by: Andrzej Snigorski [ ]
After the Allied landing on Sicily in 1943, the Third Reich had to support Italy on a new front. Then following Marshal Badoglio’s capitulation, Italy actually came under German occupation. The Germans decided to build a line of military fortifications known as the “Gustav Line” which crossed and blocked the main road to Rome. One of the strong points was Monte Cassino, a fortified monastery surrounded by bunkers and other fortifications. Initial attacks were not successful, and neither was bombardment. The road to Rome stay closed. Attempts at surrounding the German forces by landing Allied forces from the sea in the area of Anzio failed, too, and resulted in committing the Allies to four months of battle in the Anzio beachhead.
The Battle of Monte Cassino was actually a series of battles that took place in 1944 around the Monte Cassino Monastery area. The first phase of the battle was part of operation Shingle (which also included landing in the Anzio area). On the 22nd of January 1944, the first attack on the Monte Cassino position took place. American, British and Algerian forces attacked Cassino, Monte Calvario, and Monte Castellone. Digging foxholes in this rocky area was impossible, so soldiers had to attack in open terrain under heavy fire from the German bunkers. Due to heavy losses (5 divisions), the attack was stopped. Operation Shingle did not end with victory.
A second attack (known as operation Avenger) ended in failure, too. Although the Monastery was a great strategic position, Field Marshall Albert Kesselring (being a catholic from Bavaria) did not allow fortifying it in order to avoid tempting the Allies to destroy it. Despite this, the Allied commanders decided to bomb the Monastery, along with nearby hills and the city below it. After a public announcement of bombardment date (which allowed Germans to move valuables from the Monastery to the Vatican), on February 15th B-17, B-25 and B-26 bombers dropped 453 tons of bombs. During the bombing, supporting artillery fire completely destroyed the Monastery. Only the crypts of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica survived. After the bombardment, the remaining ruins were fortified by 1st Fallschirmjäger Division.
The attack that took place after bombardment was led by the 2nd New Zealand Division, and was supposed to bring relief to the troops involved in the battle for Anzio. The attack ended three days later. The third attack (called Operation Dickens) was the most bloody operation of this campaign: Indian, New Zealanders and English divisions attacked the monastery on March 15th. The remaining troops had to return to starting positions after 11 days of fighting. Losses were so heavy that the New Zealand formation had to be disbanded.
Operation Honker was the fourth attack, with the main strike force the Polish II Corps led by general Wladyslaw Anders. The attack started at 01:00 12 May after heavy artillery fire. The first wave brought heavy losses, and several strategic positions could not be held, but it allowed British troops to push the Germans away from lower areas of the hill and the town of Cassino. The second wave began on the evening of May 16th, and finally brought a breakthrough. French forces managed to advance into the areas on the west from the Liri valley, and forced the Germans to withdraw to the Hitler Line. The German 1st Fallschirmjäger Division was ordered to withdraw, and during the night of the 17th of May 1944, the Germans abandoned their positions in the Monastery to avoid being encircled. A white flag was spotted on the morning of May 18th, and the 12th Podolian Uhlans Regiment captured the abandoned buildings of the Monastery and about 20 wounded German soldiers. The Road to Rome was finally open and the city was captured just two weeks later.
German Fallschirmjäger (paratroopers), after having taken heavy losses during the invasion on Crete, were used mostly as mechanized or regular infantry thereafter. They were the main German defensive force during the Battle of Monte Cassino.
The figures are packed in a standard Dragon box with a drawing showing four Fallschirmjäger soldiers fighting in the Monastery ruins. Inside are 5 sprues with 142 parts in grey styrene:
the main figure sprue
two German gun sprues and
two Kar98k sprues
The figure sprue contains 70 parts:
- 4 figure sets including 1 head, 1 torso, 2 hands and 2 legs each
- 4 helmets
- 4 haversacks
- 2 Kar98k ammo pouches
- 2 MP40 ammo pouches
- 4 bayonets
- 2 Stielhandgranate grenades
- 4 water bottles with cups and dust-cloths
- 24 pouches (of two kinds) for Fallschirmjäger bandoliers.
