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Great War Reenacting


TrenchRaider1918

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TrenchRaider1918

I'm looking for people who do or know about groups that do reenacting of doughboys in the Great War. You know, sitting in trenches, looking through periscopes, going over the top...

 

I have designated myself as Sergeant in the 89th division, 178 infantry brigade. I have stamped dogtags with my info. and have a tunic with the proper insignia.

 

Does anyone know if division patches were actually worn during the time they were on the front lines? Or was it just for ceremonial purposes? Patches are on the left shoulder area and chevrons on right upper mid sleeve, correct?

 

Also, are helmets with insignia painted on them post armistice?

 

Thanks,

Carl

 

 

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From what I've read, the shoulder patches didn't appear (with a couple of exceptions), until after the Armistice went into effect. Some divisons didn't get patches till 1919.

Rank chevrons were worn on the right sleeve mid-way between the shoulder seam & the elbow. That's why you see the red discharge chevron mid-way on the left sleeve and those were worn only after being discharged. Kinda like the WWII Ruptured Duck.

Hope this clears some things up for you.

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From what I've read, the shoulder patches didn't appear (with a couple of exceptions), until after the Armistice went into effect. Some divisons didn't get patches till 1919.

Rank chevrons were worn on the right sleeve mid-way between the shoulder seam & the elbow. That's why you see the red discharge chevron mid-way on the left sleeve and those were worn only after being discharged. Kinda like the WWII Ruptured Duck.

Hope this clears some things up for you.

 

Do I have a faulty memory? I thought 353rd Infantry was part of the 178th Bde, 89th Div. My cousins father-in-law was a company and later a batallion commander in the 353rd-- won 2PH's and a SS. I have the uniform. Shall I post pix?

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Do I have a faulty memory? I thought 353rd Infantry was part of the 178th Bde, 89th Div. My cousins father-in-law was a company and later a batallion commander in the 353rd-- won 2PH's and a SS. I have the uniform. Shall I post pix?

 

Gil: You are correct. 89th Division Infantry Regiments were 353, 354, 355, 356.

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New Romantic

Carl,

 

There may be a group somewhere in Texas. I think I recall a group that did Punitive Expedition living history in Texas. That would be quite an interesting impression to portray. But I'm not sure if you'd want to wear out any nice early gear!

 

Maybe if you garner enough interest in your area you can create a group. Most AEF groups are located here on the east coast and there is a USMC unit in CA.

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Russell 1910

I was involved with reenacting WWI for a short while several years ago. The unit I belonged to went to the events in Newville Pennsylvania 2 times per year. We portrayed the 102nd Inf, 26th Div. I believe the events usually had 200 or so participants, maybe more. I think most units were based primarily in the New England, Mid Atlantic states. I don't know about other areas of the country.

 

The dugouts, trenches, heated bunkers as well as operational vehicles and blank fire machine guns (Ford model T ambulance, Hotchkiss, Browning & Chauchat) made for a decently realistic experience, so long as everyone was making a solid attempt. Also hearing soldiers speaking in their native tongues was wonderful. The night sham battles, trench raids, etc worked pretty well, much better than Civil War battles, which are, in my opinion the least authentic part (and most difficult to try to recreate) for that time period.

 

In comparison to the other time periods I have been involved with, including Civil War, WWI, WWII and (a couple of "patrols" in) Vietnam, the Great War seemed to be about the best in terms of the ability to make it fairly authentic. However that all depends on the effort of the participants.

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Your ID tag indicates 178th Infantry Regiment, a unit never organized in WWI. As was earlier stated if you want to be in an infantry unit in the 178th Infantry Brigade, 89th Division it will have to be either the 355th or 356th Infantry Regiment.

 

During WWI only cavalry divisions were by indicated branch. All other divisions were designated as "division" apparently because it was understood that the divisions sent to the AEF would primarily be infantry in function.

 

Brigades were much like corps in that there were no combat arms troops in the corps or brigade headquarters. These were more command, control and planning organizations that directed the command and provided logistical support to the assigned units.

 

I have done reenacting before the term was in use. In my opinion anyone that simply designates his own rank without any training, experience and attaining a level of knowledge that would be reasonably required of soldiers in any army, any time, any place is doing a disservice to those they're trying to represent and themselves.

 

Saying you are a sergeant or captain or general has no merit unless you have demonstrated the leadership, military education and experience to make such a claim. There was a friend of mine that was made corporal in one of my "reenactment" groups. I liked him well enough but I told him straight out I did want to lead by a clown like him.

