The Viet Cong were citizens of South Vietnam working to overthrow their government and effect a union with the north. Like many insurgent movements, they received a great deal of support from outside their country – in this case from the north - and through them from the wider Communist world. Their guerrilla tactics proved highly successful against often poorly-motivated government forces, and against the military assistance provided to the government by the USA, but they suffered massive losses during the Tet Offensive of 1968, after which their importance was greatly reduced, and final victory in 1975 was achieved largely by direct intervention by North Vietnam.
We will begin this review by talking about the sculpting, because it impacts all other aspects of this set. Our first reaction to these figures was they are not particularly well done. There is a quite considerable amount of flash, and in general these are not attractive figures. Detail is often fairly poor, particularly on weapons and some kit, and there are large areas of very obvious excess plastic such as the completely missing faces of the two prone figures, which harks back to the way prone figures used to be made 30 years ago, with just a blob instead of a head. Looking at the pictures on the box, which are presumably of the masters, it gets worse because it is evident that the masters were originally really good. Clearly transferring them to the mould has lost a great deal, and nowhere is this more painful than the first figure in the bottom row. He holds a fat pole that has no detail except for something on the end. It is very rough and sort of tapers away at the rear end. We could not guess what this might be, and when we realised we were shocked. From the box it is clearly meant to be a pole with some charges or grenades on the end and a wire wrapping round the pole back to the operator. All of that detail is completely lost on the actual figure, leaving a real mess. It is so sad to see great sculpts massacred in this way, but it seriously defaces what should have been good figures.
There is quite a wide arsenal on display here, which is great. Five of the figures carry a rifle, which in most cases is too poorly detailed to be able to guess as to model. The rifles vary in length between 16mm (1152mm) and 19mm (1368mm), so are presumably meant to be various different types, although these are all rather long for the average Vietnamese man to handle comfortably. None of them are the Chinese copy of the Soviet SKS carbine (which was 1,020mm long), which was the most common weapon, so that is disappointing. However recent Orion sets have often greatly oversized the weapons, and as we shall see that has happened here too. The only rifle that does seem to be identifiable is that carried by the third figure in row two, which looks like the Soviet SVT-40, a weapon that did see service and would be a valid choice.
Two men carry the AK-47 assault rifle (or more likely the Chinese copy), but here both are 17mm (1,224mm) long, far longer than the correct 880mm, which makes a huge difference. Still oversized, but less obviously, are the two PPSh-41 submachine guns being carried here, both with the later 35-round stick magazine rather than the more famous drum. Since the prone machine gunner is moulded from above, there is very little detail on this weapon, so impossible to say what it is. It has a drum magazine which gives it the profile of the common RPD light machine gun, but again that weapon was only 1,037mm long, whereas this model is to scale a full 1,440mm, so either a really bad model of that, or something completely different! One man seems about to use an RPG-2, which is a good choice except (you know what is coming…) here it is 22mm (1,584mm) long with the round, when in fact the total was 1,200mm. The charges on the pole we have already described, and while a valid weapon, here it looks terrible – really crude.
The men’s kit is good and varied, and in reality would have come from many sources, including home-made, although these are quite well-equipped by the standard of the Viet Cong. Ammunition is being held in pouches of various designs, all reasonable, and several carry grenades in the 2- or 4-grenade carriers. Several carry rucksacks, mainly with the three external pockets, and several carry long sausage-like items which held their rice rations. Most have water bottles of course, and the man with the RPG has a pack with 4 rounds to add to the one he already has loaded. While there can be much leeway on the accuracy of such kit, everything here looks fairly typical.
The Viet Cong dressed as peasants, because that is what they were for the most part. Even when ‘replacements’ were provided by the north, they too dressed as peasants, and the complaint was often heard that the government forces, and particularly the US soldiers, could not tell them apart, rather obviously. The usual peasant dress of simple shirt and trousers has been faithfully recreated here, and everyone wears sandals too. Many have a scarf around their neck, and the headgear is mainly the soft-brimmed hat, with a few examples of the classic woven straw conical hat. While the latter is typical peasant garb, the sources all say this was not worn when in action, although the possibility of being surprised while wearing it must help to justify those figures wearing it here we would have thought.
The choice of poses cannot really be faulted, as they are both lively and appropriate. These men are all clearly in a fight, so there are no figures just patrolling or resting, but that is true of so many sets so not a problem. Equally, while there could have been mortars for example, the range of weapons is pretty good given the number of poses, although it must be said that these are pretty well armed and equipped, so suggest Main Force rather than the more localised units. However the running figure in the second row is tricky to keep standing, and could have benefited from being better centred on the base.
The sculpting is very poor, but it is not always clear whether that is down to the master or the mould. The sapper with the pole charge has a mess for a right foot, which again looks good on the master, and his hands are just blobs that merge into the device he holds. In some areas (like the bugle) the plastic has not properly filled the mould, despite the amount of flash elsewhere, so that adds to the issues. The prone machine gunner is actually considerably bent, which means he is lifting his gun up to the sky, with the bipod far off the ground. Bad sculpting or bad mould? Who can say, but the oversized weapons, which are almost impossible to put right, can only be down to the sculptor. However this matters not, because all the customer cares about is the quality of the end product, and here it is poor. Whatever the reasons, this is a pretty ugly collection that seriously damages what appear to have been good masters, and apart from the bad weapon sizes, the accuracy is otherwise good with decent poses too. Such a waste.