One of the most interesting, opportunity filled areas of modeling has gone massively untapped. We modelers who love World War II as a subject have been radically underserved. The American Home Front is a subject we all should be shaking pitchforks in the air to get kit manufacturers to start thinking about the American Home Front.
There, I said it. I apologize for any riots I may have inadvertently just caused.
During WWII, America spun up an entire country into a massive manufacturing state. Factories were everywhere, entire chunks of industrial park camouflaged with netting, multiple types of home guard troops and volunteers. The entire country was overhauled. Trains, cars, buses, and wagons were all used in the efforts of both military and civilian daily tasks. It’s an absolutely fascinating period. Yes, America didn’t see carpet bombing destruction or massive tank battles. But the country transformed and created massive, unique opportunities for military and civilian vehicles and dioramas.
Manufacturing & Factories
Think about how many products were being manufactured: Higgins Boats, ships, tanks, planes, staff cars, food crates, shells, you name it. All of these products had test grounds, production lines, and factory floors associated with them. I’m sure they exist, but I’ve only seen one really awesome, non-bombed out factory floor diorama – Shep Paine’s B-26 factory floor.
While not as showy as German Firemen or Policemen, perhaps, but the American Civil Defense efforts yielded lots of great uniforms (or at least partial uniforms). Civilians dressed up with CD white helmets and armbands, Red Cross workers, and more. Plus tons and tons of local fire, police, and emergency workers. Tons of interesting, rarely covered figure painting opportunities! And the vehicles…
Yep, vehicles. Between the buses, passenger cars, old trucks that were from an early time period, cool rescue vehicles, and military equipment in civilian form. Flip through the gallery at the bottom of this page for cool examples. Just imagine the possibilities!
Camouflage and air raid protections
Did you know that entire factories and city blocks were camouflaged so that planes flying over would only see an empty fields or houses? Imagine the diorama possibilities!
Women & Minorities
One thing that is dreadfully lacking in our hobby is equality. (Remember my rant?) Especially in WWII, the opportunities for non-male, non-white figures are nearly non-existent. But on the home front, minorities and women are in high supply. What better way to expand our hobby amongst those same non-white, non-male folks who don’t spend a ton of time modeling now?
Recruiting stands, rubber drives, bond drives, and many more activities could make great backdrops for dioramas, vehicles, and more. Did you know that the Mall in Washington, D.C. was covered in temporary housing structures during WWII?
Think about how varied the United States is. Forests, frozen tundra, deserts, beaches, mountains, and swamps. We have it all here, and so any type of diorama or weathering you want to do, have at it!
I don’t know about you, but I sure love those old 1920s style houses. Or the 1800s style brownstones. Or the quaint farmhouses. I also love the 1940s style. Plenty of cool modeling opportunities.
Now, I know what you’re likely to say…. “But there’s no rubble in American Home Front. There’s no burned out hulks of tanks that took a direct round. There’s no shell craters to model!” Sure, maybe not. But I’m beginning to wonder if the same types of rehashed (even if amazingly so) Tiger I tanks and Sherman tanks and Willys Jeeps are growing old to us modelers. Look at the enthusiasm on display when a manufacturer announces a tram, or a fire truck, or firemen. Or cars and more cars.
You may respond to that reality by telling me that, to Americans, American Home Front subjects wouldn’t be that interesting. We aren’t used to seeing vehicles that look like the European trams, or fire engines that look like the German fire engines. But if you take a look at some of the potential subject matter for the American Home Front, you’ll certainly find some amazingly cool, probably unseen subjects.
Like many of you, I watched “The Pacific” multiple times after it came out. One of the most fascinating parts to me was the Home Front scenes. There was a lot going on back home, with an amazing palette of vehicles, job roles, uniforms, structures, and scenes. Hopefully we’ll soon start seeing more of this coming to a hobby shop near us! We’ve seen the pendulum swing towards the weathered (or really, over-weathered) end of the spectrum. Maybe now it’s time to swing it back a bit to the factory floor clean?
What do you think? Am I crazy to hope for this? Am I the only one interested in this period/place?
UPDATE: I posted about this blog post over on armorama, and was immediately reminded that alternative history could be fun too. America Under Siege, and whatnot!