US Marine

US Marine by Pat Camp

I have, in the past, painted only Napoleonic figures with their vividly coloured uniforms and where there is little need to tone down the paint mix. I now wanted to try my hand at painting a camouflaged uniform just to see how much of a challenge it would be.

Each year, the club selects a particular theme for our club stand: and in this year the theme was “War in the Pacific”. When I saw S&T’s model of a US Marine it was just what I was looking for!

The figure is sculpted by John Rosengrant and I am sure many of you will have seen and admired his handiwork. The ethos behind S&T (a Californian company) is to get some of the best modellers around to produce some outstanding models. I think the figure has John Rosengrant’s characteristic style: the figure is depicted stepping forward, crouching somewhat. The Marine’s attitude and facial expression shows him to be in the presence of uncertainty and danger.

The model comes packaged in a stout box with a single photograph of a completed model on top. The head, torso and legs are a single casting with the arms and helmet supplied separately. The hands are part of the M1 Garand rifle casting. Other items supplied separately are the haversack (complete with camouflage poncho), bayonet handle, scabbard, entrenching shovel, pair of canteens, helmet straps (or, rather, strap as one was missing) and rifle sling. All items are cast in resin. No base is included.

No assembly guide or colour notes are included, and this is disappointing because the only “Marines” in my references are from the Napoleonic period! I had some ready information on the M1 Garand in a modelling magazine, so I made a start on the rifle whilst I obtained information on everything else!

REFERENCES

  1. Militaria Volume 20 (which was indispensable).
  2. Marine: U.S. Marine Corps Heroes Of The Pacific War, Ron Field, Military Illustrated, ISBN 1-903040-00-0.
  3. The Marines In World War 2: From Pearl Harbor To Tokyo Bay, Christopher J Anderson, Greenhill Books,
  4. Screaming Eagles, Ian Phillips, Military Modelling, August 1996 (details of M1 Garand rifle).
  5. Internet site www.wgn.net (Also try searching under USMC +HBT for other web sites).

The Model

The figure is shown wearing the two piece sage green herringbone twill (HBT) utility uniform issued in late 1941. The jacket was closed by four buttons: initially these were made of bronze, but were soon changed to black painted white metal. The chest pocket had “USMC” with the eagle, globe and anchor (ega) emblem stencilled beneath. Some of this insignia is obscured by webbing on the model.

US Marines often marked the ega emblem on the helmet cover as well. The cover is made from a reversible camouflage patterned material which had predominantly brown shades on one side and green on the other, the idea being to wear the brown side for beaches and green for jungle warfare. The helmet cover on the model has twin rows of slits for foliage to be added to increase concealment, and these were issued from around the end of 1943.

Also at this time units were being issued with two-piece camouflaged uniforms made from the same camouflage fabric as used for the helmets and cut in the same pattern as the 1941 clothing. However, note that the type and number of fasteners differ on these items to the 1941 ones, so you will need to do some correcting if you decide to finish your figure in the camouflaged clothing.

Whatever style you select, clothing and webbing quickly faded in sunlight and salt water or became very grimy during jungle patrols. I decided to depict my Marine moving in bright sunlight from the beach to the margins of the jungle. I wanted to emphasise sunlight on a faded, but clean, uniform.

Building the model.

I painted all items separately before assembling the figure. This allows easy access for the paint brush, but does mean that you have to thoroughly test fit parts before you paint and minimise any gaps in the joints. The fit of parts on this model was excellent and so only a little cleaning up was needed. If you have a model which doesn’t fit so well, then try putting a blob of Magic-Sculp on one part, cover it with a small piece of cling film and firmly press the two parts together, letting excess Magic-Sculp ooze out. Carefully trim this excess, separate the parts and peel away the cling film. Leave the Magic-Sculpt to harden off and now you should have a perfect join without any gap!

I attach each part to a holder so that it does not get handled during painting. The holder is a short length of doweling with a pin nail hammered into one end. Cut off the head of the nail and point the end so that it is easier to press it into a hole drilled into the part. A wooden block can be drilled out so that a number of parts can be stood up safe and securely in their holders.

The Garand rifle casting in the kit was quite badly distorted. I tried softening the part in hot water and then straightening it, but it was not 100% successful and the part curled somewhat after it had cooled. The only other problems I experienced were with the helmet and rifle straps: I eventually replaced them with scratch built ones.

The helmet straps were made from strips of lead foil and the various clips and buckles from thin brass sheet. The loop attachments on the helmet were 0.6mm soft iron wire, drilled and Superglued in place having checked to make they did not interfere with the fit of the helmet onto the head of the figure. Having attached the helmet to the dowel holder, I used wire stays to support the free end of the straps during painting.

The strap for the rifle was made from thin brass strip using the resin original to gauge the length. Pairs of buckle holes were drilled before bending the strip to shape. Soft iron wire was again used for the various rings. A pair of the distinctively shaped buckles were fashioned from Magic-Sculp. The rifle sling was one of the last items attached to the model to avoid damage.

All parts were given a good scrub in detergent to remove dust and grease prior to painting.

