By: Denny Hair This has been a long journey. The series is really only one book that is divided up in 6 parts. It is a day by day account of what it took to build the US Third Army under General Patton in World War Two. It is written in the words of those who were there and offers an insight as to what really happen and what Patton really about those that served both above and below his rank of General. It is a fascinating journey as it has Patton’s thoughts as he put it down at the end of each day in his diary, which has never before been published. Woven around his diary are the thoughts and words of the eyewitness to the fight that were part of Patton’s staff and those superiors above him. This is by far the hardest endeavor mentally I have ever engaged in. The massive files of the Patton Papers housed in the Library of Congress contributed to a great portion of the book. This is the book I feel General Patton would have written had he lived to write it. He had started on it but after his death, the book that bore his name was heavily didactic to protect his children by his beloved wife Beatrice. There feared with good reason what Eisenhower would do if the truth were told. They two daughters were married to career solders and his son had just graduated from West Point. Had General Patton wrote this book his family would have suffered.On a personal note to those who read this. This is not an easy read because it has so much detail to it. It's the type of book(s) that tell the truth and that takes a lot of research and attention to detail. I spent 31 years as a Houston Police Officer and part of the time was manning a crime scene unit. I was dispatched to several hundred homicides and worked with some of the finest detectives you would ever want to know. They were the best of the best. They taught me to question everything. You must ask yourself the who, what, where and how of any investigation. So for ten years I asked those questions. What I discovered was that Patton had left hundreds of clues in his diary as to what was really going on. By developing a timeline on a day by day bases, as any homicide detective would , the truth of what General Patton wanted known came out. He could not say it directly but he could say it in his diary. I then collaborated it by direct testimony and eye witness accounts. It had to be footnoted and have good bibliography sources. These point to the witness testimony of the facts. The title “Hidden in Plain Sight” was coined for the series because the clues were in plain sight but hidden in dusty files and like the pieces of a puzzle that are all there but not in the original box. You can’t see what the image will look like until you get all of the pieces put where there are suppose to go. In book six the images uncovered are exhibit A as these are the images that were hidden in the Patton Papers for all to see, yet hidden from view until now, but in context to the text of the other five books. Read More 0
Greetings Tankers!Project38 is going to build a tank.
A rowdy crew of engineers, historians, reenactors, builders and collectors have come together to collaborate on what may be one of the most unique and interesting reproduction efforts this decade. Project38's goal is to build with historical accuracy and faithfulness a Panzer 38(t), a historically significant tank with no running examples in the USA. If all goes well, it will fully operational and virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The plan involves first engineering it in 3D programs to be accurate first before construction. This step is the longest and most difficult, as resources are few and details are hard to find. We hope to be finished engineering the first 'prototype' by December, with updates and fixes throughout 2019. Over the last two years, we've grown from 3 young adults scheming about a tank to take to a paintball course to over 1,300 fans and participants helping out in all capabilities from around the world. From a simple backyard scrapmetal tank to an honest fullsized reproduction Panzer 38(t). We're working with experts and hobbyists around the world to keep our efforts accurate to the real designs, going so far as to find original parts and prints to reference from the Czech National Archives. As a grassroots project, our team is a conglomeration of all sorts coming together to make this crazy plan a reality. We would like to invite you to tag along and help keep the project running! To keep you up to speed, here's our most recent update, shared to you with the help of our friends at Man The Line. I hope you enjoy our project!Thanks!
