On Monday, May 28, the World War 2 Guys gathered for our annual Memorial Day visit to St. Mary's Cemetery in South Omaha to once again honor Floyd and Aloysius Furmanski. Cody, Jon, Eric and Grant spent time cleaning the grave markers of the two brothers both killed in the summer of 1944. We held a silent vigil and played Taps to honor the incredible sevice and sacrifice of Floyd and Aloysius and all of our fallen military heroes. Afterwards, we visited Omaha's Central High School and laid flowers at their Vietnam War Memorial erected to honor the Central High students who gave their lives for their comrades and their country in Vietnam. It was a great day to get out and honor those who gave all so that we could have today.
On Sunday, May 20, the World War 2 Guys held an open photo shoot day up in Ft. Calhoun. The concept was that each member could wear any uniform or time period of their choosing and we would take lots of great photos to document each impression. The weather was unseasonably cooler with overcast skies with a slight drizzle from time to time. Jeff was portraying an infantryman from the 82nd Airborne Division in Normandy circa 1944. Jon was portraying a U.S. Navy Corpsman from the 1st Marine Division on Guadalcanal circa 1942. Cody was portraying a British infantryman from the Hampshire Regiment circa 1944. And Eric was portraying a line infantryman from the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam circa 1969. The photo shoot went even better than expected and we got tons and tons of great photos, and then later that night Eric's phone, with all of the photos on it, went wacko and died. Everything was lost. Fortunately, Jeff was taking some photos as well so this is all that we have from the shoot. Thanks Jeff for saving the day and capturing some of the great moments. We'll certainly have to try this again another time.
The World War 2 Guys met up at Ft. Atkinson on Sunday, April 29 for our annual Spring Training and baseball game. We had a lighter attendance for this event with Casey, Jon, Matt, and Eric taking part. We started the morning with some much appreciated donuts and coffee supplied by Casey followed by some rifle drill and marching on the parade ground. We held a short administrative meeting covering upcoming events and other important unit topics. The four of us then geared-up and made our way down to the lower river plain for some patrol time. Casey led us on a somewhat lengthy patrol through the trees and grasses on this beautiful sunny morning. We stopped off for a breather and to shoot a few rounds through Staff Sergeant Krelle's new Thompson. Then it was back to the parade ground for some good old fashioned baseball! We knocked-off the rust by warming up our arms first with a few spirited games of catch. Then it was home run derby time with each trooper taking several turns at bat. Corporal Hazard had the longest shot of the day, but the true headline moment was when SSgt. Krelle actually hit the leather cover off a baseball! Seems that he's a regular Roy Hobbs at the plate! It was a really fun event which we will hold again next year for certain.
On Saturday, April 7 the World War 2 Guys took part in our first ever B-29 Living History Crew at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum. In attendance were our pilot, Matt, our Bombardier, Will, our Navigator, Eric, our Flight Engineer, Jeff, our Side Gunners, Chris and Jon, and our Tail Gunner, Cody. We had an excellent display of U.S. Army Air Force uniforms, flight equipment, books, manuals, and personal effects. We had great interactions with lots of interested museum visitors, many of whom praised our efforts and the quality of our display. The highlight of our day was undoubtedly meeting Lt. Wesley "Bob" Reisser, a B-17 pilot from the 8th Air Force's 452nd Bomb Group. Bob flew 28 missions from January 15 through April 16, 1945 along with three food drop missions on May 2, 3, and 6. Bob is 96 years old but spoke with a youthful exuberance about his flying days in World War II. As always, it's an incredible honor to speak with a World War II veteran like Bob. Our group will return to the SAC Museum on June 9 for a D-Day Airborne themed exhibit and then bring our Living History Crew back to the museum next year.
On Sunday, March 25, the World War 2 Guys held our first training day as our new B-29 Living History Crew. Working in conjunction with the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum, we will be conducting living history displays with the museum's B-29 Superfortress "Lucky Lady" a few times each year. Our first event with the public will be April 7 in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. Our Sunday meeting topics included unit events, recruiting news, HRS news, a unit weapons update, and an indepth study of U.S. Army Air Force uniforms and equipment. We ended the day's activities with a walk through the museum, spending some time with the B-29, the B-17 Flying Fortress, and the B-25 Mitchell.
