Re-modeling 2.0 – Part 3

As mentioned when first I blogged about scratch building this barn, I have more to say about its role in my new diorama. The historical context for this project is near the end of World War II, in the European Theater of Operations.

Germany’s military situation as the Allies encroached on its territory from the west, and the Soviet armies from the east, was exacerbated by the immense losses of personnel and weapons its armies had suffered. One effort meant to at least blunt the enemies’ advance was the establishment of a kind of home guard force called the “Volkssturm” (lit. “People’s Storm”), which was formed in September 1944.

Volkssturm units were comprised of conscripted males between the ages of 16 and 60, who weren’t already serving in the armed forces. They received only a few days’ training, and were typically armed with vintage German weapons, or captured ones from conquered nations. They wore their own clothes, with only an armband on the left sleeve proclaiming their status. Volkssturm “troops” posed more of a risk to German civilians than to the soldiers they opposed. There were instances where local Nazi party officials ordered Volkssturm men to kill their real or imagined foes.

To the barn I added a couple of Volkssturm posters I found the internet, sizing them appropriately. Such propaganda posters, meant to buck up morale, were liberally plastered on the walls of buildings throughout Germany.

The somber scene of a hanged Volkssturm volunteer shown above portrays the end which an untold number of its members met in the chaotic final months of the war. Any soldier believed to have surrendered, or otherwise shown cowardice, risked being tried by a kangaroo court, then executed, often by hanging. Placards hung around these men’s necks proclaimed their supposed crimes. The placard in my diorama reads something like, “The one who refuses to fight, must die!”

As someone with an interest in military history I am well acquainted with the enthusiasm shown by many people, who by no means are all neo-Nazis, for the Third Reich. You might be surprised at how many German tanks and aircraft, recovered from swamps or other venues where they were abandoned by their crews, have been restored to running order. This takes place in France, Poland, and Russia, nations whose populations were victims of Nazi cruelty.

Just to make it clear, I am not among those that harbor respect for Germany’s armed forces, let alone its political system, between 1933 and 1945. This history must be remembered, if only to prevent its happening again. I intend never to model a scene that shows the Wehrmacht as anything but defeated. Thankfully, for decades the German people have worked hard to put those 12 years into the proper context. Ironically, though, the Japanese continue to portray themselves as victims of the war they prosecuted in the Pacific.

Re-modeling 2.0 – Part 2

As mentioned in the narrative of the 1/35-scale model that was the centerpiece of my first diorama project (see the blog entries under “Re-modeling 1.0”), nowadays the modeler has a lot more options, when it comes to portraying less common vehicle variants. Such is the case with the endeavor that is currently under construction. The photo above indicates how the aftermarket resin kit, on the left, would transform the original styrene kit.

To convert the large Steyr Type 1500A sedan into Type 2000A cargo truck involved retaining just the engine hood. It was replaced by elements of the cargo compartment frame, the compartment itself, equipment lockers, and the addition of second tires to the rear axle.

Once the modified truck was assembled, I further customized it. The results are seen in the next two photographs.

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Something I hadn’t discovered until after I had purchased the styrene kit on eBay was that it had been discontinued. That was no big deal, except when it came to the grille work of the hood and radiator. These parts were no longer available. My solution was to buy a package of metal repair pieces for household screens. I was able to “distort” these so their pattern closely resembled the real thing.

Another modification I made is visible on the right hand side of the front bumper (the side closest in the photo.) Too Much Information Warning! By the time the D-Day invasion took place, the Allies possessed overwhelming air power. The bulk of the Luftwaffe’s strength had been committed to the war against the Soviet Union, making it impossible to adequately defend France, too.

German vehicle and troop movements after June 6, 1944 were subject to cannon and rocket attacks by roving flights of fighter bombers (“Jagdbomber” in German; colloquially “Jabo.”). One action undertaken in hopes of escaping destruction from the skies was to install seats on vehicles’ front passenger side bumpers. A soldier posted on the makeshift seat was charged with being on the lookout for enemy planes; catching sight of these, the Jabo lookout was to shout a warning to the driver. On the verges of countryside roads in Normandy the Germans prepared emergency lanes, into which attacked vehicles could drive, seeking safety.

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I made a pair of further modifications to the vehicle’s cargo area. I installed passenger benches on both sides of the compartment. Also, it was necessary to cut out a section of the tailgate, so that, when it was let down, access was gained to a towing hook.

A word about the paint scheme: In most instances there was no standard camouflage for German vehicles. By 1943 vehicles left the factories painted in a sandy yellow shade. Over painted colors – usually green and brown – were applied by troops in the field, whose patterns were left to the soldiers’ artistry. Other important aspects of modeling vehicles is for them to feature dents, dirt and dust. No vehicle in a diorama should look as though it is factory-fresh! To this end, I mixed a dust color from different shades of acrylic powders, thinned with solvent.

I’d be delighted to receive your observations regarding, or questions about, this phase of the project. Thanks!

Re-modeling 2.0 – Part 1

I’d been thinking for a while about the elements I might pull together to create my latest diorama. I decided that, given how the scene would be in a semi-rural setting, it might be good to feature a barn in it. I could have purchased a barn kit online, but concluded that I’d construct a building from scratch, something that would be a lot more enjoyable.

After working out the dimensions for a 1/35 scale building I collected the materials I needed to execute the design. These were pretty simple: wooden popsicle sticks and thin cardboard. I split the popsicle sticks into “boards” of fairly uniform height and width. I didn’t worry about constructing a perfect building – after all, it was a barn!

You can see the result in the photo above. I used an acrylic wash to color the walls, and glued appropriate posters (more later about their significance) made from images found on the Internet, re-sized appropriately, to the walls. Again, I didn’t attempt to make the cardboard roof shingles a very uniform size. I glued a cardboard base onto the building rafters, then sketched freehand and cut out rows of cardboard shingles. These were glued onto the base, in a somewhat haphazard manner. There are some loosened individual shingles, as befits an old barn. The roof was colored with a greenish acrylic wash, reminiscent of mold that might accumulate on it over the decades.


This shot of the building’s interior does a good job of illustrating its construction. The wall planks were glued to pieces of paper. I took more care to align the tops of the planks but that was less of a concern when it came to their bottoms. These will be hidden by the diorama’s “ground.” Evident are the vertical braces I put in place to support the roof, and the horizontal ones meant to maintain the barn’s rectangular shape.

I had a lot of fun conceptualizing, constructing, and decorating this important element in the diorama. What do you think of it?