PROJECT 38 UPDATE -
I figured to let you all in on what’s what of who’s who. There’s a number of exciting things happening (as they always are). We’re also getting a booth together for the first time for the Americans in Wartime Open House, read more about that below. Today, at the bottom of the update, We’ve thrown together a tentative schedule of future goal completion dates, so check that out too. If these updates are a bit predictable, it’s because they are. I mean they consist of “We’re researching/engineering some more” and “We’re spreading the word” with some small surprise updates about maybe a reenactment unit or publicity stunt. But that’s half the fun is seeing it grow, predictably and slowly until one day we’ll start having proper BUILD and Reenactment updates as well as Engineering and Marketing. Huge shout out to everybody over at Man The Line for their help in our publicity campaign. Hello all and welcome to Project38! ENGINERDING Nate has been doing the math and calculations for a Final Drive and steering assembly. The photos and videos brought back from the Graebe trip are still being picked apart while we reverse-engineer a beautifully complex bit of machinery. Most of that’s crunching numbers and whiteboard equations so I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say we’re making progress. It’s slow, and it’s one of the last items estimated to be completed. As the most complicated functioning piece of machinery in the tank we’ll be taking our time with that one. We’re reaching out to possibly look at a Russian 37mm cannon for inspiration and a hands-on reference to what they looked like and gain some insight on how to design our own, keep watching for updates on the cannon! Beckett has been working away at smaller interior pieces of the tank like the Track tension adjustment arm and the mounting systems within the tank. And it’s a cool thing. Were still working on the details and the Turret is on the way. We’ve had to re-design most of the tank as we get more accurate measurements as well as having the engineers learn the program. Optimizing the pieces to be able to not just display properly but to be easily transferred onto blueprints for manufacture is a task that we’re devloping. So while the visible “wow” factor sometimes isn’t there, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work getting done. He made a nice cutaway view of what the tension adjustment arm might look like with all the bearings and bushings in place.
It’s neat. EVERYTHING ELSEWe have made plans to head over to a private collector Early October to get detailed measurements on a turret. As we get closer to that we’ll keep you updated but it’s going to be a fun field trip with some excellent expected results. With the turret measured up, we’ll be able to compare our model with the real thing and get a better understanding of where we could improve our engineered tank. I want to send a huge thank you to him for the invitation. Below is a tentative projected schedule about the actual tank. This will, of course change as we continue working. It’s a fairly harsh fast paced timeline that assumes everything goes smoothly, so of course this is a “best case scenario” timeline and will undoubtedly change. But hopefully not too much. Ha. Anybody who knows anything about anything knows how optimistic that is. So that’s that. A final note, one of the exciting things about this project is as we continue researching, asking questions, and learning about the tank, we’ve gotten to speak with some excellent people and we’re finding out that we’re becoming part of the conversation in ways that I certainly hadn’t expected. We’ve been asked to date/verify for sale items, asked to distinguish which model a piece may have come from, and been part of a conversation about how to utilize an early-war tank in US reenactments. A tricky subject indeed. It’s been enlightening and thrilling to become part of a bigger world and we’d like to thank every one of you who’s been along for the ride so far. Thanks for sticking around, see you in Virginia! -T.ankmann
Man The Line will be featuring updates from Project 38 periodically over the course of their project, so keep checking in for updates.
By: Will Moul Putting together your own K rations for consumption sounds like a fun and cheap way to add some authenticity to an impression, but there is a lot of time, money and research involved to do this well. There are some excellent K ration kits available for sale that include everything you need other than the food and consumables and I would highly recommend you go with one of these. Speaking from experience, it's very expensive and time consuming creating decent looking K ration packaging yourself. Unless you have professional printers at your disposal and are producing hundreds of kits, making your own packaging will not be worth your time and they will not be authentic. That said, this tutorial will focus on what food and consumables you should use to fill whatever packaging you use. Most food items are common sense and easy to find, some