On Friday, January 26, the World War 2 Guys headed back down to Camp Clark near Nevada, Missouri for the annual Battle of the Bulge tactical hosted by the 137th Infantry. Cody and Eric made it down to Nevada around 15:00 and settled into Room 3 of the main National Guard barracks building. Time was spent unloading gear, making beds, and loading weapons magazines. We made our annual pilgimage to the Nevada Wal-Mart to gather last minute supplies and later had dinner at Pizza Hut. Will joined us around 21:30 and then all three of us attended the commanders meeting. The night ended with some of the Canadians and 29th Division soldiers making impomptu land mines out of paper plates, staples, and black spray paint. Lights were out around 24:00. The sounds of Reveille filled our tired ears at 06:00, kicking-off a swarm of activity in the barracks. A traditional breakfast of donuts and coffee was served at 07:00 and we were all out on the parade ground by 08:30. The legendary Dave Hruska conducted the morning safety and authenticity speech and we were marching out into the field by 09:00. Our threesome from H/507th was joined by members of G/513th PIR, A/116th Infantry, and B Co. of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. Our first scenario had us moving through some lightly wooded terrain to attack the small village of Recht. Our platoon was successful in traversing a deep ravine and stream and making it through the woods, but our attack stalled out as soon as we hit the village. German defenses were just too difficult to overcome with our small fighting force. Our second scenario had us defending some elevated ground to the south of the village. This time we used the terrain to our advantage and held our ground from oncoming German advances. It was our platoon's proudest moment of the day! No matter what they threw at us, our line held! We were then ordered to fall back to the village and help members of G/137th Infantry halt another German advance headed toward the village. We did our best once again, but house to house fighting is tough stuff and we lost a lot of men once again. After the fighting died down, men of our combined platoon had some K-Rations and took a brief break from the fighting. The weather was gorgeous all day with sunny skies and temps topping out in the low 50's. Our first afternoon scenario sent us off to attack the bridge! Before reaching our objective, the men of A/116th Infantry left our platoon despite repeated attempts from Sergeant Green to persuade them to stay and fight. Sadly, with our dwindling man power we were unable to successfully capture the bridge intact. Our final scenario of the day had us once again defending against an onslaught of German vehicles and men. Sergeants Krelle and Green along with Tech 5 Williams wiped out nearly a squad of advancing Germans from the cover of some downed trees. Krelle and Green were both valiantly killed in action but Tech 5 Williams escaped the overwhelming German firepower to fight another day. Our combined Airborne platoon was driven back to the barracks in a Weapons Carrier to end our day in the field. After some hot showers and a change into our Class A uniforms it was off to the highly anticipated spaghetti dinner served by the men of G/137th Infantry. Everyone was exhausted from an amazing day of combat as we dozed off to sleep before 21:00. We were up bright and early and back to Omaha around 11:30 on Sunday. It was a wonderful weekend and one of our best Bulge events in years!
On the evening of Saturday, January 6, the World War 2 Guys got together for a nice winter dinner and unit meeting. This was our largest gathering to date with Cody, Jeff, Jon, Matt, Luke, Will, Eric and Casey in attendance. We chose Gerda's German Restaurant & Bakery, a local Omaha favorite and pretty much the only place in town serving authentic German food. Once we had all arrived, an unexpected highlight of the night was an actual Battle of the Bulge veteran briefly stopping by our table to say hello and admire our uniforms. You hardly ever see World War II veterans anymore so just seeing this gentleman was a special moment for all of us. We started off the night with some yummy Oktoberfest and Wheat Beers followed by platefuls of Schnitzels, Sauerbraten, Red Cabbage, Potato Salad, Spaetzle and Goulash. Our unit discussion was focused on upcoming winter and spring events with lots of laughs in between. Eric, Jeff and Cody dressed in 507th uniforms with Will, Matt and Jon dressing in some fancy 1940s attire. It was a fun night with great friends and just another example of why we're such an amazing group!
