by W.S. McCallum
You get strange looks when you tell people your hobby is wargaming. These days most people assume that means computer gaming, so when you go to the trouble of telling them that no, actually, you’re talking about tabletop gaming with model soldiers, the usual response is “oh playing with toy soldiers”, quite often followed by words to the effect of “at your age?” Apparently playing games on computers is considered an adult hobby, but playing with real-life miniatures isn’t - go figure.
Things get even worse if you mention that your favourite period is the Vietnam War: people tend to think of things like My Lai, napalm, Agent Orange, the Phoenix Program, and carpet bombing by B-52s, and it is true that the Vietnam War was a terrible war, but then what war wasn’t? Regardless, you get some very strange looks and comments. “War monger” was one name hung on me by an ex-girlfriend for this particular interest. She was in the peace movement, so her automatic assumption was that I must be on the other side of the fence. Decades after it ended, people are still very quick to brandish labels and apply stereotypes whenever the Vietnam War is involved...
So what is it all about then? Part of the attraction is recreating history, and gaining an understanding of how things happened the way they did: how did the greatest military power in the world come to be defeated by a Third-World country? Another part of it is the multi-faceted nature of the combat involved: the war ranged from small actions in the jungles to major land offensives that included all manner of equipment, over land, sea and air. And then there is the challenge of bringing it all to life on a tabletop in miniature. That aspect is perhaps the easiest to understand: it is the same fascination that fuels the hobbies of model railroading, or making doll houses.
Although the range of commercially available models available is ever-growing, anyone wanting to recreate South Vietnam in miniature faces a lot of work. A lot of scratch-building is necessary, and materials have to be sourced from unlikely places. $2 shops provide some of the best jungle available in the form of plastic plants used for flower arranging, whilst pet shops are another place for resin castings of South-East Asian ruined temples and the like.
So here is an overview of all the various things required to recreate the Vietnam War on a tabletop.
First up is a Buddhist shrine:
This was made using a hardboard place mat, some plastic stands for fantasy figurines purchased from Games Workshop, and a little Buddah statue found in a Chinese herbal medicines store.
My second terrain piece was a small command post:
Yes, it's the venerable bamboo supply dump shelter from the Airfix Jungle Outpost!
But wait, what is lurking beneath it?
I decided to use it to make a Viet Cong HQ with map board and radio transmitter. Here is what it looks like with the roof off:
Some other early creations were South Vietnamese roadside billboards:
Ideal for concealing VC snipers and RPG teams...
And some big stuff too - Arc Light craters and incinerated trees:
The wandering VC gives you an idea of the scale:
The trees are acacia twigs and the bomb craters are Games Workshop/Citadel Miniatures moon craters.
Another distinctive terrain piece; a VC training area:
From left to right, the posters show 1) artillery and anti-aircraft trajectory calculations 2) the various components of a Maxim 1910 HMG 3) diagrams of Soviet light, medium and heavy machine guns, and 4) cross-sectional views of Soviet land mines and fougasses.
The source of the diagrams was an illustrated Soviet military dictionary (published in Moscow, 1968) that I sneaked out of Russia some years ago. In the West it would be considered pretty innocuous stuff, but even these days the Russians get pretty touchy about foreigners taking supposedly "top secret" military books out of their country. If you want to export technical books, you need a permit from the local branch of the Lenin (State) Library, and there was no way they would have granted it for that one, even if I had greased their palms...
More terrain pieces:
Vietnamese roadside stalls (and yes, they're meant to look that ramshackle...):
And, essential for any tabletop recreating South Vietnam; some low-density jungle vegetation (what the Australians used to call "light green"):
Apart from the tall stuff at the back and the model railroad scrub (centre left), these are all aquarium plants.
I am always looking for little odds and ends to strew the battlefield with, and made a couple of piles of shell casings on a test basis, as they are the sort of things you see around firebases and even in VC camps (for making mines):
I found the "shells" in the craft section of a local discount store:
This is an acacia woodpile I made:
It is easy to forget that in the 60s, Vietnamese villagers did not have electricity or gas - they tended to use wood for cooking purposes. And still do apparently - a friend of mine said his salient memory of visiting Vietnam was landing at Saigon airport at night and seeing all the little home cooking fires in the moonlight from the air.
More battlefield space fillers - septic tanks:
These are also useful for firebases, villages, or even town settings.
