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Zvezda - German Paratroops 1939-1942 (6136) _________(EXT)

 

 

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6136
Year 2011
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items None
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Gray
Flash Level Average
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939 - 1945

Review 

For a long period and in spite several attempts, apart a couple of sets, the famous WWII German Fallschirmjagers have not received proper 1/72 mass-production homologues to proudly represent them according to the legendary contribution brought on the WWII battlefields. From Norway to Crete, from North Africa to Eastern Front, from Grand Sasso to Normandy, from Monte Cassino to the Ardennes, the German paratroopers fought with bravery and forever entered in the history as a top unit, feared and well-esteemed by opponents. After the invasion of Crete, which was the largest airborne mission of German Army during WWII, in spite victory, the Fallschirmjager suffered heavy losses and Hitler personally forbade further large scale airborne missions except those authorised by him. Because of that and based on the intensive training paratroopers got, the unit was transformed into an elite infantry but maintaining specific gear and uniforms such as the jump smock and M38 rimless helmet. Particularly in the Early War airborne missions were extremely fruitfully carried out by Fallschirmjager which had a decisive contribution to the invasion of Norway, Belgium, and France, their outstanding achievements within Blitzkrieg determining UK and US to reconsider the role of paratrooper in modern warfare.  

Bearing in mind the key involvement of Fallschirmjager in the early stage of war, Zvezda’s board-game “Blitzkrieg 1940” could not omit the representatives of that unit and accommodates a spure dedicated to them. Traditionally, after launching the game, the company issues the spure or sprues as individual set within the Mini-Box series and this time shares the name “German Paratroopers 1939-1942” with their 1/35 big brothers. On the single sprue of the box are found components for putting together four figs as well as the game flag, two trench representations, a large common base and individual stands. Likewise, considering one main purpose of the set, there were not forgotten the game card and assembly sheet.

In general Zvezda’s “Mini-Box” artworks make a first introduction of the included miniatures, the soldiers being identical or alike with the comprised figs. In spite the practice, the artwork has not many liaisons with the plastic miniatures but definitely is a nice one, showing paratroopers in full action. The main dissimilarities between the artwork and figs record in terms of the prone MG34 gunner and crouched solider illustrated by the artwork, in plastic the MG gunner standing and holding the weapon on the shoulder while the crouched fig purely does not exist. Practically, the artwork is the one belonging to Zvezda’s 1/35 Fallschirmjagers, the company adopting a similar approach for the PaK35/36 and BMW R12 kits. Perhaps due to lack of time and rushing to make available the set as soon as possible, the producer decided not to wait the painter to finish the job. However, on the back of the box hobbyists get full information and three images of the kit revealing the assembled and painted Paratroopers, but with a quite big mistake in terms of painting, the WWII German paratroopers never worn blue trousers and helmets as it will be below described. On the game card the interested parties discover a reference with Fallschirmjager on the battle field, but again, the stances are not linked to the way the miniatures are displayed.

The assembly instructions draws clear guidelines and assembly itself is something really uncomplicated, just few arms and one leg must be fixed in position. Belonging to “Art of Tactic” series, the product is snap-fit and the pieces excellent match the designated locations, firmly remaining in position. Nevertheless, the more stable the better and for a powerful fixation and handling without concerns, a drop of polly-cement can be only benefic. Cast in Zvezda’s brilliant dark gray hard plastic, the classical modelling glue should be employed.  

