Tag Archives: World War II

From sprawling dioramas depicting the invasion of Normandy to full-scale LEGO aircraft carriers and battleships, the Second World War is a frequent subject among LEGO builders fascinated by the conflict’s history, people, and weaponry. Here on The Brothers Brick, you’ll find everything from LEGO M4 Shermans and Tiger tanks lumbering across the landscape to F4U Corsairs, P-51 Mustangs, and Mitsubishi Zeros patrolling the skies.

Seventy years since Market Garden

This weekend, in the Netherlands celebrations are being held to commemorate the 70st anniversary of Operation Market Garden. This was a bold attempt by the Allies to capture bridges over a number of important rivers in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and build a bridgehead across the river Rhine. This would bring their forces to the doorstep of Germany’s industrial heartland and, in the words of Field-Marshall Montgomery, would end the war in Europe before Christmas 1944. Airborne Troops were dropped far behind enemy lines to capture the bridges, while ground troops fought their way from Belgium through the Southern Netherlands to relieve them.

Douglas C-47A Skytrain - 2

It was one of the largest airborne operations of the war, which inevitably involved large numbers of C-47 Skytrain transports, such as the one built by Kenneth Vaessen, still marked with the black-and-white stripes that were applied to aircraft that participated in the D-day landing a few months earlier. (Kenneth actually posted it a few weeks ago, but I decided to wait for this opportunity to write about it.)

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned. The relief columns were held up and German resistance, in particular in Arnhem, was much stronger than anticipated. The allied advance was halted, thousands of Allied troops were killed, as well as thousands of German troops and numerous Dutch civilians. The war lasted eight more months, but much of the Southern Netherlands was liberated during the operation by soldiers from Canada, the UK, US and Poland.

We Can Do It!

I built a factory diorama for my T-47 Sheridan walking tank a few weeks ago. Of course, as the style of the build is alternate WWII, the workers in the factory are all female. As it’s Labor Day here in the US, it seemed like the perfect day to post this diorama, and celebrate the achievements of the American worker.

T-47 Sheridan Walking Tank - Factory 07

Sydag’s ultimate Grumman prop fighter

During WW2, the Grumman Corporation was the main builder of fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. At the start of the war, they built the classic F4F Wildcat. This was only the second US Navy fighter with then novel features such as a fully enclosed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage, but it was outperformed by the Japanese Navy’s A6M Zero. To counter this threat, the Wildcat was followed by the larger and more powerful F6F Hellcat.

F8F-2 Navy Reserve in Hangar

Sydag has now built the ultimate Grumman prop fighter: the F8F Bearcat. For this Grumman fitted the Hellcat’s R2800 Double Wasp engine to a much lighter and smaller airframe. The result was a bit of a hot rod, with far superior performance. The aircraft also incorporated a bubble canopy, greatly improving the pilot’s view to the rear. Bearcats entered service too late to see combat in WW2 and, with the advent of jet aircraft, they were transferred to the US Navy Reserve, where they received the orange fuselage stripe visible on Sydag’s model. The aircraft were retired from US service in the fifties, but their performance made them an attractive choice for air racing and Rare Bear, a much-modified Bearcat, still holds several world records for propeller-powered aircraft. I obviously like the aircraft, but I like how it is presented even more, with part of a hangar as the backdrop and surrounded by maintenance equipment and aircraft parts, including a spare engine. The classic hot rod (the kind with wheels) is the proverbial cherry on top.

There is no land beyond the Volga!

The Battle of Stalingrad continue to fascinate me. Stalingrad became a symbolic battle of the wills between two totalitarian dictators that manifested itself in devastating real-world consequences for over a million men and women who died on the front lines. For me, building LEGO models inspired by such a brutal battle isn’t about cool things that go “Boom!” Using LEGO to build vehicles, minifigs, and dioramas of historical events puts me in touch with aspects of history that I wouldn’t normally explore — I’m reading Antony Beevor’s excellent Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 alongside my building process.

Back on the 71st anniversary of the end of the battle in February, I posted a small diorama titled Victory in Stalingrad, but didn’t post any of the actual vehicles or minifigs, since I was building toward a much larger diorama for BrickCon this October. I finally managed to take some pictures yesterday.

