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!
On Saturday, March 27 the World War 2 Guys got back in the field for our first event of 2021. With 2020 being such a tough year on events, we were all itching to get back out as a group. For our March event we decided to honor the men of the 1st Marines and the 1st Marine Division on Okinawa. The initial landings were on April 1, 1945 with the 1st Marine Division on the northern end of Okinawa positioned between the 6th Marine Division and the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division. With us for this event were the Sarge, Will, Matt, Conner and Mike. We have all been working on improving our USMC impressions and everyone looked great as a group. The event was held in the Loess Hills State Forest and between the hills and pine trees there were quite a few visual cues that made it feel like we might have been in Okinawa. We patrolled for most of the day looking for the elusive enemy but came up shorthanded. We took some really great photos after our patrol that were inspired by some of the most famous Marine Corps photos from the Okinawa campaign. It was a great day and a promising start to our exciting 2021 season!
On Saturday, October 10, the World War 2 Guys were back in the field representing the "Blue Devils" of the 88th Infantry Division in Italy. Our understrength squad for the event was SSgt. Krelle, Sgt. Green, Cpl. Hazard, Pfc. Williams, and Pvt. Mason. We began our day winding our way through cornfields and humping it up the Loess Hills which served as Italy for the day. The men spent time clearing out our old hilltop trench while keeping a keen eye out for any Kraut activity in our sector. We got in a few quick firefights with a small German patrol located in a grove of trees below our position. After Sgt. Green had a weapons malfunction, SSgt. Krelle quickly stepped-in and neutralized the enemy patrol with a little back-up from Pvt. Mason. After the fireworks, the squad spent the sunset hour eating some rations and some cooked Spam provided by Pfc. Williams. Everyone agreed that the hot chow was delicious! After securing our positions for the night the men looked up in awe of the star-filled night sky above. Thankfully, there was no enemy activity during the night which remained relatively warm for an October evening. The squad was up with the sun, scrounging up some rations and some hot coffee from Sgt. Green. We packed up and left our hilltop position, pushing to the south to keep the pressure on the Germans. It was quite an event highlighted by some spectacular weather and some amazing fall colors.
On Saturday, September 5, the World War 2 Guys took part in our 6th annual Ft. Atkinson Timeline Day. This year we had Matt portraying an airman of the 10th Air Force, Nate portraying a WWII US Marine, Jeff portraying a US Army infantryman, Cody portraying a member of No. 3 Commando, and Eric portraying a Green Beret from the 5th Special Forces Group. The morning weather was really nice and we had quite a few visitors to our display. But by the afternoon temps got pretty toasty and it was a little uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it was a great day to get out and interact with the public during a year when we haven't had as many chances.
On Saturday, July 4, the World War 2 Guys celebrated Independence Day back at our favorite neighborhood parade for Field Cub's reverse parade or EDARAP as they called it. The plan was for neighborhood residents and visitors to either drive or walk a pre-planned parade route to see all of the cool front yard displays and patriotic spirit throughout the historic neighborhood. For our group we had Will and Conner representing WWII, Cody representing the Marines in the Korean War, and Eric representing the Vietnam War. It was nice to be back out on the 4th of July in our hometown and nice to see so many smiling faces and waves from passers by!
On Saturday, June 6, the World War 2 Guys held a field immersion exercise in recognition of the 76th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion. This time we visited the Loess Hills State Forest near Little Sioux, Iowa which served as our Normandy for the day. Our patrol consisted of Eric, Matt, Cody, Conner, and our newest member Mike. We encountered some really neat sunken roads that in places closely resembled the ancient hedgerows of Normandy. We also marched through wooded hills and valleys taking in some breathtaking scenery along the way. We stopped off for some rations and a unit admin meeting and then continued our advance back to our starting point. The very end of our march got pretty hot and our water supply was running low so we called it a day. It was excellent to see Mike out in the field with us for the first time and it was very special to all get together on D-Day. Until next month...
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.