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.

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.

T47 Sheridan Walking Tank

I’ve wanted to try my hand at some alternative WWII vehicles for quite a long time. Long enough, in fact, that I originally planned to use sand green, then dark green, then sand green again (as these color became available, or had new parts show up). Of course, when I finally built something, I ended up using olive green.

The idea with this creation is a sort of “what if” scenario. In this case, what if WWII lasted longer, and militaries started fielding diesel driven mecha. Far-fetched, perhaps, but it certainly seemed like fun.

I also tried something new (for me) with this creation, and photographed it only in a scene. I’m hoping this presentation is pleasing to our readership.

T47 Sheridan Walking Tank38

In the bunker with Jerry.

Trench warfare is today’s topic in military history and our guest lecturer is BeLgIuM ww2 bUiLdeR, who has just posted a fine example of the genre entitled Red Tree bunker All the boilerplate is present and accounted for: radio room, racks, command and control center, searchlight and of course many weapons and soldiers. According to the builder, the bunker system is not modeled after any one specific location, but rather a representative sampling of many locations. My favorite detail is the decapitated tank turret re-purposed as an anti-tank gun emplacement.


The P-61 Black Widow is a sinister beauty

If, like me, you’re into LEGO aircraft models, this week is off to a rocking start. Yesterday I had the pleasure of featuring mrutek’s P-51 Mustang; today I am happy to present the P-61 Black Widow by Sydag.

[P-61B-15] The Black Widow : A Study In Black.

The first radars entered operational service prior to the Second World War, but during the war the equipment became sufficiently compact to be fitted to aircraft so that they could find targets at night. However, radars were still fairly bulky and interpreting their signals was a fine art. Some single-engined single-seat fighters were equipped with radars, but most night fighters were bigger twin-engined machines, with a dedicated radar-operator in addition to a pilot. The P-61 Black Widow was the US Army’s purpose-built night fighter, used during the latter part of WW2. It carried a gunner as its third crew-member.

Having built my own version of the P-61, I can really appreciate the shape of Sydag’s model. Our models are similarly sized, but because he has decided to forgo having space for a minifig crew, the fuselage on his model looks far more accurate and elegant. It’s sinister and beautiful at the same time.

This P-51D Mustang is ready to take on the Luftwaffe

I have come to admire mrutek for his models of some of the lesser-known aircraft of the Second World War, such as the A-20 Havoc and the Yakovlev Yak-1, but he has now turned his attention to a rather more famous aircraft: the P-51D Mustang. The P-51D combined a license-produced Merlin engine (famous for its use in the British Spitfire) with an airframe that could carry enough fuel to fly all the way from England to Berlin, escorting bombers. Nonetheless, the aircraft was sufficiently fast and agile to take on the best the Luftwaffe could throw at it. The P-51D was the first Mustang version with a bubble canopy, that offered excellent visibility to its pilot, and is an aviation classic.


The model carries very attractive markings similar to those of the USAAF’s 361st Fighter Group on D-Day, with its yellow nose and invasion stripes. It’s not all perfect, though. For instance, I think the nose is a bit too long and should curve upward more at the bottom (I have purposely chosen a picture where this isn’t obvious). I also think that the distance between the leading edge of the wing and the front of the canopy should be a bit bigger. I know that building WW2 fighters isn’t easy, however, and overall this is an instantaneously recognisable model with some very nifty techniques.

“I know nut-zing!” Awesome LEGO Hogan’s Heroes diorama by Brian Williams

Brian Williams (BMW_Indy) is back making awesome dioramas. This time he’s cooked up this excellent cube of goodness from Hogan’s Heroes, one of my all time favorite TV shows. There’s everything from Carter’s underground chemistry lab to the hidden antenna in the flagpole. You’ll have to inspect the barracks more thoroughly than Schultz, but you might just recognize some great nods to specific episodes. Plus Brian has outfitted the whole thing with lights, so it looks great in photographs. Note the cool textures on the walls using the antistuds on the backs of plates, and the edges of wedge plates for the rough-hewn walls of the tunnel network.

Hogans Heroes - Overview

If you don’t want to click through the photos individually, check out this slideshow Brian made:

Soviet armor forged in the Arsenal of Democracy

Thanks to having run out of LEGO track (I can’t wait for Brickmania Track Links), I’ve been forced to build something with wheels. Between June 1941 and September 1945, the United States delivered 400,000 Jeeps and trucks, 12,000 armored vehicles, 11,400 aircraft, and 1.75 million tons of food to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease Program. The US often reserved the latest arms and armor for its own armed forces, and older or obsolete designs ended up on ships to the USSR to fight the Third Reich on the Eastern Front.

One such vehicle was the M3 Scout Car, an armored car created by the White Motor Company in the late 1930s. You can clearly see the M3 Scout Car’s heritage in the later M3 Halftrack, which I’ve included here with the Scout Car — both in Soviet livery.

