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!!!
The World War 2 Guys took part in our 2nd Annual Field Club Neighborhood Parade on Tuesday, July 4. Once again we celebrated Independence Day by portraying the men of the 507th PIR in our D-Day uniforms. This year our parade crew was comprised of Eric, Will, Cody and Jon. The morning temperatures weren't terrible but the humidity was really high so the M42 Jumpsuits loaded down with gear got a little uncomfortable. But it was a great parade with a lot of neighborhood enthusiasm and a good time was had by all!
The World War 2 Guys held our first ever Korean War reenactment on Saturday, June 24 in the Loess Hills just north of Mondamin, Iowa. In attendance were Eric, Matt and Jon representing the Marines of the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and Will representing a soldier of the U.S. Army. For our uniform and equipment, we chose the Pusan Perimeter battles in the summer of 1950 as our time period. We arrived on site in the late afternoon and immediately set to finding our outpost location and digging in. The weather was actually gorgeous for late June with afternoon highs in the 70's and a nice strong breeze cooling us down. The position we dug was a long trench about 20 feet long with a sandbagged front wall. We were situated on one of the highest hills overlooking the entire area and the views were pretty amazing! We stopped for an early supper and then made our way back down the hill to bring up extra supplies. Thank God for Jiffy Mart in Mondamin! We got back to our outpost just before sunset which was spectacular. It was then time to collect the firewood so Will could cook our second dinner. As with most reenactments, story time soon followed as we sat back and took it all in. Most of us dozed off to sleep around midnight under a sky full of stars. Temperatures dipped into the 40's by morning so Highneck Sweaters and M43 Field Jackets became a necessity. Right around 0430, a nearby pack of coyotes made there presence known so we got the fire going again. It felt good to warm up and Will's hot coffee is always a welcome treat. We packed up our gear and made our way back down the hill by 0600. It was a great event and a fitting way to honor the beginning of the Korean War which started on June 25, 1950. Korea has often been referred to as the "Forgotten War", but 36,574 dead, 103,284 wounded, 7,926 missing in action, and 4,714 POWs is nothing to forget about.
On Monday, May 29, the men of Company H gathered at Saint Mary's Catholic Cemetery in South Omaha to honor our fallen on Memorial Day. Matt, Cody, Jon, Eric and his son, Grant, met near the final resting place of Medal of Honor recipient, Private First Class Edward "Babe" Gomez. Our group then marched a short ways to the gravesites of Private First Class Aloysius V. Furmanski and Private First Class Floyd F. Furmanski, two brothers both killed in World War II. Anyone who has been following us for a while knows that Aloysius is our inspiration for representing Company H of the 507th Parachute Infantry. We spent some time cleaning the grave markers by cutting back the overgrown grass, scrubbing the graves and washing them off. They both looked markedly better once we were finished cleaning them. Staff Sergeant Krelle then read a short speech honoring the legacy of Aloysius "Ali" Furmanski and his service to our nation. We then listened to a soft and stirring rendition of "Taps" and then observed a moment of silence. We finished our day with a few group photos. It was a wonderful and fitting way to spend Memorial Day together as a group and a great way to start passing our mission on to the next generation.
On Saturday, May 20, the World War 2 Guys put on another great display at the La Vista Cabela's annual Armed Force Day celebration. The festivities kicked off with the Quilts of Valor Foundation presenting their custom designed and hand-stitched quilts to eight local veterans. The quilts were amazing this year and the veterans were very appreciative. For our military display, Jeff presented an assortment of U.S. Navy and U.S. Army uniforms and equipment. Jon was our 507th Parachute Infantry representative and primarily presented a medical and Airborne display. Eric was representing the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. A special sign was created to honor Pfc. Edward "Babe" Gomez from Omaha who was killed in action on September 14, 1951 and posthumously received the Medal of Honor. In addition, Eric also created a sign to remember the 69 men from Omaha, Nebraska who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Korean War. Cabela's was once again a wonderful host and we were so appreciative to get the chance to interact and teach dozens of visitors throughout the day.
On Sunday, April 23, the World War 2 Guys visited the Loess Hills near Mondamin, Iowa for some much needed field time. Will, Jeff and Eric came dressed in a mix of Pacific Theater uniforms with Will wearing an early war Camouflage Coveralls ensemble compete with the transitional M1917A1 helmet, and Jeff and Eric wearing the later style HBT uniform. We started the day with some field maneuvers through the picturesque fields and Loess Hills of western Iowa. We made it to the top of some of the highest hills in the area where the views of the Missouri River valley are breathtaking! The three of us took a break to refuel on some K-Rations and share some good old war stories. Then it was on to some live fire time where we pulled out quite a few goodies. Among our arsenal of weapons were a 1903 Springfield, an 1897 Trench Shotgun, an M1 Garand, an M1A1 Carbine, and a replica M16A1 from the Vietnam War era. From 100 yards, our old Direct TV dish made for a nice target. We finished the day with Will modeling for us in his summer khakis which is always a treat! During our time up in the hills, we came up with a great idea to do a Korean War reenactment at this site sometime in 2017. So we're all looking forward to that!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.