Having used the supply shelter in the Airfix Jungle Outpost for an HQ hut, I was then left with nothing to put supplies in, so I scratch-built these ones for my VC base camp:
This is the first piece for my firebase:
This is a resin piece by Frontline. To provide a bit more flexibility, I made a flat corrugated iron roof for it:
This is in case I want to use the sandbagged post on the roof as a checkpoint etc.:
Here is a photo of the aforementioned item with a couple of my old ESCI figures from 20 years ago:
It is a good match for 20mm/25mm figures, but it is a bit small for 28mm figures - for example, you wouldn't be able to put the roof back on the sandbagged position because they are too tall.
The casting needed a bit of tidying up (mainly excess resin due to bubbles in-between the sandbags), and a bit of filling (holes due to bubbles), but I have seen far worse.
The "Garage du Mekong" was my first civilian building:
It's a conversion of a broken Faller N-scale German garage that I picked up in a sale for a couple of bucks 20 years ago, and which I always thought could fit in nicely in a South Vietnam setting. It took a while, but I got there!
And here is a scratchbuilt bar:
This the first of various bars I made, based on photos I found on-line of a row in them in Vung Tau circa 1968. It was a quick and easy job, as I used a rectangular downpipe connector for the building itself.
Here's another ramshackle building, along with some old ESCI figures for scale purposes:
It was a quick and easy project, using a cut-up floor tile for the walls. It's loosely based on this building in Vung Tau (1968):
And here is a variation on the theme of the earlier building I did:
Small, ugly and ramshackle, but it looks the part - a newsstand:
The roof comes off, as this would be a good place for hiding a VC sniper... I also put some period magazines with Vietnam-related covers on the counter, although you can hardly see what they are in 1:72nd scale:
Getting away from rusting corrugated iron for a while, here is a French-style building, from Vietnam’s colonial period:
I wanted a semi-rural French-style building rather than a farmhouse and it has come out looking OK.
For the walls I used a cut-up floor tile:
These stone-finish tiles have the advantage of not requiring painting - a quick spray coat of matt varnish and they are done.
For the roof tiles, I used some of a roll of this stuff, found in a $2 shop, which is normally cut up and placed in the bottom of drawers:
A very cheap source of roofing material!
I grimed up the roof and gateway tiling up a bit with diluted India ink, but it didn't come out in the photos above.
I was also watching footage of the battle of Hue, and noticed some nice-looking urban walls with railings, and decided I had to have some:
They are cut from square wooden dowel. The stone balls are plastic craft beads, and the metal railings are from the old Airfix Zoo Set.
Designed for World War II wargaming, but just at home in Vietnam, are the Italeri Quonset Huts:
I kept the Mekong Delta mud off these ones and just gave them a slightly weathered look, as I will probably be using them for WWII wargaming too.
They are very good quality kits and assemble nicely. The plastic the walls are made from is fairly thin and bendy though:
Consequently, basing them is advisable.
Here are some additions to my firebase:
Like the earlier piece shown on this age, they are resin castings from Frontline. These particular items needed a lot more preparatory work - there were a couple of dozen air bubbles in each building, which required a lot of tedious filling work, and I needed to do some cutting and filing of extraneous material too. The end results came out looking good though.
And here is another battlefield filler - some stacked supply depot containers:
I made it from plastic craft beads:
Two observation towers:
I picked up these two old observation towers second-hand 20 years ago. The best I could do was slop some paint on them, base them, and hope they don't look too bad, as the original paintwork on them was awful and, try as I might, I just couldn't get it off.
Two small non-descript buildings that could be used in a variety of contexts:
Made from leftovers from the Quonset huts kit and a couple of clear plastic display cases for diecast cars.
A village covered market/VC base camp meeting hall:
A storage shed:
As you can probably tell from the last photo, the roofs are removable.
A village market table:
This is a child's toy I found in a charity store for 20 cents.
And a well:
Something I also found in a charity store. Some sort of weird decorative piece that happens to be in 1/72nd scale!
A hangover from the Indochina War in the 1950s: a Poste kilométrique:
I put a lot of rust on the corrugated iron roof as I figured the ones that survived into the 60s would probably look worse for wear. I used two plastic downpipe connectors glued on top of each other for the tower, then wrapped them in textured wallpaper, and drybrushed the paint on to give it a weathered concrete effect.
