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Zvezda - German Gebirgsjager 1939-1943 (6154) _________(EXT)

Manufacturer Zvezda
Scale 1/72
Set Code 6154
Year 2012
No. of Figures 4
No. of Poses 4
Additional Items 2 Cliffs
Size Tall
Material Hard Plastic
Colour Light Gray
Flash Level Average
Glue-ability Excellent (Polly-cement)
Convert-ability Medium
Optimal Period 1939 - 1945

Review 

Worldwide acknowledged, in 1/72 scale, WWII Germans represent the most advanced topic, numerous mass production and cottage industry companies dedicating complex figure sets to various units belonging to that army. In spite the impressive effort of manufacturers, there are still plenty of uncovered or partial covered gaps, a major one constituting the famous Gebirgsjager (Mountain Troops), an elite unit which incredibly, until 2010 had no representative in 1/72 scale. The situation comes out really odd bearing in mind in reference there is an unit fighting on all fronts, with a key contribution to major battles, admired and respected by friends and enemies and which benefitted by intense media coverage, Signal dedicating more numbers and publishing lots of renowned photos with Mountain Troops, including colour ones. Furthermore, the movie industry targeted that unit, Gebirgsjager starring at least in two legendary productions, Where Eagles Dare and Enemy at the Gates.

Since the establishment of Mountain Troops, due to the intensive training and harsh conditions they used to activate, in all armies such units have been apprised as elite. During WWII, particularly Axis members had in service specialised troopers, capable to operate in Europe’s specific environment, abounding in mountain chains like Alps, Carpathians, Balkans, Caucasus or Greece and Yugoslavia mountains as well as in Africa. Germany’s “Gebirgsjager”, Romania’s “Vanatori de Munte”, Italy’s “Alpini” represented the pride of those armies, mainly enrolling people born and raised in mountains, used to live and manage in alpine territories and which gloriously fulfilled their tasks, reconfirming their reputation in some of the hardest battles of WWII. For instance, General Mihai Lascar, commander of 1st Mountain Brigade (Romania) was the first foreigner awarded with Oak Leaves, other five Vanatori de Munte and one Alpini commanders being listed between the 43 foreigners who received the Iron Cross. Nevertheless, the mountain troops of those armies benefitted by a long tradition, with Italy’s Alpini the oldest truly specialised unit in the world, established since 1872. Until WWI Germany’s Mountain Troops were not regulated, but several Bavarian Jager battalions, Goslarer Jager in the Harz Mountains and Schlettstadter Jager in the Vosges Mountains, formed in the 19th century, could be regarded as Gebirgsjager predecessors as well as the Saxon sharpshooters, recruited from forestry officials in 1809. This is an important feature while during WWII Germany applied the same method for enlisting snipers, especially from Southern Bavaria and Tyrol regions. Germany, Austria, Italy, and Romania’s mountain troops saw action during WWI as well, and a key aspect is that even nowadays Gebirgsjager, Alpini, and Vanatorii de Munte continue to serve their countries under the same names. Nevertheless, several Allies counted also on mountain troops, some of the most known being Poland’s “Podhale Rifles”, France’s “Chasseurs Alpins”, and US’ “10th Mountain Division”, but all those saw little action in comparison with their Axis counterparts. At present, all these Allies mountain units carry on the activity started by their forerunners, too.  

Returning to WWII Gebirgsjager and their 1/72 replicas, the offer is actually poor, Caesar’s “WWII German Mountain Troops” and Zvezda’s “Gebirgsjager 1939-1943” being the single proposals in the scale. Almost unbelievable considering its scope of filling in gaps, cottage industry has remained completely silent in the field. However, a closely-linked tender might be considered Odemars/Ykreol’s “Bosnian Infantry”, portraying soldiers of 13th Waffen SS Division “Handscar”, a mountain division formed by Bosnian and Croatian volunteers which mostly fought in German attire and with German weapons and gear, but easily identified after the fez, unique within WWII German Army. Still, the first Braille Scale set on Gebirgsjager is the ancient Airfix’s “German Mountain Troops”, but that offer is clearly in the 1/76 scale and the size of figures is totally inappropriate for 1/72 utilisations. 

