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Opinions on Reenacting


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I'm not really sure whether this is a question or a statement of fact, so please bear with me.

 

I've noticed that there are some general opinions about reenactors that are really common among non-reenactors. Some people feel that reenactors want to do something in their 'fantasy world' that they could not do in real life. Others feel that it's simply escapism or that it's a kind of cops-and-robbers game for grown-ups. Others think reenactors just have a screw loose.

 

The thing that really gets me is, even people who have negative opinions of reenactors have no problem taking their kids to a place like Williamsburg where living historians are portraying people from that time period for the benefit of the public, often less authentic and frequently less well-informed about the time period than a serious (hobby) reenactor would be.

 

What makes one better than the other?

What makes one a more valid historian than another?

 

I recently found out that a German historian wrote an entire book of first-person accounts of an area I reenact (and have a website on) because she was so offended that anyone would want to reenact that particular area of interest or time period. So she wrote a BOOK to "present history the way it should be presented, on paper" instead of "at reenactments". What the Hades?

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I can only speak from my own personal experience but I’ve found that about 99% of the general public has absolutely no interest in history. They learn what they have to in high school to get a passing grade in their history class and that is their only exposure to the subject for the remainder of their lives. They may have a vague concept of a war or battle from seeing a movie or TV program at some point but that’s usually their only exposure.

 

People in the real world want what is now. They’re all busy blogging with their friends & family in y-fi cyberspace on Facebook, Myspace & Twitter. They all want smart cars, cell phones, GPS, i-pods, Bluetooth, etc. History has nothing to do with any of that so it’s pointless & boring. People want to be cool, hip & modern so they’re not into events that happened years ago.

 

I think most people in general have no idea what re-enacting is. Occasionally, someone will have heard of Civil War re-enacting but they usually have little or no clue about it.

 

When I first joined a re-enactment organization in the early 80’s, I discovered quickly that it wasn’t something to openly brag about. When I tried to explain it to friends & girlfriends I got a lot of blank stares. It became apparent to me that once people understood what re-enacting is, most were put off by it. There is also an immediate geek factor assumed as well. Let’s face it, dressing up in costumes and pretending you’re something you’re not isn’t as cool as riding motorcycles, surfing, waterskiing, rock climbing, car racing, etc. I really think most people see re-enacting as something like dressing up as Captain Kirk & Mr. Spock. Of course there are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with that kind of hobby as well. People immediately think of a 35 year old nerdy dork who can’t date girls and lives in his mother’s basement. Personally, I got tired of all that so I became a closet re-enactor. I did my thing but I never talked about it with anyone outside the re-enacting circle. For me, it was just easier that way and it saved me from the embarrassment of having to explain why I drive 5 hours and spend thousands of dollars to go play war in the woods 6 weekends a year.

 

JW

Jeff Warner

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www.giconcepts.com

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I got tired of all that so I became a closet re-enactor. I did my thing but I never talked about it with anyone outside the re-enacting circle. For me, it was just easier that way and it saved me from the embarrassment of having to explain why I drive 5 hours and spend thousands of dollars to go play war in the woods 6 weekends a year.

 

 

 

 

Hi,

My name is Brian and I'm a reenactor. (Hi Brian!)

I've been reenacting for about 17 years now.........

 

Kind of sounds like a AA meeting.

 

To me it really doesn't matter much as even my Wife thinks I'm a geek anyway.

I would rather "camp in old clothes" than any other hobby out there.

Where else do you get to have a hobby that gets you out of the house?

Hell, lets see some of the side effects of the hobby;

reading books

fact finding

research

artifact restoration

acting

construction

reproducing/counterfeiting

clothing storage restoration

supporting local business (garage sales/antiques)

orienteering (map reading and navigation)

 

And more and more far too numerous to mention

 

Hey just forget them if they don't get, I don't get "magic the gathering" card type games but I don't go out of my way to make fun of them for playing (much)

"The reason the American Army does so well in wartime, is that war is chaos, and the American Army practices it on a daily basis."

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I'm not really sure whether this is a question or a statement of fact, so please bear with me.

 

I've noticed that there are some general opinions about reenactors that are really common among non-reenactors. Some people feel that reenactors want to do something in their 'fantasy world' that they could not do in real life. Others feel that it's simply escapism or that it's a kind of cops-and-robbers game for grown-ups. Others think reenactors just have a screw loose.

