Baumholder re-enactment brings history to life
January 28, 2007
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — The firefight started out innocuously enough. Little kids ran across the road near deserted buildings, and civilians stood around waiting and watching.
Then a handful of American soldiers came running down the road and some German soldiers appeared from inside small buildings. The battle was on.
Soon shots were fired and the air was thick with gun smoke.
It was another fun day of playing army for those who came here to re-create World War II battles as part of the Phantom Regiment.
In full and authentic uniforms from that era, about 20 or so men split up, some portraying American GIs and some acting as their German foes.
Under the auspices of the Phantom Regiment, a private, command-supported group, soldiers, military enthusiasts and history buffs are able to get together and walk a few simulated steps in the shoes of their military forefathers, said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin De Vos, a Baumholder 2nd Brigade soldier who has helped organize the events for the past few years.
The re-enactments draw participants from across Europe, including not only other American soldiers, but also Germans and Czechs, he said.
“It’s just living history, displayed,” De Vos said after the first of two re-enactments Saturday.
The uniforms and rifles are all authentic — although the firearms are fitted to fire just blanks during the re-enactments. “Most of us don’t need live-fire machine guns,” De Vos said.
The re-enactors believe that, in their own way, they are paying homage to military members who came before them. “A lot of soldiers are motivated by this kind of military history,” De Vos said.
Holding his M1 Garand rifle, De Vos said that being able to use the urban combat training area at Smith Barracks in Baumholder made the event a lot more affordable and accessible.
Standing around smoking a cigarette after the first fight, Mike Potter, an American who was raised and lives in northern Germany, said that such WWII events are not easy to pull off in Germany because of the stigma still attached to the German military during that war.
“The Germans fear for their reputation,” he said. “Nobody wants to be called a Nazi.”
Both Potter and De Vos said the re-enactments are about looking at the strictly military side of the German army of World War II, not its ideology.
“It’s just about military history,” Potter said, adding that any German extremists who try to join the re-enactments are ferreted out.
Standing and watching the mock battle with his friends, Sgt. Jay Betrand of Baumholder’s 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment said his interest in military history brought him to the event, and that it’s something he’d like to get into himself.
“I like the guns, the history, the uniforms,” he said.
Betrand said his fiancee, a German, had a grandfather who fought in the war, as did his own.
As the World War II generation continues to shrink, such re-enactments and interest are a form of respect, said 1st Lt. Chris Drennen, also of 1-6.
“Our grandparents’ generation is dying out,” he said. “And people shouldn’t forget.”