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 Saturday, January 14, the World War 2 Guys ventured out for a winter patrol event. In attendance were the Sarge, Doc, Haz, Bird, and Abner. The weather was actually really nice for a mid-January morning with sunny skies and temperatures climbing into the 30's. Representing the 17th Airborne Division in January 1945, our squad was dressed in the M43 Field Uniform with a few troopers wearing the heavy wool overcoat. We started the day with a vigorous squad movement up and down hilly fields looking for a defensible area. Once we settled in, we began digging foxholes using a Pick Mattock and Folding Shovels. After about 20 minutes of very little progress, we decided that foxhole digging could wait for another day. Our patrol moved on until we found a nice little clearing in the woods where we stopped for some K-Rations and a unit meeting. During the meeting we decided that we would officially change our company designation to H Company in honor of Private First Class Aloysius V. Furmanski of Omaha who was killed on June 23, 1944 in Normandy. We later pushed to the south until we found some old abandoned foxhole positions. Suddenly, contact was made with a German sniper, but our M1s quickly silenced the threat. During the brief encounter, the sniper did manage to knick Private Paul in the leg. Not wanting to get pulled from the fight, the gutsy private kept firing away with his Colt .45 until he ran out of ammo. Our trusty "Doc" Williams then patched him up and prepped him for evacuated to an aid station. The squad performed well in the field and as always we enjoyed getting out and spending time together.
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, March 22, Casey, Will, Matt and Eric along with photographers Bob and Dan headed out to Camp Sill for a photo shoot honoring the 70th Anniversary of the Operation Varsity jump. The four of us did our best at recreating the uniforms of the 17th Airborne Division for this event spending weeks trying to get everything as accurate as possible. Some unique features of this uniform are the M43 uniform, the American flag patches on the right sleeve, typically the Parachutist's First Aid Pouch attached to the helmet, and a mix of both early khaki and later OD#7 field gear. Temperatures were rather warm for a March day in Nebraska, but we all enjoyed being together and spending some time in the field.
The World War 2 Guys held our 2nd Annual overnight foxhole event on Friday, December 26 just outside Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska. In attendance were Matt, Eric, Casey, and his brother Dan. For the event we portrayed the men of Fox Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Our scenario was the defense of the town of Longchamps where 2/502 set up a defensive perimeter northwest of Bastogne. Matt and I were dropped by truck into the field around 1600 and quickly set about to finding a defensible position. Together we dug a two man foxhole which we later realized should have been about a foot longer and a foot deeper. We met up with Casey and Dan at about 1730 before they established their CP on a ridgeline to the east of our position. The four of us did a combined patrol in the early evening probing for the German lines without success. Then around 2000 the snow began to fall. Winds were steady around 14 mph the rest of the night with wind chills dropping into the mid-teens. It was cold and it was miserable - a perfect winter reenactment! Matt and I ran numerous patrols throughout the remainder of the night mostly to keep warm. The morning dawned around 0700 and the four of us packed up and moved to our rendezvous point to the west. This was the kind of event that really enhances your appreciation for what our guys went through at the Battle of the Bulge. It's hard to imagine living like this for weeks on end but they did it!
The World War 2 Guys hit the field on Saturday night, August 2 to recreate the Battle of Guam just south of Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska. Our band of four Marines were Casey, Will, Matt and myself. We had been doing research on the Guam campaign and the 3rd Marine Division for a few weeks prior to our event. I was pretty impressed with our overall impressions considering that it was everyone's first Marine Corps reenactment. We met up around 1900 hours and were out in the field within the hour. We circled around the perimeter of a large open field and then made our way into the jungle. Will and I selected a nice flat piece of ground surrounded by trees to set up an observation post while Matt and Casey selected another little ridgeline for a second post. Everyone worked quickly to get foxholes dug in before nightfall. However, as is pretty much standard routine, Will's stomach took priority over digging and he got a small fire going to heat up some rations. Now we are well aware that Marines on Guam probably didn't start cooking fires for fear of being shot at by the Japanese. So we made a few concessions to comfort during the course of the evening. The four of us headed back out on patrol around 2300 hours seeking out Japanese positions to the north. After a quick break we made our way back to our observation posts by 2400 hours...
And that's exactly when the night's activities took a rather unexpected turn. A severe thunderstorm with heavy lightning rapidly blew into eastern Nebraska along with the potential for flash flooding. The four of us hunkered down in our muddy foxholes and spent the next two hours experiencing a true taste of what every Marine in the Pacific endured. Torrential rains with heavy thunder and lighting pounded our little patch of woods mercilessly. It was quite honestly the most realistic two hours I have ever spent at a reenactment in my 14 years in the hobby. No squad of enemy reenactors or blank rifle fire can ever match the raw power and electricity of nature's mighty dominance over man. It was during this time that several of us realized that next to the M1 Rifle, the Camouflaged Poncho is the most valuable piece of equipment a Marine can carry. We watched as the water level in the bottom of our foxholes gradually rose. It also became near impossible to climb the hills up out of the woods we were situated in. So after two hours of heavy storms and, um, a wife's uncompromising text massages, the four of us begrudgingly marched back to our base camp and headed home. I was extremely disappointed that we were unable to finish our planned overnight event. I am even more upset that I didn't get to take as many photos of our individual uniforms as I had planned. Typically it's the photos taken the following morning that truly show how successful the reenactment was. So we will have to find another Pacific island to assault sometime next year in order to live out all of our Marine dreams.
Will, Casey and I jumped (from a truck) into Normandy (Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska) to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day on the night of Saturday, June 7. We geared up for the event to portray paratroopers from F Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment. For our first objective, Will and I were dropped in the middle of field at 2300 hours and told to go find a concrete bunker and destroy it. The half moon and clear skies provided us with enough light to make our way through snarled woods, along grassy tree lines and over winding muddy fields. We met up with Casey a short while later with the help of our little brass crickets - an item issued to the 101st Airborne for the invasion. Remember: one click is to be answered by two clicks! The three of us finally found the German bunker and then pushed to the southeast throughout the night and finally made it to our second objective, Causeway #2, a little after 0200. We held the ground around the causeway with the deep sounds of bullfrogs and crickets lulling us into a light sleep. The combination of the cold ground and our wet clothing made the night rather uncomfortable with temperatures dipping below 55 degrees. We gathered up our gear by 0430 and then pushed on further to the south. The sun finally rose to greet us just before 0600 as we ate some rations and finished our 7 hour mission. It was a memorable event and one that I have been wanting to do for about 15 years. This was my first experience reenacting as an Airborne unit in the field and I found it to be really enjoyable. I'll have to make a few minor tweaks to my uniform and gear for future events but everyone had a great night!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.