Last Memorial Day, I was asked to help with a living history display sponsored by my friends, The Duffle Bag and Associates, held at the FDR Home in Hyde Park, NY. The theme was World War II, being that this year is the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. There were, however, living historians and reenactors representing periods from Colonial America to the Post-Cold War era.
Being that World War II was very well represented, I was encouraged to portray a different era. Being that my primary interest is the Cold War period, I picked the 1980s. Similarly, combat arms soldiers are well-represented at these events, so I opted for a combat support impression. This is a popular avenue to pursue among older enthusiasts, as it does not require one to wear 20+ pounds of field gear in 80-90 degree weather. Being an Amateur Radio operator and electronic hobbyist, Signal or Ordnance Corps. is the obvious choice. Although as a former U.S. Army 13E (Field Artillery Fire Direction Control Specialist), it might be nice to eventually put together a manual FDC setup from the era when I served.
My modest display at the venue, consisting of a few pieces of radio gear representative of the Cold War era from the late 1940s (SCR-300/BC-1000 on the left), to the 1960s/Vietnam War era (PRC-74 on the left), to the 1980s/1990s (AN/URC-92/Sunair GSB-900X in the center). I also included the iconic Steel Pot (aka M1 Helmet) and a 1980s/early 1990s vintage MRE to add a little more flavor to the display. A little write-up was created to be displayed with each item.
Yours truly in docent costume, standing in front of a sculpture made from pieces of the Berlin Wall. The uniform is 1980s era OD Green straight-pocket jungle fatigues, put together as a junior Warrant Officer from the Army Material Command. Warrant Officers are technical experts, and often have come up through the ranks as enlisted men. The AMC is responsible for material logistics and maintenance, as well as research and development until 2018. A major sub-command of the AMC is the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, which might help explain a junior warrant officer in jungle fatigues.
Being a participant in the event didn’t leave much time for taking pictures, but I did manage to take a few of one of the more interesting groups there, the Italia, Avanti! Living History Association. They are a non-political living history group preserving the history and honoring the sacrifices made by the men of the Italian Armed Forces during World War II. Despite the country’s initial affiliation with the Axis Powers at the beginning of the war, the Italian people in general had little, if any, love for Nazi Germany, and even less for Benito Mussolini as the war progressed. In 1943, King Victor Emmanuel III deposed and arrested Mussolini, and Italy joined the Allies. This is a good example of a typical living history display, as in addition to the field gear, uniforms, and weaponry, personal items, effects, and ephemera were also shown. The latter items are the sign of an advanced living historian, and what makes a good display into a better display.
The gentleman in the picture is fellow living historian Chris C., who does various eras and countries in addition to the Italian soldier he portrayed at this event.
I also took a walk around the grounds with the family, as my wife and kids had never visited FDR Home, and it had been a while since I last visited.
Gravesite of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Springwood Horse Barn. Built in 1886.
My wife and younger daughter, with Eleanor and Frank.
Next year, 2020, marks the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II, and there will be a similar event next year at FDR. It is a family friendly event, with activities for all ages. If you are within travel distance of FDR, please come visit, and even if you can make Memorial Day 2020, you should at least take the family to visit the FDR Home in Hyde Park, NY. History is an important part of American Civics, because by understanding our country’s history, you can understand our country’s present, and help our country’s future.
And if you can’t wait until then, come enjoy a nice dinner, and do a little dancing with your significant other, at the Swing ‘N Patterson D-Day Liberation – 1944 Dinner and Dance on November 9th, 2019 in Patterson, NY. There will be a jazz orchestra playing period music, living historians, and swing dancing. You don’t have to come in 1940s attire, but it is encouraged.