Prepared for mountain warfare, WWII Gebirgsjager were endowed with some specialised clothes, footwear, gear, and weapons, although the great majority of items were the same as for infantry, that is quite normal on account Gebirgsjager signified an elite infantry, predominantly operating in special conditions and sometimes in regions without any mountains.

A little bizarre is that Panzer crews received a jacket based on a ski costume in fashion in 1934 while the mountain soldiers, definitely more appropriate to get such jacket, had to wear the standard feldgrau army tunic. The Mountain Troops serving in Balkans and Mediterranean theatres were issued either olive green or feldgrau tunics.  Nonetheless, particular items of garment were created for Gebirgsjager, the trousers (Keilhose) being special and different than the army, with a wide cut, reinforced seats and inside legs, allowing boot tucking. Specific to Mountain troopers was also the double breasted Windjacke (windproof jacket) and the M39 and M42 hooded anoraks with matching trousers, reversible feldgrau/white. The M42 anorak is immediately recognised after the three chest pockets and similar models are utilised by nowadays mountaineers even if the item seemed not as popular as Windjacke among WWII Gebirgsjager.

Made of rugged brown or black leather, the mountain ankle boots (Bergschuhe) had a special design and characteristics such as cleats for mountainous terrain and ski binding receiving grooves to the heels for securing the ski bindings and were worn with gray-green woolen ankle puttees (Bergstiefel). The 76 cm long puttees were fastened by a buckle and mostly kept to ankle height, but some photos of the period show officers occasionally adjusting the puttees to the knee height like in WWI. The puttees often were substituted by socks, especially by officers and NCOs or in tropical climates when shorts were worn or even by regular gaiters. 

A famous and highly prized item was the mountain cap (Bergmutze), based on the WWI Austrian model and featuring a short peak and side folding down flaps for protecting ears in winter, most of the times kept fastened at the front with two buttons in different colours according to the rank. A metal or cloth Edelweiss was displayed on the left side as well as the emblem and national cockade in front. The Bergmutze constituted the inspiration model for the tropical and M43 caps, the last mentioned one “borrowing” the larger peak of tropical cap and replacing the Bergmutze in the late stage of war.     

Regarding dedicated gear, Gebirgsjager mostly relied on the standard infantry one, but considering the environment, they also got a specialised backpack, the mountain rucksack, immediately distinguished from other WWII German backpacks after the three large outer pockets. Slight variation to the standard pattern existed, depending on the time and place of manufacture. The mountain rucksack had leather shoulder straps and applications and a "quick release" system. In addition, a larger canteen, the mountain troop/medical one, was issued, with 1.1/2 liter capacity and not 0.8 as the regular M31 and is immediately recognised after the horizontal and vertical four leather strap harness and the tall cylindrical cup. Moreover, items necessary to perform duties in the mountains such as skis, snowshoes, snow goggles (standard issued) ice axes, ice hammers, crampons, pitons, and ropes were ensured for Gebirgsjager. In addition, medical teams received special stretchers, permitting vertical lowering down the side of a cliff.

Some artillery pieces were developed or modified for mountain utilisations, light, fast disassembled and carried by pack animals. As personal weapons, the standard infantry ones were intensively used but also a special rifle, the G33/40 mountain carbine was created, a Czech variant of Kar98K with a shortened barrel. Due to the nature of the environment, often rifles were equipped with zF41 or zF4 scopes, as previously stated, Gebirgsjager units imposing some of the most famous WWII Geman snipers. 

