Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Battle of Guam: making the jungle floor.

Bungle through the jungle

Here I am on Guam in 1971.  I spent nearly all of my off-duty hours hiking the island; this was, and still is, called "boonie stomping."  For an eighteen year-old kid from rural Michigan, this was a very exotic place, and I loved just about every minute of it.  Guam has beautiful, reef-protected, white-sand beaches,  grasslands, mountains (Pacific island-style, not Montana-style), and lots and lots of thick jungle.  The denizens of the jungle (when I was there) were small deer, wild boar, monitor lizards, birds, and LOTS of spiders and mosquitos.  The latter owned the jungle.  The first thing one does before launching off in to the jungle, is to find a good "spider stick"...the stick that you constantly waved in front of you to knock down spiderwebs that are across the trail; and the spiders are BIG.  

The others kings of the jungle are the mosquitos.  Near water and at the bottom of ravines were the worst places for mosquitoes...actually they were the best places for the mosquitos; they were the worst places for the booniestompers.  One time I swatted my bare forearm and killed eight mosquitos in that single blow.  Insect-repellant gets sweated off fairly quickly in the hot steamy jungle.

A hot and steamy jungle is something that you have to experience to really understand what it feels like.  It's so hot, and so humid, that you actually feel a pressure bearing down on you.  You are sweating by the pint while battling mosquitos, struggling through the razor-grass to get to higher ground and the ever-present breeze that you'll find up there, for some relief.

Thinking back, I'm amazed at how little water we carried, usually just one canteen for one or two guys.  We'd restrict our consumption to sips of warm water, where normally, today, I'd be guzzling it by the bottle.  I don't know how we did it...frankly, I don't know how we did any of it back then.

This jungle is something that I can only approximate on the toy soldier table, I would need a lot more vegetation than I have available, as well as a wider variety.  We may think of jungles in the Pacific as being mostly palm trees...not so.  The jungles on Guam are choked with mahogany trees, bamboo, tangan-tangan, groves of bamboo, ironwood, coconut palms, and lots and lots of other stuff.

For my version of the Guamanian jungle I have recast Marx palm trees and ferns, aquarium bamboo, and aquarium grass and ferns.

These aquarium products were a breakthrough for this project, it was a recommendation from a friend on a toy soldier forum.

Plastic aquarium grass is readily available and very inexpensive.

It  comes in 9"x9" squares and I bought two varieties...

ferns, and grass.

Each tuft is molded in two tones of green which makes them look  realistic.

Each tuft is fastened to the flexible plastic grid below by a small stud.

The grid will be a cinch to cut into irregular shapes.

By unfastening from one grid and fastening to the other, I was able to achieve a nice mixture of grass and ferns on a single grid.

The grid allows you to poke the Marx palm trees and ferns through the jungle floor - concealing their bases, for a very convincing look.

There are places on Guam that look just like this lightly-wooded area, I've hiked them.  For more intense jungle I will pack a lot of trees in the grid as well as the plastic bamboo.

Eventually, when this Marine is painted, he and his colleagues will be struggling through terrain that is very familiar to me...

Though fortunately, I didn't have people shooting at me.

Stay tuned, this will be a long hike together.

Soldier on!


Scott B. Lesch said...

Those ARE cheap. I've only seen them in craft stores for many dollars more for a small scale. Thank you Mannie.

JohnM said...

Great post Mannie, the jungle looks convincing. Looking forward to seeing the painted figures 👍👍

Archduke Piccolo said...

Looks really great!. I 'discovered' aquarium plastic foliage a long time ago, that I planned to used as hedgerows and crops. In the end they became just about any kind of ground cover that suited my fancy! Very versatile.

tradgardmastare said...

Terrific terrain and a great idea. I may borrow it.