can be difficult to source and honestly, others are impossible to find nowadays. Let my previous experience (and failures) in building rations help you build yours. The Meat Unit K rations came with a variety of canned meat and/or cheese. These cans were oddly shaped by today's standards and were opened with keys, which were included in the ration. Correctly sized cans opened with keys are no longer made today, especially with the correct contents. What I use are easily available 5 oz. cans of either chicken or diced ham (great for the breakfast meal). While these cans are slightly larger than original (they're a bit too wide to fit into the K ration's cardboard protective sleeve for the meat can but they will fit into the inner box) and aren't opened with a key, they get the job done. Remove the outer label from the can and give it a quick spray with OD paint. Pro tip: don't paint the top of the can, otherwise you'll get paint flecks in the meat when you open it with your P-38. Each meal receives a can of meat. The Biscuits These are pretty straight forward. For one type of biscuit use any brand of graham crackers broken into small sections with three or four pieces in each pack and wrap in cellophane, heating it to seal. For the other type of biscuit use any brand of rectangular, unsalted "party" crackers. Again, three or four crackers go into each pack and wrap them with cellophane, heating it to seal. Each meal receives biscuits. The Beverage Powder There were four standard beverage powders included in the K ration: soluble coffee, lemon powder, orange powder, and beef bouillon powder. These are also pretty straight forward: take whichever powder you like, insert about a GI spoon full into the repro pouch you are using, and heat seal using your wife's hair straightener (just don't let her know). For the coffee, it may be best to buy the most economical container of instant coffee you can find for this project. However, I've found Folgers individual packets of instant coffee is an easy solution as each packet holds the perfect amount of coffee for a single repro pouch. For the lemon powder, make sure you use sugar free lemon powder. Use whatever orange powder and beef bouillon powder you wish. Each meal should come with one beverage powder, most commonly coffee for breakfast (and later also included in the supper meal), lemon or orange powder for dinner (used interchangeably) and beef bouillon for supper. The Fruit Bar Breakfast K rations usually came with a fruit bar. LARABAR brand 'cherry pie' fruit bars are an excellent fill-in as they fit the bill in both looks and taste. The bars are the correct dimensions you need so simply seal it in your fruit bar packaging. The Caramel Candy Caramels are also very easy. Find a bag of Kraft caramels that are individually wrapped. Six of these caramels will fit perfectly into an authentic K ration caramel box. These were normally seen in the dinner meal as a substitute for the Chocolettos. The Chewing Gum This is very straight forward. Get some sticks of gum and replace the outside wrapper with a reproduction wrapper. Each meal received a stick of gum and they tended to be placed away from the rest of the food as it would otherwise impart its flavor on the food. The D Bar or Sweet Chocolate Bar Depending on how much work you want to do, this step can be difficult and time consuming. There are molds available that you can use to shape whichever type of chocolate bar you go with. For the D bar, use one of the many recipes that are floating around the internet. The final product should be a fairly bland and dense bar with a lot of energy for your body. Be sure to eat slowly. For the sweet chocolate bar, I like to use chocolate almond bark. While not actually chocolate (it uses vegetable fat instead of cocoa butter), it still tastes very much like chocolate while having a higher melting point and, unlike chocolate, retains all of its flavor and properties after melting. As almond bark has a high percentage of vegetable oil, the ingestion of too much too quickly will cause the squirts, so be sure to eat slowly! The Sugar Straight forward. Either wrap sugar cubes (Domino brand preferred) in packaging or fill your repro sugar box with grandulated sugar. Breakfast usually received the cubes while dinner or supper received the boxed granulated sugar. The Cigarettes Buy Lucky Strike cigarettes as they haven't really changed in 80 years and are filterless. Pack 4 cigarettes into your packaging and you're set. Each meal received a pack of cigarettes. The Toilet Paper You can purchase unbleached napkins relatively cheaply from Amazon.com or Walmart.com. Take 2-3 napkins and fold into a compact bundle, then wrap and glue your TP label around it. Only the supper meal came with toilet paper, so use sparingly! Usable K rations are a sort of holy grail that can take months to develop from scratch. With these tips at your disposal you will be able to quickly and simply fill out your K rations with the most authentic consumables that are commercially available. Good luck!Read More 0
