Thursday, April 30, 2009

Action Man German Stormtrooper

And now for the origin of Stormtroopers. The term "Stormtroopers" wasn't created by George Lucas. The Stormtroopers (in German "Stoßtruppen" for "shock troops") were specialist military troops which were formed in the last years of World War I as the German army developed new methods of attacking enemy trenches, called "infiltration tactics". Men trained in these methods were known in German as "Sturmmann" (correctly "assault man" but usually translated as "Stormtrooper"), formed into companies of "Sturmtruppen" ("assault troops", more often and less exactly "Storm Troops"). Other armies have also used the term "assault troops", "shock troops" or "fireteams" for specialist soldiers who perform the infiltration tasks of stormtroopers.

This is the Action Man World War II era 1/6 scale 12-inch German Stormtrooper, part of the Soldiers of the Century sets which were introduced during 1967/1968. This release was similar to GI Joe's Action Soldiers of the World (SOTW) line but GI Joe's "foreign" soldier spotted a unique "Nordic" head sculpt. Both figures were based on the Blitzkreig era combatant. The actual Stormtrooper uniform would go through significant simplification as the war progressed, including the introduction of ankle boots and gaiters instead of the infamous jackboot.

The Action Man Stormtrooper came with the M1935 German Stahlhelm helmet with tricolor shield decal which had slanted stripes of the national colors (black, white, red) on the right side and a black shield with white eagle grasping the swastika on the left side of the helmet.

The "flock" hair or realistic hair head sculpt was only introduced in 1970 and I prefer this head sculpt over the original painted head versions. The red piping on his epaulettes or Waffenfarbe denotes that the wearer is part of an artillery unit.

Above the right breast pocket of his tunic is sewn the German national emblem of an eagle. This early released uniform (tunic and trousers) was made of a heavy grey green material. It represents the 1936 pattern service tunic of the German Army.

The Action Man German Stormtrooper came with the Iron Cross First Class. He also has his cartridge belt with M1933 cartridge pouches in two sets of three. Each set would have contained six five-round clips of 7.92mm Mauser cartridges. I added the standard issue pocket flashlight which was not part of the original set.

Close-up of the Standard issue pocket torchlight

The German Stormtroopers were issued with black leather marching boots. The Action Man Stormtrooper's jackboots were moulded black polyurethane boots.

The Action Man German Stormtrooper was also given a field pack and stick grenades or M1924 hand grenades. I've added more stuff to make him more historically accurate.

Besides the Lugar pistol in holster on his right rear, I've equipped the Action Man German Stormtrooper with additional accessories.

The Action Man German Stormtrooper Tornister fur covered field pack. The fur pack was mainly used for formal occasions such as drills or rallies.
In combat, the equipment carried included entrenching tool in artificial leather carrier, gas mask in canister, mess tin, breadbag, water bottle and Mauser bayonet in scabbard. I added these items to the Lugar pistol in holster on his cartridge belt to complete the look.

The original weapon that came with the Action Man Stormtrooper was the MP38/40 sub-machine gun which is inaccurate as the cartridges on his belt are meant for the bolt action Mauser Karabiner (Kar) 98k rifle. The MP40 or Maschinen Pistole 40 fired 9mm Parabellum rounds and the 32-round straight box magazines were usually carried in triple magazine pouches. I switched weapons to make it more accurate.

The helmet has the tricolor shield decal which had slanted stripes of the national colors (black, white, red)

This is one of the nicer action figures to be produced and released by Action Man.

Check out the GI Joe Australian Jungle Fighter with the "Nordic" face from the "Action Soldiers of the World" line here


Anonymous said...

I believe I can explain some of the inaccuracies and strange choices made regarding this figure's outfit and accessories. Action Man was the UK's version of GI Joe, and this figure (with a different head sculpt than this) debuted in 1966 as part of Hasbro's Soldiers of the World line of GI Joe figures, and was called German Soldier instead of German Storm Trooper (in an apparent attempt to appease Hasbro head Merrill Hassenfield's brother, Harold, who objected to the connection to the SS the name "Storm Trooper" implied).

GI Joe: The Complete History of America's Man of Action has a section about this and the other Soldiers of the World figures. It explains how Hasbro would acquire surplus military stuff to model their toys' outfits and accessories on. This was done for the Soldiers of the World line, too.

Hasbro employee Jerry Einhorn in particular was handed the assignment. Einhorn. whilst trying to find uniforms and gear of foreign soldiers, spoke to someone at the Pentagon, and was referred to the Virginia War Memorial Museum in Newport News, Virginia. He went there and in the main lobby there were numerous mannequins wearing WWII-era uniforms and holding weapons, etc. displayed behind a glass wall.

To get them to take them out for him to take pictures of them, Einhorn lied about being injured in World War II (he had been a veteran, but the limp he had was actually caused by a tumble down some subway steps). In this manner he persuaded the owners to let him take out all of the mannequins and take numerous photos of all of them and their gear and weapons from multiple angles. I'm unsure if the Virginia War Memorial people ever even knew Einhorn worked for a toy company.

All of the six original Soldiers of the World figures' outfits and weapon choices were thus the result of Einhorn photographing these particular mannequins. As far as I know, after finishing up, they put them back and he left with his photos, without going further into the museum to see what else they had. Apparently he felt he'd hit the jackpot, got photos of just these six specific soldiers, and then left. It seems obvious, then, that the German soldier being displayed was wearing an artillery unit tunic, and Hasbro, not up on what, if anything, the different color trim meant on different German soldiers' outfits, just copied it verbatim.

As to the ammo pouch screwup, I'd toyed with the idea Hasbro thought they were just generic utility pouches, but the box art explicitly calls the belt a "Cartridge Belt" so they knew what they were for. I assume, then, the Virginia War Memorial Museum had their display depicting the German soldier (in an artillery unit jacket) holding an MP40, but with K-98 ammo pouches on his belt, and Jerry Einhorn and the developers at Hasbro just again copied the Virginia display detail for detail.

These are all only my own theories, but I do think that Hasbro basing their figures off of just these six mannequins and then just going with it would explain the errors and the oddly specific choice of red piping on the jacket.

alex teo said...

WOW! That's a lot of insight and history behind the figure :) Thanks for sharing. It is very much appreciated. Now more collectors can know of the toy's history of how it came to wear what it wore and bore the particular mismatched gear and weapon that it had.