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!
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!
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!
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, September 3, the World War 2 Guys took part in the 2nd Annual Timeline Day at Ft. Atkinson State Historical Park. We arrived at the fort early in the morning and spent our first hour setting up our encampment. Afterwards we were well fed by our friends at the fort with a delicious breakfast and a pot of hot coffee. For this event, Jon was representing the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment with a shelter half and a display of typical Airborne equipment. Cody was representing the men of the Hampshire Regiment with an extensive display of World War II British equipment and weapons. Eric was representing the 101st Airborne during the Vietnam War with a shelter tent made from two ponchos along with an equipment display. We were also joined by our buddy, Eli, who came as a German Luftwaffe soldier from World War II. Throughout the day we had a lot of instructional interaction with visitors to the fort and spoke about our various impressions and our displays. In the afternoon we got to speak to a large crowd about each of our time periods and what made our uniforms and equipment unique. We followed that up with a blank fire demonstration of our rifles. It was a great event and once again we were very thankful for our association with Ft. Atkinson and the opportunities they provide us.
Immediately following the Field Club Parade, the men of the 507th headed off for a unit photo shoot at the Heartland Airborne Memorial located in Heartland of America Park. Sculptor Matthew Placzec was commissioned by the Heartland Airborne Association to create the impressive 8 ft. tall bronze sculpture that serves to honor all Airborne, Glider, and Air Assault troopers throughout our nation's history. The memorial was dedicated on August 11, 2007. It's very inspiring to stand before the figure of a determined paratrooper ready to make his jump into destiny. All of the photos were taken by Jon's father, Victor, and are absolutely stunning. What a fitting tribute to our Airborne forces and to our nation's independence!
On Monday, July 4, 2016, our boys of the 507th PIR recreated a little piece of history as we marched through the streets of Omaha's Historic Field Club Neighborhood. 73 years ago on May 23, 1943, sixteen 507th troopers and their mascot dog, Geronimo, jumped for 25,000 spectators in Omaha. The jump was done in conjunction with the Field Club Neighborhood Dog Show. For this occasion we chose to represent the men of the 507th as they would have looked in the towns and fields of Normandy following their D-Day jump. We wore our M42 jump suits with full field gear and even blackened our faces. We did two loops around the crowded parade route directly behind the 1820's reenactors from Fort Atkinson State Historical Park. We took some really great photos in front of the Westminster Presbyterian Church which we all thought resembled an old church somewhere in Normandy. We were happy that all six of us were able to be a part of this special event and hopefully we can do it again next year!
The evening of Saturday, June 4, the boys of B Company, 507th Parachute Infantry dropped into Normandy, France near the established 507th objective on Drop Zone T. The men of the company were scattered over a wide area due to heavy German flak as well as poorly marked drop zones. Fortunately, some of the troopers were able to find each other and form a small squad led by Staff Sergeant Krelle. No officers were found in the immediate area. After reconnoitering near a German radar station, our small band pushed to the west toward our main objective, a battery of German 88s which had been discovered by recent arial photo reconnaissance. Upon reaching the location hidden in a grove of cedar trees, we found that the guns had been moved out before our arrival. Our squad decided to hold up for a few hours to see if more lost paratroopers would arrive. We then pushed to the south and found a defensible position where we dug in for the night. Intermittent German gunfire was heard in the distance so Cpl. Hazard, Pvt. Paul, and SSgt. Krelle scouted the area to see what we could find. We engaged a small band of German troops near a ridge line to the northeast of our position and then headed back to our lines. We caught a few hours of shut eye before the sun's first rays rose to greet us. We then grabbed our gear and pushed to the north in search of the rest of the 507th. A short while later, we encountered another group of Germans who we captured and searched for intelligence. They didn't have much on them but we did enjoy liberating a pretty nice flag of theirs as a war trophy.
The boys of B Company, 507th PIR gathered for a rather unique event the evening of Sunday, April 24. We assembled all six of our reinforced M42 jump uniforms to treat them with a canvas waterproofing solution called Canvak. The whole purpose of this event was to get our jump suits to more closely resemble the gas impregnated uniforms worn by the real 507th guys on D-Day. The CC-2 gas impregnating chemicals used on the uniforms would darken the color of the fabric, seal up the fibers making them less breathable, and most noticeably caused the uniforms to stink! We used both a dunk tank technique as well as a hand-brushed method to really get the uniforms coated. Once finished, we let them hang dry while we relaxed over some cool refreshments. All of our hard work was supervised by our new unit mascot, our favorite Brittany Spaniel, Buzz.
On Sunday, April 10, the boys of B Company, 507th PIR met up at Ft. Atkinson, Nebraska for our April training event. The weather was wonderful with periods of sun and clouds and temperatures pushing into the 60s. Our training began with some good ole' fashioned rifle drill on the parade ground to loosen up the squad. Luke then instructed us on the Douglas C-47 followed by Will teaching on the various classes of uniforms and headgear. Matt quizzed us on the finer points of the M1 Garand Rifle and Jon gave us a quick refresher on first aid in the field. Staff Sergeant Krelle led the squad in a rousing rendition of "Blood Upon the Risers" followed by a quick break for some K-Rations at the fort's flagpole. Afterwards we did some field maneuvers around the grounds of the fort. We stumbled upon an old barn that served as a really great backdrop for some unit photos and we visited the fort's Memorial to the Fallen. We ran through a first person exercise that each trooper completed in advance to further explore the life they lived as a World War II soldier. And finally, we ended the day making plans for the coming months. We crammed a lot of great activities into five hours and really enjoyed our time together. A final highlight of the day were the promotions of Corporal Hazard and Private First Class Hinz. Congratulations paratroopers!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.