There’s a real Panther in Central Massachusetts, and he’s got many friends!

On Veteran’s Day 2018, I decided that I must see the American Heritage Museum in Hudson, MA.  It has been known for aircraft, but recently acquired the Jacques M. Littlefield collection from California. They had a “soft opening” on their new tank and AFV collection, and it looked good on FaceBook.  They also offered vets a free admission, so I thought it would be a good experience.

I had no idea I was about to see the most unbelievable collection of functioning military vehicles in the US.

There was a short but very good video on Massachusetts and its role in the Revolutionary War.  Then, a door opens and you find yourself in a WWI trench and a multi-visual presentation ensues.

Next, a door opens, and it is early WWII.  A British Vickers Mark V is on display, along with a Mercedes staff car.  There will soon be a Panzer I as well.

Another door opened to a walkway around a giant hall – and my jaw dropped multiple times.

12 HALLWA OVERVIEW
One side of the massive exhibit hall is all WWII
36 MODERN GALLERY
The other side goes from Korea to the present

So I was not expecting that many rare tanks, to include a functional Panzer V Panther.  It had been recovered from a lake on the Eastern Front and fully restored.  I will share some more pictures below, but these do not do this collection justice.  It was amazing to see these so close up.  There were very few placards on the vehicles, but luckily I know a lot of them because of my historical and war gaming interests as well as my background in the Army.  If I misidentify any here, it’s on me.

A centerpiece of the collection is the Panther versus a Soviet T-34/85.  There is a screen that has a multi-visual presentation of the two opposing tank commanders, with sounds, effects, and more.  It concludes with the story of the recovered Panther.

All major European and North African campaigns were represented.  First, North Africa:

Then Italy:

There was yet another T-34 – an older one:

23 T34
T-34

There was a nice collection of UK tanks that I had never seen before:

There were of course many WWII American tanks and tank destroyers:

Interestingly, there was a Jagdpanzer 38 (Hetzer) that was key in the What a Tanker game that I played the night before – I had seen one before, but not so soon after I had used it in a game!

25 GERMAN HETZER
Jagdpanzer 38 (Hetzer) tank destroyer

There was also an ME-109!

27 ME109
ME-109

An impressive display of Flak 88 AA gun and accompanying equipment was nicely.  This could have been the gun that wounded my late Uncle Joseph Delaney in his B-17 in 1943.

29 88 FLAK
88 Flak Display

There were a couple of Russian vehicles – an ISU-122 and an SU-100 displayed.

My grandfather, Marcus C. Delaney, drove an M-24 Chaffee light tank in WWII.  The museum put their Chaffee in the Korean War section, as it did serve there as well.  I was feeling somber seeing my grandfather’s tank on Veteran’s Day, and I miss him.  He was a hero to me, and a big reason I went into West Point and the US Army.

30 KOREA
The Korean War display
31 M24 CHAFFEE
M24 Chaffee, my grandfather drove this model in WWII
31A M24 CHAFFEE
Trying to take a selfie while feeling somber is a tough thing.  I do miss my Papa (Marcus Delaney).

The next section was dedicated to the Vietnam War.

For the Cold War, there was an East German T-72.

Next, the “hot” war that occurred during my service, the Gulf War.  I did not go to the theater, and performed my duties stateside.  I often say that they had a war and did not invite me.

Finally, the War on Terror, which had a USMC M1A2 Abrams tank (though I am not exactly sure which variant it was).  It was hit by an IED in Fallujah in 2006.  There is a touching video presentation of the event and its impact on the crew and the tank commander’s widow.  RIP.

35 WAR ON TERROR 911 GIRDER
A girder from the Twin Towers
35A WAR ON TERROR ABRAMS
The USMC Abrams M1A2

The museum truly honors veterans, and I was humbled to walk through the many, many displays.  To have one in Massachusetts like this is a really special thing.  The museum will close from November 25th to April 15th, so there are a couple of weekends left to try to go before spring.

I will be coming back here for sure.  Thanks to the American Heritage Museum for such a great homage to our history and our veterans.