 

This is one perception that holds water in some cases but not all. Many Reenactors are currently employed in service jobs like Police, Fire, Government and even the active military. The escapism holds some truth as well but then most people like to "pretend" in one form or another. When you take a thrill ride at an amusement park you might feel like you're flying/dropping/in a submarine but it's just escapism and fantasy. It is a more realistic game of cops and robbers because boys will be boys. Screw loose- It's typical when people want to put down something they don't understand, don't get or don't care for. It's an insult. I think anyone that would knit or crochet must have a screw loose, doesn't mean they do.

 

The thing that really gets me is, even people who have negative opinions of reenactors have no problem taking their kids to a place like Williamsburg where living historians are portraying people from that time period for the benefit of the public, often less authentic and frequently less well-informed about the time period than a serious (hobby) reenactor would be.

 

People love to "imagine" a battle scene at a historic location.

 

What makes one better than the other?

What makes one a more valid historian than another?

 

Personal motivational factors in my opinion. Some 18 year old kid that just wants to play paratrooper and play army has a different perception that someone like me. I served in the unit I reenact and my standards, experience and expectations are based more upon reality. Every soldier will tell you, for better or worse, that soldiers act like soldiers, even in civilian clothes. Civilians act like civilians, even in soldiers clothes and it's readily apparent at many reenactments. Veterans can tell a reenactor what was important to them but reenactors in many instances are just interested in blank burning and beer drinking.

 

 

I recently found out that a German historian wrote an entire book of first-person accounts of an area I reenact (and have a website on) because she was so offended that anyone would want to reenact that particular area of interest or time period. So she wrote a BOOK to "present history the way it should be presented, on paper" instead of "at reenactments". What the Hades?

 

"She had a preconceived opinion and most women don't understand why guys do what we do. Some do, some don't. Women can't understand why guys collect this or that, play video games, compete or "seek our inner warrior". They're women- A man should write about reenacting and it would have more impact. It's like writing a book on kintting and crochet- From a mans perspective it sounds excrutiating and boring. (preconceived notion)

 

Rock

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This is an interesting topic.

 

I'm glad you folks are around for the fact that I enjoy watching re-enactments at battle fields, and seeing authentic gear and uniforms at gatherings. It adds tremendously to any historical event. I'm a very visual person and seeing people dressed in period custumes is very interesting.

 

Personally, I don't think it's for me. Just not my cup of tea not to mention the fact I'm reaching the age that I probably couldn't carry it off very well.

 

As far as it being "nerdy", I know people that think collecting is nerdy. They can't understand why I would want that old stuff in my house or why I would spend money on it. As with any hobby, or for that matter, any facet of life, there are nerdy people. I steer clear of collectors that are too "absorbed" by the hobby. By that I mean people that have no life. This is a hobby. I enjoy it very much, but it's a hobby.

 

As far as 99% not liking history, I would agree it's not the most appreciated subject, but I hope it's not that bad.

 

Anyway, to each his or her own. Enjoy!!

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Collecting WWII Armor and Tank Destroyer Items

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I totally get the whole living history thing – that is…when it is done at a museum, event, etc as a presentation and in front of a live audience as a teaching tool. To show people what the soldiers of WWII or any other war would have looked like, would have dressed like, what food they might have eaten and what weapons they would have carried. I think it’s great and I have even participated in a D-Day battle reenactment myself at a local military history museum.

 

However, I really don’t understand why someone would spend hundreds of dollars to get all dressed up in their gear, clothing etc. drive 20 miles into the woods, roll around in the dirt with their buddy’s and play war by themselves for a week. I understand people can get pretty fanatic about this too – needing to have their rations made exactly as they would have been 65 years ago down to the smallest detail…god forbid your caught eating a Snickers Bar or seen with a modern pack of Camels by your friends...what is up with that, really?

 

I think reenacting to teach others and get them interested in our military history or just to get them to think about what our solders have done for them is great. But the later type, yeah, it’s a bit nerdy IMO…I am really not trying to knock it; I guess I really just don’t understand it…

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"She had a preconceived opinion and most women don't understand why guys do what we do. Some do, some don't. Women can't understand why guys collect this or that, play video games, compete or "seek our inner warrior". They're women- A man should write about reenacting and it would have more impact. It's like writing a book on kintting and crochet- From a mans perspective it sounds excrutiating and boring. (preconceived notion)

 

Sorry, SGT Rock, but that just cracked me up. On one hand I absolutely agree with you. On the other hand, I should probably point out that I am a woman and the website that spurred this historian's book-writing is about a female organization (and reenactment thereof).

