Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

History Books with a Family Twist

I think I have mentioned before that I had three great uncles involved in WWII. My cousin Mary Ann took the letters that her father wrote and pulled together a little pdf document that incorporated the letters, pictures and framed them within the context of the war and what was going on at that time.
She did a great job on that. Uncle Jerry was in the 34th Infantry Division, in the 125th Artillery Battalion. What I find most interesting in the letters is that he never really spoke about the war itself, the conditions, the food, the weather but not the actions he was involved in. Granted some of that wouldn't have made it by the censors anyway but there is still only one letter that briefly mentioned "that by now you would have heard about" types of actions.
34th Infantry Division Association

All three of the brothers were actually in the army before the war broke out and Jerry was close to being discharged at the time.

Donald was the middle brother and was in the army and Louisiana at the same time as Jerry when the war broke out and had his enlistment extended for the duration. He ended up in the 164th Infantry regiment (North Dakota National Guard, still not quite sure how he ended up there) which would become part of the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) in the Pacific. Don died of wounds sustained in the Philippines in 1945. All we have are his letters and pictures that were sent home. Mary Ann is working on putting together a pdf of Donald too. His unit was the first Army unit to join the Marines on Guadalcanal and was graced with the title of the 164th Marines by the 1st Marine Division. There is a book "They Were Ready" by Terry Shoptough about the 164th and while my great uncle is not mentioned in it, it is fascinating to read and think about what he must have gone through. My mother gave me Don's purple heart.
164th Infantry, N Dakota National Guard
164th Infantry Rgt on the left, 23rd Inf Division (Americal) on the right

Stanley was the youngest brother and he ended up in the Army Air Corps after the war started. He would be the only officer of the three. He was part of the 8th Air Force as a bombardier in a B-17 flying missions over Europe from December of 1943 - April of 1944. He was part of aircrew 8 in the 568th Squadron in the 390th Heavy Bombardment Group (J on the tail). The 390th has its own museum in Arizona which includes a fully restored (but non-flying) B-17. I haven't been done there yet but I intend to make that trip in the near future. Their website has an amazing amount of information and I was able to find all the missions that he flew, who the other crew members were (and after reading that you will find out just out rare it was for an entire crew to serve together for 25 -30 missions), and the aircraft he flew in. The aircraft was something that surprised me. Only the ground crew were assigned to a specific aircraft, mission crews could be assigned to any of the B-17s in the squadron although 14 of Stanley's 30 missions did take place in the same aircraft. Like the 164th, the 390th has its own book as and Stanley is mentioned in it receiving a Distinguished Flying Cross with three clusters. I'm not sure about other crews but bomber crews were apparently awarded a DFC for every 10 missions completed. 
390th Heavy Bombardment Group
568th Squadron patch
390th Heavy Bombardment Group patch

I'm not sure if Mary Ann is going to put together a pdf for Stanley or not but I hope she does just to keep the stories going and accessible to the family.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kickstarter Watch 3 - French Vehicles in 28mm - Nearing the end

Here we are at the end of the month and my blog doesn't have much to show for it again. I'm alive and well and just way to busy at the moment. But I have been keeping abreast of happenings on Kickstarter and the French Vehicles in 28mm is down to three days.

They have just slid over the 5,000 pound mark so I’m now in for three of the 7.5cm Pak 40 aug Somua MCG, otherwise known as the 7.5cm Pak 40 auf S307 (f). My German forces for the Kampfgruppe Von Luck campaign are quite happy at the moment (despite still being packed away and unopened, the fate of most of my armies).

It would be nice to see some of the more interesting French tanks also become available. At 6,000 pounds is this very cool ACG-1/AMC-35. I haven't seen this one before but it appears to be quite modern compared to some of the other French tanks available at the beginning of the war.

Let's get out there and end this kickstarter with a real bang and add some more vehicles to the catalog!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Inspiration and the buildings of Calamity

This is a book on Architectural theory and the concepts are built around many of the towns made famous in western movies. Town that only exist on film and in our minds. I found it fascinating but probably wouldn't recommend it to the average model builder. But for building Calamity I find it ideal.

Calamity started from a desire to build a detailed, yet transportable, gaming table that would be a real standout game at the local conventions and maybe even farther out than that. I have always appreciated the work that goes into making some of those great display games that we see in the magazines and I really want to see if I can pull off that same level of craftsmanship. My model railroad hobby has helped me really work up plans for not only making it look good but how I can build something that can be transported and survive being transported multiple times. Model railroading has also had a heavy influence on what I want and how I’m going to present things.

I have to admit that when it comes to my western town of Calamity things have moved along a lot slower than I anticipated. Some of my planning approached upwards of 40 buildings spread across three 2’x4’ modular boards. My initial thoughts were to build as much as possible with the wide variety of western MDF kits that are on the market from companies like; Sarissa Precision, 4Ground, Battle Flag and Knuckleduster. All of them make great kits but they are also very cookie cutter in appearance. As I assembled and re-worked them I felt a growing need to make things a lot more individual in appearance. I started Calamity with the concept that the town was as important to the game as the miniatures and the personalities they would someday represent. Scratchbuilt buildings would be the Main Characters and the MDF buildings would be the supporting cast. I still think that concept holds true now, but even supporting cast members have their own costumes and personalities. I think that it become more obvious to me as I started to modify the MDF buildings to make them look at little better that I really wanted to make everything unique.
Scratch built primarily from foamed PVC sheets
MDF buildings, Battle Flag on the left, 4Ground on the right

