Thursday, March 18, 2010

Playing army

Grown men reenacting the Civil War has always seemed kind of weird to me. That was something I did that as a kid. Three years we spent in Petersburg, Virginia, we got to play war over the same ground that our forefathers had fought over a century early. But as I grew up, I found that I could run around in the woods without acting like I was Johnny Reb. The same goes for those who occupy the parks in many towns during the summer, acting like they’re knights, squires and wrenches in the seemingly ubiquitous Renaissance Fairs. Although wearing chainmail and having the ladies call me “MyLord” could be exciting, a reenactment of that period without the threat of the Black Death seems a little wimpish. The same goes for those groups that reenact being Mountain Men. Sitting around a campfire gnawing on a roasted beaver and sleeping on pine needs doesn’t do anything for me. Give me my thermo-rest pad at night and something other than an oversized rodent for dinner.

That said, I never thought they’d be a day that we’d have grown American men reenacting World War 2, with half of them dressed as Nazis and the other half as Soviets, fighting a battle on the Eastern Front. These are grown American men acting like two of our great enemies, and there are folks worried about the Democrats. Too bad Henry Gibson is no longer with us; he made such a perfect Nazi in “The Blues Brothers.” Of course, such a reenactment might be tolerable if Col. Klink and Sgt Schultz of Hogan’s Heroes were among the bunch. At least there would be laughs to compensate for wearing starched uniforms.

I came across the link to the Nazi-Soviet battle reenactment in Ultralighter's blog. Every week he highlights posts of hikes and hikers around the world. It’s quite common in the Georgia Mountains along the Appalachian Trail to find the United States Army out on maneuvers. The hiker who discovered these German soldiers setting up camp must have felt that he was in a time warp, one that also took him half way around the world, from Washington State to Western Russia.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out. Not only is is strange to stumble across Nazis in the woods; it's mind-blowing to see who will stumble across my blogging about it.

  2. Goodness! Well, can we arrest them while they are out in the Woods? In all seriousness, a few weeks ago the "Aryan Nations" folks came to a small town just a few hours from here with the intention to set up their HQs there. They worn uniforms and held neo-Nazi signs. It was all serious, and scary.

  3. I was not aware of WWII reenactments and I have mixed feelings on the reenactments of other time periods. I see the attraction, but I'm not interested really. It is a way to bring history alive I guess.

    Favorite quote, "Although wearing chainmail and having the ladies call me “MyLord” could be exciting, a reenactment of that period without the threat of the Black Death seems a little wimpish."

    True amusement. 8-D

  4. Trail Boy, you're right. I discovered Ultralight's blog when he highlighted one of my Appalachian Trail posts. You had a good blog post.

    RMH, it doesn't sound like they're into the Aryan Nation crap, but I can't understand why anyone would want to wear a Nazi uniform for several reasons--what they stood for and the horrors they brought and the fact that the Aryan Folks idolize them.

    Kontan, I've only been to one reenactment--it was when I had a Indian collegue over here and I thought he might want to see it. I have a picture of him and my daughter standing next to a spliting image of General Grant. But in truth, how do you reenact a battle with a few dozen actors when the battle had 10s of thoustands of soldiers, not to mention things like tanks and planes.

  5. I think I could get my dose of the early 1940's from the film version and replaying it in life still would not instill the sense of privation every army feels. What idjhots we are as a culture. Glorify the war and forget the millions upon millions dead and wounded.

  6. I've only pondered why we have a mountain men camp at our local festival when in fact, we have no mountains and the only mountain men to pass through were most likely heading west during the gold rush. From an outsider's perspective, I think they just like sitting around a campfire drinking beer and occasionally throwing a hatchet at a nearby tree stump.

  7. Here in the deep southern Europe we do weird things such as reenacting the old battles between moors and christians (the arabs arrived here in 711 and left in 1492) but i guess it has a touristic purpose rather than anything else:

    I don't understand very well what's the purpose of reenacting WW2 (there is not enough time perspective yet and many wounds are not yet healed all over the world).

    60 years ago, Dresden (Germany), then known as the "Florence on the Elbe" was bombed by the British warplanes, killing tens of thousands of civilians. Neo-nazis call it controversially a "bombing holocaust" and every 13th Feb thousands of them, with their nazi uniforms, march in Dresden to commemorate that day.

    As RMH said, it's quite scary and very distressing even nowadays to see a guy dressed in a nazi uniform. These symbols of torture, death and destruction haven't been forgotten yet.

    But it would be nice to see people reenacting the US Civil War. Consider it as a kind of roleplay, just like the moors and christians battles today.

  8. You should see what German adults do. There are entire resorts devoted to "reenacting" the American West, and I use the verb "reenact" loosely. Evidently, in the German mind, all American cowboys of the 19th Century dressed like Hopalong Cassidy.


  9. Sage
    Thanks for the spot, though I have mixed emotions about that particular camp-out; I do enjoy going to Civil War enactments. However I guess the bottom line is they were both horrific in many ways. I'm not putting the civil war on the same evil footing as WWII though. Even the tag word verification looks german!

  10. In England there are entire Counties that still shoot the longbow. And others that toss fist sized cannon balls accross miles of rural roads.

  11. The mere sight of a swastika, in any context, is enough to make my blood pressure soar. After losing most branches of my family tree to them, I'm not terribly open to historically accurate re-enactments of WWII battles.

    It saddens me that the seeds of hatred that they represented continue to blow in the wind to this day.

  12. Very interesting post. Great line
    These are grown American men acting like two of our great enemies, and there are folks worried about the Democrats.
    So true :)

  13. I once dated a guy who was big in the Civil War reenacting and wanted me to join in with him. You know, hang around the camp and cook all day, handwash his britches or whatever the women do during reenactments. Not surprisingly, we broke up shortly thereafter.

    I'd pay big bucks to see you in chainmail!

  14. I've always wanted to see a Civil War re-enactment. Not sure why, but I have.