The roof comes off so you can put a garrison detachment in it:
Some town buildings: Two of these were also made using downpipe connectors. The other building is another a diecast display case that I repurposed:
I also made some vegetable patches and a couple of animal pens to go with my hootches:
And I made a few fences from a plastic textured placemat and matchsticks:
I purchased various period diecast cars to bring my South Vietnam terrain to life, and consequently had a stack of these display cases lying around:
Hmm, what if we glued the base on top?
And sprayed a bit of base flock on the walls and used some scrap plastic for a roof ventilation unit...
End result: South Vietnamese girly bars!
That gives me 5 of them now - should be enough to keep the troops happy...
These two plastic tents were left-overs from different sources and are now ready for adding to my firebase:
The big one is another charity store find - the canopy off a toy truck.
A roadside monument to the Free World forces, based on "The Flags" monument that stood in Vung Tau in the late 60s:
And a dozen thickets as stage one of my dense jungle construction plans:
As an alternative to the Chinese Buddhist shrine that started this page, here is a ruined South-East Asian jungle shrine:
And another town building:
The signage was swiped from a popular cinema that operated in Saigon in the 1960s, and is still operating.
I scoured the Internet for period Vietnam-related film posters and found a a couple of South Vietnamese ones, as well as obscurities like "A Yank In Viet-nam"("Fire Hot Adventure in the Time Bomb of the World!") and "Operation CIA" ("The CIA in Saigon - The Hottest Spot on Earth!") as well as the French release poster of The Green Berets, among others.
Here is the building in its "naked" state. I used a plastic Ferrero Rocher chocolates container with a plastic box glued on top that orignally held bulldog clips:
And here is a South Vietnamese bike and motorbike repair shop:
This was another 20 cent find in a local charity store that was originally a Hot Wheels tunnel.
While I was painting it, I noticed "Made in Vietnam" stamped on the bottom of it. It'll be nice to have something on my Vietnam War tabletop that actually comes from Vietnam.
Here's something to keep the Free World Forces on their toes:
My first completed tank project in 20 years! I couldn't find/make any decent decals, so I hand-painted the stencilled numbers on the turret.
And some building kitsets - the Italeri ruined building (in the background), and a Kibri fountain:
With the knobbly bit on top, I thought the fountain looked suitably Asiatic.
An NVA T34/85:
And another 20 cent find in my local charity store, which looks perfect as a South-East Asian burial mound:
I was looking for a suitable to-scale pagoda for a while, and finally found one:
This one cost me $3 from a charity store. It is actually a garden water feature made from jade and terracotta, so I thought I would give it its own little water setting:
I used Norski Kleer-Kast resin for the water and it gave a nice effect, although I had some problems with shrinkage around the water edge (which I covered up with "pond weed"):
I also made this non-descript slum shack:
It is an old (1960s) railway building kit I found in a second-hand furniture store:
Here's a miscellaneous batch:
These are some left-overs from some Zvezda kits I have been making recently (part of their "Art of Tactic" game), repurposed as NVA position markers.
A couple of NVA ZIS-3s, courtesy of Italeri. I have decided to base my artillery crew figures separately, so I can keep my options open for skirmish gaming, different rule sets etc.
A Hobby Master M8 armoured car. This was originally in Brazilian WWII markings, so I did a bit of repainting. I purposely left markings off so I can use it for ARVN and other Free World forces.
A Ho Chi Minh Trail truck. This is a conversion project I started 20 years ago but never finished. It was originally a Hasegawa WWII Japanese starter truck.
And some Roco 105 mm howitzers, which were also sitting around for 20 years waiting to be painted and based. Centrepieces for my firebase (still in progress).
The ultimate tabletop accessory: a firebase clothesline:
It could easily double as a VC clothesline too, I suppose.
An NVA 37mm AA gun:
This is a conversion job involving the Airfix Bofors gun, Italeri ZIS-3 wheels, and the gun mount from a Moldovan resin kit which turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. In retrospect, I should have got the Zvezda kit, which would have been a lot easier and cheaper...
And a couple of more charity store finds converted into South Vietnamese buildings:
A covered market, made from a child's mini toy crate, turned upside down.
And a shady-looking warehouse, made from the broken bits of a plastic fire station.
Work in progress: my armour workshop:
These are a range of 20-year-old kits and conversions being given an upgrade, and some new Altaya diecasts that I detailed:
At a model railroading convention I turned up some likely looking suspects for South Vietnamese buildings.
