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135
The Beer's Here!

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In one of the ironies of life, my father, the late Lt. Col. William E. Cross, Jr. (USMC ret) served a year in Saigon with MAC-V while I was in college. It was just one of three wars he served his country in (Saipan in WW2 and as a tank commander in Korea). So whenever an opportunity comes up to model something from the Marines, I jump on it. Having seen a bunch of videos lately about the Tet Offensive, I was intrigued by the ubiquitous presence of "mules," Or more correctly, the U.S. Military M274 Truck, Platform, Utility 1/2 Ton, 4X4.

The "mule" was designed to replace the jeep, mostly as a medical evacuation platform for the severely-wounded on litters in rough terrain where jeeps couldn't go. But the damned thing could carry gear or be mounted with a variety of weapons, including the M40 106mm recoil-less rifle.

The recoil-less rifle version was used a lot in the Battle of Hue City, but the only kit in 1/35th scale is an old Dragon one that's hard to find (I had to order mine on eBay from a seller in China). I decided to pair it with the AFV Club LVTP5-A1 "amtrac" amphibious vehicle. Again, these turn up a lot in footage about the Marines in Vietnam. The vehicle was sturdy, could go almost anywhere, and offered protection from small arms fire. And while they weren't air-conditioned and could get pretty roasty-toasty, the Marines preferred to ride on top, often with sandbags piled up for protection, because it was better to be "blown clear" in case of a mine or other explosive device than blown up. Fortunately, Hobby Fan makes a set of five Marines in FlaK vests, resin-cast sandbags tailored to the AFV Club kit, and even a set of two crew.

I added the Eduard PE sets for both kits, along with some Value Gear stowage and four Orange Hobby aerials to replace the kit plastic nubs. But the diorama came alive once I added the one thing Marines- indeed, men everywhere consider essential: cases of beer.

My dad taught me the "Marine" way to chill brewskies in a hot climate: place the warm beers in a "GI can" (what we call a trash can), fill it with water, then blast the outside with a fire extinguisher. Too much compressed CO2 and the water would freeze solid, but it was worth the risk for what you got: Carling Black Label, San Miguel or Tiger beer were the popular beer brands in 'Nam according to my dad. A set of paper beer cases purchased on eBay gave me more than enough to model the arrival of the beer ration.

After that, it was a liberal layer of MIG Vietnam dust, some elephant grass, track marks and done.

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About the Author

About Bill Cross (bill_c)
FROM: NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.


