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Saturday morning the local newspaper had a story about a WWll reenactment taking place about ten miles from our country bunker. So I grabbed the camera and headed on over, being a sucker for anything authentic WWll.
I didn’t expect much since it was being held at a local paintball playground that was once a cold war Nike missile base. We have a few around here due to the industrial complex of steel mills and industry on the shores of southern Lake Michigan that were very active during the 50's.
The paper said participants were coming from as far away as Wisconsin. It also mentioned light artillery and an authentic BMW motorcycle with a sidecar. When I got there I was surprised at what I saw. They had detail right on down to simple signs.
The Russians Are Coming!
These hobbyists are dedicated to authenticity. While none of the uniforms were from the war (real duds are way too expensive to ruin playing around I was told) they were as detailed as possible. Most of their weapons were authentic, some dating back to the 1920’s. Each one I spoke with went out of their way to allow me photo time and to talk about all their equipment.
The German participants seemed to be the most avid and well-equipped enthusiasts. It was surprising to see how much gear they wore compared to the Soviets. This, I was told, was authentic to the period. The Soviet government considered their troops as expendable cannon fodder and felt they were way too uneducated to handle and maintain complicated and expensive equipment with moving parts right on down to a semi-auto weapon. So they armed them with whatever they could afford (mostly bolt-action rifles) and sent them on to what was most likely certain death at the hands of the Germans.
Some things I learned:
This event was to reenact a skirmish between German and Soviet troops. There was no American representation. The reason is that for the price of one authentic WWll M1, a hobbyist could completely outfit himself in period Soviet gear head to toe.
The blanks they use in reenactment are for one time use, they cannot be reloaded. One participant told me it was expensive but that didn’t matter, it was a hobby to the point of obsession.
All ages participated. A few were high school age (Hitler Youth is authentic, I guess) and some were almost as old as me. But once they were in full regalia they were scary authentic.
It was time well spent and I took some photos that pleased me. The participants were as friendly, outgoing and proud as could be. They have my respect. I was told that in late spring of 2012 there is a scheduled WWll reenactment near Lowell IN where they would have a very large participation complete with two mechanized groups of both American and German tanks, Jeeps, Halftracks and tons of artillery. I definitely will not miss that.
To come will be some authentic equipment photos.