Kit Review – Luftwaffe Aces (MJ Miniatures)

PRELUDE

The sculpts coming out of the MJ studio are always of a high quality and the variety of subject matter ensures there is something for everyone. These two recent bust releases depict two of the most important German Aces, in particular Erich Hartmann aka Bubba who was judged to be the greatest Fighter Pilot ever with 352 confirmed kills! The second bust is that of Werner Moelders, both are of the traditional variety, consisting of just the head and shoulders.

Both kits consist of four parts plus a rod to attach to a plinth and come with a choice of two heads, with or without the flight cap. First impressions are very good and each looks historically accurate. MJ Miniatures have recently updated their packaging, the boxes are firm and sturdy, the lid depicting the box art with additional angles presented on the ends. The parts are contained within ziplock bags and nestled between layers of foam.

HISTORICAL REFERENCE

Colin Heaton conducted an interview with Hartmann which is covered in some detail at German Aces  but I wanted to give you a little insight into this incredible pilot. Erich “The Blonde Knight of Germany” born April 19th, 1922 in Weissach, Germany flew approximately 1,456 missions with Jagdgeschwader 52 and Jagdgeschwader 53 (52nd and 53rd Fighter Wings) or JG52 & JG53. He was engaged in air combat an incredible 850 times or so and was never shot down by an enemy plane, despite being forced to land on a dozen different occasions. He never lost a wingman, although his good friend and wingman of many missions Gunther Capito, was eventually shot down but survived.

the greatest fighter pilot that ever lived – Hartmann

His mother was a licensed pilot whilst his father was a respected physician who had been an Army Doctor during WWI. His father wanted both Erich and his younger brother Alfred, to follow him into medicine. It was Alfred who would become a doctor after the war, where he fought as a Stuka pilot before being captured and held as a Prisoner of War (POW). Due to the Treaty of Versailles, 1920’s Germany had a poor economy and so on the invite of his father’s cousin, a diplomat, they moved to China. Erich’s father went first establishing a medical centre in Changsa Province, where he made all necessary arrangements for the rest of the family to follow.

He attended Jagdfliegerschule 2 at Zerbst from February 1942 to July 1942 before being posted to Ergänzungruppe Ost at Gleiwitz for operational training, which he completed in October 1942. His first major posting was to 7./JG 52 on the Eastern Front on 10 October 1942. Leutnant Hartmann came under the guidance of Oberfeldwebel Edmund “Paule” Rossmann (himself the owner of 93 victories), considered one of the best element leaders on the Eastern Front.

During this time he was given the advice of several another accomplished aces of 7./JG 52, including Oberfeldwebel Alfred Grislawski (132 victories) and Leutnant Walter Krupinski (197 victories). Hartmann recorded his first victory, a Russian Il-2 Sturmovik ground-attack aircraft, shot down on 5 November 1942. However, he too was hit in the engagement and was forced to crashland. By the end of April 1943, his victory total stood at 11.

He went on to collect his 100th victory on 2oth September, one week after he was awarded the Ehrenpokal. Just before this he had actually been shot down and captured but feigning injury he was able to trick his captors in to not keeping a close eye on him and he escaped, taking two days to get back to his unit! In the October, he went on to claim another 33 victories. Leutnant Hartmann was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 29 October 1943 after his 148th victory and on 6 December he was awarded the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold. He recorded his 150th victory on 13 December.

bf 109 of jg52

He was awarded the Eichenlaub (Nr 420) on 2 March but on 8 May he was forced to withdraw from the Crimea. He had 223 victories to his credit at the time. For a short period, Hartmann intercepted  the American daylight bombing raids on the Rumanian oil fields and installations, and on 24 June he claimed his 265th victory. On 2 July he was awarded the Schwertern (Nr. 75) for 266 victories.

His unit returned to the Crimea following a Russian counter-offensive during May and June 1944, and by August he had taken his kills to 291 an on 24th August 1944, following eleven more kills, he became the first fighter to record 300 victories! Hartmann was awarded the Brillanten for 303 victories on 25 August 1944, only the 18th German soldier to receive this accolade.

He was immediately prohibited from combat flying and was assigned to Erprobungskommando 262 to test fly the Me 262 jet fighter. In October, Hartman was able get the prohibition on his combat flying lifted and made a total of 352 kills however, Major Hartmann surrendered his unit to an American armoured unitand on 24 May he was handed over to the Russians. He was sentenced to 25 years hard labour, serving 10 years before returning to Germany on 15 October 1955. He served in the reformed Luftwaffe from 1956 and commanded JG 71. He retired from active duty in 1970. Erich Hartmann died on 19 September 1993 at Weil im Schönbuch. He was the top scoring fighter pilot of all the combatants in World War 2. He flew 825  missions in recording 352 victories. All his victories were recorded on the Eastern Front was incredibly force-landed 14 times during his combat career!