Soviet KV-1s Heavy Tank (1)

Not much has changed since February on my KV-1s Heavy Tank (“KV-1s” is the model of the tank, a faster and lighter variant with a lower turret), but I’ve removed the extra plate between the turret and the hull and added some ammunition crates on the rear deck.

Soviet KV-1s Heavy Tank (2) Soviet KV-1s Heavy Tank (3)

The KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank was based on the KV-1 chassis, so a LEGO KV-2 to follow my KV-1 was inevitable. The monstrous turret enabled me to build quite a bit more functionality into the KV-2, including a fully elevating gun, as well as hatches on the top and rear that both open.

Soviet KV-2 Heavy Artillery Tank (1)

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Beaufort bomber from down under

It’s not very often that I come across an aircraft that I know very little about, but
Nikos Andronikos (dodgeyhack) has managed to befuddle me, by building a Australian Beaufort bomber. I know the Beaufort as a British WW2 aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force. What I did not know, however, is that Beauforts also served with the Royal Australian Air Force and were actually license-built down under in significant numbers.

RAAF Beaufort

Beaufort break down

So, the subject of the model is interesting in my book. Beyond that, the model is very nicely done. I like how the wings are angled back, to give their leading edges the proper angle. The camouflage works, which is no mean feat using dark green, and it has goodies such as a retractable undercarriage and an opening weapons bay. To add the proverbial cherry on top of his cake, Nikos has also made a render of the model that shows how some of the major bits go together.

Pancakes can fly

In the thirties, before WW2, many aircraft were biplanes, powered by propellers and built using wood and canvas seemingly held together with bits of string. Not long after the war, all-metal jet- and rocket-powered planes were flying near the speed of sound. These rapid developments did not happen without a lot of experimentation. Some of those experiments produced decidedly odd-looking aircraft. Lino Martins (Lino M) is mostly known for building slightly wacky cars, but he has now built one of those wacky experimental aircraft instead.

Vought V-173 "Flying Pancake"

The aircraft in question is the Vought V-173, popularly known as the Flying Pancake. It was built to test the viability of building a fighter aircraft using a low-aspect wing. This was expected to deliver relatively low aerodynamic drag, but with good low-speed handling. The concept worked, but the fighter that it was to lead to, known as the XF5U-1 Flying Flapjack (I kid you not), was overtaken (literally) by more modern jet aircraft. The idea may not have been a success, but as far as I am concerned, Lino’s model is.

Good planes come in small packages

I think there are definite advantages to building aircraft models on a larger scale, certainly when it comes to details of the shape. However, It’s always a joy to see what Peter Dornbach (dornbi) can do with LEGO on a smaller scale.

Lockheed P-38J Lightning (2)

Mitsubishi A6M2 "Zero" (2)
Both his P-38J Lightning and his Mitsubishi A6M2 are instantly recognisable and most of the important bits are there. The latter even has folding wingtips.

Volleying doom for doom

During World War II, the Allies fielded approximately 50,000 M4 Sherman medium tanks. But ignoring the hard lessons that the Soviet Red Army learned about German armor on the Eastern Front, the United States and its Western allies delayed production of better-armored tanks with bigger guns until very late in the war. That bigger, better tank — one that could go head to head against German tanks — was the M26 Pershing. However, only 20 Pershings saw combat, between February and May 1945.

M26 Pershing heavy tank (1)

American 3rd Armored Division veteran Belton Cooper argues in his 1998 book Death Traps that this delay in fielding the M26 Pershing in favor of the existing M4 Sherman cost thousands of lives on both sides by delaying the end of the war in Europe for six months. As much as I love the Sherman for its iconic “tankiness,” I was inspired while reading Death Traps to try my hand at a Pershing as well. (I was also running out of Technic chain link for narrower tank treads until my first batch of Brickmania Track Links arrived, so I was forced to use the wide LEGO tread pieces if I wanted to build anything.)