A straightforward way of identifying the Gebirgsjager is their legendary emblem, the Edelweiss, proudly worn on the left side of the cap and on the right sleeve of the tunic. In addition, WWII German Mountain troopers were famous for their beards, the recorded poems and songs praising the Gebirgsjager “wild” look as well as the caricatures and jokes on their beards of the period simply enhancing this fact-finding, supported by lots of reference images, too. Like U-Boot crews, also renowned for beards, Mountain troopers activated in rough conditions and were involved in long time operations, so based on the lack of tools or time for shaving, in such units, as well as in Fallschirmjager, the attitude towards beards was more permissive. Still, a more than interesting aspect is that many beards, goattees, and moustaches appear in images trimmed, a key feature underlining both that it was not an occasional beard and the army-man in case had the necessary time and tools for shaving himself. Moreover, one of the most famous Gebirgsjaer Generals, Julius Alfred "Papa" Ringel, had a goatee and even the artwork of the set emphasise the beards, revealing two soldiers unshaved and reiterating the good knowledge of the manufacturer on WWII German army.

Zvezda’s vision over Gebirgsjager materialised in an eye-catching set, fully accurate and with a couple of truly out of ordinary poses, more than realistic and making a comprehensive description of mountain troops. Contrary to Zveza’s figure set strategy, until now their Mountain troopers have not been enclosed in any board game, being available exclusively in the Mini-Box series.

The attractive artwork presents with accuracy the four poses of the set, reconfirmed by the images on the back of the box showing the unpainted version of each master and a photo with all figures gathered on the base. Next to those, valuable information on the product are supplied both in English and Russian as well as an image of the game card, featuring in the upper part an interesting image with Gebirgsjager in combat. Inside the box two sprues, an assembly guide and a game card are found. Each sprue accommodates the parts and gear of two figures as well as various accessories related to the mountain subject and gaming. A large cliff split in two pieces and a smaller one intend to recreate the environment where Gebirgsjager carried out their missions and these have to be set on a large base together with the four figures of the set. Still, modellers have at hand individual bases for all miniatures, including a special one for the large rock. It is not an accident the cliff possesses an extra base while this piece was created in the purpose of providing to one figure a place where to climb, forming a really unusual but fascinating assemble in Braille Scale. The instructions guide clearly draws how to put together the miniatures, highlighting the base options and offering few hints, too. A point of interest might raise the olive green tunics appearing in the artwork and obvious contrasting with the feldgrau trousers, but this simply reinforces the brilliant knowledge on the matter, in this way the author wishing to stress those Gebirgsjager are in Balkans or Mediterranean fronts, places where Mountain troopers received such tunics. Without making any mistake, nothing restrains the hobbyist from painting the tunic in feldgrau, Gebirgsjager having in Europe, with the above quoted exceptions, the entire uniform in the same colour. A noteworthy aspect is that photographed and filmed materials of the period show Gebirgsjager wearing just tunics even if around was only snow, a normal situation even in summer at the high altitudes where they operated, so these Zvezda troopers are all season and can be deployed in cold areas without hesitations.   

Part and parcel of Art of Tactic series, assembly is snap fit and the system really works here thanks to excellent engineering. As a hard plastic product, gluing with standard modelling glue (polly-cement) is possible, and in order to enforce the idea, even the assembly guide recommends such alternative for a “more reliable connection”. This is practically the first kit when Zvezda started advocating the gluing possibility, also exemplifying in premiere, in a drawing, how to correctly snap the parts of a figure by using as model the soldier firing off his Kar98K. Furthermore, the same image and operation are imported inside the following sets, met in all subsequent assembly instructions although those do not include the Mountain trooper in case. Maybe the company received few complains about the system, forwarded by inexperienced hobbyists who broke the pins, so they took the decision to guide such customers in correctly snapping together a mini. 