Does anyone remember ‘Reenactor Parking?’ I used to love those comics, I think I actually printed a couple off and hung them on my wall. That was back aways, close to 10 years ago. 2007, The Pacific hadn’t even come out yet and Band of Brothers was still new enough to really get excited about. It was pretty close to the peak of my reenacting experience and I’m now realizing I’m not the only one who looks back at this time fondly. Was there a reenacting ‘hay day’ and has its time come and gone? My best good friend Cody, whose been reenacting as long as I have, mentioned having the same feeling recently. “You remember what it used to be like,” he’d say. “How excited we’d get?” Now Cody and I still get excited about stuff. All the time actually, it’s just not usually about reenacting anymore. It typically has something to do with women, or movies, or which one of us hurled the best insult at the other. But not reenacting. I figured we’d just been doing it so long that it stopped being exciting, but more and more I feel like no one is excited about reenacting anymore. Even the new guys I’ve seen come into the hobby in the last few years don’t seem as wound up about it. The young guys, who get into it at 15 or 16 and are usually so gung ho it makes you want to puke, don’t really care anymore. Ten years ago any new reenactor under the age of 19 would literally wet his pants at the sight of anything he didn’t own. I remember I got to carry a GP ammo bag at my first tactical, one of the other guys let me borrow it. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen and I stared at it all day. About two years ago I let a new reenactor in our unit borrow a spare wool overcoat for a Bulge event. When the day was winding down and he tried to give it back to me I said, “Naw, you keep it.” I thought I would be super cool and he’d be in awe of the overcoat forever, but he said, “sure, I guess,” and I haven’t seen him since. This is not isolated or unusual; this is commonplace in today’s hobby. The hay day is over, the best is past and the hobby will spin into the abyss. Unless… we all harness our inner Bernie Sanders and start a revolution! Republicans, sorry for the Sanders reference, but you understand what I’m getting at and don’t pretend you don’t love Bernie just a little. Ok maybe not so much a revolution, but a renaissance. We’re living in a renaissance as it is. Everything that used to be cool is cool again. We’ve brought back music, clothes, food, books and even politics that used to be cool. We love anything that “used to be” so why not do the same with reenacting? So go to Rockford, even if you’ve been 10 times before. Get in the cheesiest public battle you can find, because god dammit you used to get so wound up for them. Stop thinking so much about what kind of beer you should bring for Saturday night and start thinking about what patrols you want to run or training you could do. And by god, print off a couple 'Reenactor Parking' comics and hang them on your wall.Read More 0
“Life on the Other Side” – Active Duty Veteran Brandon Strand Chats About His Transition From The ‘Real Deal’ to Reenacting
It takes all kinds, as the old saying goes. WWII reenacting is no different. Many kinds of people are attracted to the hobby. You have your gun nuts, your vintage vehicle nuts, folks who love all eras of history and those who’s interests lie exclusively in the Second World War. Among those groups are military veterans who’ve come to reenacting since leaving the “real deal,” so to speak. This portion of the reenacting population brings untold levels of insight and experience to the hobby. Nobody knows how to act like they’re in the military better than someone who’s… actually done it. Yet it can also be difficult for some to escape the mindset of the modern military when they transition to the 1940s military. I recently sat down with one of these veterans. Brandon Strand, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan whose recently picked up the hobby. Here’s what he had to say about his time in the military and his transition to the hobby. How long have you been reenacting and what unit do you reenact with? I have been reenacting for just about a year now. The group that I am a member of is the 101st ABN, F Co 2nd BN 502nd. How did you become aware of the hobby? I became aware of reenacting when one of my prior Soldiers in the National Guard was in the process of filming a movie in Minnesota. He invited me to film with him as an extra in the film. During the filming I learned that most of the extras do this as a hobby. This intrigued me and shortly after I joined F Company. What initially interested you in joining a group? What interested me in joining the group was during the filming of the movie I heard about an event called Dundas that was coming up in a few months. I thought it sounded interesting and I would attend. After I spent the weekend participating in my first event I was hooked. It brings back all the nostalgia of the Army that I missed without any of “The Suck” as Service members as so aware of in their