The World War 2 Guys arrived at Midway Village in Rockford, Illinois on Friday evening, September 22 as darkness was setting in. Immediately it became a challenge to locate our group's camp site. After going back to the drawing board, we found our correct location which wasn't initially communicated correctly. But it's the Army, so what do you expect? As it turned out, our camp site was in a nice, centralized location in the village. The men of the 507th pitched shelter halves under the light of street lamps on well-kept grass. We even had a picnic table at our disposal. The next day we all attended Safety Check, which was somewhat disorganized as we could barely hear the announcements. Our group then all attended the Commanders Meeting. Temperatures rose throughout the day and with it brought the struggles of overheating, dehydration, and sunburn, but we overcame. The battle itself wasn't quite what we had expected. The command leadership had good intentions, but ultimately dry conditions and pyrotechnics with flames do not mix. The first battle was cut short due to two separate grass fires and the second battle was cancelled all together. Casualties were also mounting for the men of the 507th. Jeff went down with boot and feet issues which were exasperated by the heat. After defensive fighting, Jon succumbed to symptoms of heat stroke. Cody then hopped into action as a real life medic by providing relief and assistance. Cody was also our vocal leader having been to Rockford before. With these afternoon struggles, we decided to pack it up and head home early that evening. All was not lost with the event however. With the help of Casey Sill, we formed a good relationship with several members of the 502nd PIR from Minnesota. Casey and Matt Hanson were a very welcoming presence. We also enjoyed the use of Jon's family van which provided ample room for both men and gear. If allowed, the 507th would benefit from its use again. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to bust out the ball gloves and Jeff's bat, but no doubt we'll get another crack at it in the future!
On Saturday, September 2, the World War 2 Guys took part in our 3rd Annual Ft. Atkinson Timeline Event. In attendance were Will representing a 2nd ID soldier during stateside training, Jeff representing a 2nd ID soldier from 1944, Jon representing a 507th paratrooper, and Eric representing a 7th Cavalry trooper from 1965. We started the day meeting-up near the Council House on the north end of the fort. We set-up our shelters and displays and then joined some of the fort's living historians for a nice hot cup of coffee. After scouting out some of the other displays around the fort, we decided to move our entire display down near the fort's main entrance so we packed it all up and made it happen. Our group got lots of foot traffic throughout the day and really enjoyed interacting with curious visitors. Jon and Will had a little time for a game of catch and we were treated to a delicious hot lunch cooked up by one of the Jeep owners. In the afternoon we took part in a firepower demonstration that saw 1820s muskets and rifles fired alongside a BAR, Jeff's Thompson, Will's 1903 Springfield, Jon's M1 Garand, and Eric's M16A1, although I couldn't get it to cycle any blanks once again. We were welcome to take part in the daily liquor ration at the end of our stay and then ended up taking a few more great individual photos. There's nothing better than watching Will charge across an open field screaming at the top of his lungs with a fixed bayonet. Simply priceless! This was once again one of my favorite events of the year and we'll hopefully all be back in 2018 for an even bigger and better show.
On Saturday, July 22, the World War 2 Guys ventured to the picturesque hills of Italy for our first ever Mediterranean Theater of Operations event. Eric and Cody were representing a World War II Iowa National Guard unit, the 168th Infantry Regiment, which was a part of the 34th "Red Bull" Division. Jon was representing the fighting men of the 3rd Infantry Division along with Reed and Jacob, two new friends of ours from Kansas. The event was co-hosted by our good friend, Eli Morgan, and the turnout was excellent! There were 20 reenactors from all over the Midwest with 11 Germans and 9 Allied soldiers. But even with the awesome participation, the weather turned out to be the story of the day. Temperatures climbed quickly in the morning which teamed up with exceptionally high humidity to make the day very uncomfortable. With most of the reenactors wearing wool uniforms along with their helmets, gear and rifles, it made patrolling through the hills and woods of the WMA site pretty awful. We did get into some good fire fights but we were just no match for the exhaustion that comes along with the high temps and humidity. We called it a day rather early but had a great time meeting lots of new friends in our hobby! Italy, we'll be back someday!!!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.