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LoadedColt - I think a lot of the people who do Living History events also do (tactial) Reenactments, though not everyone does both. I can see how someone who does both can use the non-public Reenactments to improve their Living History displays. It's one thing to wear all your kit and just stand around and talk to the public, and a different thing altogether having to actually live out of what you carry, even if it is just for a weekend. It adds another layer to the impression. (And I'm not talking about a layer of dirt!)

 

I guess it's like having a group of actors in a war movie and sending them to a "boot camp" before doing the movie, so they can learn how to move in the field, and get some small inkling of the physical requirements of military service. It will never be close to the real thing, but it's better than asking them to simply just imagine it. I hope that makes sense?

 

Personally, I enjoy doing Living History events because I get to pass on some of the information I have and research I've done to people who are interested. I figure they're interested if they stop at the display and ask questions. Our display on Military Working Dogs is more set up like a museum display, with boards explaining about the history and use of the dogs, along with original items on tables and us in our period clothing, because it's more geared toward teaching than it is geared toward reenacting. (But then again, most people just want to come pet the dogs and see the bite work demo!)

 

But I also like doing (tactical) Reenactments because I enjoy camping out and shooting blanks. ;)

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Sorry, SGT Rock, but that just cracked me up. On one hand I absolutely agree with you. On the other hand, I should probably point out that I am a woman and the website that spurred this historian's book-writing is about a female organization (and reenactment thereof).

 

 

As I said, most women. There are exceptions, and exceptions are typically not the rule. I've seen only excerpts and the general idea of reenacting for men is motivated, likely, by different factors that are uniquely male in nature: The warrior spirit and need to compete-playing war (rather than tea)- although we all like dressing up- most men in uniforms and most girls in pretty things.

 

Rock

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It is kinda funny. I've known Brian and Chris for a long time now. We met reenacting and have been friends outside of events for a while. I technically stopped 'reenacting' once I joined the Army. That need to get dirty and sneak around the woods was fully sated with the stuff I was doing on active duty. After SERE school, it all just seemed... well, you get the idea.

 

That being said, I am REALLY missing the living history aspect of it. I was able to do a little bit on Omaha Beach this 6 June, but when you're the only person in your party in uniform, it makes things kinda odd. Still, I've gained a new appreciation for living history, and I guess you could say I've evolved over the years. I've seen a lot of changes in the hobby since my first year (1994, FTIG), some for the better, most not.

 

I'm a history geek. I eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. Of course, at this point, I'd rather do the sleeping in my bed rather than in my mountain tent, but I do love it. Now I just need the P-47 to go along with my impression.

 

Jon

In memory of 1LT Julius C. Goldman, XO of F/330th, 83rd Infantry Division 1944-45.

Looking for ETO/MTO P-47 and Tactical Reconnaissance Unit photographs and any items associated with WWII Jewish fighter pilots.

Curator of Arms & Armor at the National Museum of the Marine Corps

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It is kinda funny. I've known Brian and Chris for a long time now. We met reenacting and have been friends outside of events for a while. I technically stopped 'reenacting' once I joined the Army. That need to get dirty and sneak around the woods was fully sated with the stuff I was doing on active duty. After SERE school, it all just seemed... well, you get the idea.

 

That being said, I am REALLY missing the living history aspect of it. I was able to do a little bit on Omaha Beach this 6 June, but when you're the only person in your party in uniform, it makes things kinda odd. Still, I've gained a new appreciation for living history, and I guess you could say I've evolved over the years. I've seen a lot of changes in the hobby since my first year (1994, FTIG), some for the better, most not.

 

I'm a history geek. I eat, sleep and breathe this stuff. Of course, at this point, I'd rather do the sleeping in my bed rather than in my mountain tent, but I do love it. Now I just need the P-47 to go along with my impression.