everyday life. When did you enlist in the military and why? I joined the Army when I was 24 years old. I was one of the older Service Members as many joined at our around 18 years old. I had always wanted to serve my country and join, but life, school, and a woman initially delayed my joining. I personally think that it’s every person responsibility to pay service to their nation whether through volunteering or service. What units did you serve with? I did a short stint in the Special Forces, but due to injury was not allowed to continue training. I spent the majority of my Active time in the 82nd ABN Division, Bravo Company 2-504th PIR in North Carolina. After 5 years I moved back home to Minnesota and spent 1 and ½ years in 34th INF Division in Alpha Company 2-135th light Infantry and 1 ½ years in the 34th INF Division in Bravo Company 1-194th Mechanized Bradley Unit. Where and when were you deployed? I did two deployments with Bravo Company 2-504th PIR. My first was located at FOB Ramadi in the Al Anbar Providence of Iraq for 13 months in 2008-2009. My second deployment was also with Bravo Company 2-504th PIR. We were in Afghanistan for 9 months in 2012 at COP Qara Bagh in the Ghazni Providence. I’m sure there are some similarities between today’s military and our representation of the WWII military. What are some of the best examples of how “unchanged” the military had remained in the last 75 years? Lol, yes there are many similarities between our representation of the WW II military and that of today. The most common one is the hurry up and wait. Whenever something comes up it’s a frenzy of activity to quickly carry out a task and by the end of it you’re always waiting on someone else or a time hack and then your just standing around shooting the shit telling stories to get the time to pass. Have you found it difficult to “unlearn,” so to speak, some of what you were trained in the military, such as how to carry your rifle or the appropriate terminology for things? Yes, you spend so much time carrying your rifle in the current low ready position of today so you have to actively remember to forget if that makes sense. Also I’ll start talking about teams, letters or movements and by default I will use Alpha, Bravo instead of Able, and Baker. It does get hard to unlearn 8 years of habits, but after a few events it becomes more natural. Even though you served with the 82nd, how’s it feel to portray the soldiers in reenacting that made the airborne you served in so famous and elite? Amazing, we all look up to the Greatest Generation during the Greatest War with respect. There is so much nostalgia for them, what they did, and what they lived through. When you put that uniform on it makes you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. You hold yourself up to a higher standard you want to live up to that uniform. With that you also have a bit of arrogance, and cockiness. Lol well, a lot more than a bit. You don’t think you’re the best you simply know you are. This just makes you want to do better and strive to be better than anyone else. How has your service helped you become a better reenactor? You have been there and done that. Even though they went through different training there is something about service members that set us apart from the rest of civilians. Even though the terminology and movements are slightly different you have a base of knowledge to draw upon. On the other side, do you think experience in reenacting could help someone preparing to join the military? Yes, you do get some military bearing, such as chain of command, and duties. You also build up comfort for being in the woods and practicing in military exercises even if it’s a little bit different than the way we do things now. You gain a level of comfort. What are some of the most important things you can teach reenactors who have no military experience about how to portray a solider? Look cool, Be cool, and do cool things. We call it the three principles of patrolling. If you dress the part, if you act the part, if you portray the part, you are the part. Look to the man to your left and the man to your right and copy what they do. What’s your favorite part about reenacting so far? The Comradery is one of the best parts, but my favorite part is the tactical portion. I love being in the woods, I love practicing the movements. The quiet of the movements through the woods, the tense in the air before battle, the smell of sulfur after rounds have been fired. Even though it’s on a vastly smaller scale, do you feel a sense of comradery amount your reenacting group that’s reminiscent of your experience in the military? Yes, it is a different level as when I was active I was with the guys 7 days a week, 24 hours a day for 5 years. But there is a shared experience between the reenactors and myself. Having experienced life in a combat zone, have there been moments in reenacting that have challenged you emotionally, so to speak? In terms of flash backs or issues I have not had any difficulty. But emotionally it does stir a lot of memories and emotions about my time in the service, and time with my brothers. It brings back thoughts of all the down time smoking and joking with my brothers. The deep conversations of marry one, fuck one, kill one and would you rather…. As well as plans and hopes for the future.Read More 0
