U.S. Infantry Battle of the Bulge
Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII

Custom Dioramics

Until the release of this pair of figures in 2001, the only running GIs you could find were in the ancient Tamiya set of the 1970s. Likewise, there were only a couple of U.S. figures in white camouflage sheets from Verlinden and MK35, and there are still no GIs in white camo suits. Consequently I was very excited when this “action packed” release was pre-announced as I could use these figure in a diorama I’ve been working on and ordered them sight unseen.

Unfortunately, this set is a major disappointment. No, the main problem is that Custom Dioramics has borrowed a tendency of Verlinden Productions to reuse major body parts and reconfiguring them in new releases. At least VP spreads this out among different kits. CD, however, has done something I haven’t seen since the old Tamiya Afrika Korps set: the two figures are essentially in the same pose and share the same legs and torso. The effect, after constructing and standing them side-by-side or running in line, is sadly ludicrous. The differences in heads, arms and some gear cannot compensate for the fact that you can’t position these figures next to one another without it being apparent that the fact that their legs and the folds in the pants would not be identical in real life.

The box art attempts to fool us into thinking these are two distinct figures. One is positioned running towards the viewer, the other is more in profile. The identical nature of the legs is further minimized by painting one set in woolen trousers, and the other in OD fatigues. Both wear the M1943 boot with the buckled gaiter.

The torsos are essentially the same except one has two bandoliers strung across his chest, and the other has one bandolier and a strap for a musette bag, which rides on his hip. The cuff tabs are the same found on the khaki M1941 combat jacket, but CD has painted them OD like the M1943 coat.

The faces are well-sculpted by Brian Stewart, and one in particular has an openmouthed, wide-eyed look that is wholly appropriate for a combat scene, whether running into battle or fleeing oncoming panzers. Overall the sculpting is excellent and nicely detailed as is typical with Mr. Stewart’s work, though there are more mold seams than one typically finds on resin figures. One can understand why this “cloning” of figures happens. It’s obviously economics, more quickly recouping the costs of research and sculpting by swapping parts around. It’s a shame CD has resorted to this within a single offering. And it’s baffling that they’re charging $25 for this set, compared to the $19 they charge for the pair of figures in “Chow Time” or $24 for each of the two trios of figures in the “HQ Personnel” series. When I sent a note to Bob Letterman at VLS (parent company to Custom Dioramics) expressing my dismay with both the approach and price of this set, his wife Susan simply replied that I could send them back if I was not satisfied.

Unfortunately, it appears that Custom Dioramics may have more of this cloning in store for us. A close look at the box art for “Chow Time” and “US Reconnaissance Team” suggests the poses are again the same, with changes in arms, heads and gear to create a new set; both sets find their parentage in “WWII US Tank Crew #1”). But at least they are two sets that will be unlikely used together.



Modeling the U.S. Army in WWII © 2002—2007 Timothy S. Streeter