Painting the face and hands.

The face and hands were undercoated using a 50:50 mix of flesh and white. The coat was built up by airbrush in thin layers, making sure that all pointy bits (such as the end of the nose) as well as dips had an adequate covering. The undercoat provides a key for the next layer of paint and so I prefer not to let the undercoat get too wet: my rule of thumb is to ease off the spray if the surface appears shiny. The next step is to darken the mix and then direct spray onto the head and hands from beneath, adding shade to the underside of the chin, into the eye sockets, and so on. This step helps to give the face some depth and will pick out areas of shade which you can then reinforce by paint brush. But before doing so, leave your undercoat to dry thoroughly.

I use oil paints for detail work, and I prefer to start from light colours and progress to dark. This approach is very much down to personal choice as to what works for you. I normally take a couple of sessions to paint a surface, the first session lays down general highlights and shade and the second (done once the first is nearly or completely dry) is for strengthening final highlights and deeper shade tones.

The flesh tone was Chrome Orange Deep + Ultramarine Blue mixed to a warm brown colour. To this I added Rowney Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna to obtain a deep flesh tone. Progressively lighter mixes were then laid out on the palette by adding Jaune Brillant and Titanium White.

The shade tones were laid on using a fine Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush. A good quality brush really does make a lot of difference. Add just minuscule amounts of paint to the tip of the brush, place it onto the figure where needed and work the colour in.

Once all the shading had dried, I gave the hands and neck a thin glaze of Burnt Sienna and Liquin. I then added a little Cadmium Orange to the glaze to do the face.

The eyes were blocked in using a pale blue / grey mixture. A mix of Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Orange was run as a thin line beneath the upper eyelids and into the corner of the eyes. I also used this mix for painting the inside of the mouth and nose.

There are a number of factors that I use to set the position of the eyes. First of all, the distance between the eyes is approximately equal to the width of the mouth. The next consideration is to look at which direction the head is turned, and then position the eyes to look further in that direction. Last of all, a good part of the iris is covered by the upper eyelid and so you should not paint it as a full circle. Take a close look at the figure and decide exactly where you want the eyes placed before you pick up the paint brush.

The eyes were painted in a number of steps, leaving the paint to dry between each. I firstly added a spot of thinned matt white enamel where the irises were to be located: the spot size wants to be a little larger than the iris. Next paint the iris itself (I used Humbrol HT4 subframe grey), don’t worry too much if the pupil looks too stark at this point, as the next step is to add a tiny dab of Winsor & Newton Iridescent White to the centre of the iris and then draw it out, star-like, towards the edges. Leave this to dry thoroughly and then paint the pupil dark grey.

I did not add any highlight to the eyes of this model as they would have been shaded by the helmet. If I do add highlights, I place a tiny dot of white into an upper quarter of each pupil (making sure it’s the same upper quarter on both eyes!) and where the iris touches the lower eye lid. And yes, a magnifying glass does help!

Having said all of this, this Marine is the ideal choice for those of us whose figures suffer from the “pop-eyed” look. The crouching stance means that the eyes are obscured by the helmet unless you look at the figure straight on, and so the problem may go unnoticed. (If it doesn’t go unnoticed, tell people with conviction that you have captured the authentic “thousand yard stare” that many Marines developed during fighting)!

Painting the Uniform.

Whilst the figure is beautifully sculpted and cast, I did find it worthwhile to use a sharp knife to open out between the webbing straps and jacket.

The uniform was undercoated by airbrushing Revell matt white SM301 + Humbrol Concrete HS202 with tiniest dab of Alizarin Crimson oil paint. This undercoat layer will also be left bare of further paint as the highlight colour. I masked the figure’s head from the airbrush spray by wrapping it in a strip of Clingfilm, held in place with a little adhesive tape. Maskol was then run around the edges of the masked area. I find Clingfilm very useful for masking as it conforms to awkward shapes and doesn’t have any adhesive which can pull off the paint beneath.

A shade mix of Terre Vert + Van Dyke Brown was added, again by directing the air brush from beneath the figure.

Once fully dry, a medium shade mixed from Permanent Light Green + Alizarin Crimson + Titanium White was added by brush to add a little subtlety to the finish. Another mix of deep shade added definition to deep folds in the fabric.

The more adventurous modellers amongst you may want to simulate the herringbone weave of the fabric. Take a look at www.kingncountry.com for a fabric swatch.

Webbing was undercoated in the highlight colour of Winsor & Newton Yellow Ochre Pale + Terre Vert + Titanium White. The centre of the webbing was shaded with mix of Terre Vert and Raw Umber.

The helmet cover was undercoated with Humbrol Pale Yellow 81 + White, shaded using Lukas Brown Ochre + Cerulean Blue and highlighted with Naples Yellow + Titanium White. Lukas Raw Umber was used for shading foliage slits. The photograph shows a modern reproduction of the camouflage patterned fabric, courtesy of wgn.

The haversack, entrenching tool and canteen covers were airbrushed Naples Yellow + Humbrol Khaki 83 + 151 Interior Green and shaded once dry with Naples Yellow + Raw Umber + Cadmium Yellow Pale to get a green /brown tint.

