Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Further "further thoughts on samurai"

The new samurai are here!! The new samurai are here!!

On May 10th, I wrote a post, "Further thoughts on samurai". After a rather ridiculous amount of elapsed time, both Baccus and Pendraken have finally supplied my small one-item orders. Pendraken took 3 weeks from submission of my order to mail it out (and then only after I sent a semi-polite WTF email) and Baccus took 2 1/2 weeks. Both orders took a further 2 1/2 weeks in the mail. I get things from China in 5-6 days! Well, I can't really blame the companies for postal inefficiency, but 3 weeks from order to shipping? Really!?! Ok, I'm finished bitching (whinging) now. 

When I began this, I intended it to be a comparison between 6mm and 10mm samurai, so I could decide which scale to go forward with. That being the case, I ordered as close to the same item from each company as possible. From Pendraken, I got foot samurai with bows (pack# SAM4). Baccus doesn't make foot samurai with bows, so the closest that I could get is ashigaru with bows (pack# SAM14):
Samurai armies must have used the bow as a direct fire weapon, as opposed to the European tradition of them being used for indirect fire. Both figures seem to be firing at a fairly flat trajectory. 

Pendraken's pack includes 30 figures (15 if it's cavalry) all in just one pose. There are no sashimono, but the figures are nicely detailed. The tiny quivers clearly have arrows in them. Overall, maybe not the most animated pose, but quite an attractive figure. 

The Baccus pack holds 96 figures (45 for cavalry and 15 for personalities), 92 of which are the same pose, but each figure has a sashimono. The other 4 figures are nobori guys:
Being smaller, the detail isn't as intricate, but for 6mm, they are very good. All the main features are clearly visible and well defined. I very much like that every figure has a sashimono and that a few nobori are included all in the one price. What I'm less pleased about is that the figures are cast as strips of four, which is all well and good, except that they're cast as files and not ranks:
They aren't standing side by side, but rather, one behind another. So it's not going to be a matter of painting whole strips and then gluing them down as is. The figures will have to be separated and glued down individually. You really can't even use them two by two because of the flat trajectory they're firing at. It makes them all appear to be shooting each other in the back of the head. Yes, I could bend all their bow arms up, but when you're doing 96+ figures at a time, that's damned tedious.

So, where do we go from here? Given that with Pendraken figures, I'll have to puchase separate sashimono packs (I don't know how many to a pack, but certainly not "masses") and being larger, they're slightly less bang for the buck, I'm going to go with Baccus. Neither line is exhaustive and some significant (and irritating) gaps exist in both, but overall, given my MEA ("mass-effect addiction"), 6mm is the better choice, if slightly more of a headache to paint.

I've also received my rules:
so let's get reading!

Anyone in the market for a totally unused bag of Pendraken 10mm foot samurai with bow? First come, first served. Make me a reasonable offer and these little guys are yours. Otherwise, off to eBay we go. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The elusive M16 MGMC

That damned elusive pimpernel!

Allow me to explain. Mrs. History PhD seems to have developed a fondness for/interest in vehicles from the Vietnam War which could be termed "uncommon", possibly even "obscure". After reading a number of anecdotal accounts by U.S. veterans attesting to having seen the M16 MGMC serving as perimeter defense and convoy fire support vehicles, she has chosen this as her next FOW project:

The M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage was a WWII American-built self-propelled antiaircraft vehicle based on the M3 halftrack and mounting four .50cal machine guns. 
In its intended role, its effectiveness was debatable, but as an infantry fire support vehicle, it excelled. One of its several nicknames was the "Kraut Mower" and it proved invaluable in the later stages of WWII, as well as in Korea. Here's a good short video of an MGMC in action in March 1951: 

When South Vietnam, or more properly, the Republic of Vietnam, was founded in 1955, its fledgling army found itself forced to make do with various hand-me-down American-made equipment that had been given to (and then abandoned by) the French, the vast majority of which was in extremely sorry shape. In the hope of frustrating Chinese and Soviet intentions in Vietnam, the United States supplied quite a considerable amount of surplus WWII equipment to the government in Saigon between 1956 and 1958. An exact inventory seems not to exist (or to have been intentionally "lost"), but among the items known for certain to have been included are M24 Chaffee tanks, M3 halftracks, M8 Greyhound armored cars, C-47 and T-28 aircraft, H-19 helicopters, as well as a very large amount of small arms, ammunition, and spare parts. However, there is no definitive record of exactly what was sent. As far as is known, M16 MGMCs could have been supplied, but no photograph of one operating in Vietnam has ever surfaced. We have only the first-hand accounts of a number of veterans. There are a few photographs of ARVN halftracks:
This one is dated "South Vietnam, 1968 or 1969" and shows the distinctive yellow license plate of the ARVN. To this day, both the Army and Air Force museums in Hanoi display M3s claimed to have been captured at Dien Bien Phu:
though it's highly unlikely that these vehicles were ever French. They are in too good a condition (relatively) and they sport a characteristically ARVN camouflage pattern. Note the matching pattern on the APC (that is very obviously NOT French) in the background of the second photo. 

