Soldiers don't die

"A man dies only when he is forgotten"

Friday, November 7, 2014

Remember Those Little Green Army Men?

So I was looking for a place to post this topic and the pictures and I guess this is kind of relevant to my Grandpa's Army website...

Remember those little green army guys?

I saw in a recent news article that those 'little green army men' every 20th century boy played with at some point or other have now been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame as of November 6, 2014.  As young kids, we boys really mistreated these things. We dug 'trenches' for them in the sandbox and left them outside to end up buried in the dirt for years, we painted them to look more lifelike, some of us hacked their limbs off and dabbed red paint on them for more 'realism', and a few of us even shot at them with BB guns.  Now where are yours? Did you put them in a shoebox to be entombed in a closet,  hoping your son would enjoy them as you did and hopefully not try to eat them?

These army men are kind of special though. They were my Dad's when he was a kid, likely bought by my Grandpa, and these are World War II army men. I've seen the K-mart army guys probably made in China or Mexico, with their same boring 5 or 6 generic poses...and let me tell you they don't make these things like they used to.  I dug out some of them from a deep dark corner of my storage closet so you can see how awesome they are.

For tiny figurines in molded plastic, the detail is really incredible. I never saw anything quite like them. The wrinkles in their uniforms are visible, and the gear and weapons the men carry is accurate down to the last detail. There are no seams and 'fringes' that the modern cheap ones have.  You can even see their face expressions, they are quite lifelike. The plastic color is not that ugly grass green that new army figures are molded from. The "green" ones are a khaki or much darker olive drab, a lot like the real color of the GI uniforms.

I have almost fifty of these little guys, and they are surely just scattered remnants of much larger sets, many pieces of which no doubt were lost over the years.    I think these are forty or fifty years old.

These walking Medics appear to be carrying a heavy load. As you can see, a stretcher fits into their hands and a bandaged soldier lays on this stretcher. The man's jacket is unbuttoned, his torso is wrapped in bandages and you can even see how they slit his trouser leg to bandage up a leg wound. They must be rushing him to the nearest field hospital.  Not something you see in plastic army men nowadays.

In a desperate anger, this man has run out of ammo and, as he lunges forward, looks like he is about to club somebody with his M1 Garand. His face is drawn in a sneer.

Then I have this guy, who's apparently just been shot. He's staggering backward and his helmet is flying off his head. His mouth is open in pain or surprise.  This is not something you see in a plastic army man set these days. Little plastic army men don't die. No, sir.

This green soldier is about to hit an enemy with the butt of his rifle. The detail is so fine, you can even see the netting on his helmet.
I think these might have come from a D-Day packaged set. They appear to be wading ashore. Look at the serious face of the officer with the life vest, his pistol is drawn. I have one of the plastic LST landing craft in the background.
The three "casualty" poses in the collection, the man who's been shot, a man clutching his chest and crawling to safety, and perhaps the same man lying down.
A man kneeling, aand clearly talking on a field radio. You can clearly see the antenna attached to his backpack and the phone receiver in his hand. He must be calling for reinforcements.  It looks like his helmet has a cover on it, which could make him a Marine.

Running at full speed. Again, not something you see in a modern army figure set. The tan one has a boot off the ground. The action poses of these things are fantastic.

This odd one puzzled me for years. Is he flying backward through the air? Is he falling? It didn't occur to me until just now, but...

...He fits perfectly around the shoulders of one of the walking medics.  So he's doing the wounded man carry! Astonishing how well these figures are molded and how versatile they are.

Two grenade-throwing poses. The one on the left clearly is holding an M1 Thompson submachine gun in his other hand.
Same figures viewed from behind.

Four heavy weapons poses. Two bazookas, a mortar and a machine gun on a tripod mount. Again, you can see the wrinkles of the fabric camouflage cover on two of their helmets which could indicate they are USMC. The varying colors show they are from different sets, but they are all about the same age.
This guy is paddling a rubber boat!

Also found in this collection were some armored vehicles. They are of a slightly smaller scale and different plastic color than the figurines, which leads me to believe they were from a different playset entirely. But this is a halftrack that can tow a howitzer!
There are some plastic tanks as well, two US and one German. There are plastic wheels hidden inside the treads. These are hollow inside to make them lightweight. The turrets revolve a full 360 degrees.
An American tank and a German tank face off. The grey German one has marker on it because I tried to color it in with magic markers when I was very young. It was in my fish tank for awhile too.
A super-detailed Sherman tank! I want to write "Fury" on the barrel. The turret and the 50-cal on the top swivels.

This is a 105mm Howitzer that could be towed behind a vehicle. The detailed wheels spin freely. The L-shaped metal rod coming out the back was to "fire" it.  There's a spring inside, and I guess a shell could be loaded into the barrel and then pulled back and fired. This is a larger scale than the figurines and was originally a silvery grey plastic. I painted it awhile back to look genuine.
Anyway, has anyone ever seen these toys and if so, are they worth any more than the new ones? They are not for sale, but E-mail me at if you can find any more info about them or any guess as to how old they are.  I am so happy my grandfather kept these in his attic for us to play with and I just couldn't bear to lose them, they are just too rare and unique.

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