Soviet Armor Forged in the Arsenal of Democracy

Recent posts about my LEGO World War II models didn’t really discuss materials or building techniques. While I wholeheartedly agree with LEGO’s stance not to produce LEGO sets based on recent real-world military conflicts, it does leave a gap for the minifig-scale LEGO military modeler. Several custom accessory vendors fill that gap. Here’s a quick run-down of the custom items I’ve used in my recent models.

  • Weapons and headgear by BrickArms: Will Chapman has been branching out from American and sci-fi weaponry over the last couple of years, with PPSh & DP-28 machine guns, Mosin-Nagant rifles, Tokarev pistols, and even an ushanka hat for those long Russian winters.
  • Flags and trenchcoats by Cape Madness: My Soviet armor wouldn’t be the same without a proper Soviet flag. Naturally, LEGO isn’t going to make one of those… My thanks to Dave Ingraham for generously giving me a large selection from his catalog.
  • Printed accessories from Citizen Brick: Though a bit on the pricey side, Citizen Brick sells a variety of interesting elements you can’t buy from LEGO, including printed BrickArms headgear like the ushanka with the red star and the medic helmets I’ve included in previously posted models.
  • Printed BrickArms crates from Brickmania and G.I. Brick: Quite possibly my favorite recent addition to the BrickArms catalog, the crates are long enough to hold long guns and come in a variety of realistic colors and useful patterns. Frankly, I feel a compulsion to collect them all…

M3 Scout Car (1) M3 Scout Car (2)

The Soviet decals — “CCCP” and so on — are stickers salvaged from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull LEGO sets (a theme rife with exceptions to LEGO’s policy, but full of elements useful to the military builder).

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy research while building LEGO models based on historical people, events, places, and vehicles. Though I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks, I’ve continued improving many of my existing WW2 models based on feedback from other builders and better photos I’ve come across.

Once I’m reasonably happy with a military model, I like to reproduce it so I can make further variations without destroying each one in turn. Here’s my much-improved (I think…) M5 Stuart Light Tank alongside a new M4 Sherman Medium Tank.

Sherman & Stuart tanks of the 761st

I rebuilt the front of the Stuart to reduce how much it projected in front of the treads, lowered the turret by a plate, and gave the turret a proper commander’s hatch. The Sherman has a brand new turret, using 1×3 arches that I first saw built into the turret on the Brickmania Sherman I reviewed earlier this year — another example of how LEGO builders are indebted to each other to improve their designs.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with all my World War II armor (LEGO Italy circa 1943 seems overdue for liberation), but I’m certainly enjoying the vehicle builds along the way.

Learning to fly in WW2

The latest diorama by Gary the Procrastinator shows a not unusual day in 1943 at Randolph Field. Back in 1943, the US Military had a need for large numbers of new pilots to fight in World War II. Their standard training aircraft was the Boeing Stearman 75 Kaydet, often known simply as the Stearman. Like many aircraft of its era it was a so-called tail dragger, with an undercarriage that consisted of two main wheels and a tail wheel. Taking off and landing in such an aircraft could be tricky, in particular in crosswinds. In the diorama, one trainee pilot gets it right. The other, however, has veered off the runway, the main wheels have dug into the grass and the aircraft has nosed over.

Stearman PT-17 Kaydet Diorama, Overview

The aircraft models are beautifully built in the colours typical for these trainers and, while the landscaping is a little more straightforward than on Gary’s march to Gettysburg diorama, the tyre marks on the runway and through the grass are a nice touch.

Schnellboot Docked at Night

More and more it seems that we are seeing lighting integrated into a model’s presentation. When done right, it can create a wonderful ambiance for the photo. Nate Flood’s Schnellboot (Fast Boat) is a perfect example of this. The lighting and simple diorama sets the perfect mood for the image. Nate says that the photo is courtesy of Jim Liermann, so it appears this was a team effort.

Lego Schnellboot docked at night. Photo courtesy of Jim Liermann

For those that want to have a closer look, there are further photos of the Schnellboot in Nate’s flickr photostream.

Thanks a bunch to Mike for the heads up on this shot…I surely would have missed it.

8.5-foot USS Yorktown WW2 aircraft carrier by Marcello De Cicco

It is not as big as the USS Intrepid by Ed Diment or the USS Harry Truman by Malle Hawking, but you have got to admire this LEGO aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown, by Marcello De Cicco.

The model represents the second aircraft carrier named USS Yorktown. The first was sunk in 1942, during the Battle of Midway. One of the new Essex class carriers then under construction was named Yorktown in her honour and had a long and distinguished career that lasted until the Vietnam war. Like her sister ship, USS Intrepid, she has been preserved and now is part of a museum.

The model was built to a scale of 1/108. That is a rather small scale for building aircraft models and I am impressed by the level of detail that the builder has managed to achieve. Small is a relative term, however. With aircraft carriers being stupendously big things, this model is still a pretty whopping 8.5 ft. (or about 2.6 m) long. The photo quality does not really meet our usual standards, but I can imagine that something this big is not exactly easy to photograph and the ships in the background do not look shabby either.

Many thanks to Brick Tales for the heads up.