For dressing their Gebirgsjager, the manufacturer opted for the easiest and most common solution, all these soldiers wearing M36 tunics, specialised mountain trousers, ankle boots with puttees, and peaked caps. Though titled “German Gebirgsjager 1939-1943”, the items of garment proposed make these figs fitting throughout the entire period of the war, not just in the suggested one. All have got “Y” straps and gear is light, composed by the appropriate mountain troop canteens and gas mask containers. Of note is that two of them carrying out a specialised activity like climbing received snow goggles on caps and mountain rucksacks, an ordinary item in the endowment of Gebirgsjager, used for transport essential stuff for surviving in rough conditions during long periods and allowing better movement, too. It was quite common various pieces of gear to hang outside the rucksack, particularly the gas mask container, and just like that are depicted, still lacking the container strap. The two troopers without backpacks seem to keep the gas mask containers fixed to the belts but the related straps cannot be perceived as well. Modellers might immediately remediate the absence, either by painting those straps or scratch-building some from melted sprue. For top detailing the gas masks fastened to the rucksacks, scratch-built straps should add a plus of authenticity. The small unit is armed with two Kar98K and one MP 38/40, the soldier climbing the rock missing his rifle although he got Kar98K ammunition pouches. At their turn, his comrades adjusted ammunition pouches corresponding to their weapons, the guy with MP38/40 putting only the left hand side one, but that features the appropriate small pouch for maintenance tools.

The first impulse is to say the figure climbing the rock embodies a real soldier photographed by Signal magazine in a colour image but in reality the entire ensemble has its roots in a black and white image, the sculptor copying the position of limbs and gear as well as the shape of the rock. Omitted things are the rifle the soldier kept on the shoulder, the gas mask strap, and a rope around waist. Nevertheless, in the kit there is available a rucksack with Kar98K attacked, but according to the instructions, the backpack in case should be allocated to the trooper with rope. Indeed, the approach is fair while on that mini can be noticed the weapon strap. Anyway, nothing hampers the hobbyist to switch the rucksacks or eventually to glue a rifle from his spare parts box as well as the other missing stuff for identically duplicating the real solider. Cast as a single piece, the component involving fixation is the backpack that is immediately snapped with or without a drop of glue. In order to stick in the allocated place, in the left leg and right palm of the figure there are pins, the correspondent holes finding on the rock. The system was perfectly planned, the soldier wonderfully going in position without any effort and requiring no modifications. Advisable is painting before both the cliff and the fig but taking care not to touch the pins and holes because any layer added might affect the system fit. If that happened, then thinning a little the pins before trying to set the fig on the rock would be essential. Some people might not need a climber inside their dioramas or games, and luckily, the miniature is appropriate, without any pose transformation, to illustrate a soldier crawling on the ground or a casualty if the head is displayed in another angle. For such utilisations it is necessary removing the pins, the operation giving no head-aches and consisting in two basic cuts. By issuing this assemble Zvezda made available a true masterpiece, one of the most creative in the field of 1/72 figures, not only WWII Germans.  

The Gebirgsjager climbing the cliff has got an assistant who remained on the ground and secured him by holding the rope. As above pointed out, no rope is on the ascending soldier, so he is during a free climbing but a modeller aiming at ultimate reality, can adjoin a rope around the waist of the climber and the other end in the hands of the assistant, linking the two troopers. Such a rope can be scratch-build from metal or plastic wires or even thread, although the last choice is not so recommended while if taking photos, no matter the diameter of the thread, its fluffs will appear quite obvious and annoying even if the eye cannot perceive those. The assistant might adopt a dual role, also depicting a soldier coiling the rope and this is another one part mini, requiring only backpack fixation, but fortunately, he has got the rifle, too. Most of the rope is on the base, near the place where this figure should be snapped. In case it is intended to be utilised outside the base, then a proper manouver would be extracting the rest of the rope from the base and glue it to the left boot.

Certainly, these two figures, with rucksacks and goggles, can form a stunning assemble by setting them in a diorama putting on show a higher rock, with the climber on the slope and his assistant either on the peak or down the mountain, of course a wire suggesting a rope for connecting the two soldiers being compulsory.      