This looks like the sort of pad a provincial governor would reside in:
And how about this more modest abode for the local CIA guy?
Both of these Faller kits came ready-assembled and the only painting I did was the pond out the back of the governor's residence. Then I flocked the bases and they were ready to go.
Detailing work done on the Altaya Duster in the armour workshop photo above:
I added an aerial, crew, lots of ammo and splattered on a bit of mud. It should be noted if you are going to buy this model that the front and rear wheels are glued on the wrong ends of the chassis. It seems to be a systematic error in all of them as the Altaya Website shows the same error. Consequently I had to saw these off and reglue them the right way round.
Detailing work was also done on the Altaya Vulcan:
This particular vehicle had a night scope on the turret rather than a range-finding radar. I added the chair as a result of the earlier photo found (there were two, but that would be too fragile), and the commander in the turret.
Urban extension continues - tower blocks:
These are Faller kits that were first released in 1965, but are no longer available, so I was very happy to find 3 of them cheap and second-hand at a model railways convention recently. One of them required some repair work, but apart from that they were already assembled, so all I really had to do was scour the Web for suitable billboards and signage:
Here are my first Vietnam infantry figures in over 20 years - an ARVN Ranger platoon:
These are Elhiem 1/72nd scale figures.
And some photos of various stands:
"So that was 4 pots of pho, 4 fried chicken wings with rice, 2 curried frogs legs, 6 Cokes, 3 beers, and a Fanta?"
This used to be the Oxford Models Walls Ice Cream Cart:
The rough and ready Coca Cola sign was rescued from a model railway building and had been sitting in storage for over 20 years. The bottle is yet another 20 cent find from my local charity store. I think it used to be an ear-ring.
Here's another batch of buildings, completed while I toiled away painting my ROKA platoon:
This is a model railroad kit, picked up second-hand for a dollar and given a quick makeover to Vietnamise it.
A sandbagged control tower/watch tower, converted from a model railroad kit I got second-hand for $2.
Including the first of what will probably be a whole heap of homemade sandbags by the time I am finished building my firebase....
The container with rest area was another charity store find for 20 cents: the container came from a toy truck.
ROKA infantry platoon 1965-1967
The Korean Army deployed in Vietnam in 1965 using pretty much the same equipment and uniforms that they used in the closing stages of the Korean War. The only major difference was that US Marine style camouflage was widely used in ROK Army units in Vietnam. This fortuitous circumstance allowed me to use IMEX's 1/72nd scale Korean War infantry with a camouflage paint job, and with a few ringers added to fill some gaps.
Platoon command group:
Super bazooka team - I initially had my doubts about whether these were actually used in the field (so bulky), but did find a photo or two of Koreans lugging these things across paddy fields in Vietnam:
M1919A6 machine gun team (yes, they're Airfix US Marines!):
Browning automatic rifle team:
And a couple of new creations:
Two scratch-built Quonset huts.
These are more suitable for a firebase than the Italeri ones shown earlier, which are quite large (comparison photo).
A batch from the vehicle refurbishment workshop shown earlier - Airfix Sheridans. I bought these three kits in the early 1990s, and painted 2 of them prior to abandoning wargaming in 1992. The third, CC Rider, lay half-assembled and unpainted for 21 years.
A couple of these have already popped up in earlier photos, but it was time for an upgrade, so I did a bit more detailing (radio aerials, dust covers for the searchlights, new gunshields and commanders) and repainted them a bit.
An M41 Walker Bulldog:
An M8 scout car and an M24 Chaffee:
The scout car was shown earlier on: I fitted radio aerials, grubbied it up a bit and gave it a commander.
The Chaffee is an old Matchbox kit that was surplus to WWII gaming requirements, so it has been redeployed.
Over a couple of years I invested extensively in (= squandered money on) Altaya diecasts from the Combat Tanks Collection magazine series. Now the problem with this was that every one of those vehicles comes on a stand and in a clear plastic case, and being a wargamer, those vehicles are not for display.