Christmas money can be spent any way you want. I was at a tattoo shop today and the line to get in was nearly around the block. Everyone I talked to was there to blow there holiday cash. Wouldn't be my choice to spend my hardly earned xmas money, but to each their own. I prefer to spend mine on something a little more useful, though hardly any more practical. WWII reenacting gear. Naturally Man The Line is my go to source for everything O.D., and although I'm naturally biased, I feel it's appropriate to pitch a few of my most wanted items. So, here are my top three Man The Line items to spend your Christmas money on.Read More 0
- Paratrooper Leather Jump Gloves
Authenticity. Some folks have it, and they’re assholes that go out of their way to demean other reenactors about the color of their buttons. I understand feeling like this. Sometimes the ole stitch Nazis can really get on your nerves. We go out for a weekend to have fun and they stand around criticizing everyone’s boot soles. It sucks, and there’s a time and place for constructive criticism. More and more though, I wish there were a few more stitch Nazis roaming the grounds of living history events and tacticals alike. They seem to have disappeared, replaced by the most complacent, who gives a damn, hand me that Mountain Dew band of reenactors I’ve ever seen in my life. It seems as if we’ve forgotten what made us want to do this hobby in the first place. So we could time travel to what we believe is the most interesting, devastating yet strangely beautiful time in our history. We love the 1940s. We love the music, the movies, the guns and the gear; everything about the era gives us a history boner. So why then, when we get a chance to put on the uniforms and spend a weekend as close as we’ll ever get to stepping into George Luz’s long johns, do we sit on coolers covered in wool blankets sharing photos on Instagram and waiting till the sun goes down so we can sit around a fire and drink lukewarm bud light? If I wanted to do that I’d befriend the hillbilly rednecks I went to high school with. I’m sure they’re in the middle of a cornfield right now tossing empty blue cans into a nearly out-of-control fire. What’s the point? I mean honestly I’d like an answer here. If you’re not at least going to give authenticity the old college try, then why the fuck even be a part of the hobby? And what happened to people being embarrassed of their authenticity mistakes? Everyone makes them and continues to make them. But 5 years ago at least people would acknowledge their mistakes and move forward. In 2016 it seems totally acceptable to use your smartphone just as you would in everyday life during events. No shame, no guilt, just Facebook. I have a smartphone. I love my smartphone; the technology amazes me almost every day. But when I get to an event I shut it off. I understand if you need to have your phone on you incase of a family emergency, but if you can’t go 2 days without checking your Facebook or taking selfies then you need to have your fucking head examined. So what happens now? Have smart phones become such a replacement for our personality that we can’t possibly be without them and therefore it’s completely OK to use them regularly at an event? I hope not. Have we become so complacent with our hobby that we honest to goodness stop learning anything about the unit we portray and stop caring about how we portray them? I’m seeing it happen all over the hobby. And the hobby is suffering because of it. Are your unit’s numbers down lately? I thought they might be…….. The stitch Nazis have died off and their return is nowhere in sight. We should all pray they come back before the hobby vanishes into the grey space somewhere between airsoft and cosplay.Read More 0
We posted an article on the MTL blog about a month ago telling everyone why we think cold weather events are the best events. Tonight, as I sit in my living room getting ready for an overnight Battle of the Bulge event in Central Minnesota this coming weekend, I’m having second thoughts. I always have second thoughts about doing events like this, for one simple reason. They’re fucking miserable. It seems like every year I forget how much it sucks to sleep outside in below freezing temperatures with nothing but 75-year-old wool to keep my nuts from falling off. Why do I do this to myself??? I stood outside for 5 minutes tonight while the dog went to the bathroom and was still bitching about how cold it was 10 minutes after I came back inside. A week from now I’ll remember it is worth it. It’s worth braving the cold to gain the experience of what it was like to survive in those conditions. Plus once you spend a night out like that you feel like you’re the toughest SOB around for a little while. But for now I’m going to complain, and regret agreeing to do it, and think about backing out (I won’t). The only thing I can do to ease the tension is think of every possible way to keep myself warm for those 24 hours. So, I’ve complied a short list of the “must have” items for a cold weather overnight event. Here goes.Read More 0
