Often referred to as the spoils of war, the practice of seizing enemy goods by force has been a common occurrence on battlefields ever since man started showing its belligerent nature.
The German contrast
Despite World War II being a symbol of violence, cruelty and death, the early 1940’s were also a huge push forward. The scientific race for supremacy would be dwarfed only by the Cold War era (see my Harbinger of the Apocalypse article). Breakthroughs like radio communication, radars, sloped armor, various types of shells and guns, cryptography – all are a result of this massive effort.
Both sides of the war invested heavily into anything that would put them in the lead. Reading Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobsen made me realize just how many resources Germany pooled into scientific research. Thousands in personnel, countless underground wind tunnels for developing faster Luftwaffe aircraft, prototypes and secret stashes of long-range ballistic missiles and, to top it all off, the horrible involvement in toxin development through substances such as Zyklon B and Sarin gas.
Basically, with the 12,000 tons of Sarin gas it had stored away by the end of the War, Germany was prepared to throw the world into the darkest chapter of WWII. Nobody knows if things would have gone this far, but experts agree that they were closer than we can ever imagine. Yes, Nazi Germany lost the War with massive casualties, but its technological level at that point was way ahead of any other nations.
Fear of a quick German rebuttal made the allies consider things such as the Morgenthau Plan (shifting Germany into an agricultural-based country) but also the secret US program code-named Operation Paperclip. An additional reason for the latter was a massive amount of German knowledge being up-for-grabs with the risk of having it fall in the hands of the Soviet Union. Or on the hands of the British, but this is a different story entirely.
Scale modelling is mostly depicted in a historically accurate fashion, with modelers worldwide striving to achieve even the tiniest bit of detail. At the same time, amazing results have come from the land of “what if” – non-historically accurate representations of vehicles, prototypes, diorama scenes and many more. When it comes to WWII, this approach is often referred to as Autumn 1945 or Late 1945. It’s basically telling the story of what would have happened if Nazi Germany had not unconditionally surrendered on May 8th 1945 (VE Day).
This was basically the inspiration for today’s scene. After gruesome fights in the summer of 1945, Allied forces were constantly running into German guerrilla units. On the Eastern front, Soviet troops had a particularly tough time with Sarin gas-equipped platoons, constantly pulling hit-and-runs on their camps. Usually decimating troops and more, such an attack sparked what would later become the final push towards Berlin and the end of the War in 1946.
Raiding an abandoned military camp in the town of Lietzen, the local German resistance uncovered an abandoned Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B. It wasn’t in the best of shapes, but with its recently mounted gun it only required some minor tinkering before being hand-cranked into running order. Armed with the little tank ammunition they could find and the remaining gas canisters, they mounted a full-on attack on the Soviet base across the nearby lake.
It would be a short battle, with Soviet troops intercepting German communication earlier in the day and setting up the perfect ambush. What was left of the retreating attackers quickly abandoned their recently acquired Tiger, took its turret-mounted MG 34 and made a mad dash through the fields, straight into the woods.
Looking for all the tactical advantage they could have, the Soviets quickly set their eyes on the tank and tore it apart. In only 2 hours, it would be tied to a flatbed, heading straight to the Warsaw command center where it could be fully documented. Researchers would finally have enough data to develop a treatment for the effects of German gas on their soldiers.
Apart from the rare sight of a Tiger, the troops were also excited to stumble upon documents detailing the weekly orders for all the German-based guerrilla troops. This would prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the Third Reich.
The scene we’re looking at falls around this lone Tiger tank, rushed into action only to be abandoned yet again before finally being looted and disassembled by the enemy. For this, I used Eduard’s 3715 Pz. Kpfw. VI Ausf. B Tiger II 1/35 which is a poor rebox of Academy’s 13229 German King Tiger Last Production. It gets a new photoetch set and it loses some interesting dot-pattern decals for the figures. Not really an upgrade.
Overall, the kit fits together nicely, with a fairly straightforward build, well-represented assembly instructions and link-and-length tracks. Although more expensive in today’s market, it’s nowhere near the level of detail shown by recent Takom and Meng kits. Starting this kit in 2018, I personally went for an out-of-the-box approach. If I were to do it again today, I would at least replace the gun barrel with a crisper metal version, and the tool clamps with actual photoetch ones. As it stands, the only visible upgrade is the upper-glacis and machine gun ball-mount weld-lines which were missing in the kit.
Painting the tank was done with AMMO by Mig paints. I used Chipping color for the paint chips and light Dunkelgelb for the paint. Weathering implied a plethora of products, ranging from Lifecolor acrylic matte paints to oil paints, enamel washes, mud solutions, pigments and many others.
The looting squad is put together from several other kits. The two PPE-covered armed soldiers come from Takom’s KV-5 and Object 279 kits, while the other two are part of ICM’s Soviet Medical Personnel kit. These are probably the first figures I’m happy with. Painting them was done by layering acrylic colors and then using Games Workshop Shades (Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade).
As for the diorama, it’s made out of two layers of extruded polystyrene glued together, then shaped with clay, covered with Vallejo textured mud and shaded with acrylic colors. The fence and the telegraph pole are custom-made while the vegetation is a mix from several terrain detailing sets I got over the years.