Consequently I had a whole box full of these black plastic stands:
Not being one to waste anything, I got to thinking that if you cut the ends off these stands and put them end to end, you could make dirt roads out of them:
For reinforcement, I used Liquid Nails to glue them onto strips of hardboard:
And I used Liquid Nails to fill the holes in the stands, the gaps between the stands, and to roughen up the edges, as well as to anchor a few plastic plants along the edges:
The stands were then painted and flocked (there's around 20 feet worth of roads in the photo):
The finished result doesn't look too shabby for something made from scrap plastic:
The next step was to find a use for all the clear plastic cases:
Here is a prototype of a tower apartment block (work in progress):
The penthouse roof is the bit off the end of the glued together cases that I had to saw off to get the base flush.
The window frames are cut from the plastic mesh that those plastic plants we all know and love come on.
The balconies are from some cheap plastic trucks I got from a $2 shop.
Floquil "shotcrete" finish was then sprayed on with a can. Now all it needs is a bit of detailing and some paint...
A preview of some of my 1/72nd scale plastic ANZACs...
A Call To Arms released its "British Infantry of the 1970s" set: This is the old 1/32nd scale Britains figures resized to 1/72nd scale.
I thought it would be relatively easy to convert these to Vietnam War ANZACs. Before and after shots:
Replacing the GPMG with an M60 took a bit of work, but it turned out OK. I decided to hack that handle off though; it didn't look right.
Two more detailing jobs:
First up is an Altaya gun truck, which I merely muddied up a bit and added a crew to:
The quad AA mount came with quite a nice paint job:
And an aquarium piece, repurposed as jungle terrain:
A cheap way of practising my helicopter painting before I start on the real thing.
Two months in the making: my two ANZAC platoons and various ancillary elements: Comprising two platoons (one of Australians and one of New Zealanders), a mortar unit, 3 snipers, 4 AFV crewmen, and a company command stand.
The NZ platoon (with yellow 1944 pattern webbing to differentiate them from the Australians):
A couple of AFV crewmen wearing black armoured corps berets:
Company command stand:
Platoon command stand:
LAW team (side and front views):
M60 team on the march:
A rifle stand:
And a sniper!
To accompany them, I made an Australian long wheel-base Landrover:
This was converted from the Airfix kit, which involved a bit of work. As the Airfix model is of a British Gulf War Landrover, the front end is all wrong for a 1960s vehicle, so I had to add roo bars (scratchbuilt), redo the lights and radiator grille, and add the circular unit marker. I added lots of dust and mud as these vehicles look filthy in all the colour pics I've seen of them.
The side doors also had to go, and seats and a cutaway needed to be added at the back. It's not perfect, but it should do as a ride for my ANZAC HQ unit.
The second of my downed helicopters, this time a Cobra:
The model is a relatively cheap diecast from the Helicopter magazine series.
Some more jungle terrain. These are all aquarium ornaments:
I did some flocking here and there just to give them some more detail.
These rock formations are quite large, so I thought I would make some smaller ones of my own using spray-painted pumice from my local river:
The pond was made using two-part resin laid over a painted hardboard base, with some flock and grasses thrown in for pond weed.
Some rides for my ANZACs:
One garden-variety Australian M113, followed by two M113s with the T50 turret, and an M113 Fire Support Vehicle (all Airfix kits, converted to a greater or lesser extent).
The Airfix Fire Support Vehicle version has all sorts of annoying inconsistencies, starting with the name on the box ("U.S. version" - in which parallel universe did the US Army field them?). The vehicle transfers provided are for Australian Army vehicles that did not serve in Vietnam, so it was hand-painting time. Also the smoke dischargers were not used in Vietnam, so they are superfluous, as are the side skirts. The turret-mounted MG didn't look right, so I raided the bits box for a replacement, and the main gun's barrel needed a cooling jacket fitted, so one was added made from green stuff. The turret is missing its radio aerial mounts, so I added them and also used some fuse wire for the aerials. Lastly, a spare road wheel was added to the front. A final note regarding the positioning of the MG: I noticed in various photos that the commander slung the MG around so it was sideways when travelling - I'm guessing this was to provide a little bit of added protection against hostile fire.
Two M113s with T50 turrets. The turrets are scratch-built, based on toothpaste tube flip caps, with a plastic ring mounted on each one, with the top sculpted from green stuff and with bits of plastic and plastic card added.
The vehicle names are a bit larger than they should be - a trade-off in terms of on-table legibility and me not going cross-eyed painting them.
A characteristic of Australian Army M113s in Vietnam: large letters on the back door - I'm speculating they did this so infantry wouldn't climb into the wrong vehicle in the heat of the moment during a firefight.
