When we think of Japanese soldiers in WW2 we most often envision veteran jungle fighters in threadbare, tattered thin cotton uniforms charging out of the jungle in a last ditch effort to slow the unstoppable allied island hopping campaign as it drove unrelentingly towards the Japanese mainland. It is an iconic image that has been portrayed on television, in countless books and numerous films. Although this popular image was an accurate portrayal of some Japanese forces, it is not representative of a huge number of the Japanese soldiers that fought in WW2. The War for Japan started in the early 1930's in Manchuria, throughout China and along the Russian border. Areas not known for their warm and temperate climate. Clearly the soldiers that fought there wore something that was a little more appropriate to their environment. In the case of Japanese soldiers, many wore greatcoats over their standard uniform. Wanting to make something that looked different on the table top, I sought to recreate soldiers wearing these uniforms and cold weather gear.
Now, no-one makes Japanese forces wearing woolen greatcoats and fur-trimmed vests and overcoats but Warlord Games makes plastic greatcoat Soviets and plastic Japanese. By buying a few boxes of both, I was able to combine the parts to make something that looked truly different. You can see the Warlord Games plastic winter Soviet sprue to the right. Each sprue in the box contains eight guys. Five of these eight soldiers are wearing greatcoats. The other three wear padded uniforms, as these guys don't work for my purposes, I discarded them and focused on the rest. Of the remaining five troops, three of the poses work right out of the box. You can see them below.
Using the greatcoat bodies I was able to interchangeably use plastic Japanese gear and greatcoat arms, Japanese arms with rifles, Japanese helmeted heads (metal and plastic) and in some cases German plastic rifle arms to create models in a variety of poses. The interchangeable nature of Warlord's plastic models are GREAT for this kind of thing. I know that a few people have created German greatcoat forces using German plastic bits and the Soviet box I am discussing here. It is a GREAT box! (The casting and detailing is fantastic too!)
Without further ado, here are some of my riflemen. First, The "kneeling guy."
Next up, the "standing guy."
And finally here is the "laying prone guy."
What about the other two guys you may be asking? Well, they are wearing giant, heavy boots. Sadly, I have not found evidence of Japanese soldiers wearing mud boots found frequently on the Eastern Front. While, I was tempted to discard these models out of hand, I wanted to add more variety to the poses of forces, especially within the group of 40 odd riflemen I needed for my army. This is where the hard work began.
I started by finding a suitably matching set of feet from the plastic Japanese sprue.
I then cut the feet off of both models. Again, I discarded the unused bits.
I then glued the Japanese lower legs to the greatcoat body.
And... SHAZAM!!! A running soldier!
On to the last greatcoat soldier. Like the "running man", I found a suitable, matching set of legs from the Japanese sprue before cutting and gluing the legs into place.
He ended up looking like this.
Although mixing, matching and fitting parts has not been the fastest process in the world, it is not terribly difficult to do and I am a huge fan of the end result. A unique looking army. Tune in next time when I look at how I made leadership models, gun crews and other models necessary to round out this army.
Survivor of a thousand game systems, a thousand journeys and a thousand years,
Old Man Morin...
Salty and experienced.