 

Claiming a rank for which you have not prepared yourself gets you off on the wrong foot with other reenactors. A guy in an organized unit, that has been provided with training and skills, that is "serving" as a private and recognizes you as unprepared for sergeant will have little regard for you as a self proclaimed sergeant or any other inappropriate rank.

 

I share here that I served as a private in two reenacting groups, while I was a 2nd lieutenant in the Army National Guard, where I also led a reenacted historical mounted color guard that I served as lieutenant. During the Civil War it was the lot of many southern gentlemen to distain rank, to which they were probably entitled by education, to serve honorably in the ranks.

 

For a short period of time there was a group of us that put together the uniform and equipment of the 1916 cavalry. Since I was the most knowledgeable in the area I was asked to provide training and guidance to make the presentation (as they say now) as accurate as possible. Among the things we did was train with the M1903 rifle that culminated with everyone shooting an NRA registered high power rifle match, shooting the '03s at 200, 300 and 600 yards. The same basic known distance qualification course in 1916.

 

The enjoyment of the reenacting for me was to be as skilled as possible in the military crafts that I could be reasonably fit to represent what I was portraying. When the mounted color guard went to ride in parades and other occasions it was not uncommon for veterans to walk up and say "I wore that uniform, sure brings back memories" and congratulate us on our historical accuracy.

 

Throwing together a uniform and equipment without much in the way of knowledge and understanding is not a very good way to represent the veterans you're trying to honor (if that is what you are doing). If you are an inappropriate age, physical condition and etc. that you don't look the part (and don't know the script or your lines) you will be recognized as a "Farb" at best.

 

You lost me when you stated you had a "tunic." The U.S. Army did not wear tunics during WWI. You then went on to demonstrate some serious lack of understanding of the history and organization of the U.S. Army and the American Expeditionary Force. It is not my intent to criticize you but to make the point that no one can put on a uniform and magically be transformed into a reasonable representative of a doughboy or any other kind of soldier, sailor or marine.

 

If you truly want to be all you can be in reenacting you should have started with getting information (before you ever put letter stamp to "dog tag").

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TrenchRaider1918

Thanks for all that info you seem very knowledgeable, but I'm still a Sergeant in the 178th infantry brigade thank you very much

 

Oh by the way, I'm a 23 year old asian male. ;)

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TrenchRaider1918

Actually I'm more interested in living history than portraying the actual soldier.

 

I have been interested in this conflict since I was about ten when my great grandmother told me about it. I continue to this day. She told me that when she was a little girl she and her family were discriminated during the Great War because they were German, her parents came over in the 1890's and moved to Jefferson City, Missouri. They built a church there and it eventually became the house they lived in. My grandfather was born in that house and it is still lived in by family members.

 

Anyway, I have a keen interest in the Great War for a number of reasons. It is a conflict that seems to be overlooked, its warfare and battlefield statistics eclipsed by the conflict that followed. Most people nowadays don't remember the Great War or know anything about it at all. It was the conflict that started it all, the tumultuous change from antiquity to modern day. From horses to motorcars, swords to machine guns. This war still had a sense of classicism. Armies found out that lining up and advancing was not to be anymore, trenches were dug, helmets were issued, things like poison gas and flame throwers were born in this war. I love gas masks from this period, they were crude and scary looking. It's fascinating how they crawled to the other trench in the middle of the night and stabbed each other, it makes it so eerie and barbaric. Soldiers bashing each other with spades and clubs like it was ancient times! Soldiers crying out for help in no man's land...

 

A young, prosperous America entered, and learned what it was all about.

 

Sure, I'm still young and don't know everything, and I probably wouldn't make a good reenactor, but I've got the heart for it, and always will have.

 

Lest we forget the ones that fell in this brutal conlict.

 

How do you think a soldier today could handle being "over there"?

 

post-879-1178170819.jpg

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I recently re-read The Doughboys by Laurance Stallings. I finally acquired a hard bound first edition and upon receipt open it up and could not put the book down. Stallings mentions several times the effect the tall robust and brash Americans had on the war weary people of England and France.

 

It was a different time and a different war. Most Americans were sympathetic towards the victims of the War and generally favored the allied countries. But it was a European war that was of little consequence in America. The propaganda campaign exported to the U.S. by Britain and France did much to make Americans believe Germany a brutal reincarnation of Genghis Khan and the Norseman.

 

Most of the men of age to be in the military had little interest in the conflict. When the U.S. declared war there was simply a wave of patriotic fervor whipped up by people that were not going to have to fight the war. However many young men willingly enlisted or waited to take their chances with the draft.