 

Jon

 

I agree with this. I collected until I went into the Army. Then I had not desire and lost my interest until I got older. I still have nothing to prove by sleeping in the field. I prefer a barracks event, with the daylight spent maneuvering against the enemy. I prefer a bunk and cold beer to hard ground and bugs. Been there, done that. On the other hand, many of the young guys haven't spent the night in a foxhole so I get to bite the bullet a few times and sleep on the ground or in a tent.

 

Rock

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Guys ,

Where else do you get to dress up in your outfits that you work long and hard to put together and play war all day !!

You sometimes even to meet different people that you would never cross in real life .

It is fun , rememer this aspect .

It can be serious as well , but if got to serious then I would be on the short bus home .

 

Included is a picture of me dressing up as a SOG trooper with a hootch maid .

 

 

owen

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I guess it's like having a group of actors in a war movie and sending them to a "boot camp" before doing the movie, so they can learn how to move in the field, and get some small inkling of the physical requirements of military service. It will never be close to the real thing, but it's better than asking them to simply just imagine it. I hope that makes sense?

 

Good point - I couldn't help but notice that the living historians and people who participated in the battle reenactment with me didn’t seem to have any clue at all how to portray the speech, mannerisms and tactical maneuvers of a WWII or any soldier. I actually thought it was pretty sloppy because of this and the fact that almost everyone was portraying a different division (101st, 29th, Rangers, Marines etc.). They told me this was because they wanted to give the public more than one example of a WWII infantry soldier, and I suppose that makes sense but everything else could have been improved on. I am not a reenactor and was only invited to participate at the last moment after talking with the group leader. So I went home and grabbed some gear...

 

I personally have never participated in a tactical reenactment - it could be a load of fun, I wouldn’t know…but I can see how tactical reenactments can improve anyone’s living history impression and public battle reenactments.

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I will say, my history background and ten years of reenacting/living history experience helped me out immensely in boot camp. There are definitely aspects of it that do translate. If one is willing to go the extra mile for authenticity's sake (yes, I wore 1944 dated boxers and socks too) and really study what they're portraying, then good on 'em! However, after seeing the 101st Airborne fight the battle of Gettysburg for the umpteenth time (what else would you call 100 paratroopers in a line charging at dug in German positions?)it is apparent that tacticals are a really piss-poor representation of history.

In memory of 1LT Julius C. Goldman, XO of F/330th, 83rd Infantry Division 1944-45.

Looking for ETO/MTO P-47 and Tactical Reconnaissance Unit photographs and any items associated with WWII Jewish fighter pilots.

Curator of Arms & Armor at the National Museum of the Marine Corps

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Good point - I couldn't help but notice that the living historians and people who participated in the battle reenactment with me didn’t seem to have any clue at all how to portray the speech, mannerisms and tactical maneuvers of a WWII or any soldier. I actually thought it was pretty sloppy because of this and the fact that almost everyone was portraying a different division (101st, 29th, Rangers, Marines etc.). They told me this was because they wanted to give the public more than one example of a WWII infantry soldier, and I suppose that makes sense but everything else could have been improved on. I am not a reenactor and was only invited to participate at the last moment after talking with the group leader. So I went home and grabbed some gear...

 

I personally have never participated in a tactical reenactment - it could be a load of fun, I wouldn’t know…but I can see how tactical reenactments can improve anyone’s living history impression and public battle reenactments.

 

Part of the problem is that guys that start units want the leadership positions regardless of their technical, tactical, or military knowledge- and often in spite of their leadership capabilities. Their lack of experience is often reflected by the behavior of their respective units. They promote their "friends" and soon you have an imbedded lack of capability or willingness to change that is difficult to unseat. Furthermore, being a real soldier, or acting like a soldier would act is counter-civilian. Civilians just cannot understand the mentality of real soldiers in most cases. It's difficult to "act" like something you don't understand. On the other hand, if a good group ends up in leadership then you can have proper replication of soldiers, maneuvers and acting.

 

Rock

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I spent 20 years in the Air Force, of which 6 were spent in Direct Air Support Centers or Tactical Air Control Centers attached to the 1st Infantry Division, III Corps or XVIII Airborne Corps. We deployed with the Army and lived with the Army. That was a life-time supply of ticks and other bugs, hard ground, soft mud, wet uniforms, lousy chow and the assorted annoyances that accompany deployed operations.

 

That was an interesting period, but it fulfilled any desire to dress up in an expensive uniform and do it again.

