although some of the detail is very shallow and not particularly clear as a result. We could find no evidence of any pockets anywhere on the Parsons jackets, and we did not find the folds of the clothing to be completely convincing, but generally the detail is good and the sculpting OK. The medic clearly has a red cross symbol on his helmet front and rear and an armband on his left arm, and the radios are nicely done too. The pack radio looks to be the SCR-300/BC1000, and the hand-held is probably the SCR-536/BC611. There is very little flash or excess plastic, and where separate arms need to be attached to bodies the fit is very good (see image of sprue), although we did find the occasional cavity where the plastic had not properly filled. The set includes a very clever coloured instruction chart showing exactly which arms go on which body, which is great, or at least it would be were it not for the fact that the picture of the sprue bears no resemblance to the actual sprue, so nice idea guys and if you can get it right next time that would be great.
Two final points. First, although the poses are generally good the NCO with the handie-talkie has his Thompson perched very precariously on his upper arm, and second, we could not quite decide what the medic was holding - our best guess was a bandage being unrolled. The errors in the belts of these men really spoil the set because they would take a lot if fiddly work to add the necessary pouches. The poses are good as is the sculpting, and to what extent their not particularly late clothing disappoints will vary between customers. These are basically nice figures done in the slightly fuller style that this company always delivers, but those with an eye for detail may look less favourably on them.