As a specialised unit, WWII German paratroopers received dedicated clothes and equipment, a distinct sign representing the jump smock, nick-named “bone-sack”. Along the war, three types of jump smocks had been developed as a safety garment worn over equipment for preventing the fouling of parachute lines. The earliest, Type I light gray smock was a multi-zipper “step-in” item used in combat only in first months of war and then during training. Type II, standard issue since Holland campaign was also a “step in” smock and recorded more variations, both in terms of colours and field converted or standard made external pockets. Initially Type II missed external pockets, but later on, field converted zippered ones followed by standard four zippered and flapped pockets emerged. Type II remained in service throughout the war both in the earlier olive green and splinter camouflage pattern. Still, even in 1944, the olive green Type II smock was intensively used, and because of it and obviously, the bravery of those which wore it, during Monte Cassino battle the Fallschirmjager were nicknamed by Allies “the Green Devils”. The first two versions were “step in” and on account Fallschirmjager started to become more infantrymen than paratroopers, Type III smock could open all and featured a system of snaps allowing the bottom to be fastened around legs and forming the “shorts” when needed. The external pockets of Type III suffered some changes in terms of size and standard models were in splinter and water/tan camouflage patterns, the last pattern available since 1944. Likewise, it should be mentioned that a great variety of splinter and water/tan patterns are spotted but most often the smocks were tailored in Luftwaffe camouflage patterns, slightly different than Wehrmacht which had larger spots. 

Another emblem of the WWII German paratrooper throughout the war was his helmet, the Fallschirmjager M38 helmet being developed from the M35 regular model but with few modifications, rimless and with a four point chinstrap. Evidently, for paratroopers footwear was of foremost importance and the WWII Germans designed two models of high jump boots, the very early Type I with an odd side lace system and rubber soles being fast replaced by Type II with central laces and soles occasionally made by rubber due to material shortage. However, the transformation of Fallschirmjager into infantry affected their footwear as well, it was usual seeing paratroopers with regular army ankle boots with or without gaiters or even marching/jack boots.

The tunic worn below the smocks was the blue-gray Luftwaffe Flight blouse but the trousers were feldgrau and specially designed for paratroopers, immediately recognized after their larger cut and the small flap of the pocket emplaced on the right knee for the gravity knife used to cut the parachute lines. Considering the above data, it is completely inaccurate painting the WWII German paratroopers with blue trousers or helmets, a mistake that it seems brought in the hobby by Airfix’s WWII German paratrooper artwork of the box and repeated by the painter of the figs displayed on the back of Zvezda box. The confusion of the dedicated feldgrau paratrooper trousers with Luftwaffe blue trousers might come out from the fact the paratroopers wore the blue Luftwaffe flight blouse but never the trousers of the Luftwaffe uniform. Two of the most famous battles with Fallschirmjager in a leading role, Crete and Monte Cassino, took place in Mediterranean countries, so very common was there to encounter Paratroopers wearing Luftwaffe tropical uniform and helmets painted in Dulkengelb.    

The title accentuates the period 1939-1942, meaning Early War paratroopers and definitely this is what we get. Taking care at the indicated interval and again proving excellent knowledge on WWII Germans, Zvezda sculptor dressed all paratroopers in Type II smocks, feldgrau trousers, Type II jump boots, and M38 rimless helmets. Under smocks is visible a small part of tunic or shirt, the jump smock could be worn either over Luftwaffe tunic or directly over shirt in warm environments. The clear identification of smocks is a little more difficult due to adopted stances and gear, but it seems there are no pockets, so early Type II. A small detail that has been omitted by the manufacturer on the trousers is the flap of the gravity knife pocket. Obviously, fighting as infantry, Fallschirmjager often worn regular trousers and footwear as well as the standard WWII German steel helmet, especially in the Late Part of war, but not so common in the period targeted by this set.

Except cloth gas mask containers and Kar98K bandoleers replacing the common ammunition pouches, the WWII German paratroopers utilised standard infantry gear, although, as belonging to Luftwaffe, some variation in colours could emerge such as blue-gray bread-bags and MP40 ammunition pouches. Still, the great majority of pieces were borrowed from infantry, having habitual colours. Here the Fallschirmjager have got M40 “Y” straps issued mostly to mounted units and paratroopers, bread bags, and canteens, a little surprising being the presence of so many map cases, all troopers fitting those. Even if there were not strict regulations where the map case to be worn, reference images showing that article everywhere around the belt, this time all soldiers adjoined it on the left hip, behind the pistol holster. It would have been nicer a little diversity and at least one to put his map case in front or on the right hip. Furthermore, two troopers, but not the potential commander, are endowed with binoculars. Nevertheless, both map cases and binoculars were usual pieces for paratroopers, so no accuracy problems but it should be reiterated the odd situation of all miniatures to receive map cases.