And the garden-variety Australian M113. Gun shield converted from the ACAV model, using green stuff to extend the sides.
I was excited when the Helicopter Magazine issue with the H21 Shawnee "Flying Banana" finally reached my local newsagent's.
The cockpit canopy is a clip-on-off job so crew can be added. You might have to chop off the pilot's and co-pilot's legs though as it's cramped in those seats:
The instrument panel is fairly well detailed for a diecast too.
I now have enough of these to refight the battle of Ap Bac one day (on a scale of 1 = 2 - I worked out my table couldn't fit 10 of them; they're quite large beasts...)
And here are the Australian Centurions:
These were converted from the Altaya Korean War British Centurion that was one of the early releases in the Combat Tanks Collection magazine series. That will be easy, I thought. Little did I know...
The Australians added a 50 gallon fuel tank to the back of their Centurions, which had to be scratchbuilt, and then I had to do a fiddly little extension to the tow cable moulded onto the metal hull in order to account for the extended length.
As well as adding the pintle-mounted turret machine gun, I had to scratchbuild the turret rack from bits of plastic tubing. After scratching my head for a while and failing to find any scale plastic mesh that would be right for the sides of the rack, I cut up strips of lace curtain, spray painted them, and superglued them on.
The Australians also used a different main gun barrel, so the barrel had to be cut to a different length and the smoke vent thing had to be added (hand-carved from green stuff), and the coaxial machine gun was mounted OUTSIDE the canvas cover over the gun shield, unlike on the British Centurions.
But the major job was cutting off the metal mudguards with tin snips and having to sand down the sharp edges left behind with a sharpening stone so you don't cut your hand on them when you pick them up. Then, once I got them off, I realised that to save money, Altaya had left off the return rollers in order to save on production costs since you can't see them on the original model, so I had to cast around for 32 that would be the correct size (an old Airfix Churchill kit was cannibalised). Oh, and I also had to fill large gaps along the sides that were visible once the mudguards were removed.
So little wonder it took me two months to get around to finishing these firebase rations stores:
These are craft beads (that hopefully now look like cardboard boxes turning to weetbix in the humidity) inside the cut-up bottoms of rice cracker packets. For the photo that inspired them, click here:
PS: If you do buy the Altaya Centurion, please note that they put the smoke dischargers on UPSIDE DOWN.
This conversion was the first helicopter kit I have done in over 20 years...
First of all, I had to assemble a UH1-B as the platform for the particular aircraft I wanted to make...
Those Italeri kits are just as fragile and fiddly as I remember them, and the front window in the cockpit STILL doesn't fit.
This particular RAAF UH1-B was called "Ned Kelly" and served in Vietnam from 1968-69. It was the prototype of what came to be called the Bushranger gunship:
The machine gun belt holders were made from Green Stuff, rolled out, dipped in water, and then embedded in 2.5mm cable ties (also dipped in water - so they don't stick) and carefully peeled off in order to get a nice ridged pattern. They were then shaped and fastened in position before they dried. In detail, what I did was roll out the Green Stuff on a cutting board to the right size, then I laid a cable tie over the top and pressed it down onto the Green Stuff. Any excess was then trimmed off with a knife before carefully lifting the Green Stuff and embedded cable tie off the cutting board and peeling them apart.
It is a tricky job - you have to dip both the Green Stuff and the cable tie in water first, and even then they may stick too hard to be separated.
It is best only to use each cable tie once or twice as residual Green Stuff can ruin the moulding surface and make it too sticky, but they are cheap enough and come in large packets.
Originally I was going to use the cable ties for the ammo holders, but they weren't bendy enough and would have come loose even with super glue.
The coaxial rocket pods and M60s were a very tricky proposition to mount on the model: I had to use Liquid Nails and it took 3 attempts...
Some rides for my ROKA platoon: ROKA M113s (circa 1966), based on this photo:
A fairly good likeness!
I made five of them in total (enough to transport my full ROKA platoon):
In the various photos I have seen of them, the Koreans always had their M113s "squared away" so I left these models free of deck detritus:
The crews in the original photo were wearing Ray-Bans, so I thought "why not my guys too"?