Jeff Floyd

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I will say, my history background and ten years of reenacting/living history experience helped me out immensely in boot camp. There are definitely aspects of it that do translate. If one is willing to go the extra mile for authenticity's sake (yes, I wore 1944 dated boxers and socks too) and really study what they're portraying, then good on 'em! However, after seeing the 101st Airborne fight the battle of Gettysburg for the umpteenth time (what else would you call 100 paratroopers in a line charging at dug in German positions?)it is apparent that tacticals are a really piss-poor representation of history.

 

 

The amount of time to conduct a proper military maneuver is too long for impatient reenactors, who all want face to face, grenade throwing battles, or running gun battles. The art of fire and maneuver, cover and concealment and patrolling is not used very often. It is sometimes impractical for command and control purposes, but sending a small element on a flanking maneuver is tried, true and basic.

 

Although bayonet charges existed on occasion in WWII they were not the norm.

 

Rock

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I didn’t intend to come off as Mr. Negative or anti-re-enacting. I’m not. I’m all for it and I support it all the way. I got a little burned out on it but it took over 20 years for that to happen. I’d never put anyone down for doing what they like to do. I think the original question was regarding how non-re-enacting people & the general public view re-enactors. I was only conveying the reactions and opinions of the non-re-enactor types I’ve experienced over the years.

 

It’s been said that re-enacting can be different things for different people. Some like tactics, some like interacting with the public, some like burning blanks. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. It’s all good. Do what you do for your own reasons. Just keep in mind to have a good time at some point. If the general public thinks it’s a dork fest, so what, who cares.

 

Despite all of the petty BS that goes on at re-enactments, it has led me to some productive and positive paths in my life. Without re-enacting I wouldn’t have started my own successful business (www.giconcepts.com). I wouldn’t have written 6 military reference books and I wouldn’t have traveled the world as a battlefield archeologist. So there are a few good things it’s done for me. Looking back at things like that, I can’t very well complain about it or put it down.

 

JW

Jeff Warner

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www.giconcepts.com

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There are a lot of great points here.

Two of which Ive taken onboard as great answers to "Why" ?

I collect and promote the Australian involvement in SEA,I dont do tacticals, not because I dont

want to sleep in a fighting pit in the rain, but because in my state, due to gun laws,

there are no automatic weapons allowed.So a Vietnam theme without weapons would look wrong.

 

I have never thought along the lines of actually using the items in a collection to see

how they work to get a better idea as to their history.

As I did service at the time when the things I collect were still being used, I dont need

to try out the hexi stove, eat rations or try and assemble and use the sleeping bag kit.

But I can see now that a younger guy that has never been out in the "J" would have too

to get the right idea and feel for things he's collected.

Whats it like to hump a ruck with 3 days rations, water bottles and all the other gear.

 

Plus i like the idea of comparing other reenacting against why they do war themes.

My sister doesnt get it at all, she thinks the whole dressing up is stupid.

But in my state we have a gold mine themed park that has period dressed characters.

They look great and walk around the town "playing" the part.

Now i can compare that to army dress ups, its the same thing, maybe people will see that angle.

 

Another point I hear alot is the "Im to old", how old are you ?

Sure your not 20 anymore, so a front line soldier is not to good a role.

But what about being a sergeant major or battalion staff officer ?

You can be 60 and still get out in the field as a Colonel or 1 star ?

Its easier too, take along a batman to do all the cleaning, cooking and dig your scrape for you.

Just walk around with a map and annoy everyone, you dont even have to know what your talking about !

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This is the reason I started portraying a WW2 crew chief, one I am one and two I got tired of 5 million pilot and aircrew types at airshows. One thing I have noticed is that at airshows many of the public have had relatives who were ground crew, support or pilots and they all seem extremely interested in hearing what the ground crews did in WW2. There are events that I think maybe we get a 15 minuit break once or twice a day as so may people comethrough our display and ask aton of great questions. That's my 2 cents worth!

 

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My son is a WWII 4th ID reenactor, I don't get into reenacting myself but, I like watching the guys who do. I love history, my son reenacts history so... It's All Good!

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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Another point I hear alot is the "Im to old", how old are you ?

Sure your not 20 anymore, so a front line soldier is not to good a role.

But what about being a sergeant major or battalion staff officer ?

You can be 60 and still get out in the field as a Colonel or 1 star ?