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Sen. Daniel Inouye in LEGO

This post isn’t about politics. Well, mostly. On Monday, I expressed some anger about the way Memorial Day has become increasingly trivialized here in the United States, but I didn’t apply the nuance I usually expect from myself, even when writing about the intersection of our LEGO hobby and the real world — of which complex political issues (including my pacifist viewpoint) are most certainly a part. I’ll try to do better as I explore an issue that I think lies a bit closer to home for LEGO fans reading this blog.

Why is it that ethnic minorities are so under-represented in our LEGO depictions of military history — World War II in particular? Why are the LEGO minifigs storming beaches and liberating France presumably all white? Where are the Tuskegee Airmen, the Nisei soldiers, the Filipino sailors, the Navajo Code Talkers, and many more?

I realized recently that I was guilty of this oversight myself, as illustrated amply in the links to my own models above. I’m correcting this today with a rather simple photograph depicting 2nd Lt. Daniel K. Inouye as he marches with his platoon toward the ridge in Tuscany where he would single-handedly take out three German machine gun nests, losing his arm — and earning a Medal of Honor — in the process.

The 442nd Moves Out (B&W)

Daniel Inouye went on to become a US Representative and Senator from Hawaii, serving his state from the first day of statehood in 1959 through his death at the end of 2012.

(Frustratingly, I also realized that I don’t have the LEGO landscaping talent to attempt the ridge scene itself. And as an infantry regiment, the 442nd wasn’t equipped with the “interesting” tanks and other armor I’ve been building.)

There are historical reasons that answer my questions, of course. The United States military was officially segregated until after World War II ended, and most non-white units did not serve in front-line combat roles. Thus, the ever-popular and exciting scenes depicting the first moments of D-Day, for example, sadly but accurately exclude minorities like African-Americans and Japanese-Americans.

It’s also challenging to use LEGO as a medium to reflect real-world diversity. With LEGO Friends as a welcome exception — Heartlake City is certainly a multi-ethnic LEGO society — theoretically, only LEGO sets from licensed themes like Star Wars and the Lone Ranger include explicitly non-white characters. Why is it that a person of color has to be in a movie in order to be included accurately in a LEGO set? (Try asking LEGO that the next time you call Customer Service.) LEGO has claimed in the past that yellow minifigs are somehow race-neutral. Rubbish — tell that to a 9-year-old African-American girl wondering why people like her are so grossly under-represented in LEGO minifigs. And yes, LEGO is a Danish company, but that’s no excuse either.

Thanks to LEGO, we builders don’t actually have too many “non-white” minifigs to work with. For my Nisei soldiers of the 442nd, I had to dig up LEGO Ninjas minifigs from the 1990s, along with a few Ninjago minifigs. I shouldn’t need to go to themes with stereotypical ninjas in their name to find Asian minifigs. And for my African-American tank crew from the 761st Tank Battalion (below), my choices were even more restricted.

M4A3E2 Sherman "Jumbo" of the 761st (1)

But I can’t give us WW2 LEGO builders a pass for focusing so obsessively on Normandy (with a bit of North Africa or Stalingrad thrown in from time to time) at the expense of the much-larger historical context, which did indeed include people from every thread of the vast tapestry of American society. Nor is the “limited LEGO palette” an excuse. What’s a bit sad about our collective obsession with D-Day is that we’re overlooking heroism and drama that is just as interesting and just as “buildable” in LEGO. By starting with the question “What can I build?” I’ve learned about people and events I’d never have learned in my high school American history classes (and certainly not in the Japanese history classes during elementary school earlier in my life).

Unfortunately, I’ve also encountered darker obsessions among some LEGO World War II builders. I can’t count the number of teens (apparently) who’ve included references to the Third Reich in their Flickr screen names — some going as far as to include the SS lightning bolts or even swastikas. I’ve also seen casual use of dated and hateful terms like “Jap” and “Kraut.” It makes me angry, but it also makes me very sad. Such behavior is unacceptable, and flies in the face of the very values that the Allies fought to defend in World War II. These are the kinds of actions I was alluding to with my “trite hand-wringing about ‘kids these days'” in my Memorial Day post. It’s hard to believe such attitudes toward fellow human beings don’t color what these builders choose to create with LEGO (or how they treat their fellow human beings in real life).

Whatever the reasons, we can and must do better.

The LEGO Military Annual Build Competition is happening now through July 10. With that in mind, I’d like to issue a challenge to those of us who are building something in the numerous contest categories: Build your models and minifigs in ways that reflect the true diversity of the men and women in the armed forces — whether you’re building something historical from World War II, Vietnam, or more-recent conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan, or whether you’re creating something from an alternate or future timeline.

African-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Filipino-Americans, and other minorities fought racism and prejudice during World War II even as they battled the Axis Powers in the war itself. When they arrived home, they built on that experience to begin the Civil Rights movement, as well as the drive toward Hawaiian statehood and an independent Philippines. Those of us building LEGO creations based on historical conflicts like World War II owe it to the men and women who served to accurately reflect their experience.