My next project was a company of NVA. The main obstacle for these when using plastic figures is finding enough poses, as the only commercially available box available has a mix of NVA and VC figures. Italeri has come to the rescue by releasing the old Spetsnaz figures. Various of them even have boonie hats. As for the others, a few chops of the scalpel and they are good to go as NVA:
The Commie horde (painting in progress):
This one was sitting around half-finished for over a year so I thought I would take some time out from painting the NVA horde and get it done:
Nothing fancy - made using my quick and easy cut-up floor tile technique and a few odd bits of plastic from the bits box.
It took a while but finally I finished my NVA company:
138 figures in total; including 3 infantry platoons and 1 heavy weapons support platoon (at the back in this shot);
Company command stand and motorcycle dispatch rider:
Snipers (front view):
Snipers (back view):
Sniper with SKS rifle:
Sniper with Dragunov rifle:
Platoon command stand:
I belatedly decided I needed to paint the gold stars in on the sun helmets - a red spot just doesn't do it.
Kopye SPG-9 73 mm recoilless rifle team:
82 mm mortar crew:
12.7 mm MG crews:
Most of the others are from the old ESCI "Modern Russian Paratroopers Spetsnaz" box that Italeri rereleased as "Soviet Special Forces 80s". There was a bit of chopping and changing of headgear involved, but the end result looks right as they used much the same equipment and weapons.
The bugler is from the IMEX Korean War Chinese People's Liberation Army set, the FO is from the IMEX North Korean KPA set, the motorcycle rider is a Hät WWII Japanese cyclist, and some of the machine gun crew come from the Airfix Luftwaffe Personnel set. And the radio operator and radios come from the ESCI WWII Germans box.
And I used the left-over AK47s from the weapons crew conversions to make some weapons caches (the two at the back; the one at the front is a commercial lead casting):
And a couple of side projects I completed while I was doing all that lot....
A gents’ pissoir (every wargame table should have one):
It’s the filthiest toilet in South Vietnam...
This is my Vietnamese rendering of the Wills Victorian Gents' Toilet (Wills SS10).
And some helicopter fun: this is a quick conversion of an AmerCom diecast gunship to an early war dust-off helicopter:
It’s a nice little model, with a well-detailed interior (control panel, seats) but unfortunately I couldn’t work out how to open it without causing damage so it is crewless.
And, from the same Helicopter magazine series, a Sioux helicopter, complete with rockets and recoilless rifle mountings:
A great little model, but once again it is crewless due to the problem of how to get the bubble canopy off without breaking it.
The Marines are coming!
Here are the US Marines, all painted: they are mainly Pegasus US Marines...
Two infantry platoons, along with heavy weapons support. One of the infantry platoons:
Some ringers were thrown in to fill in gaps and add variety, as is the case with the squad commanders:
The two squad leaders on the left and in the middle are from the Caesar Miniatures Counter-Terrorist Elite Forces box. I had to cut down the contemporary looking "jarhead" helmet to make him look right, and took the modern backpack off him, but the one on the left fits in pretty well. The guy in the middle was used "as is". The guy with the carbine is from the IMEX Republic of Korea Troops box - I had some left over from my ROKA platoon and it would have been a shame to waste them.
The Pegasus figures are some of the most dynamically posed plastic figures I have ever painted:
And a couple of rifle stands:
Company command group - the short guy is supposed to be an ARVN liaison/interpreter:
Platoon command stand:
Various odds and ends, including a forward observer, sniper team, medics and supply stands:
Sniper team. These 2 figures are from a well-known photo of the famous Marine sniper, Carlos Hathcock:
A supply guy:
Heavy weapons stands:
Super bazooka team:
Weapons detachment commander:
60 mm mortar team:
The guy with the binoculars is from the same IMEX Koreans box, with an M16 stuck on his back to bring him up to date. The radio guy is from the IMEX Korean War US Army box, while the ARVN guy is an old Roco Minitanks figure I bought about 25 years ago (NATO infantry?).
This guy from the IMEX Koreans box too.
The Caesar Miniatures Counter-Terrorist Elite Forces box offers some very nice figures that can be used for Vietnam - various guys with boonie hats and some nice kneeling figures with Special Forces helmets that will be perfect for helicopter gun crew. I am still working out what to do with the Rambo figure firing a bow though.
