Thursday 26 November 2020

Second World War ETO Americans in 20mm

I had never intended collecting an American force for Chain of Command. It was just one of those things that happened serendipitously when I was attending the Cancon convention a few years ago. I was browsing at the Eureka Miniatures stand and found a box containing discounted AB Figures. My initial excitement turned to disappointment as I discovered most of the figures were from the American range, however it soon dawned on me that there was enough in the box to build a platoon and many supports. The figures were half price and so the rest is history.

The platoon has been based on the US Rifle Platoon as listed in the Chain of Command rule book and composed almost entirely of figures from the AB Figures range. I've also ensured I have enough figures to make up one of the larger Armored Rifle Platoons with its array of additional weapons teams.

The rifle platoon headquarters in made up of two senior leaders, a Lieutenant and a platoon Sergeant and includes a two man bazooka team.

As you can see below I have created a number of different options for portraying the lieutenant and the sergeant. The other additional figures can be used to represent any senior leaders that might be required.

Here is a picture of several of those small arms from the display at the Palm Springs Air Museum, including a Thompson, M1 carbine and the M1 Garand.

As well as the HQ bazooka team other teams are available as supports and so I have a number of bazooka crews. Some of these are based as a pair but, much like a panzerschreck or PIAT team, I find they are often deployed into terrain where it is easier to place them as individual figures, so I have allowed for both options.

The Army Museum in Hawaii has a small but very good collection and it includes this bazooka:

The rifle platoon is made up of three squads, each led by a junior leader with a submachine gun. I have one with a M1 Garand and he's included mainly because he has such an obvious pose for an NCO. As with all my junior leaders these are based on the same 20mm round bases as the riflemen. However I distinguish them with a few rocks on their base and try to select figures with suitable poses for leaders.

The rifle squads themselves are made up of eleven men and their NCO. Ten men are armed with the M1 Garand and one carries a BAR. They are divided into the BAR team (with two crew for the BAR and one rifleman) and a rifle team composed of eight men with M1 Garands. The NCO is armed with a submachine gun.

Here's the BAR and an M1 Garand at the Army Museum in Hawaii:

For Chain of Command I make these platoon boards to organise the platoon before it is deployed on to the table. Although I made them originally to help introduce new players to the rules I've found them very useful for all my games. You can see how I make them in this post.

The Americans are not short of support options and AB cover these well. There is a forward observer team.

A 60mm mortar with a five man crew is both a support option for the rifle platoon and an inherent part of the armored infantry platoon.

The armored rifle platoon has a machine gun squad made up of two 30 cal MMG teams with five crew each. The weapon is also available as a support option for the rifle platoon.

AB produce a prone crew and one standing, offering a few variations.

The Army Museum in Hawaii also has a 30cal on display:

The other available machine gun is the powerful .50cal HMG:

The AB range has a very good selection for engineer teams. A mine clearing team:

A Wire clearing team:

A Demolition team:

A Flamethrower team:

I couldn't resist the addition of flames to really make the flamethrower team look menacing and to illustrate the AARs:

Here's the manpack flamethrower from the Army Museum in Hawaii:

Heavier support weapons include a 57mm AT gun. The gun is part of the Plastic Soldier Company six pounder set which includes an alternative barrel to make up the 57mm AT gun. The crew are all from AB.

The Military Museum in Beijing has a 57mm gun on display:

This 3" AT gun is from Wartime Miniatures (now Simons Soldiers), as are most of the crew:

As you would expect the tank force revolves around variations of the M4 Sherman, the workhorse of the US armoured units. These come from a variety of plastic kit makers including the Plastic Soldier Company (PSC), Italeri and Armourfast (the crews are all from from AB).

A PSC M4A1(76):

The M4A1 has a cast hull, unlike the welded hulls of other versions. There is an earlier version of the M4A1 with the 75mm gun on display in the Australian Armour and Artillery Museum where you can see the curved shape of the cast hull quite clearly.

Below is actually a PSC M4A4 that I had spare from my British project, so I've tried to disguise the rear engine deck under lots of stowage:

Here it is alongside an Armourfast M4:

While not exactly the same models of Sherman here are a few I have seen on my travels. This first one is at the Tank Museum at Saumur. 

I have found Italeri's fast kits that come with two in a box make good gaming kits. This is their M4A3(76).

The only M4A3 I have seen is in the Military Museum in Beijing (well it's actually called the Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution, but that's a bit of a mouthful).

That version has the HVSS suspension but they do have another with the earlier suspension but it appears to have seen much better days (I suspect the American tanks in this museum are all from the Korean War, although no doubt of WWII vintage).

Here it is the Italeri M4A3 alongside the Plastic Soldier Company Sherman:

This M4A3(105) is from Armourfast, again with a crew from AB:

Similarly this M10 is also from Armourfast (and once again with a crew from AB):

This one is at the Tank Museum in Saumur:

This M5A1 light tank is from the Plastic Soldier Company.

I have seen a few of these in various museums including this one below at the Tank Museum at Saumur:


The one below is at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa:

Armoured cars are likely to make an appearance in a skirmish scale game like Chain of Command. This M8 Greyhound and M20 are both in metal and from MMS (which is sadly no longer in operation). 

