The More May Not be the Merrier

What is clear here is that many of the WWII clubs exist out of the necessity of geographical distance. What is also clear is that many of them exist for bad reasons, and if you've been around for 10 years, I'm sure you have seen all of them. I think it is also obvious, for a number of reasons, that something needs to be done to slow the proliferation of WWII organizations. Squabbles develop between groups when they compete for land use. Site hosts do not want to be pulled back and forth in cat fights over issues they don't care about. Their reaction is "To h*** with all of you, go somewhere else." Particularly in regards to federal property.

When some tiny organization destroys its own reputation, the reputation of ALL of us is destroyed. When somebody has negative experience with a WWII group, they are not going to understand, or care when you try to explain that they were not part of YOUR organization.

Larger organizations generally are not the type of environment that psychopathic loners, cells of hate groups, and borderline screwballs can exist in without being quickly identified by others. When they exist in a larger group, they are quickly spotted. When they exist in their own groups, it is nearly impossible to police them. Once they are in your event, their presence contaminates everyone there by association. South Africa has had a history of problems with neo-nazi groups disguising their activity by posing as re-enactors. I understand that the Civil War groups had serious problems with the KKK doing similar things. If there is a government crackdown on hate groups, (and my definition of that is not the current media crap) guess where they are going to flock in order to cover themselves?

It's my personal feeling that the major organizations need to do something to begin controlling this splintering. If for no other reason than preserving the hobby. There is an incredible amount of stupidity exhibited by many WWII re-enactors. We had a heated debate in our last national meeting about the HRS rule forbidding the wearing of German uniforms to and from battles. There were quite a number of folks who simply couldn't figure out how that could cause a problem! Well, let's see, Gomer, you got a car load of guys driving through a small town, they all have Nazzy uniforms on, they have a trunk loaded with guns, mortars,bayonets and fireworks, they're driving a few miles over the speed limit, and they get stopped by a cop, don't you think somebody could get the wrong idea? As it happened, one of our unit members was recently stopped on the way to an event on a traffic violation. He was in a hurry, and had his uniform on. The cop saw the uniform, rousted him, searched his car, and jailed him on a weapons violation. The uniform was all it took. There are a lot of idiots who don't seem to realize that WWII is the only major type of re-enactment where those who fought and suffered in it are still alive, along with the animosity and ill feelings it generated between peoples. To this type of reenactor, the war is a personal fantasy, and not a real event in history. You can spot this type at any public event. They are the ones who become obviously uncomfortable around veterans, and shun them because these men represent too much reality imposing on their make-believe world. Once at a public event, I actually had an American vet come over to the German camp to talk with us because he could not get any of the Americans to talk with him. I've seen a German re-enactor arguing with a Fallschirmjaeger veteran, telling him he was wrong about the type of uniform he wore in North Africa. Sad, and scary.

An incredible number of people are totally oblivious to the very real possibility that WWII re-enacting could be shut down over night by something as trivial as some idiot flipping a Nazi salute in front of a TV camera, or some group of drunks out on the town in SS uniforms. We lost what would have been an annual event at the 1st Division Museum in Illinois, simply because of an SS unit standard seen in a photo published in one of the local papers. The necessity of some sort of control over the number, quality and behavior of WWII groups becomes more obvious. We face the potential loss of all federal and public lands, and open accusation of being a front for terrorist training if we lack the ability to supervise the hobby. Even the fact that SS units are represented is becoming an increasing potential threat as the public becomes more aware of the fact that WWII re-enacting exists.

Possibly the answer is for the larger organizations to institute a permanent moratorium on recognizing any further groups. That might work, and might put an end to the rapid balkanization of our reenacting. Or possibly go to an invitation only format where good groups are invited everwhere, and bad ones dwindle away because nobody wants them. Sooner or later these issues must be dealt with, or they will deal with us.

Larry Mayo