A quick project: The ARVN Rangers statue in Saigon
The plinth is an old Coleman's mustard tin I had lying around that just happened to be just the right size. I had to cut it down to the right height with tin snips. The figures are from the Valiant American GIs box, which I originally got as ARVN infantry but they are way too large for my plastics and even look odd alongside the lead figures I have stockpiled. It's a shame because in relation to themselves they are just the right proportions for ARVN - big helmets, tight-fitting uniforms etc. Two of the three figures are a pretty good match for the original statues. The guy in the middle is waving the wrong arm but he'll do...
I should write down how I did the bronze effect before I forget:
1. Matt black spraypainted base coat
2. Thick wash of matt acrylic reddish dark brown paint
3. Thick wash of matt acrylic black paint
4. Dry-brushed Tamiya bronze paint
5. Highlighting with matt acrylic light brown paint
6. Thin wash of matt acrylic black paint
7. Testor's Dullcote spray varnish
Originally, I intended just to make a VC sapper platoon, but it soon turned into a full raiding party, with 2 platoons, a mortar section, flamethrowers, and a security element too.
I had some very clever ideas for figure conversions for these plastic guys, including Bangalore torpedoes, pole charges, guys throwing RKG-3 bunker-busting grenades, and sappers dealing with barbed wire.
Due to extenuating real-life circumstances, they took 11 months to get done, but here is the VC sapper raiding party, with 2 platoons, a mortar section, flamethrowers, a security element, and a medical unit:
As well as the usual suspects, I sourced these figures from a variety of different boxes, including Italeri Soviet Special Forces, Imex Korean War Chinese and North Koreans, Italeri and Waterloo 1815 WWII Japanese, and even the Airfix Luftwaffe Personnel box. Consequently, the raiding party looks more motley and varied than my normal NVA and VC units, and will definitely stand out if fielded alongside them.
The raiding party HQ stand:
The security element - this is the only unit that has an LMG:
Two platoon command stands with Italeri "Rambo" figures repurposed as sappers - one with an SKS rifle and one with an explosive device:
The Imex Chinese and North Koreans are very useful as they are carrying Soviet SMGs, which the VC sappers used....
As well as having what looks like the satchel charge from Hell:
Various of the stands have figures working their way through barbed wire, which can be combined for added scenic effect. Note the monster backpacks on the Imex figures, and the nifty ChiCom grenade throwers, as well as the repurposed Italeri "Rambo" machine gunners...
Imex Korean War figure with a Molotov cocktail, along with an Airfix Luftwaffe Personnel guy (that piston rod or whatever it is looks like a Bangalore torpedo to me):
Two Imex Korean War figures with a Waterloo 1815 Japanese flagbearer - shave the flag off and you have a monster Bangalore torpedo:
Flamethrowers courtesy of the Waterloo 1815 Japanese box:
The mortar unit, mainly made up of Imex North Koreans, along with a Waterloo 1815 Japanese radio operator:
Medics courtesy of the Airfix Luftwaffe Personnel box:
As well as having guys with caps (not common in the ESCI/Italeri Viet Cong box for some reason), the Imex Korean War Chinese and North Korean boxes strangely also feature lots of guys with what look like AK47s. Consequently they are probably better suited to South-East Asian conflicts in the 1960s and 70s than the Korean War.s
While I was painting these, I also completed a charity store find:
It is a metal Japanese ashtray shaped like a traditional hut. It just happens to be 1/72nd scale and cost me a small fraction of what it would cost for an equivalent mail-ordered resin building...
And here are some more odds and ends - Some stacked crates (suitable for a firebase) and a couple of market stalls:
The market stalls are made by Wills: one for books and one for fruit and veg:
Some roadside billboards. I should have put a vehicle beside them to show their size - the middle one is as tall as an M48:
A couple of ramshackle signs, also for my firebase (taken from old photos, complete with spelling mistakes...):
Some roadblocks. The rules I use require these for limiting movement along roads and I needed more, so it was about time I custom-built some:
And some walls, made from dowel and some free plastic domino things they were giving away at the supermarket:
Here are my US M113 ACAVs, made from Airfix kits:
There's some low-level deck-top clutter, but I was mindful of breakability, so I have kept them relatively squared away:
The vehicle names are hand-painted:
The M60 machine gunners are ESCI figures with the original MGs as the Airfix M60s look like Tonka Toys.
Many many hours of work were involved, but this gives you an idea of what you need to set up for Vietnam wargaming. Further pages in this section will be devoted to game after-action reports…
© W.S. McCallum 19 November 2016, updated 8 January 2017
Web site © Wayne Stuart McCallum 2003-2017