Each Gun sprue contains 18 parts:
- 2 Mp40 bodies (including stock, magazine and barrel): one with butt in a closed position, the second without it
- MP40 butt
- 2 MP40 locks (allowing you to choose between a lock in an open or closed position)
- 4 MP40 magazines
- Sturmgewehr 44
- 2 StG magazines
- Gewehr 43
- 2 Gew43 locks (allowing to chose between lock in open or closed position)
- 3 Gew43 magazines
Each Kar98k sprue contains 18 parts:
- 2 Mauser Kar98k guns (stock with barrels)
- 4 locks (2 in an open and 2 in a closed position)
- 12 stripper clips with cartridges
The kit allows the building of four Fallschirmjäger soldiers, all of them in Fallschirmkittel also know as "Knochensack" which means “bone sack”. It was a long blouse used by German paratroopers, and was longer than the usual German camouflage blouses, with additional pockets and buttons that could shorten the legs (very practical during jumps), helping to protect the equipment and not flapping in the wind while falling.
The shoes are typical for FJ troops. Two soldiers wear type 2 Knochensack made of Grünmeliert which was a material made from different-colored thread resulting in a green-grey overall look. Another two soldiers wear type 3 Knochensack in Splittertarnmuster camo (a hard edge, four-color camouflage with characteristic “grass” or “rain” pattern that was developed for the German army in late 1920s). The first soldier is bending forwards. He wears type 2 Knochensack and is holding a Gewehr43 in both hands at the waist level. The instructions suggest equipping him with bandolier, haversack, bayonet and water bottle. His head is protected by an M37 or M38 helmet with camouflage net.
The second soldier is laying on the ground looking straight ahead and holding a Kar98 in his left hand. His equipment is identical to the first figure, but he wears type 3 Knochensack.
The third soldier is also dressed in type 3 Kittel in Splittertarnmuster camo, and is kneeling on his right knee supporting his right hand which holds a rifle; the left hand supported on the knee is holding the two grenades. The instructions suggest equipping him with water bottle and bayonet. Since he holds a Kar98 in his hands, ammunition pouches should be added, though because he is kneeling and bending forward, there is very little space for pouches on his belt.
The fourth figure is standing and firing an MP40 held at eye level. He wears a type 2 Knochensack, but his helmet has a cover in splinter camo. He is equipped with haversack, water bottle and two pouches for MP40 ammo. A bayonet may also be added, since it was standard equipment and it didn’t come only with the Kar98k rifle.
Assembly and painting
Assembly and painting instructions are printed on the rear of the box. The instructions are clear, leaving no place for misinterpretation. Painting is simplified as usual, so external painting references may be helpful. Options for the weapons assembly are not shown, but it should not be a problem for anyone to decide how to show these guns with the locks opened or closed.
Detailing and quality
The parts are made of a good-quality grey styrene. The attention to detail and good quality materials insure that the detailing is clean and visible. Surfaces are flawless. Flash is observed on several parts, especially on the figure sprue– fingers, pouches and some other parts may require cleaning. Delicate seam lines are visible on the usual areas. The clothes have a natural shape, and the helmet covers are particularly well-sculpted.
The weapon sprues used in this kit can also be found in other DML sets, including Gen2 kits. A random fit check showed no problems.
Another good quality Fallschirmjäger set from DML. No major quality issues are present, and the variety of poses are both strong sides of this kit. The set may be useful for building any late war diorama that includes Fallschirmjäger from the Italian front. They may be also be used for bigger dioramas with other DML (Premium Edition) kits showing the same subject. The price is a bit discouraging - it is higher than the price of many other DML kits, including some Gen2 kits. Could it be another indication of DML’s price increase strategy? DML’s website suggests $11.95, but the price varies from $17 to even $20 depending on the shop.