On Saturday, November 13, the World War 2 Guys were back in action for an event we called the "Push to Luxembourg." Our scenario for the day was set in January 1945 when the 17th Airborne Division was pushing from Belgium into Luxembourg. Joining up for the day were Matt, Will, Mike, Eric and Joe, doing his first ever World War II field event. We used our Loess Hill site for this event and had to deal with a pretty cold and windy day, but with some nice sun early on. We made our way through open fields and up to our hilltop trench where we removed quite a bit of brush and re-fortified our line. We spent quite a bit of time just cleaning up the trench line and extending it a little more to the east. There was hot coffee and some hot chow thanks to Will and Joe and their small fires. Later in the day, Matt, Eric and Joe patrolled another hilltop and some wooded areas which we plan on using in 2022 for another immersion event. With rain starting to spit down on us, we called it a day and made our way back to the vehicles. But it was a great little outing and some fun time with friends in the field!
The night of Saturday, October 9 saw a few of the World War 2 Guys participating in one of the most epic reenactments of all time! The scenario involved a small group of 101st Airborne paratroopers making a river crossing under the cloak of darkness to rescue four stranded British Paras from the 1st Parachute Battalion. At the prescribed meet-up time of 1900 hours, the four Brits who had escaped weeks of grueling battle at Arnhem made their way down toward the river's north shore. As darkness quickly fell upon the scene, and with every ear listening for signs of a rescue, suddenly the scraping sounds of boats upon rock could be heard to the east. With hearts racing and a few more minutes of silence, the sound of paddling oars could be heard approaching from upstream. Suddenly two small boats pulled up on the shoreline and the American paratroopers disembarked. Beams of light from an American flashlight shot toward the British lines, followed by red flashes from a British torch. A Sergeant from the British group rendezvoused with the Americans and quickly the rest of the Brits appeared from the woods beyond. A British Brigadier from the 1st Battalion was a high value asset to the Allied effort and his rescue was of top priority! The two boats loaded with the Brits then paddled furiously back upstream to safety. About halfway across the river the sound of three sharp whistle blows unleashed a fury of machine gun fire from the American lines as well as two red flares being shot into the night sky. The surreal imagery of the rippling river's current highlighted with an eerie red glow and muzzle flashes beyond, will forever be engrained in our memories. Upon reaching the south shore the heavy little boats were pulled into hiding and the troopers all quickly assembled for instruction. The combined group then made their way south, marching through the darkness back to the friendly American lines. Once there, the tired British troopers were given numerous handshakes and congratulatory pats on the back, as well as some warm blankets and a place to rest. The rest of the night was filled with laughter and bottle of liquor as the Americans and Brits celebrated their successful rescue mission, one that will never be forgotten by any of those who were there.
On Sunday, September 12, the World War 2 Guys were invited to celebrate the 20th Anniversary re-dedication of the Andrew Jackson Higgins Memorial in Columbus, Nebraska. Our participants for the day were Mark representing the "Big Red One" of the 1st Infantry Division on D-Day, Cody representing the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II, and Eric representing the 1st Cavalry Division in the Korean War. The park and memorial in Columbus were beautiful and the public interaction was great as well. It was very rewarding to show off the uniforms, weapons and equipment of our soldiers and marines who rode Higgins Boats to the battlefield in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
The weekend of September 4-5, the World War 2 Guys were back in action for our 7th annual Ft. Atkinson Timeline Weekend. The weather was outstanding for this year's event with sunny skies and more moderate temperatures. Eric and Joe were at the fort Saturday night and were treated to a picnic dinner for all of the participating reenactors. Joe stayed overnight in the west barracks wall of the fort and Eric slept overnight in his shelter just outside the west wall. A gorgeous sunrise greeted all of the early rising reenactors on Sunday morning and some much appreciated coffee made for some happy guys! For the day, Eric portrayed a Staff Sergeant from H Company of the 507th PIR, Joe portrayed an Airborne trooper of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam 1965, Conner showed off his newly acquired Russian infantry impression, and Will portrayed an early Vietnam advisor in his duck hunter camo utilities. Public attendance for the weekend was at an all-time high with lots of enthusiastic visitors taking in our displays. The traditional whiskey call at 3:00pm was met with much excitement and some sour faces after that first swig. It was another great weekend at the fort and a great time to show off some excellent military impressions!