 

Once in the military the general feeling was, "let's get at them and get this over with." For most American young men France was as remote as the moon. They went on the adventure and with a few exceptions became enthusiastic to do their part.

 

The Japanese aggression in China, the Italian aggression in Ethiopia and the German aggression in Poland, and all that came after was deplored by Americans. After the Great War most Americans were determined not to get involved in European "affairs" again and a sentiment known as Isolationism set in. Without further belaboring the history American youth again, "called to the colors" and got on with the job.

 

I think you can make your own analysis of how the people felt about fighting the conflicts that followed. What was strange about those "wars" is they were fought against a political concept rather than any government(s) or people.

 

It's hard to say how the military age youth of today would react and respond to the same set of these circumstances if they somehow developed today. It is a matter of time and place, it is a different America and a different world than any of the doughboys, G.I.s, grunts, gyrenes and etc. experienced in their times.

 

I think in general that the military age youth of today transplanted in time to 1917 would be far less enthusiastic for supporting America's involvement in European affairs. Had our youth lived at the time they would have had the same attitudes as the youth of 1914-1918.

 

I suppose the only way to get an idea of how today's youth would respond in any situation would be to prepare a questionnaire that asks the questions, presented as hypothetical situations, to get some idea of how people in today's society would react to the same general circumstances of any event in history or even the future for that matter.

 

The attraction of many people in today's America for the military is the opportunities offered. The pay and benefits are apparently what the military has to offer that attracts most young Americans. For some it is the adventure and I suspect patriotism has little to do with interest in enlisting. But this gets into the psychology of the individuals.

 

My assessment is that each of the branches of the military has its attractions. Look at the nature of the recruiting advertisements. The Air Force: technology; the Navy: adventure/technology; the Army: military adventure (An Army of One); the Coast Guard: security of the country/law enforcement and the Marine Corps: (most of the comments I have regarding the Marines greatly offends Marines, which is a commentary on those attracted to the Corps. Let us say that those in today's Marine Corps would have been as patriotic and enthusiastic to join and fight in, "every clime' and place" in history, today and the future.)

 

As I mentioned previously I reenacted before the term existed, I did Jr.ROTC in high school, wanted to make a career of the military (that was in 1964-70) and was drafted. I stayed on and retired Major after 27 years (active duty, Army National Guard and Army Reserve) both enlisted and commissioned.

 

I found that the study of human behavior in those around me became of interest to me. I also did 31 years in law enforcement and retired as lieutenant. One of the most interesting "groups" of people was the reenactors, and I think the word "actor" in the term quite appropriate. They all have a passion for some element of playing the role that varies greatly. For those who are truly passionate about reenacting there is only one way to do it...all or nothing. If you were to profile the typical reenactor (and I'm not sure there is a "typical") you would find a rather mixed bag of interests and passions. What is interesting and unpleasant at the same time is the difference of ideals and passions among individuals.

 

Someone has to lead and someone has to follow, but no one wants to be what the vast majority of people in military service were in all places and times....the bottom man on the totem pole. So the challenge for the leaders of the wholly voluntary reenactor group has to be a leader in every sense of the word. In my experience most are as lacking in leadership and interpersonal skills to the extent that people are easily de-motivated. The "strap hangers" and peripherals don't last long for lack of leadership and encouragement.

 

So it comes down to a few of the most enthusiastic standing around telling each other how it was, back when... or how they think it was.

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Here is the authorized personnel assigned to an infantry brigade from table of organization for an infantry division Series A, January 14, 1918, corrected to June 26, 1918.

 

Table 3, Infantry Brigade, Brigade Headquarters:

 

Brigadier Gen.-1 1 mounted on horse

 

Major-3 1 adjutant, mtd on horse

2 medical

 

1st lieut.-13 13 medical

 

2nd lieut.-4 3 liaison to inf regts and MG bn., mtd on horse

1 veterinary

 

Regt Sgt.Maj.-1 1 mtd on horse, armed with pistol

 

Sgt 1st class-3 3 medical

 

Ord. Sgt.-2 2 ordnance

 

Sergeant-12 2 mtd on horse, armed with rifle (no indication what they do, probably escort BG & Adj.)

9 medical

1 ordnance

 

Farrier-2 2 veterinary

 

Corporal-3 1 (motorcycle w/side car), (+4 men telephone/signal), armed with rifle

2 ordnance

 

Cook-2 2 armed with pistol (transportation not listed probably ration and baggage wagon)

 

Wagoner-2 1 chauffer (motor car 5 pass.), 1 (wagon ration and baggage, 4 mule), armed with rifle

 

Private 1st Class-108 3 telephone/signal (motorcycle w/side car), 1 telephone/signal agent (transportation not listed rides in sidecar?)