37 brochure37a brochure

“What A Tanker” Eastern Front battle at November Mass Pikemen Session

On November 10, 2018, the Mass Pikemen held their monthly gaming session with a game of What a Tanker set on the Eastern Front in 1942.  The scenario was a 1942/1943 one where a Soviet force consisting of 1 KV-1a heavy tank, 2 T-26 M1939 light tanks, 2 BA-64 armored cars, and a couple of Gaz trucks was surrounded and needed to break out through the Axis lines. It was my first chance to get all of my recently painted tanks on the tabletop.

Initially opposing the Soviets was a German force consisting of  2 Panzer IVd tanks and a 1 Panzer 38(t) tank.  Reinforcements were staggered for the Axis, and they consisted of a 1 Panzer IIIN tank, a Hetzer tank destroyer (Jagdpanzer 38), and an Italian M13/41.  It was imperative for the Soviets to exit the other side of the board with the KV-1 and the two trucks as quickly as possible.

The Germans moved on first – and one of the T-26’s was able to early on get a couple of shots in on one of the Panzer IVd’s, with the second one knocking it out.  This was a fun event for 7-year old Jack Burns who was playing in his first war game ever.  He was so excited to knock out the German tank.

1 Mike's Panzer IV death
The Panzer IIIN moves on the board as a reinforcement.  The second Panzer IVd takes advantage of its burning comrade’s smoky wreck.

The Soviets KV-1a was slow to move forward, and the T-26’s outran it.  The Panzer 38(t) moved up to the ruined factory and took aim at one of the T-26’s in the open.  It fired, and missed the Soviet.  Returning fire, the T-26 hit and knocked out the Panzer 38 (t).  Two down for the Axis!  Shortly after this, the other Panzer IVd peeked out from behind its brother, only to suffer the same fate from the plucky T-26.  Three down now!

2 Chris, Jared, Jack
Chris Smedile, Jared Burns, and Jack Burns advance their vehicles.  The Panzer 38 (t) is behind the wall in the center in a good defensive position, facing the T-26 that was to knock it out.
3 Chris C, Mike, Jared, Jack
Chris Comeau and Mike Morgan (and later myself) played the Axis.  This view shows the length of the board the Soviets needed to cross.  Each fighting vehicle had a magnetic dashboard, and its own colored dice.  Command Dice were always white though.

Let me add a side note here on my rules modifications for this scenario.  What a Tanker does not have rules for either armored cars or trucks.  I modified them here for the armored cars, which I made Fast (easier to always move), and Small (tougher to hit).  For their Armor, I only gave them a 1, which meant that any hit from a tank gun would very likely be enough to kill the BA-64.  As the BA-64 only had a machine gun, I gave them 2 modified Strike dice.  The modifications were twofold.  First, their range was 24″ (half that of the tanks).  Secondly, the BA-64’s would hit on a 6, but the only likely result of such a hit would be to force the target to button up if it was not already.  If the BA-64 player rolled double-6’s, I would allow 2 strike dice.  So the BA-64’s were harassers at best.  I had the Gaz trucks move last, with 2 D6 of movement (no command dice).  If they were hit, they were destroyed.

4 Chris celebrates his kill
Chris celebrates his second kill, while the Panzer 38 (t) burns.  You can see here behind the BA-64’s a D12, which I used for initiative rolls instead of D6’s and re-rolling for ties.  It worked much easier and was much less confusing.

Back to the battle!

At this low point, they got reinforcements in consecutive turns.  First, the Panzer IIIN came on in turn 2.  In turn 4, the Axis got the Hetzer and the M13/41.  The tide of battle was turning.

5 Hetzer chases KV-1a
The Hetzer ignores the BA-64 and sets out to hunt the KV-1a.

The Panzer IIIN moved up to the hill, awaiting the T-26 and a truck.  The German successively took both out, leaving the Soviets only with one T-26, one truck, the KV-1a, and the BA-64’s. The M13/41 rolled badly, and hid behind the Panzer IVd wrecks for better dice rolls, even taking humiliating fire from the BA-64’s that caused it to have to button up.

5 truck death
In the foreground, a Gaz truck burns.  The crew of the Panzer IIIN behind the hill looks at the burning T-26 in front of it.  In the left center, the Panzer 38 (t) burns, as do 2 Panzer IVd’s in the right rear.  On the left, the showdown between the lumbering KV-1a and the Hetzer is about to begin.