Comments

OH, yeah! MIG Products are all "Top-Line"! I use 'em, too! Especially the pigments! As far as the Verlinden Figures are concerned, yes, they are a bit dated as far as the casting goes. Of course, they've been around since the 1970s, so perhaps the molds are getting a bit soft... CMK also makes some nice Vietnam-era resin figurines, as well as WWII and Modern stuff... Now, as to your U-Boot- You might try some of the photographic works of Lothar Guenther Buchheim, the author of "DAS BOOT", for some reference material. I believe there are several PE and multi-media Update sets available from various manufacturers. What scale is it? I have a buddy in France who is an avid ship builder. He may be able to come up with a few leads, which I would be happy to pass along to you... BTW- Buchheim was a German War Correspondent and Photographer who actually DID go out on U-Boot cruises during the war. I thought that the "DAS BOOT" book was better and more graphic than the movie- you could almost smell the odors of the men, the moldy food and the Diesel fumes, and also the "blue language" the crew spoke in, than what the movie could convey with just an "R" rating... I still have a 1/144 REVELL Type VII (?) in my Nephew David's attic that I need to dig out and complete, someday. It'll go nice next to my REVELL 1/144 USS Fletcher-Class DD (1942). I used EDUARD's 1/144 BIGED "Fletcher Class" Super-Duper" PE set to spruce the kit up a bit...
JAN 11, 2016 - 10:25 PM
Bill, GREAT job as a tribute to your Dad (may he rest in peace and may a grateful nation recognize him for his service and sacrifice X3)and, indeed, all Marines! I thought we of the 1st Infantry Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at the top end of the supply lines in Quang Tri were the only ones punished by drinking Carling Black Label! That stuff was rank and, if even you could get it cold, it didn't matter! I got such a kick out of seeing the Carling cases in your diorama. The troops using tracked vehicles always preferred to ride on top rather than inside. The stifling heat notwithstanding, it was better to get blown OFF the roof than to be blown up INSIDE the track should you encounter a 500 lb bomb being used as a land mine! One thing to keep in mind for future projects using sandbags in Vietnam dioramas. The sandbags were made of a material that I'll call "artificial burlap." They had a shiny, plastic looking appearance when new and were a sage green color with a black drawstring to cinch them closed. When, like everything else in RVN, they became infused with the ever-present red dust and dirt, they always maintained a certain amount of the green color unless totally faded out by ultraviolet sunlight. They normally did not take on a khaki or burlap color like the sandbags used in WWII and Korea. The Dragon kit of the Mule is available once again. Hobbylinc in Georgia lists it though available for pre-order. Also, I believe Glencoe made a 1/15th kit of the Mule many moons ago if you'd like to fashion individual, little cans of Carling Black Label to go with it! Keep up the good work! I thoroughly enjoyed your diorama and thank you for sharing it with us Armorama visitors.
JAN 11, 2016 - 11:06 PM
Dennis, it's the 1/72nd scale RoG kit. I have the pressure hull and saddle tanks done, but can't find any reference photos of the baffles in the drain holes. Trust me, I have ALL the PE sets, LOL. 5th, Man, thanks for the 411. A buddy of mine clued me in today about riding on top vs. getting blown up inside. I always heard it was because those babies got roasty-toasty in the heat. I did not have a color guide for the sandbags, and will begin the process of correcting them with some green wash. Thanks ever so much. I remember my dad drinking Black Label back in the days when you needed a beer can opener. Almost like a rotary phone now.
JAN 11, 2016 - 11:14 PM
Hi, Bill! Oh, yeah! Manual Can Openers! OK, all "seriousness" aside... I'd like to recommend a book to you, if you haven't already read it- It's "PRAYING FOR SLACK", by Robert E. Peavey, who was a US Marine Corps Tank Commander in Vietnam. It's a good read, and pretty insightful. Get the hardcover edition- the photos are in color...
JAN 12, 2016 - 03:02 PM
Most guys had a "beer can opener" on their dog tag chain--IE the famous"P-38"!! I still have mine from basic training in 1977 on my key chain and it still works fine! J
JAN 12, 2016 - 07:37 PM
Bill, the interior of every track was normally an oven unless during the monsoon season. They would make Colonel Nicholson's visit to the "punishment hut" in "The Bridge on the River Kwai" look like an air conditioned suite at the Ritz! The roof riding was a survival method rather than seeking a dose of blast furnace hot air blowing red dust all over you! Watch those insults about us old guys. I remember drinking beer from cans opened with a "church key!" I also remember the first (or one of the first) self-opening beer containers. It was a brown glass 12oz squat bottle of Rheingold (New York brewer) called the Chug-a-Mug. It had an easy opening, thin aluminum cap with a tab that peeled back to open the bottle. Very clever for ancient times!
JAN 12, 2016 - 10:07 PM
"Church keys," right I remember that! I'll look for Praying for Slack on Amazon and see what comes up. Thanks for the suggestion!
JAN 14, 2016 - 05:47 AM
Hi Bill, Congrats on this one! Really like your choice of subject and both vehicles are really well done! Colors, weathering, dust, figures it all seems to work. I have to admit: I would have thought a LVTP5 next to a mule would make a too big of a difference in size of the vehicles (hope this makes sense) BUT seeing your dio; it doesn't! Very well done! I hope your next work will be Nam again best regards, Mark
JAN 14, 2016 - 11:18 PM
Hey Bill, Excellent diorama, figures, and vehicles. The weathering of the LVTP-5 is really nice. Like 5th Mech said, it is a great way to make a tribute and show honor to your Dad's service and to all Marines. It does make a difference when you are working on a project and it has a personal connection. I also like the way you loaded out the MULE with a mix of ammo and beverages. The uniform colors are good and the fading of the helmet covers are convincing. Great job! I hope to see more Vietnam dioramas from you. Cheers, James
JAN 16, 2016 - 12:32 AM
Thanks, guys, I wish a good M113 kit would come out. Maybe I'll tackle a Marine 105mm or 155mm fire base. It would help to have good figures, which is half the battle.
JAN 16, 2016 - 02:31 AM