Its easier too, take along a batman to do all the cleaning, cooking and dig your scrape for you.

Just walk around with a map and annoy everyone, you dont even have to know what your talking about !

 

I recently came across this in my own life. I've always portrayed a lieutenant, basically because that's what my grandfather was. I'm going to be 36 in less than a month. A 36 year old Lieutenant in WWII is pretty far-fetched. I'd actually considered putting Lieutenant Colonel's leaves on this year just to be more age-appropriate. Then decided, since I'm about to be a Captain, that railroad tracks would be a fair compromise. Not 100% period correct, but since I am a combat pilot and I'm portraying a combat pilot I figure it isn't much of a stretch.

 

 

Jon

In memory of 1LT Julius C. Goldman, XO of F/330th, 83rd Infantry Division 1944-45.

Looking for ETO/MTO P-47 and Tactical Reconnaissance Unit photographs and any items associated with WWII Jewish fighter pilots.

Curator of Arms & Armor at the National Museum of the Marine Corps

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I thinkl for the most part, non reenactors don't get it. Most of my close friends that know I do it think it's cool but not for them.

 

I can definately see how former or current military would be completely over sleeping on the ground in an itty bitty pup tent that the 5'8" crowd in our unit slip nicely into. Myself, being 6'2" find it a bit of a nusance, but tolerate it for history and the experience's sake.

 

"Rolling in the dirt with your buddies" that makes me laugh because that's what I call it. WHat makes it worth while though is when your imagination kinda wanders and something happens that makes you forget that you are in 2009 and actually might be in 1944-45! Totally worth it! Oh that and everytime I wimper about being cold at a field event, I think about my wife's, still living, grandma who was 14 when the war came to her doorstep in a little town in Belgium named Bastogne. How cold was that winter for civilians with no resupply?

 

Joe

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I will say, my history background and ten years of reenacting/living history experience helped me out immensely in boot camp. There are definitely aspects of it that do translate. If one is willing to go the extra mile for authenticity's sake (yes, I wore 1944 dated boxers and socks too) and really study what they're portraying, then good on 'em! However, after seeing the 101st Airborne fight the battle of Gettysburg for the umpteenth time (what else would you call 100 paratroopers in a line charging at dug in German positions?)it is apparent that tacticals are a really piss-poor representation of history.
I hear you there. I found being a re-enactor for over 20 years at the time helped me quite a bit through ROTC camp and being a LT. I actually enjoyed going to the field then, it felt like a “modern themed immersion event” I was being paid to do. Still, after going to the field A LOT, I got very tired of sleeping outdoors. Been there, done that. I don’t do overnight events anymore. People in my display group give me grief, saying I’m “solar powered,” and I couldn’t care less. I gave at the office as if I’d added up all the nights I’ve spent outdoors before and during my service, it would add up to a large block of time. I do mostly display events now and haven’t been to a tactical event for several years. I try not to call it “living history” when we dress up in uniforms and stand by a display explaining what it all is. To me, living history is what they do at places like Williamsburg. While I have seen people at WW2 events doing a “day in the life” thing, it’s not very common at all.

I also soured on tactical events after being at one when I was a real-life Platoon leader, with a group that claimed to "do it right" (yeah, I know, they all claim that). I saw that a National Guard messkit Repair outfit would clean the clocks of the best re-enactor unit out there.

I’ve been into re-enacting overall since the age of 5 and have been into WW2 since 1989. Seen it all. In the past few years, I’ve been hearing the “we do it to honor the vets” argument, which is relatively new. I don’t buy into that because the majority of re-enactments are private and closed to the public. That doesn’t “honor” anyone other than the people who take part in them. If you want to honor vets, well, your events should be public so people can see what you’re doing (better yet, go volunteer at a VA hospital like I have, but that’s another topic). WW2 re-enacting seems to be unique in the overall hobby in that the people portrayed are still around in appreciable numbers. You can say you do Civil War or other more archaic time periods simply because you like doing it. Not so apparently with WW2. Saying you like going to events, wearing the gear and enjoying the event seems to be some kind of unacceptable answer. I have no idea why this is. Also, people who have served in the real military often sit on their high horse, looking down on those who never served. Well, I did serve and frankly, I see myself as no more entitled to wear a WW2 uniform than anyone else. Unless you were actually IN the war, we’re all just living the fantasy and enjoying ourselves when we go to events. I will go to my grave wondering why that isn’t an acceptable answer for so many WW2 re-enactors.