As a set targeting also gamers, from the box could not miss some combat poses, the manufacturer ensuring a couple of Gebrigsjager in related stances, one standing and the other crouched. The standing soldier fires off his Kar98K, such figs nearly becoming a must have of most 1/72 sets on WWII German army and perhaps representing the most spread pose. In spite this fact, Zvezda succeeded to give a special touch to the miniature, aiming something a little up, maybe an enemy on another back of the mountain. The entire position, with the right foot little bent and the left foot pushed ahead supports the action. His gear is extremely light, just ammunition pouches, gas mask container, and canteen. To this figure it is needed snapping the right arm with the rifle and because the left arm is already in position, assembly goes extremely smooth. In the artwork the figure appears as having the mountain rucksack, but in the kit he arrives without. Though not obligatory, in order to closely reproduce the nice soldier from the artwork, it is facile gluing on his back a rucksack if the modeller has in his spare box such an item as well as scratch-building a strap for the rifle from a melted sprue or other materials.

Likewise, his crouched comrade, armed with MP38/40, adopts an unconventional pose, holding the weapon and looking in the distance, a little bent in front and with the legs interestingly displayed due to the fact the figure is designed to stay behind a rock, separately provided and that can be snapped on the main base or simply used as a stand for the fig, in accordance with the guidelines. This miniature involves the most assembly, both his arms and right leg should be arranged in position. The parts match and fix well and by employing adhesive, no gaps emerge. If gluing the pieces, the suggested assembly sequence would be first the leg and then the right arm with the weapon followed by the left arm, with palm grabbing the magazine. He fitted only few items, gas mask container, canteen, and the left hand side ammunition pouch that comes with the appropriate and rightly emplaced small pouch for MP38/40 maintenance tools. On account of his weapon and the way the other soldiers are armed, this fig might embody the NCO of the unit, the rank being reiterated by the artwork, if paying little attention can be observed the NCO shoulder boards.      

Not only the outstanding poses, but also the sculpture impress, Zvezda’s Mountain Troops definitely appearing as one of the best, or even the most advanced, in terms of sculpture within their catalogue on WWII Germans. This really means something, bearing in mind that company’s products are highly appreciated from this point of view. Anatomy comes out faultless, astonishing with perfect balanced proportions, amazing facial details with clear ears, eyes, eye-brows, noses, mouths cheeks and chins. Furthermore, palms are simply gorgeous, not a hair over-scaled and with crisp fingers, on par with the most famous mass-production and cottage industry 1/72 WWII German army-men.

It is for the first time when Zvezda makes peak caps but it is widely renowned this manufacturer produces very good head covers, no matter the model. The caps show both eagles and front buttons but miss one of the most important symbols of Gebirgsjager, the Edelweiss on the left side. Nevertheless, it is more than easy painting that insignia and highly recommended in order to stress the membership to the famous mountain unit. In the same purpose, depicting on the upper right sleeve the Edelweiss insignia should not be forgotten by modellers. Even lacking a pre-sculptured sleeve Edelweiss, the uniforms abound in small details, collar and shoulder boards, genuine creases as well as correctly emplaced and sized buttons. Concerning footwear, the specialised mountain boots and puttees are in premiere at Zvezda and once again, no disappointment but satisfaction. It is a real pleasure seeing the finely shaped boots with crisp laces, and the cleats designed for mountainous terrain can be distinguished, reiterating company’s master-class in terms of sculpture and historical accuracy. 

The release of a top product must be sustained by proper moulding and casting, the manufacturer brilliantly achieving those, too. Flash and seam lines are average but easy removable while excess of material does not exist at all. Cast in a light gray hard plastic, the material is very glue-able with standard modelling glue (polly-cement) and ideally host enamel, acrylics, and artistic oils, maintaining those even if the product is heavy handled. The pieces fit and snap in locations great, the entire assembly process being extremely easy, at hand even for young hobbyists. On the main base accommodating the four figures and the Art of Tactic flag should also be snapped two rocks, the larger and higher one following to host the climber. Furthermore, this base can be effortlessly upgraded with more stones, vegetation or snow, turning it into a nice emplacement for a small vignette. As usual for the company, individual bases, including for the high cliff, are supplied, the connection of figs with either bases being possible via pegs. For other settings, in a diorama or somewhere else, the pegs must be removed, a simple surgery that does not affect the quality of the models.     

