Wednesday, June 11, 2014

D-Day at the Durham Museum

Matt (29th Division), Jeff (Armored), Will (29th Division), Casey (101st Airborne) and Eric (2nd Rangers) at the Durham Museum train depot.
The men of the 2nd I.D. Living History Association gathered at Omaha's famous Durham Museum on Sunday, June 8. Our purpose for the day was to provide an interpretive display honoring the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.  The highlight of the day was seeing Jeff's replica steel hedgehogs for the first time.  The two hedgehogs, hand-built by Jeff out of wood, were extremely impressive and really set the stage for our display.  As a group we were able to represent the 2nd Infantry Division, the 29th Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne Division, Armored Divisions and the 2nd Ranger Battalion.  It was a great chance to interact with the public, to get out ALL of our D-Day gear, and to pay tribute to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on June 6, 1944.

The Durham people made two of these really nice signs for our exhibit.  We really wanted to take one home.
This is some of my Ranger equipment including a Life Preserver Belt and an Assault Jacket.  Note the Ranger diamond on the back of my helmet.
Some of my Airborne equipment on display including an M1A1 Carbine, a Hawkins Mine and a B-3 "Mae West" Life Preserver.
Here are a few personal effects like a Housewife Sewing Kit, a Shelter Half and pins, and some late-war style K-Ration boxes.
Matt looks like he's getting along great with a Navy pal of his at the train station.  The Durham has some really cool lifesized statues on display.
Not to be outdone by the infantry, I got in on the action as well.
Jeff is wearing HBT Coveralls, a Tanker Helmet and a Throat Microphone as part of his Armored Impression.
Casey stands loaded down with gear as a member of the 502nd Parachute Infantry.  Looks like he needs a few more grenades!
Here I am in my 2nd Ranger uniform with an M7 Assault Gas Mask Bag and my M1 Rifle in a plastic Invasion Bag.  Rangers lead the way!
There's ole' Will Green, that tough-as-nails First Sergeant, screaming at his men again!
The caption is pretty simple here folks, "Get off the beach!!!"

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

D-Day: Airborne in Normandy

The morning sun rises over Normandy revealing two armed and ready troopers of the Five O' Deuce.
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!

We used a TL-122B Flashlight to check the map we had of the area.  That concrete bunker is somewhere around here...
Will adjusts a Wrist Compass as we make our way to our first objective.  Note the heavy scrim on his helmet netting.
Here's one tired little Trooper catching a few winks before we move out again.
Casey is one of the most authentic Airborne reenactors you'll ever find.  He did all the planning for this event.
Casey and Will prepare to move out just before sunrise.
A lot of the terrain we went through looked a great deal like the fields and hedgerow country of Normandy.
You can see a Gas Brassard on Will's right sleeve and an M7 Rubberized Assault Gas Mask Bag on his left hip.
This was my first experience with my new M1A1 Folding Stock Carbine.  It's a lot lighter than an M1 Garand!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Armed Forces Day 2014

My latest impression is a U.S. Marine in Vietnam sometime in 1970.  I'm wearing a 2nd Pattern M1955 Flak Vest over an olive drab t-shirt.
The men of the 2nd I.D. gathered for our 10th Annual Armed Forces Day exhibit at Cabela's LaVista on Saturday, May 17.  The weather was sunny and gorgeous but a little cold in the morning - I wore long johns under my jungle fatigues.  Jeff, Dave, Will and I displayed a wide variety of uniforms, weapons and equipment from early World War II up through Vietnam.  My primary focus this year was portraying a 1970 Marine in Vietnam, so this technically qualifies as my Uniform of the Month for May.  It was a great day and my wife and kids even got to come up and hang out for a while.  We're all looking forward to our next event which will be D-Day at the Durham Museum on June 8.

Some items in my Vietnam display included an ARVN rucksack, roughout Marine combat boots, and a pair of locally made "tire" rubber sandals.
For this event I picked up a M17 Gas Mask, several more plastic canteens and an Ontario produced fighting knife, commonly called a Ka-Bar.
In front of a watchful Jeff is a wide assortment of uniforms and equipment that a 2nd Division soldier would have carried.
Here's Will's famous "Bunk of Junk" covered by an assortment of early World War II items.
Here is a really nice looking Jeep brought out by the GPS guys.
This vehicle was popular with the kids all of whom got to stand in the back and pretend fire the M-2 .50 cal.
Looks like Will got in a little shut eye while sitting behind that ole' typewriter.
Here's our favorite Navy man Jeff with an awfully long M1905 Bayonet.  
Will wore his full Class A uniform for most of the day.  He's got a lot of fruit salad on that thing!
Here I am wearing the ERDL camouflage trousers cuffed over my Panama Sole Jungle Boots.
From the back you can see my ARVN Rucksack with an extra canteen held on by a carabiner.
And finally, here's the whole gang with me, Dave, Jeff and Will.  It was another fun event!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April Uniform of the Month - Battle of Okinawa