“I knew that if an enemy pilot started firing early, well outside the maximum effective range of his guns then he was an easy kill. But, if a pilot closed in and held his fire, and seemed to be watching the situation, then you knew that an experienced pilot was on you. Also, I developed different tactics for various conditions, such as always turning into the guns of an approaching enemy, or rolling into a negative G dive forcing him to follow or break off, then rolling out and sometimes reducing air speed to allow him to over commit. That was when you took advantage of his failing.”

Werner “Vati” Mölders (born on 18 March 1913), of Gelsenkirchen joined the army in 1931 and served as an officer cadet in the Infantry. As a result of Hitler coming to power and the subsequent rebirthof the Luftwaffe, Mölders requested a transfer to become a pilot in 1934. However, his first attempt to join the Luftwaffe was unsuccessful as he was declared unfit for flying. He was badly afflicted by air sickness but on 1 July 1935, Leutnant Mölders was posted to Fliegergruppe Schwerin. He was appointed Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 334 some 12 months later.

In 1936, he was transferred to the Schulstaffel of JG 134 to undertake the role of instructor but in 1938 he volunteered for the Condor Legion and took over from Adolf Galland at the head of 3.J/88. During the Spanish conflict he showed considerable qualities not only as a pilot and marksman but also, and especially, as a tactician and organiser. Together with other airmen, in Spain he developed the technique known as the “finger four”, or fan, which improved a flight’s all-round vision and encouraged the pilots’ initiative.

He shot down fourteen aircraft between 15 July and 3 November 1938, most of these at the controls of  the Bf 109 C-1 coded 6-79 “Luchs”. He was awarded the Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Schwertern und Brillanten in recognition of his achievements. His return to Germany at the end of 1938 saw him heralded as the highest scoring German pilot of the Spanish conflict. At the beginning of World War II, Mölders was Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 53 “Pik As”, based at Wiesbaden-Erbenheim. He became known by those under his command as “Vati” (Daddy) Mölders. He shot down his first aircraft of the Second World War on 21 September 1939 and recorded on 27 May 1940 his 20th victory and was promoted to Hauptmann and decorated with the Knight’s Cross.

Having scored 25 victories during 128 missions he was shot down in combat on 5 June 1940, by French ace Sous Lieutenant René Pommier Layragues. He was liberated two weeks later upon the armistice with France. He returned to Germany to be promoted to Major and given command of JG 51 as Kommodore.

His first flight back in action on 28 July 1940, saw him down a Spitfire, but his aircraft was then hit by the enemy aircraft. Suffering severe wounds to the legs, Mölders just about managed to make an emergency landing at the airfield at Wissant, France. He was not able to return to combat until a month later, most likely flying the Bf 109 E-4 W.Nr. 2404 (which was photographed on 31 August with 32 victory bars), as well as W.Nr. 3737, (shot down over England while being flown by Hptm Asmus on 25 October, with 49 victory bars).

pilots and crew to JG-51

Duing the remainder of the Battle of Britain, he brought his score up by downing an incredible 28 British fighters! He downed a Spitfire over Dungeness, on 20 September, for which he was awarded the Oak Leaves (No. 2) the following day. On 22 October he downed three RAF Hurricanes to become the first Luftwaffe pilot to reach a score of 50 aerial victories. By the end of the Battle of Britain he had a total of 54 victories, and he would add one more before the end of the year.

He continued flying and fighting over the Channel Front until early May, by which time he had brought down 13 more British aircraft. On 22 June 1941, the first day of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front, he shot down four Russian aircraft, one I-153 and three SB-2 bombers, his 69th through 72nd victories, and was awarded the Schwertern (No. 2).

He became the first pilot to surpass von Richthofen’s WW I record score of 80 on 30 June, when he shot down 5 SB-2 bombers to score his 78th to 82nd victories on a day that JG 51 claimed 110 SB-2 and DB-3 bombers. On 15 July he became the first pilot in history to record 100 victories and was immediately awarded the Brillanten (No. 1), the first German soldier to be so recognised and was instantly forbidden to fly in combat again by direct order of Göring. By his 28th birthday he was promoted to Oberst and appointed Inspector General of Fighters.

Despite the order to cease flying combat missions, he continued to do so and achieved several unconfirmed victories over the Crimea. On 22 November 1941, he was flying as a passenger in a He 111 from the Crimea to Germany to attend the funeral of Ernst Udet. An emergency landing during a freak thunderstorm at Breslau was disastrous and both Molders and the pilot were killed, in December 1941 the JG 51 was bestowed the honorific “Molders”.

