About a year or so ago, a clubmate handed me a big pile of American WW2 Miniatures. I had been drafted into the war, and this time it would not be the hot desert of Cyrenaica, but the icy depths of the Ardennes. It was finally time to go all in on winter armies. The lovely metal minis from Empress were expanded by two boxes of plastic Perry miniatures, and suddenly I had quite the collection. Stuffed away in a box. Where it remained for a year.
At the start of 2021, with rumblings and rumours of forces of both winter Soviets and Germans assembling across town in our isolated homes, it was time to dig out that forgotten box and get to it. First I needed inspiration, and after googling around a lot I think I found what I wanted.
The US Army might have been backed by a metric shit-ton of industrial output back home, but the Ardennes were far from Detroit. To make matters worse, logistics were incredibly difficult given the small number of captured working ports on the continent and that most of France's infrastructure had been bombed to bits prior to D-Day to prevent German counterattacks. So not all American soldiers were properly prepared when the temperature started to fall at the end of 1944.
The Battle of the Bulge also took the Americans by surprise. When the frontline was broken through, American soldiers who were waiting to be re-supplied and getting their winter gear suddenly found themselves fighting for their very survival.
As a result there are many pictures of less than regulational outfits. Withouth proper coats, the normal jackets were supplemented with civilian scarfs, mittens, and anything that kept the cold at bay. Improvised winter camouflage was used when the snow started falling, with any white cloth becoming a possible protection from being seen. In my google digging for inspiration, it was this style of rag-tag look that really stuck with me and made me want to paint up the minis. A desperate defense against the best the Axis could throw at them, eventually grinding the German armoured spearheads to a halt.
Converting Perry Miniatures
The bulk of my forces would come from Perry's plastic Americans. The theme of improvised winter clothes was perfect for converting them to look more at home at a frozen potato farm than a Tunisian sand dune. Using green stuff, almost every soldier got at least a scarf wrapped around the neck or tucked inside the jacket. Some got mittens as well. One squad also received improvised helmet covers, which will make it easier to tell them apart of they are bunched up.
I painted them all up, but I've only based this first test squad. This turned out to be a great idea, since the leaves I put on the bases turned out to have been tinted by an almost neon green. This was not visible in their dry state, but as soon as the Vallejo Snow Effect touch them, they turned into a bright green sludge that looked more at home in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episode. I had to go back and cover them in more appropriate oranges and browns, and then work with additional layers of snow. This was a good example of why you should not do anything to an entire army at once!
The squad leaders has his trusty Thompson SMG. I decided to add bushes to all NCOs, to make them a bit easier to tell apart at a glance. He's also got a horizontal stripe at the back of his helmet.
Each squad comes with a BAR team. Unlike the heavier LMGs, the BAR does not require a full time loader, so all the rest in the team act as riflemen instead of crew.
I put stones on the bases of the BAR gunners to more easily tell them apart from the riflemen. That turned out to not be so helpful, as the snow makes the stones harder to see than the details of the BAR. Oh well, good intentions!
Each squad comes with a rifle grenadier.
These form the bulk of the squad. Click the thumbnails below for larger pictures. I did my best to mix the colours of the uniforms, to make the platoon really look like it has not been properly re-supplied, but rather wearing whatever they've gotten their hands on and kept the items that have not worn out since Summer.
Finally this medic was converted using green stuff to make the sleeve bands and the bag he's carrying.
It might not be so easy to see from these pictures, but I added a bit of pink into the flesh coloured highlights to make the faces look cold. Different people react differently to cold, so don't worry about getting the effect exactly the same throughout your army. But seen close up, they really make them look a lot more at home on a winter table.