Historical Lessons Via Toy Soldier Hobbyist

Historical Lessons Via Toy Soldier Hobbyist

Upcoming show in Springfield includes intricate painting and military themes.

A special ops soldier in Afghanistan.

A special ops soldier in Afghanistan.

In late September the ballrooms of Springfield Hilton will be full of Army artists and enthusiasts putting on the 62nd annual National Capital Model Soldier Society show consisting of exhibitions, modeling demonstrations, military displays and hobby vendors gathering in honor of 240 years of Army history.

“It’s an event to honor history through art,” said Burt K. Thompson, a Mount Vernon resident, Club President and Show Chairman. Thompson has been at the helm of this event for the past few years and appreciates the enthusiasm that oozes out of the event.

“They’re very passionate for what they do,” he said, referring to the participants who focus on the particular activities of the U.S. Army, a certain time period, uniforms, vehicles or the art techniques used to create the dioramas and models. Some of the exhibits are non-military too.

“It’s really fun,” Thompson said.

During the year the Nation Capital Model Soldier Society meets every month at Edison High School in Franconia.

This Union soldier by club member Greg Paspatis is a U.S. Marine Corps figure that would have fought in the First Battle of Bull Run in Manassas. 


It’s not something a person just goes out and does though. Thompson was born right after the Nation Capital Model Soldier Society was formed in the early 1960s and he started in the army in 1984, retiring as a Brigadier General 21 years later. Somewhere in his life he came across the work of Sheperd Paine, the father of box dioramas. This is where Thompson learned the craft. Thompson worked on painting and modeling Army life and has a model of a helicopter crash he said was amongst his best.


Museum Efforts

Thompson splits his time between the club and his fundraising efforts at the U.S. Army Museum in Fort Belvoir where he is the President of the Army Historical Foundation, which is a 5013C fundraising arm for the museum. He runs the gift store and café too, which raise funds for the museum too.

In early summer they celebrated a success at the museum when $5 million was raised for the opening of the Warrior’s Field and Plaza out in front of the museum. On June 10, the U.S. Army birthday festival was celebrated in the plaza.

The combination of U.S.  Army history and building on that history was on Thompson’s wish list all along. Now it has come true.

“My dream job was to be an Army historian,” he said. 

NCMSS 62nd Annual Washington Show
Saturday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Springfield Hilton
6500 Loisdale Road