The Hetzer moves fast, and tried to move around to the rear of the KV-1a.  It succeeded, and missed with its initial rear shot.  The KV-1a immediately turned the tables, turning 180°, and rotating its massive turret towards the diminutive tank destroyer.  The Soviet again got initiative, firing not once, not twice, but three times – and unbelievably missing on all three attempts!  The saving grace for the Hetzer was its Small characteristic, which meant the KV-1a needed a “7” instead of a “6” to hit.

The Hetzer then got initiative and rolled its Command Dice well enough to fire but not to maneuver towards the Soviet behemoth’s vulnerable rear.  It decided to take a chancy shot at the frontal armor of the KV-1a.  It got 5 hits on 7 dice (needed a “5” or “6” to hit).  The Soviet player got zero saves, and the KV-1a was knocked out.

6 KV burns and truck faces m13 41
The KV-1a burns on the right, while the Hetzer and the M13/41 hunt the last truck (on the left).  The BA-64 attempted a ramming attack on the Hetzer to give the truck a chance to escape.

The BA-64 ramming attack did nothing to the Hetzer, which dispatched the armored car with one shot.  Meanwhile, the Italian M13/41 took out the last truck.  The surviving BA-64 was destroyed by the Italian, leaving the Panzer IIIN and a damaged T-26 in a showdown.  With the loss of the trucks and the KV-1a, the game was called an Axis victory.

7 final
Mike Morgan victoriously surveys the smoky battlefield.

The game was a fun one for winners and losers, with highs and lows for both.  Next time, I will probably give the Soviets a second KV-1a.

The next Mass Pikemen’s gaming session will be on Saturday, December 1st from 2-8 PM, at 110 Pleasant Street in East Brookfield, MA.  This is a change from our previous 3-9 PM time slot.  We will be playing What a Tanker again!

Please join us, and share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!

Let’s do some tanks! Soviet KV-1a platoon for “What a Tanker”

I have been working on getting a fleet of tanks for the What a Tanker game from the Too Fat Lardies company.   It’s a great game and has been a true hit with my gaming club, the Mass Pikemen.  I have been working on building up a flexible group of tanks, and so far I am up to 71 tanks in 15mm/1:100 scale – not including ones needing assembly and painting.

My sources have been eBay, hobby stores, and Facebook.  If I waited to paint them all, I would never do another project, so finding some mostly painted resin (and reasonably priced) models from Wargame Models in Ohio has helped shorten the process.  Mostly I just washed and varnished the ones I have gotten from WMIO.

One group acquisition was from another source on eBay – it was a resin Soviet KV-1 platoon consisting of 5 KV-1’s heavy tanks, 2 T-26 light tanks, 2 BA-64 armored cars, and 2 trucks.  I do not know the manufacturer.  They had been given some sort of dark brown coating with splashes of lighter brown.  They color-wise did not look particularly like Soviet tanks from 1941.  This platoon is the main subject of this blog post.

0 Group of tanks
My tank fleet grows – the KV-1 platoon is in the upper left.
1 KV platoon unpainted
The platoon as I got it in the brown colors.  I decided to make the heavy tanks as the KV-1a version.  All of the turrets were not magnetized, which I did do as well as part of this project.
2 magnets
I removed the resin post on the turret and drilled out 1/8″ holes in it and widened the preexisting hole in the hull.  I got some nice neodymium 1/8″ x 1/16″ magnets for magnetizing from totalElement.com.

It was necessary to use a Sharpie to mark one end of the 1/8″ magnets such that I inserted them in the correct alignment (I did not want the turrets “blowing off” prematurely!).  I glued the magnets into the holes with Gorilla Glue.

3 magnet turret KV1a
Each turret originally had this post that I removed and drilled underneath.
4 drill and magnet turret KV1a
Magnetized K-V1a turret
5 BA 64 repair
BA-64 turret showing my repair of the gun.  It was thin resin.  The other resin gun broke later as well so these are not sturdy.

