Operation Varsity : 75th Anniversary 681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion
Edward Chesnick Private, 17th Airborne Division 681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion “Somewhere in Germany”
Parachutes began to descend mid-morning on March the 24th, 1945, landing near and alongside airborne gliders near the German town of Wesel. Operation Varsity, the largest airborne operation of the war, would be described in later writings as “four hours of fury.”
The 681st Glider Field Artillery Battalion landed successfully in “Landing Zone S” under concentrated German anti-aircraft fire. Despite initial challenges to land gliders in the specified landing zones, the 681st successfully provided support for the 194th. Gliders, supplies, and personnel were lost as they landed amidst anti-aircraft batteries in the area. The 681st deployed their 75mm Howtizers quickly, however, providing direct artillery support to the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment. Varsity would end nearly as soon as it began, and the regiments within the 17th Airborne would go on to occupy areas further into Germany as the war progressed--and ultimately reached its conclusion swiftly due in part to the successes of Operations Varsity, Plunder and Lumberjack.
Among the supplies dropped in support of landing zone S were the M9A2 and M18 paracaissons: steel or aluminum canisters stored in gliders or dropped from specially modified transports. The pale red parachutes lowering them to the ground were indicative of their cargo--75MM Howitzer shells stacked neatly in heavy cardboard tubes. The caissons were opened lengthwise to retrieve a towing bar and pneumatic tires. Once installed, the caissons could be easily towed to the firing line.
This figure represents a “Glider Rider” of the 681st Field Artillery Battalion in a period of rest during the aftermath of that March morning. His pistol belt and musette bag are stowed temporarily in the M18 paracaisson while he stands triumphantly displaying his captured goods; the knife of the Hitlerjugend and a Luftwaffe belt with buckle from a captured flak gunner.
By this point in the war, a unique set of circumstances allowed the men of the 17th Airborne to appear both as typical Army Infantry while still standing out as members of the airborne. Suggestions following the Normandy Invasion lead to glider personnel’s wearing the same uniforms and field gear as their parachuting brothers. This was to include the jump boot, although by this point most new-issue footwear was the M43 Buckle Boot. Glider personnel were also allowed to carry the wire-stock paratroop carbine. Men of the 17th also wore the M1C paratroop helmet--a small but noticeable difference from the infantry counterpart.
All of the choices I made for this figure reflect the unique look of the 17th Airborne during Operation Varsity; the conspicuous first aid kit tied to the upper front of the helmet or--less commonly--stowed in the same spot beneath the helmet net, the neon Courtaulds recognition scarf worn around the neck in a way that often resembled a hood, the M43 trousers and leg ties around cargo pockets, and the use of the lighter carbine variant. I combed through countless reference images from the operation to make sure the look had precedent.
I am thankful for the folks who attempted this subject before, but most thankful for Fred_IV’s 17th Airborne Rifleman from 2018. That post really influenced me to work on my own take on the subject. His decision to include the recognition scarf was my favorite part and so I borrowed the concept (with his blessing!) I also took a nod to Miguel Tavarez’s style of display base--namely his usual inclusion of unit insignia. It’s a great way to convey the subject matter without detracting from the overall figure and I hope he doesn’t mind my borrowing his idea.
DML’s “Road to Victory” era was, in my opinion, when some of their very best figures were released. Though I don’t turn out figures with any regularity, all of my finished work over the past few years is my humble attempt to make figures along those same lines. It’s as if I’m trying to replicate that long gone feeling of new figures every month representing the United States G.I. in the Spring of ‘45.
Thank you all for looking. I welcome your questions and comments!
Thanks for the response, everyone. I'm not on this forum as much as I once was but I still enjoy seeing what everyone is up to. Folks here seem to take it a bit more seriously than on Facebook, which is a good thing. Take care, all!