With reference to conversions, in case of buying more sets, which certainly is more than advocated, those are eased by the hard plastic utilised. Mixing heads between the figs of the set and modifying arms positions are operations without special needs, involving just a modeling knife and glue. Moreover, by setting arms from different Zvezda, Preiser, Caesar, or Dragon sets there can be achieved new and eye-catching stances. Besides, boot and head swapping with diverse Zvezda or other hard plastic figs comes out as a reliable solution for attaining such objective. Gear or weapons competitions for these troopers are delivered in huge numbers on separate sprues inside diverse figure sets by the last three mentioned manufacturers. Buying more boxes and appealing to conversion method for raising the number of Gebirgsjagers in modellers’ armies get special valences here, considering the low number of WWII German Mountain troopers at disposal in the scale. 

Concerning compatibility with other toy-soldiers, as repeatedly stated along the review, just Caesar has an 1/72 set on the matter, but its miniatures are in soft plastic and in the small side of the scale while the here presented Zvezda army-men belong to the tall side of the scale. Unfortunately, Airfix’s 1/76 set, which incorporates several captivating stances, is out of the question while the discrepancies in terms of bodies, weapons, and gear sizes are much too obvious. Eventually, Odemars/Ykreol’s “Bosnian Infantry” might expand the 1/72 WWII German Mountain Troopers number, but their sculpture is very poor in comparison with Zvezda’s figs. However, based on the great similitude of Bergmutze with tropical and M43 caps, the impossibility of spotting in Braille Scale the differences between mountain and regular trousers as well as the resemblance of gear and weapons, figures with such stuff and having ankle boots with or without gaiters can be turned into Gebirgsjagers, evidently painting the Edelweiss both on sleeves and caps and eventually giving to gaiters a puttees look. Such minis, also close in size with Zvezda’s Mountain Troops, are to be found inside the classic Airfix’s “Afrika Korps”, ESCI’s “Africa Corps Soldiers”, Revell’s “Africa Corps”, and Pegasus Hobbies’ “Germans in Berlin 1945”, but the list is by far longer and can be expanded with many other offers. It should also be kept in mind that Gebirgsjager were endowed and worn steel helmets not only Bergmutze, although most of references illustrate them with caps, even in combat. It is quite normal like that while the steel helmet constituted an extra burden on the mountain and it was often dropped off to the baggage train by WWII German Mountain troopers together with other items of their regulated equipment.

Truly special at this set are the forwarded poses, extremely natural, unusual, and combining in a brilliant manner the needs of gamers and diorama builders. In such a small set, composed by only four figures, it is really difficult catching the right feeling of mountain troops, but Zvezda fairly accomplished such a difficult task in an ingenious and innovative manner. For attaining so impressive results, the sculptor appealed to the best source, the reference images, and the two soldiers not involved in combat are clearly inspired by some famous photos. Signal magazine abounded in such images, both colour and black and white, so the set creator had at hand plenty of inspiration resources. Overall, “German Gebirgsjager 1939-1943” gives emphasises to the true dimension of Zvezda’s engineering and top quality, the proposed miniatures being on equal foot with the most detailed mass-production and cottage industry products in the field, but at a very affordable price. Likewise, the topic is more than attractive and scarcely covered, so extra points for making this tender an attention-grabbing one. Absolutely, the substantial number of Heer and Waffen SS Gebirgsjager Divisions still wait for larger 1/72 sets including specialised equipment, weapons, and pack-animals for better picturing the immense contribution brought during the war and for respecting the elite status of those brave men.    

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