Flying a total of some 330 missions during the Second World War with 100 on the Eastern Front, he shot down a total of 101 aircraft. He also was the top scorer of the Legion Condor in Spain with 14 victories achieved in some 100 missions, and was responisible for many of the fighter tactics still in use today.

SCULPT AND CAST

The sculpt and casting for both busts is of a very high quality indeed. The first, Hartmann, is sculpted by Ho Seo with the boxart done by MJ himself. Let’s start with the torso. We have the leather flying jacket which will be great for those wanting to paint worn and weathered leather effects using stippling technique and the such. details such as the double breasted pockets and zips along with seams, creases and epaulettes all show a great attention to detail.

The epaulette shows the diamond of the Lieutenant rank with ridged banding being accurately rendered. You can see the Knights Cross around the neckline with the collar of the service shirt underneath the jacket along with some detailing to the Oakleaves and Swords visible including the swastika.

We have two head versions, one bare headed showing the distinctive swept back hairstyle and the baby faced features of this iconic and infamous German Luftwaffe Ace! The similarity between bust and real life person is uncanny, perfectly capturing his features and demeanour. The head attaches perfectly with a slight tilt and directed to the right, adding a little movement to the bust which is a nice touch. The second option sees the head with a sloped cut to accept the cap.

As you can see with the boxart, the cap is tilted slightly to the side which again this adds a sense of personality and realism to the bust. The cap is worn and “crumpled”, detailing is excellent. Take for instance the banding around the circumferece, the central front and rear seams, the cording that sits above the peak, the twisted fibre of the cord along with the knotting to the button at the sides.

We have the eagle nicely detailed and beneath this the swastika, Oakleaves and the Luftwaffe wings are all present and perfectly captured. The cast is done in a pale brown/flesh tone resin, the obligatory resin block need cutting and smiling smooth on individual parts and there is a moldline that needs removing from the smooth rear surface. The hole in the base of the bust is nicely drilled and fits snugly the length of rod included with the kit to attach to your chosen plinth. There are no major defects to the casting such as air bubble holes and the like!

The second bust, Werner Moelders, is very similar in it’s design and quality with one or two subtle differences. This bust depicts our Ace more in Parade Dress, with the blue Luftwaffe jacket, white shirt with Knights Cross (a separate piece). There are also Eagle and cross emblems to the pocket detail along with the service ribbon peaking from the buttoned up jacket. The epaulettes are brocaded and rendered accurately along with the pip of his rank.

The central seam, arm seams and ribbing to the lapel are all nice, historically accurate details, the creases and folds are natural looking and not overdone. This kit is sculpted by Jae Kwon Yoo who also did the boxart, a name to look out for and the resemblance to the real life Ace is startling!

Another difference is how the two head options have natural, organic looking cuts for assembly plus the addition of a rounded peg. The head this time is tilted slightly to the left, the head is cut horizontally with the cap fitting via a round peg and hole assembly. The peaked flight cap has a nice shape and all the details are present and accurately rendered. The bare head as I have already said displays an uncanny resemblance to the character portrayed including the distinctive middle parting of the hair.

I think both busts will provide the opportunity for practising facial tones and to try your hand at recreating realistic textures to the uniforms. the level of detailing to both is very good and the resemblance to the real Aces is particularly good indeed! The casting is of a high quality too and the minimal amount of parts means we are straight into painting within a few minutes, remove the plugs, file smooth, wash the parts in soapy water and assemble!

DESIGN AND ORIGINALITY

Discussing originality with historical subjects is a mute point however, these Ace releases are a great idea, especially as it seems there are plans for more, making a nice collection. The subject of German Luftwaffe Aces is in itself an original idea. Each bust depicts the traditional style consisting of just head and shoulders and are packed full of details and subtle touches.

DESIRABILITY

These will be of interest to military historians, collectors and figure painters, especially those with an interest in WWII. The level of detailing, the quality of the sculpt and the clean, crisp casting should make them desirable. MJ Miniatures continues to prolifically add quality products to their ever increasing, eclectic catalogue.

AFFORDABILITY

Both kits come in at $50 each which is probably a competitive price and offers good value for money.

Dates, Figures and Stuff

Cost                                      $50

Material                               Polyurethane Resin

No of Pieces                        4 each plus rod

Release Date                       Available Now

Where Can I Get It?          HERE

Jason Martin

Jason Martin is an award-winning painter, student of the arts and head honcho at Figurementors. His heavy metal listening, ex-forces exterior belies his true passion – to help you succeed on your personal journey to become a better figure painter.

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