5 ordnance

98 medical

1 veterinary

 

Private-18 3 telephone/signal (transportation not shown - motorcycle side cars?), 5 mounted orderlies, all armed w/rifle

10 ordnance

 

I assume that you want to represent is a front line combat infantry sergeant of which there were none authorized in the 178th Infantry Brigade.

 

All personnel assigned brigade headquarters would wear the brigade number over cross rifles and no company designation on the U.S. collar insignia. The assigned support troops, (ordnance, medical and etc.) would wear their branch of service collar insignia and plain U.S. collar insignia.

 

All the infantry types were in the two infantry regiments that carried their own colors and unit designation. (A “color bearing unit” in the U.S. Army is a unit that is authorized a “regimental” flag. The flag in the branch color with the name of the unit embroidered on it.)

All personnel assigned a color bearing unit would wear the numerical designation of that unit over the branch insignia and U.S. with company letter collar insignia.

 

I present all this to explain that I don’t think it is the brigade you want to identify with, but one of the infantry regiments assigned to the brigade. For example you could say “I represent a sergeant in Company D, 1st Battalion, 355th Infantry Regiment, 178th Infantry Brigade, 89th Division, U.S. V Corps, U.S. 1st Army, American Expeditionary Force, France, during the Muse-Argonne Offensive , 2nd Phase, October 1 to November 1, 1918."

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TrenchRaider1918

This info is great, thanks a lot.

 

Recently I have been reconsidering the 89th division. I have always favored this one mainly because it is from the area where my family is from, mid Missouri. When I visit there all WWI helmets are 89th.

 

But I'm a Texan born and raised, I suppose I should fit myself with the 90th. I am garnering interest in this division now.

 

All this reenactment hype is just me playing with my alter ego as a doughboy :D

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New Romantic
But I'm a Texan born and raised, I suppose I should fit myself with the 90th. I am garnering interest in this division now.

 

All this reenactment hype is just me playing with my alter ego as a doughboy :D

 

That sound like a good idea, a 90th Division impression with fit perfectly with your locale. Now you need to hunt down some 90th Division items for display. Check out this British made 90th Division coat from my collection.

 

How about Punitive Expedition living history? All you need are a set of the summer service uniform, M1910 or M1907 leggings and a set of pre 1910 equipment, or if you're bold, early M1910 equipment. You could portray a National Guard or RA soldier.

post-599-1178551597.jpg

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  • 3 months later...

the 353rd was part of the 177th INF brigade, thats what my great uncle was in.

 

I was interested in WWI reenacting until I read that using the Trench shotgun is forbidden in reenactments.

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There is an immersion event upcoming in October in Iowa. It is not a typical and standard sham battle reenactment but instead focuses on first person and recreating the experiences of the soldier instead of a generic battle. They do allow trench guns, to a limited number, but then again there is no firing of weapons from what I understand. Take a look at: http://hawkeye-boys.tripod.com/

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is a Punitive Expidetion reenactment unit in Texas. These guys portray a signal company of the Illinois National Guard. I'm really sorry I don't have a name or organization designation for this group nor any contact information. I usually see these guys at the annual Ft. McKavett living history event in March every year. These guys have a good impression and lots of neat gear!

Maybe, if you contact the Ft. McKavett, Texas State park, they could get info on this group for you, if you're interested.

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Some of the guys in our WWII unit - G. Co, 137th Infantry, 35th Division - do WWI impressions as well. You can make contact with them through our website's forum.

 

In Kansas City we are VERY fortunate to have the nation's WWI Museum, The Liberty Memorial, so those guys actually have the opportunity to get our and show their stuff once in a while. If you haven't ever been to the museum, it's a must. If you're in the area, let me know - I'll meet you there!

 

liberty001_image002.jpg

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  • 1 month later...
TrenchRaider1918

I was there when I was about 12 or so (I'm 24 now), back when I had my first WWI 89th division helmet. Because of that helmet and my roots in Missouri, I have put together almost the entire ensemble of the infantryman of that unit.

 

I know that recently the museum has been redone! When I finally get to visit it will be too much!

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Please! Where is the KC WWI Museum located. Directions to it Please!. I've looked all over in tourist books about KC and they don't list it. With my son stationed at Ft Riley it would be an easy trip to see it

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