I needed to find a way to paint the figures without damaging the paint, and tanks were new to me.  I decided to take advantage of the magnets on the turrets here.  I used small nails inserted into styrofoam blocks (the kind used for flower crafts).  For the hulls, I masked the tracks for secondary painting, and such that I could hold them safely.

6 priming turrets
How many turrets can fit on the head of a nail?
7 priming hulls with masking
The hulls masked for priming.

I airbrushed/primed the figures with Vallejo “Surface Primer – Russian Green”.

8 all primed
The platoon primed.

I then gave the figures an airbrushed base coat with a thinned coat of Vallejo Panzer Series “Camouflage Olive Green”.

9 all primed
The platoon base coated.
10 close up base coat
Close up shot of one of the KV-1a hills after base coating.

These looked too drab, and not very Soviet green looking.  I moved on to adding Vallejo Mecha Color “Green” with a light airbrushing.  Next, I used a brush to dry brush Vallejo Mecha Color “Light Green” on the figures.  I was able to then give the figures an appropriate light green by using Citadel “Biel-Tan Green” as a shade.  It worked!

11 contrast after light green and Biel-tan
Contrast the before shading (turret on left) and after (turret on right).  The light green helped give depth to the shaded turrets and hulls.  I darkened everything with an additional shade – Citadel “Athonian Camoshade”.
12 close up hulls after green wash
Before the “Athonian Camoshade”…
13 after wash with athonian camoshade
…and after adding the darker shade.

At this point, I removed the masking and painted the tracks.  I then wanted to add some mud, dirt, and dust with pigments.  I used several Vallejo pigments and binders (all listed at the end of this post).  These models are small, (about 3″ long by 1½” wide by 1¾” high so I wanted to give enough weathering without overwhelming them.

14 adding the pigments
An in-progress pic of weathering one of the hulls.
15 ready for varnish
All of the weathering done and the vehicles ready for varnish.
16 varnish hull
KV-1a hull varnished.
17 t26 varnish hull
T-26 hull varnished.
18 all done
The platoon nice and dirty with the mud of Mother Russia.

This was my first attempt at painting any WWII tank models.  I think I can do better, but early war Soviet tanks are pretty simple, as they had not usually added any markings.  It will not be my last, and I am hoping that I get better with more tries.  This project also is my first submission for Azazel’s November Community painting challenge – Mechanical November ’18.  If you have not checked out his blog, it’s worth a look.  Also, my next few posts will showcase tanks, so I hope you enjoy.

Now for some eye candy!

19 5 KV1a
All five KV-1a’s with different angles to view.  Ignore the giant tetrahedrons please!
20 5 KV1a
Front view
21 5 KV1a rear
Rear view.  I “mudded” them up a bit here.
22 the platoon
The combat vehicles move out.
23 one of each
One of each AFV I painted plus 2 trucks.
24 KV1a in town
KV-1a in an urban setting.
25 T26 in town
T-26 in town (what’s left of it anyway).
26 BA 64 in town
BA-64.

I hope that you enjoyed this post.  Please let me know your thoughts and feedback below in the comments section.

Thanks for looking!

PAINTS, INKS, GLAZES, WASHES, AND FLOCKING USED:

  1. Citadel “Imperium Primer”
  2. Vallejo “Surface Primer – Russian Green”
  3. Vallejo “Flow Improver”
  4. Vallejo “Airbrush Thinner”
  5. Testors “Universal Acrylic Thinner”
  6. Vallejo Panzer Series “Camouflage Olive Green”
  7. Vallejo Mecha Color “Green”
  8. Vallejo Mecha Color “Light Green”
  9. Citadel “Biel-Tan Green” (shade)
  10. Citadel “Athonian Camoshade” (shade)
  11. Vallejo “Surface Primer – Black”
  12. Elmer’s White Glue
  13. Vallejo “Pigment Binder”
  14. Vallejo “Burnt Umber” (pigment)
  15. Vallejo “Industrial Splash Mud” (weathering)
  16. Vallejo “Light Sienna” (pigment)
  17. Vallejo “Light Slate Grey” (pigment)
  18. Gorilla Glue
  19. Vallejo Mecha Varnish “Matt Varnish”

Thanks again for looking and for your feedback!