Weaponry consists in two MP40, one Kar98K, and one MG34 and three of soldiers have stuck under belts hand grenades, one being caught when throwing the deadly charge. A couple of grenades from the belts come with a smaller warhead and thinner handle, but such stuff is quite ordinary in the 1/72 scale. All possess pistols, which is in full concordance with regulations stipulating Fallschirmager endowment with pistols. The provision was based on the fact that WWII German paratroopers jumped without weapon and gear which were dropped separately in special containers. Extremely exposed in the air and for around two minutes after landing, the pistol was a necessary weapon, small enough to jump with it and able to give little protection to the paratrooper. Nevertheless, exceptions existed, some veterans preferring to jump with MP38/40 fixed to the torso beneath parachute harness and with ammunition pouches tied to the lower legs.

The great majority of Zvezda poses chosen to embody the heroic Fallschirmjager are in the mist of combat, only the MG34 gunner seems to be in another place, staying still or advancing at a slow pace with his weapon on the right shoulder and in the left holding a MG ammunition box. Next to the gear available on all figs as above highlighted, he also fastened the MG tool case and on the chest a pair of binoculars. The MG is wonderfully sculptured, scaled, and cast, one of the best 1/72 replicas but misses the bipod. A solution for remediating the lack is gluing a Preiser, Dragon, or Caesar bipod, such parts being reachable on the sprues with separate weapons forwarded by these manufacturers. On account the size of weapon, ideal would be a Preiser bipod, the thinnest, most detailed, and available folded and unfolded within “Advancing Grenadiers with MG”. Concerning the MG ammunition box, this is really huge comparing with the standard one housing 250 or 300 rounds. Anyway, the producer proved within “German Infantry Platoon 1942-1944” knowing how should look a MG container in 1/72 scale, so maybe the intention was depicting a specialised one with more ammunition. There exist several images with WWII German paratroopers holding some strange containers, but those appear slightly different than the model submitted here. Although contrasting with his comrades, this MG gunner’s stance is a very welcome appearance, not so widespread in the 1/72 scale but extremely often showed by photos from the period, practically one of the most ordinary modality of holding the weapon adopted by MG gunners. In mass production, a famed quite close pose but in 1/76 scale puts forward Airfix in the ancient “German Infantry” while in 1/72 Preiser inside their fabulous “Advancing Grenadiers with MG” and FOV in “German SS Cavalry Division” deliver similar hypostases.      

While wearing the same smock, trousers, helmets, boots, and weapons, the WWII Fallschirmjager officers are hard to spot in general and in particular here where all army-men have got map cases and a couple, certainly not officers, are endowed with binoculars. Due to these facts, the determination of the officer or NCO relies exclusively on stance, and the figure with left hand in the air might embody the commander of the small unit. He easily can pass as a regular soldier, especially bearing in mind he has “Y” straps, bread bag, and canteen, items that could miss at an officer. Holding his MP40 in the right hand he advances and with left fist urges his comrades to keep going. Perhaps due to moulding reasons, he has got only the left hand side MP38/40 ammunition pouch and no grenade under belt. Overall, this is a fine pose, the whole movement being lifelike and persuasive.

Another soldier was immortalised in plastic while firing off his MP38/40 and believable performs it, taking a normal stance, closely linked to his 1/35 colleague. Often standing and firing straight poses arrive quite flat in the scale, but it is not the case this time. Both ammunition pouches are in place and realistically angled, under the belt the guy sticking one hand grenade and the pistol holster being partially hidden by the left hand side ammunition pouch.

Though at first glance the grenade-thrower is not very convincing, the effort put in throwing the deadly charge being quite small, at a better study it emerges as a fair pose, the stance being covered by filmed and photographed documents taken in the period. Perhaps the enemy was not very far or the soldier stayed behind a wall, fence or in a trench, so it was not necessary or possible a long throw. The right leg is little bent and the body a hair twist, so a credible appearance is achieved. He throws the grenade with the right and in the left keeps the Kar98K which misses the sling, just like all the other weapons of the set. A sling properly waving and accompanying the entire move could have been a nice touch for increasing the authenticity. Next to the common gear, the soldier wears the correct Kar98K ammunition bandoleer, binoculars on chest, and two spare grenades under belt, a good approach for what is intended to embody this figure.