After more than a decade on the web and a dozen LEGO events, one of my failures as a builder is that I tend to build first for static display and photography rather than functionality, and it takes a couple of iterations before I go back and give my models a bit more of an interior life. I’ve tried to improve this over the last year by adding internal details to my vehicles like a removable engine in my Shermans. But I still struggle with tank guns that elevate and depress properly. I’ve now addressed this shortcoming with my latest tanks, including this Pershing, my Soviet KV-1, and a couple of my newer Stuarts. Given differences in turret design, the challenge has been that each tank has required a different solution to achieve an elevating gun, ranging from guns that pivot on Technic pins to ones that go up and down on simple hinge bricks. It probably shouldn’t be this hard…

Strangely perhaps, my favorite detail on my Pershing is the set of stowage boxes on the sides, which are half-stud-offset in two directions to leave half-stud gaps between the boxes and a half-stud lip at the edge of the tank. You can see this best in this comparison shot, which shows just how much lower and wider the Pershing is compared to the older Sherman — a difference that made the Pershing simultaneously harder to hit and more agile on rough terrain.

M26 Pershing vs. M4 Sherman

Finally, here’s a quick little build I tossed together to showcase some of the rarer BrickArms elements that I’d picked up around BrickCon last year — an original American version of the M3A1 Scout Car that I posted last summer in Lend Lease program Soviet livery.

M3A1 Scout Car - US Army - Early War (1)

I managed to pack all of the following custom elements into this tiny little armored car:

  • BrickArms M2HB .50 caliber machine gun (prototype)
  • BrickArms M1917 .30 caliber Browning machine guns (x2 prototypes)
  • Citizen Brick US Army Ranger torsos
  • BrickArms brodie helmets
  • BrickArms M1 Garand rifles (x2 overmolded “Reloaded” version)
  • BrickArms M1917 printed crate
  • Citizen Brick diamond plate tiles

For those of you curious what “overmolded” means, it’s an injection molding process in which a second color of plastic gets injected on top of another, bonding the two together. Will Chapman of BrickArms has been experimenting with the technique for a year or two, with absolutely beautiful results. But don’t expect to see this in large quantities anytime soon — Will hand-injects each batch in his secret laboratory. Josh and I had the privilege of visiting the BrickArms workshop last year, and learned first-hand just how labor-intensive the overmolding process is. Nevertheless, some of the overmolded items are available for sale from BrickArms resellers.

Victory in Stalingrad

71 years ago today — on February 2nd, 1943 — the Red Army defeated German forces who had occupied Stalingrad more than 5 months earlier. Nearly half a million Soviet men and women were killed defending their city from Nazi aggression. The Battle of Stalingrad is arguably the turning point of World War II — a horrendous loss for Hitler and the Third Reich that weakened German forces and led ultimately to Allied victory 2 years later.

Although I haven’t had as much LEGO time over the last six months or so, I’ve managed to keep building. Spurred on by the new Brickmania Track Links, I finally got around to photographing the dozen or so models I’ve pumped out since BrickCon in October. The buildings and minifigs in my diorama of Stalingrad were part of the “Operation Brickarossa” collaboration last year, but my KV-1s tank is new.

Victory in Stalingrad (1)

Compared to smaller and stranger tanks I’ve built, the KV-1 was relatively “easy” and I don’t have a whole lot in the way of build notes. One recent change to my building methods is to try to include more functionality from the start. Admittedly, I failed to do so on the turret hatches, but this is one of my first tanks to include a gun that elevates and depresses properly.

With several hours of photography and editing out of the way, I’ll be posting the rest of my models on Flickr, along with write-ups here. In particular, check back for full reviews of the new Track Links, BrickMania kits, BrickArms items, and more.

New shoes for old tanks

Remember the Brickmania track links kickstarter project? It reached its funding goal and the first models that use these tracks are now appearing online.

B/V-88 "Athena" Trackmania

These fine examples, an M4 Sherman and two different versions of the Stuart light tank, were built by LegoUli. These already were some of the best examples of minifig-scale US WW2 tanks out there and built in old dark grey to boot. This is a difficult colour to use, because all kinds of handy parts builders have become used to, such as cheese slopes, were never made in this particular shade. It is probably the closest match to the colour of the real vehicles, though. The old track shoes were a bit narrow, but thanks to the new track links, this has now been rectified.