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G.I. Joe and other 12 Inch Action Figures

In 1964, G.I. Joe was announced with much fanfare.  The children's shows were interlaced with a bombardment of commercials.. G.I. Joe - American's Fighting Man.  GI Joe came in four versions: Army in green fatigues, Marine in camouflage, Navy in denims and Air Force in an orange flight suit. Unlike the Marx playsets, Joe came in a simple box.  You got the action figure in uniform, a fatigue cap, dog tags and a little booklet.  That was it.  Weapons and equipment had to be bought separately.  

G.I. Joe caught on in a big way.  Being the generation we were, boys tended to want the Joes from the fathers' former branch of service.  Since the mothers bought them for kids, there might be anomalies.  I ended up with the Marine because Mom's family were all Marines. (My father's side was Army )  Kids had to get the appropriate accessories, be they rifles or flamethrowers or any other assorted small arms and field gear..

There were some dramatic accessories.  The Navy deep sea diver came with a diving helmet, deep sea suit with weight belts and boot weights, and it had hoses going from the helmet to a whistle-like mouthpiece.  Kids could put Diver Joe in the pool, then blow into the hoses to make bubbles rise from the helmet, just like Diver Dan. A scuba set had a wetsuit, goggles, air tank and all the other tools of a UDT man. For the groundpounders, Hasbro came out with a Jeep with 106mm Recoilless rifle and trailer and a motorcycle with handcar.  Someone even made a one-man wheeled armored car, based on a British recon vehicle from the 1950s.

Yes, there were the inevitable knockoffs.  Marx introduced two kinds of action figure.  One was called Buddy Charlie, and was a dress-up soldier like GI Joe.  The others were a Paratrooper and Stony, plastic foot-tall figures molded in uniform, who came with assorted weapons and equipment.  No-name makers entered the market.  One in particular was quite a good source of accessories.  They made a hooded felt winter coat and more realistic boots, among other things.  Their most distinctive feature was that their rifles all had sniper scopes.

More GI Joes came during the 1960s, including a Jungle Fighter with M16, a Green Beret, and various foreign troops.  They made an Australian jungle soldier in shorts and bush hat, British Commando with flat helmet, German soldier with submachine gun, French resistance fighter, Japanese soldier with Arisaka rifle,  and a Russian infantryman.  The foreign soldiers were special sets that came with accessories.

As the ongoing war in Vietnam started souring interest in War Toys, GI Joe went from soldier to adventurer.  The "Kung Fu Grip" Joes had un-military fuzzy hair and beards glued on.  Joe the action adventurer lasted a little while, later to be replaced by 3 3/4" figures who eventually had their own cartoon.  Yet come the 1990s, and the 12-inch Joes returned.  Others added their own figures, such as 21st Century and the Ultimate Soldier.  Many figures were based on historical figures, although recently a separate GI Joe action-adventurer series has ben launched.

Our current collection of 12-inch Action figures includes the Ultimate Soldier, GI Joe and 21st Century figures and equipment.

Here's a selection of troops.  in front are the Vietnam-Era US soldier, a Marine in the 1939-style khaki uniform with Lewis gun, Marine in the WWII style jungle camouflage, and Korean War-era Soldier with minesweeper.

In the rear: 1918 US soldier, modern US soldier in woodland camouflage, WWII US soldier, circa 1944, WWII German infantryman and Korean War -era Marine.

In the foreground you can make out some infantry weapons and a model Jeep and Russian armored car.

Here we have a WWII Soviet soldier and WWII US soldier, circa 1944.  The space capsule is a model of the Mercury, and is a recast of the original Hasbro capsule sold in the 1960s.

The capsule, and standing to the right is Buzz Aldrin.  Next is the WWII Marine in the 1942 uniform, and a German panzergrenadier. In the foreground are a panzerfaust antitank weapon, astronaut's survival raft and gear. BAR and .30 caliber water-cooled machine-gun

From left: WWII German soldier in winter coat, General Colin Powell, Bob Hope circa 1943, General Patton, WWII German panzer NCO. In the foreground you can see a mortar, PZ VI Ausf. II King Tiger tank, and two US M4 Sherman tanks.

A recent remake of the original 1964-type Army G.I. Joe

Remake of the original Australian Joe, with the same equipment and manual.

I've had this Joe longer than I can remember.  His field jacket and boots are original, but the trousers and rifle are modern.  Note broken finger on right hand - a common problem with early Joes.

From the rear, you can see an original khaki belt with canteen and cover.

The footlocker has been around almost since the first Joes hit the shelves.  Originals were wood.  This one is a recent plastic version, although the markings and basic design are pretty much the same as the original.

Inside, we see the original khaki flight suit from the Joe above, plus his original (and broken) rifle to the right.  Assorted rifles, gear, helmets and a spare hand fill the compartments.

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