A Marine of the 1st Division stands determined on the muddy hills of Okinawa.
My April Uniform of the Month is a tribute to the brave Marines and U.S. Army soldiers who fought in the last great battle of World War II on the Japanese island of Okinawa.  Will and Casey and I headed out on a rainy morning to try to capture the essence of what being wet is all about.  The temperatures were around 50° with a steady rainfall that got quite heavy at times.  Casey and I were representing the Marines of the 1st Marine Division and Will was representing the Army's 77th Infantry Division.

The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War.  The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945.  After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army, the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th Infantry Divisions and two Marine Divisions, the 1st and 6th, fought on the island.  Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or tetsu no bōfū ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese.  The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island.  The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds).  Simultaneously, 42,000 to 150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population.  The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.

The location of our photo shoot had some excellent broken concrete slabs which really added to the realism of the environment.
Here I am keeping a vigilant watch over the ridge line with my trusty M-1 Rifle.  I am wearing the Marine Corps' camouflage poncho.
This was Casey's first event as a Marine and I think he had a good time.  He's wearing the standard Marine P41 Utilities.
Marines would sometimes wear the Army's M-1941 Field Jacket in colder weather as seen here.  However, Field Jackets are not waterproof.
Casey and I are holding a captured Japanese "meatball" flag as a souvenir.  Note how well the camouflage poncho blends in with the background.
This was our extremely shallow scrape that we sat and ate some C-Rations in.  Note the T-Handle Shovel to Casey's right.
When dealing with rain and mud, the Marine Corps leggings are extremely valuable in keeping the muck out of your Boondockers.
The Marine Corps poncho can be used as a shelter as well if you unsnap the sides.  It has reversible green and brown sides.
The Marines typically wore their helmet chinstraps fastened or left them hanging loose.
Here Casey and Will make their way down a stream.  Will's helmet has the horizontal white stripe of a non-commisoned officer.
Will is wearing the Army's poncho which unlike the Marine version is not camouflaged.  He is also carrying an M-1 Rifle.
Mud and misery were the name of the game on Okinawa.  It's hard to imagine that some of these guys lived through three solid months of this.
Time for a smoke and a warm meal.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Uniform of the Month - 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment

A 507th Easy Company paratrooper points off into the distance near Nebraska's Alliance Army Air Base. 
This month's uniform is a further examination of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was featured in September 2013.  The 507th was activated on July 20, 1942 at Fort Benning, Georgia. Lieutenant Colonel George V. Millett Jr. was given command of the regiment. After jump training at Fort Benning the regiment moved to Alabama for 22 weeks of advanced training.  The 507th took part in maneuvers at Barksdale Air Base in Shreveport, Louisiana on March 7, 1943 and then they headed west.  Their train arrived at Alliance, Nebraska on March 20, 1943 where the 507th was to be stationed at the Alliance Army Air Base as part of the 1st Airborne Brigade. On Sunday, April 4, the 507th performed a tactical jump and paraded before 20,000 spectators in Alliance.  It was considered by many local citizens to be the largest gathering ever to take place in the city.  The 507th was stationed at Alliance from March through October 1943 making demonstration jumps at Denver, Omaha and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many period photos from their time at Alliance show that the men of the 507th wore the one-piece HBT Overalls just about as often as they wore their M-42 Jumpsuits.  This uniform is intended to depict what they would have typically worn on a training day out on the open prairie.  Look for more featured 507th uniforms to come in June and July 2014.
Our trooper wears the one-piece Herringbone Twill Overalls often worn by mechanics as a working suit.  
The trusty M-1910 T-Handle Shovel hangs from the trooper's Cartridge Belt on his right hip. 
The M-1936 Musette Bag was favored by Airborne troops over the M-1928 Haversack.
Slung under the left arm is the early war M2A2 Gas Mask in the MIVA1 bag.
Our Easy Company trooper takes a drink from his M-1910 Canteen with an aluminum body and cap.
The regimental patch of the 507th Parachute Infantry featured a fearsome jumping spider holding a lightning bolt and lit bomb.
The helmet worn here is the Parachutist's M2 Helmet with its round chinstrap loops welded to the helmet shell.
This trooper crouches to fire his semi-automatic M1 Rifle which could quickly pump out 8 rounds of .30-06 ammunition. 
March in Nebraska can still be quite cold on the open prairie, so a M-1941 Field Jacket comes in handy.
Scanning the horizon near Alliance, Nebraska.  Note the Parachute Cap Patch on his wool Overseas Cap.