- Real socks
- Esbit stove
I had lunch with a small group of reenactors last weekend. The conversation was usual reenacting banter, who's got the best uniforms, best events, so on and so forth. The talk eventually came around to WWII veterans and their stories, which is always does. One of the reenactors, a nice young guy I’d never met, said he still does veteran interviews in his hometown in Wisconsin. I haven’t heard of anyone, reenactor or not, doing that for at least a few years. The last time I talked to a WWII veteran was in 2011, when I took a B-25 pilot named Len Super down to the SAC museum south of Omaha, Neb. to look at the B-25 they had on display there. We stopped at McDonalds on the way home, he insisted he buy us something for driving him. That’s the last time I remember having a real conversation with someone who was really there. I’ve said hello to vets here and there since then, but most of them have been well into their 90s and less than lucid. They’re almost gone. Len Super died not long after that trip. Most every veteran I’ve ever had a connection with has past away. My Grandma died in 2012, my last close connection to the era. Of course I miss my grandmother, but I also miss the entire generation. I miss being able to run into WWII vets on a semi regular basis, stop them in a store or a diner and say hi, listen to a quick story and be on your way. The color and optimism they brought to the world was greatly appreciated and sorely needed. They’d seen the reality of hard times. Not some self-imposed version of hard times spewed from the mouth of every 20 something who doesn’t get into the sorority she was hoping for. That’s what made them so wonderful to be around. They saw the world as a much better place than when they were young, and that made them hopeful. What I really miss more than anything are the stories. No generation has ever been as graceful or talented in the art of storytelling. I’ve been scouring YouTube in the last few days looking for some of my favorite veteran stories. I’ve complied a list of them here. Most of them are from Ken Burn’s documentary “The War.” I want as many people as humanly possible to hear these wonderful, sad, happy and hilarious stories. Enjoy and share with anyone you can! Ray Leopold JOE MEDICINE CROW SID PHILLIPS DWAIN LUCE JOSEPH VAGHI BURNETT MILLER, RAY LEOPOLD and SAM HYNES NORMAN SWANEYRead More 0
“One for the Books” – Longtime Reenactor Mat Hanson Shares the Highlights of His WWII Battlefield Trip
If reenacting was a religion, and some would consider it to be, the battlefields of Europe would be our Mecca. Every living historian I've ever met has either been, is planning to go or has at least talked about traveling to Normandy, Germany and the like. To set your feet in Carentan or Caen after years of studying and reenacting the battles that took place there is nothing short of life-changing. I recently caught up with a reenactor who finally made his dream trip come true nearly 20 years after he first put on the O.D. green. Check out the highlights from my interview with Mat Hanson below. How long have you been a reenactor and what got you into the hobby? I started reenacting back in the fall of 1998. At the time I had no idea it existed or there was such a thing as World War II reenacting. My passion or some might call an obsession, with World War II started when I was 8 years old after my first air show experience. My grandfather served during the war on an Escort Carrier in the South Pacific as a radio man on 40mm anti aircraft guns. He was always interested in aviation and turned me on to it through air shows, books, documentaries and listening to his stories. I started to spread to everything else World War II related and we would always talk about it. From these talks I would hear stories of his brothers and friends who all served. Through those stories I gained nothing but the utmost respect for our veterans and the importance to keep history alive. I wasn’t learning these lessons in my school’s history classes. During the summer of 1998, I lost my grandfather. The Saturday before his funeral, I attended a local air show in the Twin Cities with some friends. There I stumbled across a reenacting group manning a display. I knew this was something I wanted to start doing. I had no idea how easy it was to get started and what they did. A couple of months later I attended my first tactical event and I was bitten by the bug and forever hooked. The loss of my grandfather hit me pretty hard, but as I reflect on this eighteen years later, his passion to teach transferred on to me and I can’t even begin to account for the hundreds of people I've had the pleasure to speak to and educate them on the men and women who served in WWII. Not just that, but I’ve gained countless