Action Man German Stormtrooper

German Stormtropper outfit c1975
German Stormtrooper outfit c1975

The German Stormtrooper outfit was the first outfit I bought for my Action Man in the 1970s. It was a popular choice and it is one of the most collectable today.

Palitoy first launched it in the UK in 1967. They were a little behind the curve as interest in World War II in toys and models had been growing since the late 1950s. Airfix introduced World War II model aircraft in the late 1950s. In 1962 Airfix introduced a range of 00 gauge (small) plastic soldiers, which included World War II with models representing British, American, German, Italian and Russian soldiers.

Palitoy featured the 'German Stormtrooper' in the 1968 Action Man Equipment Manual. It might have been made from 1967. It was part of the 'Soldiers of the Century' series, which included British, American, French, Australian and Russian soldiers.

Palitoy derived the 'Soldiers of the Century' from the GI Joe figures called 'Action Soldiers of the World'. Unlike the GI Joe figures 'Soldiers of the Century' was a range of outfits and that did not include the figures.

The German Stormtrooper was a direct copy of the GI Joe 'German Soldier' figure introduced around 1966.

'Soldiers of the Century' finished in 1972, but Palitoy continued the German Stormtrooper outfit as part of the new 'Soldiers of the World' series between 1973 and 1976. They carried on producing it into the 'Eagle Eyes' era up to 1979. A redesigned version continued into the 1980s.

Action Man German Stormtrooper kit
Action Man German Stormtrooper kit: belt with holster and cartridge cases, field pack, stick grenades, Schmeisser (Maschinenpistole 40), Luger pistol, helmet

Uniform

You could buy the whole outfit or the uniform and equipment separately.

The uniform included jacket, trousers, the steel helmet (Der Stahlhelm) and jackboots.

Soldiers of the Century range 1968-72

Soldiers of the World range 1973-6

Later versions

The Stormtrooper continued until 1979. In 1980 it was re-issued with a new uniform in a more realistic shade of grey. However, other details were wrong, such as shiny buttons and a jacket that did not button up to the neck. These outfits are quite rare.

Equipment

The equipment comprised:

How realistic is the German Stormtrooper uniform?

The name 'Stormtrooper' is not right. German soldiers in World War II were not called 'Stormtroopers'. The name dates from the First World War. The original Stormtroopers were shock troops trained to break the trench war stalemate. They were only used by the German Army in 1918. Subsequently Stormtroopers were the SA, a paramilitary wing of the Nazi party used to intimidate opponents before the Nazis came to power.

German Second Lieutenant, Artillery
German Second Lieutenant, Artillery from an American poster dated 1943. Public Domain image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).

According to Frances Baird in 'Action Man - The Gold Medal Doll for Boys' the uniform was based on one introduced in 1933. It is certainly based on the Nazi version of the German Army uniform. But the new uniforms were introduced in 1935.

Since the uniform was based on the GI Joe figure we have to look at American influences on how a German soldier looked. There was very little information published on World War II uniforms in the mid-1960s. Contemporary war films and museums may have helped. One possible source was information produced in World War II to help American soldiers identify their enemy.

In 1962 Stephen Hyatt published a slim volume called 'Uniforms and Insignia of the Third Reich'. It was aimed at collectors of military uniforms. His book was the first post-war record of German military uniforms published. The book has no colour photographs, but he described the uniform as field green with an emerald green collar. It is also illustrated with fairly small pockets with rounded edges. It is possible that Palitoy designers consulted this book.

The Action Man uniform jacket and trousers are green. They have four pockets. The jacket has green shoulder straps with red piping. The collar has two red patches.

The 1967 version of the uniform was dark green, later ones were bright emerald green. The real German soldier's uniform was feldgrau, a grey/green colour. The trousers were originally grey and later the same grey/green as the jacket.

The real uniform also had four pockets on the jacket like the Action Man uniform, but they are four patch pockets. On the Action Man uniform the lower pockets look to be cut into the jacket. In fact just the flap is sown on.

The choice of red piping around the shoulder straps and red collar patches is strange. It corresponds to the uniform of a German artillery soldier, not an infantryman. German infantrymen uniform had white piping and collar patches.

Several sources of information about German uniforms strongly feature red piping and red collar patches. So this may have been the reason.

German soldier collar patch
German soldier collar patch from US Army Poster Public Domain image licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped).

It is possible that the source of the uniform was a poster produced by the US Government in 1943 entitled 'German Army Uniforms and Insignia'. The poster shows an artillery Second Lieutenant. He has a green jacket, red collar patches and red piping around the shoulder straps. The green is brighter than the real thing, but not quite the emerald green of the Action Man uniform.

Other details, such as the eagle above the right hand pocket, are correct. Although the real eagle emblem also incorporated a swastika.

What about the rest of the kit?

The reproduction of the German soldier's equipment and firearms is accurate. Both the Luger pistol and the Maschinepistole 40 are very close to the original. The helmet has the correct markings for the start of the war. They were dropped in 1941.

The Iron Cross medal is not correct. After 1939 the ribbon was red, black and white. The Action Man one is black and white. An Iron Cross First Class was worn on the pocket without the ribbon. In day-to-day wear only the ribbon of the Iron Cross Second Class was worn on a button on the jacket. The medal you see German officers wearing around the neck is the Knight's Cross.

He does not have a gas mask. Most German soldiers carried one in a ribbed cylindrical tin.

The German Stormtrooper uniform probably squares with how most people in the 1960s thought it should look. His equipment is a good reproduction. The uniform is not as accurate as it could have been. Nevertheless it wasn't something that bothered me in the 1970s. It did not stop the German Stormtrooper uniform being a big seller for Palitoy.

How much is my Action Man German Stormtrooper worth?

The Stormtrooper uniform is very collectable. The late-issue version is particularly rare and is expensive.

Should I buy a complete Stormtrooper or build up the outfit?

To buy the whole outfit from scratch I would budget:

This assumes some canny shopping on eBay to get the cheaper end of the price range. You will need over £100. So instead it is better to look for a complete or part-complete outfit. You chould check that expensive items are included, especially the belt, Schmeisser machine pistol, field pack and Iron Cross medal.

Look for:

Action Man German Stormtrooper on eBay

German Stormtrooper repairs

Belt and holster

A few of the expensive items can be repaired or made from scratch. This particularly applies to the belt and holster. My 1970s' one was broken. I remember it being very poorly made and breaking in no time. I was not keen to fork out £20 for another equally badly made one. So I replaced it with one I made myself. I found an old vinyl glasses case was ideal to cut up. I used the old holster as a template. I sewed the holster and used velcro to fasten it. I also used velcro to fasten the belt as I had lost the catch. I was careful not to stick the velcro on the original buckle which had survived.

Helmet

If you have a reasonable helmet without the strap or stickers you can buy the stickers separately on eBay. The elastic strap can be replaced with 3mm elastic bought on eBay.

Uniform

You can revive old uniform jackets by replacing the poppers. The jackets are cheap. So if you have some stickers missing, such as the collar patches or eagle, it is better to buy another jacket either to act as a donor or to replace your old one.

More on Action Man

By Steven Braggs, February 2021

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