Here's an M8, also on display at the Tank Museum at Saumur:

The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum has a version of the Greyhound in running order.

The one below is in Beijing and seems to be missing quite a few parts:

I had the very old Matchbox 1/76 M16 Halftrack but the halftrack didn't seem sturdy enough and as I had a spare M5 halftrack lying around unused I thought why not do a simple kit bash and add the very nice AB crew? Technically not the correct model of halftrack but I struggle to see the major differences between the M3 and M5 as it is and for gaming I'm happy to be a little bit flexible.

The quadruple 50cal AA guns are a frightening weapon. I haven't seen a surviving M16 but I have seen the quad 50cal gun, this one below is on display at the Military Museum in Valencia, Spain:

Last but not least there are a few items of transport. The truck is from Pegasus Hobbies. The M5 halftrack is from the Plastic Soldier Company with a lovely animated set of passengers from AB Figures (and again, yes, I know, it should really be an M3.....)

The Tank Museum in Saumur has a halftrack and judging by the name it has some history from the French wars in Indochina:

I like having casualty figures to help illustrate the game report AARs here on the blog, but I do have mixed feelings about using them. I definitely don't feel the need to add gore or severed limbs, I think it's clear enough what they are supposed to represent. These are a mix of AB Figures and Wartime Miniatures.

I have come around to the idea of theming jump-off-points with figures and I've used a few from Wartime Miniatures to give a distinct national character to these:

So, I think we have here the perfect example of how wargaming works. You decide you won't collect a particular force, then you decide you'll just add a few units and then, before you know it, you have a substantial collection of figures and vehicles on your hands. And naturally, seeing as I had the force painted and ready to go it only made sense I use them in a campaign for Chain of Command (the first of many, I'm sure). You can follow them in action in the 29, Let's Go! campaign.

You can see some of my other 20mm collections for the Second World War by clicking on this link 20mm Miniatures.


  1. Wow. Very impressive. Looking forward to see them on the table. /Mattias

    1. Tha Matias, you can see some of them in action in the 29, Let's Go! campaign AARs.

  2. A fine looking accidental collection there Mark. A prime example of the maxim "get it when you see it, not when you need it"

    1. Ah yes, indeed. I must confess I did stand there for a moment tossing up whether I really wanted to buy them, but the moment passed quickly. Glad I did it now. I'm sure it's one of the reasons the traders love the shows so much, all those impulse buys from people like me!

  3. These are really really nice, and the first time that I have wondered if I have made the wrong decision in gaming WW2 in 6mm, 15mm and 28mm! Your 20mm troops and vehicles are superb - your painting is outstanding. The proportions of the figures to me look just right - something a lot of 28mm figs, especially WW2 for some reason, get wrong. You have a fine looking force there!
    Best wishes,

    1. Thanks Jason, that's very kind. 20mm was never really the plan, when I returned to miniatures gaming after a very long break it was the only scale I was really familiar with so I went to it my default. I'm glad I did as I find it the happy medium in terms of size, the breadth of the ranges available in 20mm and 1/72 and the relative cost compared to 28mm.

  4. Very nice Mark, I must admit the casualties are great items in your AAR
    cheers John.

    1. Thanks John. I agree, after being a bit unsure I now feel they really help tell the story.

  5. Just one comment, the Wartime stuff is now Simon’s Soldiers not Wartime any more ;-)

  6. Great looking collection! From an accidental / impulse purchase to a full fledged collection with many support options. ­čśÇ
    I miss trade shows where such things can happen.

    1. The nice thing about trade shows is you often see things you didn't know existed. Or you see things you did know existed but didn't know how good they looked until you saw them with your own eyes. Sometimes it's just nice to see stuff and not buy it and just know it exists. Ah, those days will be back eventually I hope.

  7. For a force you weren't intending to build, you've certainly done a good job of them. Great stuff! :)

    1. Thanks, sometimes inadvertently adding to the lead pile is a good thing, isn't it? (he says without real assurance it's true!)

  8. Nice work. Why was it Nic never seemed to have specials like that when I was browsing at Cancon?

    1. Just a lucky day I think. Nic said they were cast for an order that was never collected. Not sure why he didn't just melt them back down and use the metal for something else, but no complaints from me, I definitely won out on that one.

  9. Lovely figures, and well painted too. 1/72/20mm is so well supported that it would be rude to not have a ton of tanks and such... and here you have more than ever likely to be needed for Chain of Command (maybe building towards a big chain of command game using a tank platoon?).

    1. Thanks. Not that I'm a perfectionist or anything but I do like having the right model tank for a scenario is possible. As you say, that's something more practical (not to mention cheaper) in 1/72 than a larger scale like 28mm. Anyhow who knows what I might play in the future, best to be prepared, eh?

  10. Wonderful collection! I’m constantly tethering on the brink to give 20mm a go and you’re definitely not helping here...

  11. These are fantastic. Would you mind sharing what paint/colors you used?

  12. Adler miniatures has some great 20mm American paratroopers if you ever want to expand.