friendships with people who like him and I share a passion to learn, discuss and keep the history alive for the future. What unit do you portray and why? I am a member of Fox Co. 2/502nd PIR 101st Airborne Division out of Minnesota. I joined this group because I wanted to group that had the same beliefs I have about this hobby, to honor veterans and teach history to future generations. How long was the trip to Europe on the books? We started planning for this trip back in February for everything to happen in September. Where did you travel in Europe? This trip was a big one, two weeks and five countries to hit! The plan was simple at high level five days in Normandy, four days in Holland, four days in Bastogne, and a couple of stops in Aachen, Germany and Luxembourg. Planning the stops took some more planning, but what sites we did hit was a reenactors dream vacation. We stayed in St. Mere Eglise during the entire Normandy stay, just blocks away from the church Private John Steele landed. In Holland We stayed in Nijmegen and our hotel was blocks away from the bridge, we could see it from our balcony. In Belgium we stayed blocks from McAuliffe Square. What was your favorite location? This is a hard question for me, I enjoyed all of the sites we visited, but if we had to pick I would say the Normandy Area. From where we stayed, you could walk in any direction and hit an import location. There is just so much going on in a concentrated area, it is easy to miss some sites on a five day stay. Describe to me what it felt like to visit the U.S. cemetery at Omaha beach. Its one thing to see pictures online, but when you step foot on the grounds it just blows your mind. It was a weird feeling of pride, sadness, and gratitude for the ten thousand plus GIs buried there. The grounds are kept in pristine condition with some fantastic memorials and museums. I’m amazed at the amount of people that visit this cemetery on a yearly basis, and the locals show great appreciate for those American men that paid the ultimate price for their freedoms. Walking through the streets of Normandy, it's easy to imagine what it must've looked like at the time. Very little has changed. What was that like for someone so connected to the history of the area? I thought it was awesome; you can still physically touch the same buildings that stood 70 plus years ago and see the bullet holes in the sides of houses and fences. It was a very surreal feeling to be walking down the same roads as those guys did back in June 1944. I applaud the French for not trying tear down history and upgrade some of these towns. Every road, turn, town square, or field had something going on it was just so much in such a concentrated area it just blows your mind. It's every reenactors dream to visit the battlefields we spend so much time studying. What was it like to finally be there after over a decade of reenacting? This was a bucket list trip for me. From a very young age I always wanted to go to Normandy and walk the beaches. I went to Europe in high school but we only hit London and Paris, which bummed me out that we were so close and didn't stop. So to finally make it was literally a dream come true to not just hit Normandy, but also Holland and Belgium. One thing that added some great perspective is to see how the terrain really was, the coasts, hedgerow country and really understand how daunting of a task these guys had when trying take back these lands. Did you use a tour program or go on your own? We did a mix of a couple days with paid tour guides and friends in Normandy and Holland. But most of it was a plan put together by us and what we wanted to see. We drove ourselves around which gave us the ability to be fluid and change due to timing or weather. Did you find yourself getting emotional as you walked through all the battlefields where so many people gave their lives? At times I did catch myself becoming emotional, at the cemeteries and beaches mostly. To know that you’re standing at the spot where thousands died trying to run up those vast open spaces of beach. When we hit Omaha beach the second day, It was warmer and nice out and the locals were enjoying the beach. All you can see are kids playing and families laughing, and I had this internal struggle with “don’t they know where they are, and what happened here!!!.” I was quickly reminded by one of the guys I traveled with that many gave their lives so they could have the freedom enjoy life. That helped put me at an ease of mind around that. What did you miss that you'd like go back and see someday? I’d go back in a heartbeat. The group I went with are already taking of a possible 2019 trip for the 75th anniversary of D-day and then head into Germany. I found myself not ever getting bored or tired of seeing all the sites. I would see some of the same spots for a 2nd time. For your money, what country had the best food and beer? If I had to rank them from best to good, for the beer category it would be Belgium, Holland, and France. In regards to food it would be Holland, Belgium, and France.Read More 0