Saturday, February 14, 2015

Highlights from Battle of the Bulge at Fort Indiantown Gap

So somehow the month of January got away from me. It might have been the 6 consecutive weeks of travel and events, or the snow, or the holiday recovery, or being sick...but it doesn't really matter. What actually matters is that every event was a blast, I don't regret a thing, and I feel super enthusiastic about getting some of my post backlog up and published!

But that's all coming later--today, I wanted to share some photos from my most recent excursion: the Battle of the Bulge event at Fort Indiantown Gap in PA. This was only my second WWII event, and was a completely different experience from the first. For starters, it was winter. Hooray for period outerwear! Whoo, we needed it! Second, unlike WWII Weekend at the MAAM, the Gap was only open to the public on Saturday (the last day of an almost week-long event); so instead of large public displays, for the most part this event was just reenactors doing their thing. It was super fascinating. I'll admit that I oscillated a lot between feeling in the thick of things and feeling like a complete outsider (an anthropologist of sorts, I suppose), but I enjoyed myself immensely.

Even better, I got some great shots! Which is more of a miracle than it may seem, because I shot exclusively with my retrofit Speed Graphic, which meant I was shooting blind a lot of the time.

Setting up the Speed Graphic on a bunk in the women's barracks before a night out shooting
As usual (because my camera is occupied during these events), I don't have very many pictures of myself, and none of me in action yet. I'm hoping to grab a few from other generous attendees, but in the meantime, here are some highlights from the event!

by the barracks

a knitting lesson

ATS forces drilling on post

Allied HQ, far left

Treatment of a stomach wound in the German field hospital

tending a head wound in the German field hospital
The Fort Indiantown Gap event is supposed to be based on the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in the Ardennes region of the Western Front (which includes Belgium, France, and Luxembourg) from December 1944 to January 1945. The German offensive hit American troops particularly hard, resulting in the highest US casualty rate of any operation during the war. While eventually a victory for the Allies, the Bulge was particularly grueling due in part to frigid temperatures, the high casualty rate, and contention among British and American leadership. