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The roles played in reenacting


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Good reenacting demands effort and sacrifice and expense. All of which are usually unrecognized and unappreciated by the casual onlooker.

Kilgarvan, I'd proudly join you in ranks anytime.

Answer me this: Why is it that the media (be it TV,radio, or newspaper) at any given event seems to gravitate to the most outlandishly attired and irresponsibly portrayed clowns for interviews or pictures? I've witnessed this countless times.

 

Its the media! It's like when they always go to that "special" person that's the stereotypical redneck and they described what a tornado sounds like after the storm has gone through.

 

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double canister

"Special" person. You mean that guy who's home in the middle of the day with no shirt or front teeth?

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"Special" person. You mean that guy who's home in the middle of the day with no shirt or front teeth?

 

Yup, with the magical ability to turn a 12 pack of beer into domestic violence!

 

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I just want to know how reenacting really honors veterans? Half the reenactment a I have been to are just guys in inaccurate uniforms running around shooting, drinking and partying.

 

-Dave

 

I've been re-enacting for most of my life and I never heard the 'honoring veterans' shtick until sometime in the 1990s. Before that, people were honest about doing it because they wanted to.

While I feel that a good public event does much to honor vets to those who have no clue beforehand, private events don't honor anyone except the people who put the event on. I've never understood why a lot of WW2 tactical events are closed to the public, whereas most civil war events are public.

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I've been re-enacting for most of my life and I never heard the 'honoring veterans' shtick until sometime in the 1990s. Before that, people were honest about doing it because they wanted to.

While I feel that a good public event does much to honor vets to those who have no clue beforehand, private events don't honor anyone except the people who put the event on. I've never understood why a lot of WW2 tactical events are closed to the public, whereas most civil war events are public.

Yeah, i figured. I used to watch reenacting movies and there were always those guys at the end who were saying they only do it to honor veterans and a way to thank veterans and be patriotic. I kind of didn't really believe it. To me most of the time they say it it just reminds me of when celebrities win an award and thank their fans and God. They just say it to sound good.

 

-Dave

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Yeah, i figured. I used to watch reenacting movies and there were always those guys at the end who were saying they only do it to honor veterans and a way to thank veterans and be patriotic. I kind of didn't really believe it. To me most of the time they say it it just reminds me of when celebrities win an award and thank their fans and God. They just say it to sound good.

 

Fair enough. But most people I have seen over the many years I've been in the hobby really do want to make the public aware of what the vets went through when they do public events, as good as private individuals can.

My group doesn't do 'tactical' events at all. We don't even have Germans. We set up displays in uniform and show off the weapons, vehicles and gear. We also do parades from time to time. I personally feel that this is the best way to really honor the vets to the public (short of having your own permanent museum, I guess), by showing off the 'stuff' they used and answering questions for the public.

For lack of a better term, we're called a 'living history' group but I disagree. Living History is what they do at Williamsburg. I consider us a display group.

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Fair enough. But most people I have seen over the many years I've been in the hobby really do want to make the public aware of what the vets went through when they do public events, as good as private individuals can.

My group doesn't do 'tactical' events at all. We don't even have Germans. We set up displays in uniform and show off the weapons, vehicles and gear. We also do parades from time to time. I personally feel that this is the best way to really honor the vets to the public (short of having your own permanent museum, I guess), by showing off the 'stuff' they used and answering questions for the public.

For lack of a better term, we're called a 'living history' group but I disagree. Living History is what they do at Williamsburg. I consider us a display group.

I get that being honoring vets. But running around pretending to kill the enemy doesn't sound like honoring them to me. But i am not a veteran so i cant be sure.

 

-Dave

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I get that being honoring vets. But running around pretending to kill the enemy doesn't sound like honoring them to me. But i am not a veteran so i cant be sure.

 

-Dave

 

Dave- I have found myself asking the same questions, so for me now I mostly do living history and talk with people - let kids examine the equipment up close, etc. Tactical battles are fun, until you realize the walrus squad can't keep up or a guy refuses to die. I think that's also the reason you see private 20th century events, lack of structure in the tactics used. 19th or 18th century battles are very structured....march here, line up here, fire, retreat, die, etc. 20th century is small unit tactics...and public WWII battles have to be heavily scripted, and yet still manage to appear hokey most times.

 

I think the opening line of Flags of Our Fathers best described the public view:

 

"Every j*ck*ss thinks he knows what war is. Especially those who’ve never been in one. We like things nice and simple, good and evil, heroes and villains. There is always plenty of both. Most of the time, they are not who we think they are."

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I've been in the "reenacting biz" since the mid 80's and will concur with what Lee has said. Even the "best" reenactors are mostly in it for themselves and their own experience. An 82ndABN reenactor I met in PA had a response that was quite pithy about the "honoring the Vets" line "If you want to honor the Vets go volunteer at a VA hospital" otherwise reenactors should just own up to enjoying playing soldiers in the woods.

When done well reenacting/LH does have value as an educational learning method in that it really can be a conversation starter and trigger lots of questions from the public. This gives you a chance to share what you know AND open your ears and learn from your audience. I learned just as much or more from AAF vets while standing next to B-17s as I passed on to civilians in the same forum.

Tim

 

 

I've been re-enacting for most of my life and I never heard the 'honoring veterans' shtick until sometime in the 1990s. Before that, people were honest about doing it because they wanted to.

While I feel that a good public event does much to honor vets to those who have no clue beforehand, private events don't honor anyone except the people who put the event on. I've never understood why a lot of WW2 tactical events are closed to the public, whereas most civil war events are public.

 

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I've been in the "reenacting biz" since the mid 80's and will concur with what Lee has said. Even the "best" reenactors are mostly in it for themselves and their own experience. An 82ndABN reenactor I met in PA had a response that was quite pithy about the "honoring the Vets" line "If you want to honor the Vets go volunteer at a VA hospital" otherwise reenactors should just own up to enjoying playing soldiers in the woods.

When done well reenacting/LH does have value as an educational learning method in that it really can be a conversation starter and trigger lots of questions from the public. This gives you a chance to share what you know AND open your ears and learn from your audience. I learned just as much or more from AAF vets while standing next to B-17s as I passed on to civilians in the same forum.

Tim

 

 

So Deuce...you say you have been reenacting since mid 80s...

 

So, how do you know what to do?

 

Do you have the same role in each battle?

 

Do you get a script before hand saying...."Tim, you fall wounded here" or is it improvised?

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So Deuce...you say you have been reenacting since mid 80s...

 

So, how do you know what to do?

 

Do you have the same role in each battle?

 

Do you get a script before hand saying...."Tim, you fall wounded here" or is it improvised?

Wow, some deceptively simple questions!

 

Purely grounded in my experience only:

 

In general a reeanactor belongs to a unit --typically depicting a company--which may or may not be part of a larger "umbrella" or event sanctioning organization. Your role withing your unit--Officer, NCO, OR--depends or your interests, skills, experience, etc. Some units vote on leadership, some rotate all members through it, sometimes its the guy who started the unit, or the guy with the most $$/toys. You read histories, diaries, journals, drill manuals etc, learn how the weapons are used. The units drills, marches, practices etc. Some are very devoted to applying research as best they can, others are just "costume campers".

I've been to anniversary/commemorate reenactments of real battles that are scripted to very tight details. If there is a written plan or script usually field leadership has it. For most reenactors you simply receive commands form above ala the real military. Casualties really depend on context. Sometimes its part of the plan or scenario being depicted. Sometimes its situational based on a weapon failure to fire (common in black powder eras).

Events can be sponsored by a museum or historic site, municipality etc. sometimes an umbrella reenacting organization sponsors an event. Some of the larger Am. Civil War reenactments are put on as commercial events.

In all its a very decentralized "cellular" hobby. Anything I've shared could be answered differently depending on the specific event or time period. Everything I've shared pertains mainly to public demonstrations events with some sort of implied educational/interpretive focus. Private & tactical events are a whole 'nother creature. HTH

Tim

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I'll say this about ranks and such...

In Civil War re-enacting, officers and NCO physically are needed to move units in the field and direct command and control due to tight marching formations.

In WW2 re-enacting, officers and NCOs are largely cosmetic and exist on paper for the most part. When the scenario gets rolling, nobody really pays much attention to rank due to the insular nature of combat in the 20th century.

And some other general observations:

  • The truly funny thing about re-enacting, especially the 20th century stuff, is that almost every unit and organization feels theirs is the only one who 'gets it right' when for the most part, any one re-enacting group is just about as good as any other. People get this odd feeling that they alone know how to act like soldiers and everyone else goofs it up.
  • Most re-enacting groups you encounter used to be larger. Large groups splinter off to smaller groups all the time. It's all fluid because everyone thinks they can do a better job (see above) and you're often left with several different groups, with repetitive efforts, in the same areas. And often, they won't even acknowledge each other's existence.
  • E/506 re-enactors. Yeah, they say they're not re-enacting a TV series, but take a good look at how many 506th PIR units (or even 101st AB in general, for that matter) there were before 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Band of Brothers' came out. There weren't many at all. Same with Ranger units, there were very few before 1998 when 'Ryan' hit theaters. Do the math. Ask anyone into the hobby in the early 90s, there were hardly any groups doing airborne then. Now, every single re-enacting group in America has a 506th PIR unit.
  • I see generally a higher degree of authenticity among European/UK groups than their American counterparts, but they don't do a lot of blank firing due to very strict weapons laws in all the EU countries.
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Deuce...a GREAT response, you have shown me a lot of insight...many thanks

 

Willys....thanks for that insight also

 

Regards, Ben.

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I'll say this about ranks and such...

In Civil War re-enacting, officers and NCO physically are needed to move units in the field and direct command and control due to tight marching formations.

In WW2 re-enacting, officers and NCOs are largely cosmetic and exist on paper for the most part. When the scenario gets rolling, nobody really pays much attention to rank due to the insular nature of combat in the 20th century.

And some other general observations:

  • The truly funny thing about re-enacting, especially the 20th century stuff, is that almost every unit and organization feels theirs is the only one who 'gets it right' when for the most part, any one re-enacting group is just about as good as any other. People get this odd feeling that they alone know how to act like soldiers and everyone else goofs it up.
  • Most re-enacting groups you encounter used to be larger. Large groups splinter off to smaller groups all the time. It's all fluid because everyone thinks they can do a better job (see above) and you're often left with several different groups, with repetitive efforts, in the same areas. And often, they won't even acknowledge each other's existence.
  • E/506 re-enactors. Yeah, they say they're not re-enacting a TV series, but take a good look at how many 506th PIR units (or even 101st AB in general, for that matter) there were before 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Band of Brothers' came out. There weren't many at all. Same with Ranger units, there were very few before 1998 when 'Ryan' hit theaters. Do the math. Ask anyone into the hobby in the early 90s, there were hardly any groups doing airborne then. Now, every single re-enacting group in America has a 506th PIR unit.
  • I see generally a higher degree of authenticity among European/UK groups than their American counterparts, but they don't do a lot of blank firing due to very strict weapons laws in all the EU countries.

 

You are so right about E/506 reenactors every reenactment HAS to have them even if they didnt fight there or anywhere near that area.

 

-Dave

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I would say that the honoring part, is really a part of it for some people. I reenact, collect and actively do research and the reason I started all of it was my inspiration from my grandfather. I would say I am a collector / historian more than a reenactor but If I did not have family that served from the 1800s up to present day I am not sure I would have ever been interested enough to do any of this. Most of my collection / impressions are based around family members and I know that it has Honored my family members that were veterans. My uncle that served in the 3rd USMC in WWII was moved enough with my interest in representing him, that he told me stories that he said he never told anyone since he left Iwo Jima. Many of the veterans told me that they were just glad that someone still cared, not if their boxers were vintage WWII. Just my opinion

-Ben

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SergeantMajorGray

It seems now that even if you were to reenact 506th not because of BoB no one will believe you and everyone is against you. Not saying I would reenact 506th but I was 6 when it was filmed couldn't really be reenacting around then. Most people who talk down about 506th reenactors probably had no knowledge of the 506th prior to the movie either.

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It seems now that even if you were to reenact 506th not because of BoB no one will believe you and everyone is against you.

 

Probably. I feel bad for the ONE person I know for sure who was doing 506PIR as early as the 80s. His father was in that unit. Last I heard, he's taken to bringing snapshots of him doing 506th back that far to shut people up. But even he gets the guff people give him and agrees it's merited in most cases.

Time was, most GI re-enactors were almost all 'leg' infantry, and 1st ID was very popular. People accused folks back then of re-enacting the movie, "The Big Red One," although I can't imagine anyone wanting to emmulate that film. Airborne folks were very rare indeed when I got into the hobby in the late 80s, now they represent the majority of US forces at many events. 506 guys are everywhere now, I have seen photos of a group of 506th PIR guys at a Pearl Harbor event!

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Probably. I feel bad for the ONE person I know for sure who was doing 506PIR as early as the 80s. His father was in that unit. Last I heard, he's taken to bringing snapshots of him doing 506th back that far to shut people up. But even he gets the guff people give him and agrees it's merited in most cases.

Time was, most GI re-enactors were almost all 'leg' infantry, and 1st ID was very popular. People accused folks back then of re-enacting the movie, "The Big Red One," although I can't imagine anyone wanting to emmulate that film. Airborne folks were very rare indeed when I got into the hobby in the late 80s, now they represent the majority of US forces at many events. 506 guys are everywhere now, I have seen photos of a group of 506th PIR guys at a Pearl Harbor event!

Lee is right and I sure hope that once Fury comes out we don't see a huge influx of 2nd Armored guys. I've been with 2nd Armored in Europe since 1999 and I know many guys who were interested in 2nd Armored since before that. A friend who was an extra in the movie had a shirt made up that says on the back "2nd Armored for life not just for Fury" and I couldn't have said it better myself

Tom Bowers

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Tom, I truly doubt there'll be an influx of 2nd AD tankers in the hobby after 'Fury' comes out for one primary reason:

They won't have the tank.

Just like there have never been an influx of AAF re-enactors from any movie or series.

You can be E/506 on foot because you have already jumped from the plane. Any impression that ties itself to a large, expensive object that mere mortals can't afford will never be a very popular one.

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Here is my view. I have done some reinactments and museum-related living history displays. When I was in college, I worked on staff aboard a sailing ship. During many events, we dressed and acted 1870s merchant sailors. Of course the core of us were professional sailors who actually did the work on the ship. I have since done some military events. German,US, and Viking Age. My crowd are guys that are pretty obsessive about accuracy. There is really no detail too minor to work on. I guess my goals are twofold. First, there is an education function. I have a pretty good knowledge about the history of the era I am doing. The other thing is the elusive "period rush". That is when, just for a moment, you feel like you are there. I am someone who has a huge amount of respect for the guys I portray. I grew up surrounded by Heroes. I was the kid lucky enough to be on the boat or sitting around the campfire at the hunting lodge when my Dad was swapping war stories with his peers, many of whom are fairly famous. My experiences in combat have been pretty insignificant in comparison, although they did not feel like that at the time. the worst thing about the hobby is the bizarre people you sometimes come in contact with. Boot camp rejects who think they are Audie Murphy or Rommel, out of shape and with bad uniforms. Of course the same kind of nuts can be found at militaria shows.

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I guess my goals are twofold. First, there is an education function. I have a pretty good knowledge about the history of the era I am doing. The other thing is the elusive "period rush". That is when, just for a moment, you feel like you are there.

 

And if more people in the hobby were this honest with themsevles, the hobby wouldn't be open nearly as much to the derision it has been in recent years.

Like I wrote earlier, this whole, "we do private events nobody can see, to honor the vets" shtick is relatively recent.

As for the people who must show up as someone famous, CW re-enacting is filled with folks like that as well. I once saw a fist fight break out between two guys over who was going to portray a certain general as a public display event. I've heard of three guys going 'rock-paper-scissors' at a WW2 event to see who was going to get to portray Dick Winters at another event.

I saw a guy dressed like Hitler, one dressed like Goering, and another like Rommel at Indiantown Gap one year. I have a VHS tape of that around here somewhere...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I got involved in reenacting after retiring from 28 years in the Army. Initially it was a way for me to maintain contact with my military lifestyle, but I began to realize that I was increasingly more and more frustrated for a variety of reasons. Paying $40 bucks for 90 rounds of blanks, only to have the Germans refuse to take hits or just completely ignore the known capabilities of weapons ("this is an armored halftrack, your bazooka won't penetrate it."). After a year or so of reenacting, I began to do living history displays. My first was at the Dayton VA's Patriot Freedom Festival, and progressed into the Dayton and Indianapolis Airshows, School displays, and 1940s Days at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

 

I got out of "reenacting" and into a living history unit when I ran into a guy I'd served with at Fort Carson Colorado and he offered me the job of MP Platoon Sergeant for Patton's MPs (Company A, 503rd MP Battalion). Now I am totally immersed in both Patton's Third Army Living Historians (a group based in Texas) and The Third Army Historical Society, based in the mid west. We reproduce Patton's 3rd Army Field HQ and provide briefings where the audience plays the part of the war correspondent. Our uniforms are historically accurate and The main group also has the WC-57 Command Car, M-20 Scout Car and other vehicles from Patton's extensive motorpool of vehicles he had available to him. If any of you were at Rockford this past weekend, you probably saw us. Our main mission is to educate the public on WWII history, specifically where Patton was involved.