Lee Bishop Formerly known as "Ratchet 5" with the 2nd Infantry Division (yes, in REAL life)

US WW2 War Correspondent collector

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I hear you there. I found being a re-enactor for over 20 years at the time helped me quite a bit through ROTC camp and being a LT. I actually enjoyed going to the field then, it felt like a “modern themed immersion event” I was being paid to do. Still, after going to the field A LOT, I got very tired of sleeping outdoors. Been there, done that. I don’t do overnight events anymore. People in my display group give me grief, saying I’m “solar powered,” and I couldn’t care less. I gave at the office as if I’d added up all the nights I’ve spent outdoors before and during my service, it would add up to a large block of time. I do mostly display events now and haven’t been to a tactical event for several years. I try not to call it “living history” when we dress up in uniforms and stand by a display explaining what it all is. To me, living history is what they do at places like Williamsburg. While I have seen people at WW2 events doing a “day in the life” thing, it’s not very common at all.

I also soured on tactical events after being at one when I was a real-life Platoon leader, with a group that claimed to "do it right" (yeah, I know, they all claim that). I saw that a National Guard messkit Repair outfit would clean the clocks of the best re-enactor unit out there.

I’ve been into re-enacting overall since the age of 5 and have been into WW2 since 1989. Seen it all. In the past few years, I’ve been hearing the “we do it to honor the vets” argument, which is relatively new. I don’t buy into that because the majority of re-enactments are private and closed to the public. That doesn’t “honor” anyone other than the people who take part in them. If you want to honor vets, well, your events should be public so people can see what you’re doing (better yet, go volunteer at a VA hospital like I have, but that’s another topic). WW2 re-enacting seems to be unique in the overall hobby in that the people portrayed are still around in appreciable numbers. You can say you do Civil War or other more archaic time periods simply because you like doing it. Not so apparently with WW2. Saying you like going to events, wearing the gear and enjoying the event seems to be some kind of unacceptable answer. I have no idea why this is. Also, people who have served in the real military often sit on their high horse, looking down on those who never served. Well, I did serve and frankly, I see myself as no more entitled to wear a WW2 uniform than anyone else. Unless you were actually IN the war, we’re all just living the fantasy and enjoying ourselves when we go to events. I will go to my grave wondering why that isn’t an acceptable answer for so many WW2 re-enactors.

 

I agree with much of what you've said here. My old 101st unit was good as reenactor units went. There was lots of bragging about how "honoring the veterans" was the goal. The problem was that out of 50-60 guys in the unit only a handful actually placed effort to honor the veterans. One guy in particular put tremendous effort forth and performed about 90% of the "honoring the veterans"; and yet the whole group stood on the laurels of this one guys efforts. They're not bad guys but I've found that most reenactors just enjoy showing up, playing around, and going home early. It's a free world, but when 95% of the unit doesn't really perform any extra-curricular activity to "honor the vets" (except maybe the 4th of July parade), then it just seems out of whack. I put forth extra effort in order to make the claim. I attended tacticals, trained new guys, contacted and befriended veterans, constructed rations for the unit, purchased gear for the unit, studied my history, and went to different activities (air shows, parades, displays, educational etc). It was hard work but I feel that I paid my dues to make the claim of Living Historian.

 

We all have real lives and cannot all spend time like I did. It took a toll on my personal life and there was active resentment when I placed forth constructive criticism for guys to be more involved. Most of them just wouldn't do a little extra but they sure loved bragging about how good they are. The same individual(s) are still doing most of the work and the claims of superiority are still there. It's frustrating to work hard to make your unit better and yet feel isolated because most of the guys resent being called on the carpet for a lack of effort and committment. If everyone in the unit had picked one extra thing they were good at and placed even a little extra time into contributing that thing, it would have relieved the stress on the few guys that do all the admin and leg work. Guys get burned out from doing all the work and it gets frustrating.

 

The concept of team-work falls on deaf ears in many cases in reenacting. It's a choice; while guys in the active military have no choice. The choices you make as a reenactor reveal the color of your character. Sometimes it's not all pretty.

 

Rock

2RO2.jpg

 

2/505th (RA) 5/502nd (RA) 2/505th (REEN)

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