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World War II Living History Reenactments

Posted by Eddie Schmidt on Feb 13th 2008

Since 1975, museums, associations and other groups around the world have been creating a living history of World War II. Museums primarily showcase history with impressive relics from the past and trained interpreters to tell the story to the public. Although museums offer an accurate and interesting reflection of the past, it is not enough for many.

Living the Past Through Historical Reenactments
Associations and other groups are more interested in historical reenactments that allow the participants to live the history themselves to better understand it. As a result, the public rarely sees their work. This passionate group is made up of militaria collectors, history buffs, professional military and veterans and can be found throughout Europe, the U.S., and Australia.

Authenticity Is Important to Reenactors
These reenactors are not just bunch of guys (and gals) playing war. Participants are expected to dress and act appropriate to the particular military character they have chosen. They recreate authentic World War II campsites to live in and work from. They organize and participate in mock war battles that are as historically accurate as they are able to reproduce.

World War II Fought Largely by Civilians
Beyond the military aspect, these reenactors are also keenly aware that the majority of the people in World War II were not professional military. They were civilians who were only in the war for its duration and would go back to civilian life when it was over. Therefore, many reenactors also immerse themselves in the civilian culture of the 1940s. They feel this enables them to more thoroughly understand our ancestors who lived through this war.

Reenactment Group Websites
Many of these groups maintain websites to document their activities and schedule of events. Some offer helpful articles on 1940s culture, photos and lists of appropriate military attire and equipment — even how to use a 1940s camera.

A Legacy for Future Generations
Reenactors are a diverse group with many reasons for their participation in living history. Some like the military aspect, some the comraderie, some the history, still others as a use for their military collections. However, as Michael Stuckey said in his address to the 29th ID Living History Assoc. at the Battle of the Bulge Reenactment in 2003, it is much more than that:

We do this in order to give to future generations their legacy; one that has been that has been bought and paid for, with blood. They gave their all to give a precious gift, a second chance at peace. What will we — this and coming generations — do with this responsibility? Each of you must decide for yourself. Then we must decide as a culture, a society and a nation. You can make a difference.

Authentic World War II Collectibles
We carry a lot of authentic militaria from World War II at our store. Of special interest are some drop bags (A-4 Aerial Delivery Containers) that were designed to be used on D Day to drop food rations and medical supplies. These bags were featured in the Band of Brothers movie and ‘The War’ documentary by Ken Burns on PBS. A large portion of our inventory was purchased by European reenactors.

We also have some 10th Mountain Ski Goggles manufactured by Foster Grant. They were used to prevent snow blindness in Italy and the Alps as we worked our way through Europe.