On Tuesday, March 29, Eric and Joe attended the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Nebraska Vietnam Veterans Memorial at the Sumtur Amphitheater in Papillion, Nebraska. Eric was representing a US Marine from 1965 in his OG-107 utility uniform and Joe was representing a US Army soldier for the late war period in his ERDL jungle fatigues. In attendance were hundreds of local Vietnam veterans accompanied by their loved ones. It was truly impressive seeing so many Vietnam veterans gathered together at one time! Nebraska Governor, Pete Ricketts, gave an inspired opening speech and then former US Senator and former US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, gave the keynote address. Hagel and his brother, Tom, served together in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. The future memorial will sit atop the hill which overlooks the Sumtur Amphitheater. If all goes as planned, the memorial will be dedicated on March 29, 2023 which is designated as National Vietnam War Veterans Day across the nation.
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.
On Independence Day, the World War 2 Guys were invited to take part in the Grand Opening of the new 4-D interactive "From Cornrow to Hedgerow" exhibit at the Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward. In attendance were Eric, Will, and Cody all representing the brave men of Nebraska's own 134th Infantry Regiment. Throughout the day we were situated in and around the museum's new Normandy hedgerow exhibit which features authentically uniformed mannequins in poses depicted in the National Guard Heritage Series painting done by Keith Rocco. We met and spoke with Ted Neill, the author of "Finding St.Lo" which is a biography of Gordon Cross and Bob Fowler. Bob was a longtime friend of our unit and remains one of the inspirations for why we honor our nations World War II veterans year after year. There were some excellent Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill impresonators at the museum for the big celebration and hundreds and hundreds of visitors through the doors all day long. It was an excellent way to spend the 4th honoring some of our state's most courageous men.
On Saturday, April 20, a few of the World War 2 Guys hit the field for a little spring training. Jon, Fisk and Eric headed up to Ft. Atkinson for some morning fun. The uniform of the day was HBT Coveralls, Helmets, and Jump Boots replicating the look of the typical 507th trooper at Alliance Army Air Field in April 1943. We started the day by giving Fisk a tour of the fort and it's buildings and attractions. We did some field marching and held a little unit meeting under a grand old tree. We then covered unit hand signals and discussed upcoming events. We finished the day back up on the parade ground throwing around the baseball a little. We didn't have enough guys to do much but it was still great to get outside and take in the beautiful spring weather.
The World War 2 Guys met up at Ft. Atkinson on Sunday, April 29 for our annual Spring Training and baseball game. We had a lighter attendance for this event with Casey, Jon, Matt, and Eric taking part. We started the morning with some much appreciated donuts and coffee supplied by Casey followed by some rifle drill and marching on the parade ground. We held a short administrative meeting covering upcoming events and other important unit topics. The four of us then geared-up and made our way down to the lower river plain for some patrol time. Casey led us on a somewhat lengthy patrol through the trees and grasses on this beautiful sunny morning. We stopped off for a breather and to shoot a few rounds through Staff Sergeant Krelle's new Thompson. Then it was back to the parade ground for some good old fashioned baseball! We knocked-off the rust by warming up our arms first with a few spirited games of catch. Then it was home run derby time with each trooper taking several turns at bat. Corporal Hazard had the longest shot of the day, but the true headline moment was when SSgt. Krelle actually hit the leather cover off a baseball! Seems that he's a regular Roy Hobbs at the plate! It was a really fun event which we will hold again next year for certain.
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 Sunday, March 19, the men of Company H met for our annual Spring Training event at Fort Atkinson, Nebraska. In attendance were the Sarge, Haz, Cody, Luke, Jon, Jeff, and our new recruit, Tyler. This was the first official event with our new Company H guidon and our new 507th "Jumping Spider" wood sign. We started the day with some WWII style calisthenics followed by some rifle drill and marching. The Sarge unveiled some clever new 507th cadences which had the boys smiling! Next up we covered some important administrative topics to keep the group moving forward in the right direction. Private Paul then gave the squad a rather difficult quiz on World War II history, followed by Corporal Hazard administering a quiz and lecture on the trusty ole' M1911. "Doc" Williams gave an excellent refresher course on real life medical emergencies, including how to spot them an what to do in certain scenarios. We then downed a few K Rations during a quick lunchtime break. After that the gloves, bats and balls came out as we held our first annual baseball day. We all had a unit game of catch and then actually started playing some ball. Cpl. Hazard and Pfc. Hinz were the big hitters both having a few long balls but everyone had a few nice hits. It was so much fun to run around the imaginary bases on the old fort's parade ground! The weather was absolutely wonderful with sunny skies and temps hitting the upper 60's. We followed up the baseball game with a little unit song time and a hearty rendition of 'Blood Upon the Risers'. Our final course was on platoon movements and formations in the field. It was a memorable day for the unit and a really strong way to kick off the 2017 reenacting season!
On Sunday, January 8, the World War 2 Guys kicked off the New Year with an afternoon visit to Omaha's Memorial Park. Haz, Doc, Abner and the Sarge all bundled up in several layers of Uncle Sam's wooly finest for a chilly outdoor gathering. We talked over plans for our upcoming winter battle and did an authenticity check for our winter gear and unforms. Afterwards we walked up to the World War II Memorial and spent some time in front of each of the bronze markers. As of now, we know of at least two 507th men from Omaha whose names are on the memorial. The first is Corporal Aloysius V. Furmanski from Company H who was killed in action on June 23, 1944 in Normandy, France. The second was Captain Gordon S. Shotwell from HQ Company, 2nd Battalion who was killed in action on March 24, 1945 in Wesel, Germany. Everything we do as a group is dedicated to honoring these men and all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
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 boys of B Company, 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment kicked off the month of March with an exciting and educational training day on Sunday, March 6. Our training was intended to simulate the 507th's arrival in Alliance, Nebraska in March 1943. The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny with temperatures pushing into the 70s by the afternoon. Our uniform of the day consisted of HBT Coveralls with basic paratrooper field gear including the Service Gas Mask in the MIVA1Bag. SSgt. Krelle led the training with Sgt. Green, Pfc. Hazard, Pfc. Williams, Pvt. Hinz and Pvt. Paul forming up the squad. The day started out with some basic drill with and without arms. We pulled out some old cadence calls as we marched along dusty gravel roads. We had classroom instruction time on the mission of parachute troops, hand signals, knowing our enemy, and Sgt. Green demonstrated the use of the Service Gas Mask. We performed a road march all the way to the Missouri River where we took a break over some K-Rations, canned peaches and chocolate bars. Afterwards, we brushed up on squad formations in the field as well as dropping to a prone position from a run. We finished our instruction by simulating the attack of an enemy position and clearing a linear obstacle. When all was said and done we had marched over 3.5 miles throughout the day. It was a top notch training event and a great way to kick off 2016 in the field. This was merely one step on the 507th's way to the eventual invasion of Europe!
Read all about the great events that the World War 2 Guys take part in throughout the year.