So, having done her research and still unable to find anything concrete, Mrs. History PhD asked me for my best assessment, so here it is. Just as she can't prove that MGMCs were used in Vietnam, no one else can prove that they weren't. There are eye-witness accounts by veterans who have no reason to lie about an issue that's essentially meaningless anyway. We know that the U.S. did supply MGMCs to France just after WWII. The French could have shipped some of them to Indochina. Or the U.S. certainly could've included some in the 1956-58 arms shipments. My best educated guess is that there were some used by the South Vietnamese. The U.S. may have "borrowed" a few of them, having seen how effective they were, much like the situation that occurred with the V-100 Commando armored cars. I think a strong circumstantial case can be made for M16 MGMCs being operated in small numbers by the ARVN, as well as the possibility of a few of them being appropriated and crewed by U.S. troops.

Thus reassured, Mrs. History PhD has forged ahead and produced her ARVN M16 MGMC:
As you can see, the driver has yet to be finished and added. He awaits the arrival of a bottle of paint that Mrs. History PhD feels better matches the ARVN uniform (Vallejo 886 Green Grey). 

I've been asked a time or two what the antennas are made from. An old whitewash brush that has for many years laid around the shop at the company where I work:
I periodically appropriate a small cutting. Someday I will have denuded the thing to an obvious extent and then awkward questions will be asked. 

That's all for this post. More from the hobby desk next time. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Let's start a Soviet airborne battalion

This weekend, I've decided to begin a Soviet VDV (airborne and air-assault) battalion which will, in time, support my East Germans in their drive across the North German Plain and up the Jutland Peninsula. 

In 1981, VDV battalions would have had either the BTR-D:
or the BMD-1:
as their APC/IFV. However, as the BTR-D was significantly cheaper and faster to build, it would have been the more common of the two types. Battalions were always equipped with one vehicle or the other, but never with both.

Being a wargamer, I want to have my cake and eat it too. I'd like both vehicles, but I can't see ever needing two VDV battalions, so I'll tweak reality slightly and do a mixed battalion: two companies of BTR-D and one of BMD-1. Ok, so sue me, but it's MY Soviet Army, not the REAL Soviet Army. If, in future, I find the need for another battalion, I'll just separate this one by vehicle types and then flesh both of them out. 

Here's the company that I finished this weekend:
VDV battalions were often accompanied by a separate light antiaircraft platoon equipped with MANPADS (in 1981, the SA-14 Gremlin), 
but it was quite common to see each company with an additional SAM of its own, which was attached to company command:
The command vehicle would've been a BMD-1K (photos of which seem to be non-existent), which sported two long "clothes rail"-type antennas, but O8 doesn't make them, so I just went with a BTR-D. 

Mrs history PhD has chosen (and I've ordered) her next FOW Vietnam project, so stay tuned for that. More next weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The latest FOW: M42A1 Duster

Mrs History PhD has finished her second Flames of War Vietnam vehicle, an M42A1 Duster:

The first Dusters arrived in Vietnam in the autumn of 1966, primarily to soothe the Army's anxiety about the North Vietnamese Air Force's possible ground strike capability. When the North showed it was totally focused on aerial combat over Hanoi and Haiphong, other uses were found for the Duster's twin 40mm guns. It was soon discovered that the wet jungle terrain was too much for the Continental 500hp gasoline engine, serious overheating being a widespread problem, and several vehicles were disabled due to engine fires. The Duster was quickly restricted to lighter duty, but it turned out to be a first-rate base perimeter defense and convoy fire support vehicle. 240 40mm rounds per minute can be pretty daunting. 
Three battalions of Air Defense Artillery (Self-Propelled) were sent to Vietnam and served there until 1973, when some of the Dusters were returned to the US and some were given to the ARVN. 

Mrs History PhD asked for Vietnam photos of the Duster and here are the ones I provided:
And one I couldn't resist:
A captured Duster and an M107 in the background. It must have been during the Tet Offensive, as after that the Viet Cong had pretty well ceased to exist (note the VC flag), so it's unlikely to be 1974-75. 

And here's what the wife has turned out:
She even magnetized the turret!
It seems that the majority of Dusters in Vietnam didn't use the flash suppressors, though some did. I mentioned to Mrs. History PhD that she could easily remove them from the model (we have an X-acto razor saw), but she quite rightly concluded that leaving them on would provide stability and rigidity for the otherwise very easily bent/broken barrels. She also thought about adding an awning, but decided against it. Awnings were common for static base defense vehicles, but would be highly unlikely on a convoy escort vehicle. This is also the first time she's used MIG Productions black smoke pigment on the exhausts:
which I think turned out quite well. I think part of why she wanted to do a Duster is because two dozen of them are still in service with the Thai Army. 

She says she's not entirely happy, as the ready ammunition boxes are empty (they're awaiting the arrival of some brass wire from which to make 40mm shells). Also, she wanted to add an M60 mount on the right side of the turret, but no one seems to make loose accessory M60s in 15mm. I told her to bide her time and we would pirate an M60 from a future helicopter or infantry set that she paints. It'll be easily retrofitted. 

So, needless to say, when I asked if she had gotten 15mm out of her system now, I got "the look":
I guess I'll buy another FOW vehicle, huh? Stand by for the next one.