The camouflage poncho/cover half was undercoated in green acrylic paint. The base mix was Prussian Blue + Cadmium Yellow Pale + Rose Madder. Black was added to the base mix for shading and this was a mistake as it made it look dirty: try adding very dark green to the mix or Light Red instead. White was added to the base mix for highlighting.

The Entrenching Tool is painted Black overall, although much of the paint wore away due to handling to leave the underlying wood showing. I painted the wood colour first and then applied a Black / Brown mix, leaving the wood colour visible in places subject to wear and tear.

Wooden parts of the M1 Garand were undercoated Humbrol Yellow CNR125 and the depth of colour built up with a number of thin coats of Permanent Red Light + Alizarin Crimson + Burnt Sienna. Don’t do as I did and go for a reddish shade of brown: all photos I’ve seen since painting the rifle show it to have a rather dull brown shade.

Metal parts were painted Humbrol MC20 and lined out / shaded in ivory black. A glaze of Ivory Black + Liquin with some turpentine added was applied once the black had thoroughly dried. Highlights were added using silver printers ink + Paynes Grey oil paint, using neat printers ink for highpoints.

Base

I sketched out a number of ideas for the design of the base and positioning of trees, etc, and once I had a clear idea of the layout set about working on the hardwood base and adapting scenic material. I used two trees angled away from centre to counterpoise the leaning forward figure.

The tree trunks are pine twigs collected whilst walking in my local park. The core of the twigs were loose within the bark outer so, after cutting pieces to length, they were glued solid using PVA adhesive. I left 6mm of core clear of the bark at the bottom of the trunk so that it could be inserted into holes drilled into the base, and at the top of the trunk the core was cut short by 6mm to leave a hole for attaching branches.

Holes were drilled into the sides & end of the bark and pieces of cut pine needle were glued into place. The two trees were positioned on the base and the position of locating holes marked onto the Oakwood Studios base. These were drilled out, but do not glue the trees into place just yet.

I used Blu-Tack to form a mould for the sand base. This was pressed into place around a circular former. Lift the former out and make sure there are no gaps in the wall of Blu-Tack.

Glue the trees into place with PVA glue and leave to set.

The groundwork is a mixture of kiln dried sand (left over from laying a patio), white glue, water + Fairy Liquid. Trowel this mixture into place, sculpting a rising level to the trees (as I wanted the figure to be stepping over this rise) and don’t forget the foot imprints. Leave it to set overnight.

The branches are based upon a photograph in reference 2 and are made from pieces of green pea stick purchased from the garden section of a DIY store and sticky backed aluminium tape.

Split the pea stick along its length into six or eight pieces. The end two inches of the branch must be trimmed down until it is easily flexed, see sketch 1. Cut a piece of 0.6mm soft iron wire 2″ long. Sandwich the trimmed down end of the pea stick with the soft iron wire between sticky backed aluminium tape (the tape I have came from a thermal insulating company for wrapping around sections of pipe insulation). Press out all curls and creases (2). The tape has an extremely tenacious sticky side which grips at your fingers, modelling bench, scissors and anything else nearby.

Cut a series of individual leaves (3) and then cut the leaf profile shape (4). Add points to each leaf (5). It would pay to be very tidy as you work otherwise you will very quickly find little off-cuts of sticky aluminium tape all over your workbench. This will then transfer to your clothes, the carpet, skin, hair, the car and so on. I was not tidy, but I am now amazed and astonished about how far and wide this stuff can get!

I formed the shape of the branches by folding the halves of the leaves together (6) and then around a circular former (7). You will need to tease it to shape, but the soft iron wire will hold the curve.

I made half a dozen branches and gave them a generous coat of Johnson’s Klear. They were then sprayed Games Workshops “Rotting Flesh” acrylic and finished with Rowney “Sap Green” oil paint. Use plenty underneath the leaf to get the effect of shading. On the top, streak the paint along the length of each individual leaf and the brushmarks give the effect of veining. Once dry, add highlights of pale yellow and add highlights and shading to the trees and groundwork.

Conclusions

Despite warped rifle, iffy straps and lack of colour notes, I did enjoy making this model and can recommend it. The kit has much potential for conversions and imaginative settings.

From the point of view of painting camouflaged clothing, I did find it challenging and whilst there are things I will do differently next time, I am satisfied with the end result.

Acknowledgements

I purchased the model from S&J Models, 26 Bedford Road, Weston Super Mare, Somerset BS23 4EJ, tel 01934 622239. Many thanks to Simon at S&J Models for background information for this article. He tells me that whilst the models are extremely well sculpted and cast, the kits do sometimes suffer from a broken or missing piece. Although this is inconvenient, replacements are never a problem. The kit price is £28 and mail order is possible at nominal cost.

Many thanks also to the late John Cox of Romsey Modeller’s for reference material, Juan Gonzalez at WWII Impressions for permission to use his uniform photographs and to Military Illustrated for permission to print the photograph of US Marines in the Solomon Islands jungle.

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