On September 15, 1944, US Marines landed on a little known Island in the central Pacific as part of operation Stalemate II. The invasion of the Palaus was underway, with the 1st Marine division landing on the island of Peleliu while the US Army 81st division would land on the adjacent island of Anguar two days later. Peleliu was wanted for its airfields that would help secure the routes to the Philippines and Formosa (Taiwan). It was predicted to be an easy, four day battle. Instead it was a long, drawn out struggle, taking two months to secure the island with a cost of 1800 US and conservative estimates of nearly 11,000 Japanese soldiers killed, and US forces suffering an additional 8,010 wounded, sick or exhausted. Some 300 prisoners were taken, of which 19 were Japanese military personnel.
The battle marked the first time the Japanese fully implemented the new tactic of establishing an in depth defensive network. Rather than trying to defeat assault forces at the beach, they determined to wear them down through protracted fighting, trying to increase the casualty count of the attackers. The battle is controversial because of the high casualty count and claims that it was unnecessary due to airfields being established on Leyte. To this day, native Palauans remember their liberation with gratitude. General Clifton Cates, Commandant of the Marine Corps after WWII, proclaimed that Peleliu was the toughest fight the Marines were ever in. It is an often overlooked battle that was remarkable both for the tenacity and heroism of the fighters. For more information on the Battle of Peleliu, look to:
The HBO miniseries "The Pacific"
and Ken Burns' documentary "The War"
both feature the battle of Peleliu.
Perhaps in conjunction with the two television programs, Dragon
has found new interest in subjects concerning the war in the Pacific. Two years ago they announced a figure set of US Marines at Peleliu and they have finally come to light. The box art shows what appears to be the assault on the airfield, in which Japanese tanks were employed in an effort to halt the Marine advance. Inside the box are four figures on one sprue representing the box artwork.
The sprues are packaged in two plastic pouches, with the two smaller sprues together. They are well molded and I did not see any sink marks or other defects. There is a small amount of flash visible on some of the parts that should be easy to clean up. Of note is that Dragon, as much as possible, have molded the figures in such a way that the mold seams do not go over prominent details such as boots, laces and fasteners, making clean-up much easier. Detail does get soft, especially around the rear pockets and shirt hem, and on the shoulders. The larger sprue has four figures and their equipment. This consists of the following:
, sitting on the ground, leaning slightly forward and holding an M1 Garand rifle. He has been wounded in the left leg at or around the knee. His left trouser leg has been cut and he is in the process of getting the wound wrapped. There is a spare part to represent the torn trouser leg. He has a backpack, poncho and entrenching tool on his back, crossed bandoliers as well as ammo pouches on his belt line, and two canteens. His helmet has a cloth cover and he is wearing leggings over his boondockers.
, medic, attending to figure 1. He is kneeling next to figure 1, bandages in his hands, wrapping the wound. He carries two large packs on his belt with medical supplies in addition to his backpack, poncho and entrenching tool. He is armed only with a sidearm and two spare magazines, and though not shown in the instructions also has a long pouch on his belt that holds, what I believe, would be morphine. The arm band with the red cross is molded on his arm. He also carries two canteens and has leggings over his pants and boondockers.
, BAR man, advancing forward in a crouching walk, holding the BAR at his waist and at the ready. He is also wearing the backpack/poncho/entrenching tool and carries two canteens and a knife. His pant legs cover his leggings. He has ammo pouches around his waist.
is squatting, holding his rifle in front of him at a low ready. He has a bayonet affixed to the rifle. His helmet cover includes a neck cover. He has what looks like a map case on his belt, along with two canteens, but has no backpack. He carries a magazine pouch for a pistol but the instructions don't show to place one on him. He has no ammo for his rifle. My understanding was "every Marine a rifleman" and someone in his position (small unit commander or squad leader) should be carrying ammo for his rifle. If I am wrong a Marine will let me know.
Molding of the figures is very good, with the backpack harness and belts showing fine detail. The wounded man's boot soles show no tread pattern. The medic's do. The torn trouser leg for the wounded man is a nice touch, as otherwise there would be a cleanly cut pant leg, although it still looks a little too neat for me. A piece of tissue or some putty could easily substitute here for a less clean appearance. Expressions on all four faces are clear and the heads themselves are really nice.
The weapons are all Gen2 gear, with separate bolt assemblies and the muzzles hollowed out. They consist of two M1 Garand rifles, one M1 carbine, one BAR and one M1 Thompson sub machinegun. Spare magazines for the Thompson, carbine and BAR, and spare clips for the Garands are included, as well as the option of having the rifles with open or closed action.
The major issue with the kit is the inclusion of only 12 pouches for 3 figures. Each rifleman and the BAR man should have 6 pouches each. The instructions don't show the squatting rifleman (commander of the unit) with any spare ammo, and that may be how Dragon justifies not including any extra ammo. It is odd as Dragon has never hesitated to throw in an extra sprue in any other kit. All of the US figure kits I have each included a large sprue with ammo pouches for the carbine, M1 Garand, BAR and Thompson, as well as extra canteens. As for the canteens, the box art says two styles are included. You get two of the old style and 6 of the new. There are no grenades.
There are two pistols, both holstered. There are packs, ponchos and entrenching tools, though the packs and entrenching tools are smaller in size than those of the Tamiya accessory set and I don't know which is the more correct. The medic carries a full suite of extra equipment. Gen2 gear is always nice to have.
The instructions are on the rear of the box, showing assembled figures with each part identified by a line and the part number. A painting guide is called out below that with a repeat of the box art and colors identified by number for GSI Creos Aqueous hobby color and Mr. Color brands and Testors Model Masters enamel paints
I did a partial assembly of the first two figures to test the fit of the legs and torso parts. They went together well with only very small gaps present. I did not do a full assembly as I need to hunt through my spares to check for extra ammo pouches and grenades.
The first two figures are tied together, although the wounded man could be placed on his own, waiting for transport or even placed in, or on, a vehicle. The medic could then be attending any other wounded you might happen to have on hand. The other two figures can be worked together or placed as you like with other Marines, and would make a nice vignette. The kit has plenty of possibilities.
Dragon has this kit listed on their website with the MSRP of $11.95 US. Several online stores had the MSRP higher, and prices varied widely. I no longer have a local hobby store so I don't know what shelf prices would be. Shop around for the best price. This should be a handy set, but for full ammo, you may have to snag the Tarawa or Iwo Jima Marine figure sets as well.