A particular difficult step for most manufacturers that have treated the topic proved to be the rimless M38 Fallschirmjager helmet, most of the times the item arriving in very bizarre shapes. On contrary and entirely demonstrating its capacities, Zvezda encountered no problem and succeeded to marvelously represent it, even there are shown the liner retention bolts. Likewise, the smocks are finely carved, correctly in length and shape, and featuring realistic creases as well as other small niceties. Below smocks a small part of the tunics are visible but the collar boards are mostly hidden, so only little of those can be painted. While no insignia, except eagles on smocks and on early helmets, were permitted, wearer’s rank being indicated by the collar boards of the tunic below, paratroopers occasionally let those to be visible. This manufacturer excels in reproducing footwear and the Fallschirmjager jump boots come irreproachable, not only length but also lots of small details splendidly emerging. Gear and weapons are gorgeous and well set, including the MP38/40 pouches, correctly angled and featuring the small pouch for tools stitched to the left hand side one. Anatomy is impeccable, with excellent body proportions, including palms with nicely carved fingers as well faces with perfect eyes, eye-brows, noses, ears, mouths, and cheeks.   

Zvezda has established high standards for moulding and cast, these figs completely matching them and impressing the viewers with top details, low amount of flash and seam lines, no excess of material and smooth assembly. Made of dark gray hard plastic, the product is extremely glue-able, resists to bends or other shocks, and wonderfully accommodates enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils. Especially for conversion purposes, separate gear, weapons, and body parts can be brought from Preiser, Dragon, and Caesar hard plastic figure sets where there are available on separate sprues. In addition, another good choice could be mixing the limbs and heads between the poses of the set. As usual for Zvezda’s Mini-Box figures, two choices for bases are ensured, one large suitable to accommodate the entire troop and the wargaming flag or individual ones, for each soldier. Snapping the minis into bases is done though pins in boots and for other bases, the pins can be instantaneously detached with simple cuts and without affecting these top-notch boots.

Not only their anatomy, but also the size of gear and weapons send these figs in the tall side of 1/72. This is a good thing while most of the 1/72 sets on WWII German Paratroopers released either by mass-production or cottage industry contain soldiers of similar sizes. In this light, excellent completions for Zvezda’s paratroopers are put forward by ESCI in “German Paratrooper”, Orion in “German Paratroopers”, Dragon in “3 Fallschirmjäger Div. & Pz.VI KingTiger – Ardennes 1944 Part 1 and Part 2”, MIG Production in “German Fallschirmjager”, CMK in “Fallschirmjäger WWII” as well as some Revell ones from “German Paratrooper”. Both Preiser’s "German Paratroopers, Pilots and Ground Crew" and Caesar’s “German Paratroopers” are a little smaller while Italeri’s “German Paratroops (Tropical Uniform)” are a hair too big, but still usable. 

Zvezda definitely proposes within “German Paratroopers 1939-1942” some of the best Fallschirmjager available in the scale, ideal not only for collectors and gamers, but also for static modellers. The quality of the figs make them proudly stay near any 1/72 paratrooper released in plastic, resin or white metal and the price of the kit is almost unbeatable. In addition, due to the way they are dressed, these Fallshchirmjager can cover almost the whole period of war and all fronts, being suitable to be painted in a large diversity of attire with olive green or camouflage smocks and feldgrau or tropical trousers. Again, an outstanding Zvezda effort that should deserve consideration of all target groups, particularly taking into consideration German paratroopers have not benefitted by many good sets in comparison with their remarkable contribution during WWII.  

Historical Accuracy 10
Anatomy 10
Poses Quality 9
Details Quality 9
Mould Quality 10
Sculpture 9
Recommendation/Utility 10
Reviewer’s Opinion 9