Monday, September 23, 2013

92nd Infantry Div update PLUS a tribute to Bill Mauldin

Before explaining the cartoon, here's an update on my budding US Bolt Action Army, based on the 92 Inf Div, made up of African American soldiers. It's a compact group and I have primed the same amount of soldiers, waiting to get painted, so when those are done, I should have a decent size army. 
In the image you can see the M5 3In Anti Tank gun that I finished up over the weekend. More about that model and it's history in my next post. I have played two games now with Bolt Action and I find it really fun to play. The game is easy to play which makes it actually more fun - my buddy John mentioned "it gives you more time to have fun with your friends". 

John handed me a book last week, written by Bill Mauldin. It's a first edition of Up Front, published in 1945 and writting during Mauldin's time in the Italian Campaign in 1944-45.
 In the book, Mauldin (as a 23 year old) gives it to the reader straight, there are no wise reflections on war and peace, on life and death. Instead there are Mauldin's (sometimes explicit) thoughts on the things he went through, his feelings about day to day life of the common infantry soldier and his dislike for Germans. SInce he was still in the thick of it when he wrote it, there is no looking back yet and I find it makes for very interesting reading.

Mauldin's cartoons expose the war and all it's drudgery, non heroic moments and the lack of basically everything from food to good cloths. He was always annoyed with the promo type information that floated around in the states about the heroism and virtues of the American liberators - he knew things were not so clear in wartime.

Every page in the book has a cartoon of his famous creations Willy and Joe, the amiable dogfaces that walk through the war and share their wisdom. The cartoons are amazing and tell us a lot about how it really was during those years. 
Mauldin became very, very famous with this cartoon, printed the day after Kennedy was shot.
He died in 2003, the recipient of TWO pullitzer prizes. 

There are many editions of the book Up Front available on Ebay and I really recommend spending 20 bucks on a copy.

SC Mike

Monday, September 9, 2013

A close up look at a World War Two family heirloom

My father in law gave me a book his dad got when he was fighting in Northern Italy in 1945. It's called Pup Tent Poets Mediterranean and it was published in 1945 by Stars and Stripes. It was the second version, there also was a Norhtern Africa edition. Here's a look at the inside cover:

In this wonderful paperback normal soldiers express their feelings in great and thoughtful poems. Most of these men were no academics or super literate men, but the quality of the poetry is really great. There are a lot of poems in it, from 3 line ones to 3 pages long. The stuff is all heartfelt and true and there is a lot of love, fear and sadness and very little boasting. Plenty of poems about the handsome Italian girls as well!

I couldn't find much about the history of these books, bar that the art was done by someone who later became a well known illustrator and a few poets in it actually were or became professional wordsmiths. You can find a few copies still on Ebay and in 2002 a reissue was done.

Here's a look at the opening page:

and here's the last page with a vicious drawing and a somber poem, which ends all romantic notions people might have had about warfare.

My wife's grandfather was in the 10th Mountain division and fought the Anzio campaign all the way up to Lake Garda. In later years he would keep this well thumbed book dear to his heart. I noticed some faded writing on the back with a small drawing of a bicycle and two people. The word clearly spells escape. My wife's grandfater died 20 years ago, so no answers there. He does not have a poem in this book.

I want to end with some modeling: a small conversion I did with my Bolt Action models. Here's a sniper and spotter:

it was fun to put some foilage around them! Anyway, the spotter is actually a standing model, which I cut in half and re-positioned. I used some gun arms to have him rest on his elbow and the hand holding the binoculars, I had to rotate 180 degrees.

With a sloped base, it looked pretty good to me!

Next up the paintjob.

SC Mike

Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Bolt Action Game - cinematics

Well, SCWH Historical played it's first Bolt Action game last night...and it was great fun. The pace was extremely slow, we had to look up pretty much everything and we had to keep it really simple, but at the end of the day it inspired us to paint up some more models and do a bit more studying.

Germans vs Americans, with small armies, with a couple of squads each, a tank and a few special weapons teams. Here are a few pictures (breath easy, no battle report..) that really make it clear this game is succesful because you really get to live in it. As Allessio Cavatore keeps saying, the game is very cinematic.

First squad observing the target building

the commander is pondering his options

but of course the Germans are way ahead and are preparing to fight off the attack

And here is a counts-as-Tiger, rumbling along

This man lost his buddy with bazooka to a german sniper, and the german commander is looking for the second man

As you can tell from the pictures, there is of reality of the events when they happen. I am not talking about the rules, but more the occasion, the fact there really was a war and not some made up fantasy story. It helps me enjoy the game a bit more and i identified myself with some of the models - strange but fun. After six turns the Germans were victorious, but it was close.

I enjoyed this (long) video in which Alessio Cavatore, the designer of the game, hosts a demo game with Beasts of War. Besides the rules and such, it really gives me a sense of how this game should be played: lighthearted with a concious eye on history. Check it out:

Beasts of War: Bolt Action demo game part 1

Beasts of War: Bolt Action demo game part 2

Sc Mike