On Saturday, July 3 the boys were back in action at the 39th Annual Field Club Independence Day Parade. It was an amazing feeling to be back out among a spirited crowd at one of Omaha's best neighborhood parades. This year we had Joe representing a LRRP from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Conner representing an infantryman from the 34th "Red Bull" Division, Jeff representing a US Army infantryman in HBTs, Matt representing a paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, and Eric representing a Captain from the 2nd Ranger Battalion. We had a great time seeing each other again and we're already scheming up something special for 2022 and the parade's 40th Anniversary.
The highlight of my Memorial Day was finding and cleaning the gravesite of Lt. Col. Alfred Thomsen of Omaha. He was the 3rd Battalion commander of the 134th Infantry Regiment, a Nebraska National Guard unit that made the Cornhusker state proud during World War II. The 134th took Hill 122 on July 15 and was "officially" the first unit to enter St. Lo. Thomsen was wounded by German artillery on July 30 and died a few weeks later when a blog clot reached his brain. The Big Colonel or "Tommy" as he was known was a larger than life personality and a legend in Nebraska's military ranks. He's buried in Westlawn-Hillcrest cemetery, and surprisingly he's only 50 yards or so away from my parents' burial site! His marker is right at base of an ancient tree and near the Westlawn Singing Tower which has watched over him for many, many years. I read aloud excerpts from 'Biography of a Battalion' and some of author James A. Huston's recollections of his friend and the leader of so many Nebraska boys. Lt. Col. Thomsen has been a hero of mine for over 20 years now when I first started learning actual WWII stories from WWII veterans, so it was nice to finally slow down, sit with him, and share some French Calvados at long last.
On Saturday, May 29 the fellas were back in action at a monuments re-dedication ceremony at Omaha's beautiful Memorial Park. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with Eric and Cody representing H/507, Will representing F/502 and Joe representing the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. There were parachute jumpers and a nice presentation by various speakers including our 2nd District Representative Don Bacon. Afterwards we had lots of photos taken at the Airborne Memorial which was one of the monuments being formally re-dedicated after it's move from Heartland of America Park. It was a great chance to remember and honor all of our Airborne veterans throughout our nation's history.
On Friday evening, May 28, the World War 2 Guys marched in a Memorial Day kick-off parade through downtown Omaha in honor of our nation's fallen. This event was organized by Bill and Yvonne Williams of Patriotic Productions with loads of other local sponsors chipping in. In attendance for our group were Jeff honoring World War II, Eric honoring the Korean War, a new member Joe who honored the Vietnam War, and Cody honoring Operation Desert Storm. All of our guys looked great and it was really neat to see us showing the progression of the American soldier through the 20th century. The parade kicked off at 12th and Farnam St. and headed east to 10th St. and then up the hill to the Durham Museum. We have never seen crowds as big as this in downtown Omaha. It was simply spectacular and very awe-inspiring! The organizers would like this to be an annual event going forward so we will definitely be back in 2022.
On Saturday, April 17 we held a small unit training event at Ft. Atkinson. In attendance were Conner, Mike, Matt, and the Sarge. The focus of this event was to do a deep dive through all of our uniform and equipment questions in advance of our May immersion event with F/502. We spent quite a bit of time talking through each element of the uniform and what the standards should be. We also then went through equipment, personal items, rations, and weapons with the same level of scrutiny. This was the first event where several unit members had their M42 Reinforced Jump Suits treated with a CC2 treatment replication be it either Otter Wax or Filson's Oil Finish Wax. The newly teated jump suits definitely looked a lot better than our old untreated look! We then spent some time going through hand signals, 1940s slang, and some field maneuver tactics which was helpful. We finished the day with some baseball catch and a few turns up at bat which is always really fun! It was a very educational and enjoyable day among friends!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.