 

I still perform my personal Living History displays, often setting up my extensive display by myself. I can honestly say that I do perform these displays to honor the WWII veterans. My father was a WWII and Korean War Vet and I do it to honor him. I receive no pay, charge no fee, and often lose money in the process, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Nothing means more to me than to see a family roll a WWII vet up in a wheel chair, often slumped over and totally uninterested in his surroundings until he sees familiar items in my display. You see them begin to sit straighter, their eyes become focused and they begin to relate what they'd been through. I've often spent an hour going through the display with them, letting them talk and hold items. Often, after the family wheels him away, they will come back and thank me. More often than not, I've been told that the veterans had never opened up and talked to their families about their wartime service and that had been the first time they'd opened up and talked about it around the family. THAT is why I do what I do.

 

Wayne

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I got involved in reenacting after retiring from 28 years in the Army. Initially it was a way for me to maintain contact with my military lifestyle, but I began to realize that I was increasingly more and more frustrated for a variety of reasons. Paying $40 bucks for 90 rounds of blanks, only to have the Germans refuse to take hits or just completely ignore the known capabilities of weapons ("this is an armored halftrack, your bazooka won't penetrate it."). After a year or so of reenacting, I began to do living history displays. My first was at the Dayton VA's Patriot Freedom Festival, and progressed into the Dayton and Indianapolis Airshows, School displays, and 1940s Days at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

 

I got out of "reenacting" and into a living history unit when I ran into a guy I'd served with at Fort Carson Colorado and he offered me the job of MP Platoon Sergeant for Patton's MPs (Company A, 503rd MP Battalion). Now I am totally immersed in both Patton's Third Army Living Historians (a group based in Texas) and The Third Army Historical Society, based in the mid west. We reproduce Patton's 3rd Army Field HQ and provide briefings where the audience plays the part of the war correspondent. Our uniforms are historically accurate and The main group also has the WC-57 Command Car, M-20 Scout Car and other vehicles from Patton's extensive motorpool of vehicles he had available to him. If any of you were at Rockford this past weekend, you probably saw us. Our main mission is to educate the public on WWII history, specifically where Patton was involved.

 

I still perform my personal Living History displays, often setting up my extensive display by myself. I can honestly say that I do perform these displays to honor the WWII veterans. My father was a WWII and Korean War Vet and I do it to honor him. I receive no pay, charge no fee, and often lose money in the process, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Nothing means more to me than to see a family roll a WWII vet up in a wheel chair, often slumped over and totally uninterested in his surroundings until he sees familiar items in my display. You see them begin to sit straighter, their eyes become focused and they begin to relate what they'd been through. I've often spent an hour going through the display with them, letting them talk and hold items. Often, after the family wheels him away, they will come back and thank me. More often than not, I've been told that the veterans had never opened up and talked to their families about their wartime service and that had been the first time they'd opened up and talked about it around the family. THAT is why I do what I do.

 

Wayne

Thank you for your service. And that is exactly what reenacting should be all about.
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Good reenacting demands effort and sacrifice and expense. All of which are usually unrecognized and unappreciated by the casual onlooker.

Kilgarvan, I'd proudly join you in ranks anytime.

Answer me this: Why is it that the media (be it TV,radio, or newspaper) at any given event seems to gravitate to the most outlandishly attired and irresponsibly portrayed clowns for interviews or pictures? I've witnessed this countless times.

 

Usually it's because these people are putting themselves out there. The "Hey, look at me. Come over here and let me tell you about me" kinds of people.

Charlie

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Charlie is right. News folks want to get the story and will gravitate to anyone who'll be easy to get quotes from.

I've been interviewed oodles of times in my lifetime, because I come across as calm, well mannered and approachable (that, and I have a communications degree, have worked in the media and have done lots of public speaking over the years). It doesn't hurt when I'm dressed as a war correspondent, I've been told before several interviews that the reporter thought I would be easier to deal with the media.

Many within the hobby aren't quite as 'public savvy' as they probably should be for public events, but that's what you get with volunteers.

There's a total nut job in my area, he has a lot of toys and didn't get much attention as a kid apparently. He has a gas-op .50 cal and has to fire it every few minutes when people stop paying attention to him. It's so annoying to watch, especically when even people in the public say out loud that they know that's why he's doing it...

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