Its a lot of work and there is the possibility that it will never really be finished too. But it’s a project that I can really pour myself into and be very proud of as it comes together. Still coming up with 40 buildings is tough! I needed inspiration and the best place to get inspiration are books and when that fails the internet can reveal even more amazing things. Model railroading provided me with a source of books and magazines that most wargamers wouldn’t even think about. Do an internet search on western ghost towns and you will find plenty of inspiration for buildings. Bodie California is a particularly good one. Another great resource are movies and the sets they were shot on. There are quite a few that are still active and many more that have been turned into parks and even more than only exist in pictures. Watch your favorite western and pay attention to the buildings and see what really grabs your interest, then stay through the credits and find out where that movie was shot. I have a links to some of the better ones here in the side panel of the blog.
From Carsten Publishing. It was easy to find even a year ago, but I'm not sure if anyone has picked up the line for publication since Carsten shut down. This one is not quite as useful as there are a number of more modern buildings in it than our roughly 1860-1890 time period.

My favorite reference by Joseph Crea. This one is a 2nd edition or 2nd printing and its long since out of print. I was able to locate a couple of 1st editions online over that past weekend though.

A compilation over that past year involving On30 trains and buildings. This is my preferred scale for our western trains.

And my favorite RR magazine, this is the one that features the line drawings for the buildings of Bodie CA.
Something else to keep in mind is that there were cookie cutter buildings out there. You could order whole house right of the Sears and Roebucks catalog and have it delivered to your building site. There were cabin’s for miners and shotgun shacks (so called because you could shot through the whole building with a shotgun). Mining towns in Colorado like Silver Plume, Leadville, and Silverton still have shotgun shacks still standing. Many buildings though were built on site with local materials. Don’t forget stone and brick buildings either, competitions between towns to become county seats or what not were not uncommon at all and stone and brick buildings were the currency used in the competition.

I think I have found some of my best inspiration though from model railroad kits. They are typically the wrong scale but I have scale rulers and I’m perfectly happy to do the conversion work on the measurements. As an example the two houses I build were based on a Grandt Line plastic kit. The Hardware store is based on a kit from Wild West Scale Models. There are a couple of resin kits from Main Street Heritage Models that I’m likely to take a run at as well. For some of these the measurements right off the website work quite nicely. The advantage of basing things off model railroad kits is that they are already compressed. That means that the designer has already shorten and/or narrowed the building to fit into a smaller space and look right. Prototype buildings even for western towns can be quite large at times, larger than we really want to deal with. For example Bodie California has been featured in a long running series of articles in one of my favorite magazines, “The Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette”. His measurements are for the full sized building and in some cases those buildings are just going to be massive even when scaled down to 1/56th scale. Selective compression of the building keeps the “look” we want while making it fit into the space we have. Something that we often inadvertently do in miniature gaming as the “ground scale” doesn’t always match the scale or size of our minis (yes, I still refuse to say the 28mm or 32mm is a scale. It’s a measurement not a scale, 1/56th is a scale).
From Main Street Heritage, this one is the next one I tackle.

From Wild West Scale Model Builders, this one should look quite familiar

From Grandt Line's Gold Rush line, again these should look quite familiar too.

So the buildings of Calamity will come from a variety of sources; model railroad kits, plans in books, plans in magazines and even my own imagination. Really all you need to do is sit down and look and some pictures or google some images till you find something you like and then just dive in. Everything will get easier after that!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Kickstarter Watch 2 - French Vehicles in 28mm

Its been very quite here lately there has been a lot of stuff going on that has kept me away from the workbench. Fortunately they are good things and not bad things and a little struggling is good for the soul anyway.

I have the Hardware store still on the workbench to be finished along with another section of British Paratroopers. My intention to participate in the Iron Painters League on LAF though has definitely fallen by the wayside, Which is to bad since I actually purchased some miniatures just for that, maybe I'll be able to jump in next year. I have also been toying with post on where I get my inspiration for my buildings but that has started and stopped several times at this point. Hopefully it will see the light of day in the next month or so though. I'm also turning my thoughts towards ReaperCon which is in October this year and sketching out some ideas for that as well.

Now on to the real meat of this post, another Kickstarter! I have been slowly working on collecting the troops I need to run some of the mini campaigns for Chain of Command, in particular Kampfgruppe von Luck, the attack on Le Bas de Ranville. This one appeals to me since it involves the British paratroopers I have been collecting along with some of the converted French armor built for the 21st Panzer division by Alfred Becker. Since the collecting and modeling has benn slow anyway I have tried to keep my eye open for French vehicles that fit the bill. I found a new kickstarter featuring French vehicles in 1/56th scale, on one of the blogs I follow: dhcwargamesblog

That lead me to this kickstarter: French Vehicles of WWII by Madbobminiatures

That certainly seems to fit the bill, although it doesn't feature the vehicle I really want, the SdKfz 135/1, it does include the Pak 40 auf S307 (f). I read some reviews about Mad Bob Miniatures' first kickstarter and it sounds like they did a great job completing it and the vehicles were high quality. While I haven't pulled the trigger on this one just yet because funds are tight right now I'm hoping to be able to jump in and get at least one S307 out of them.

Here are a few pictures I pulled off the kickstarter:

They have definitely picked stuff that has not been produced before and should look really good on the gaming table. I suspect some of them will make good fodder for some Alfred Becker conversions!
You can find their existing line of 1/56th scale vehicles at: MadBobMiniatures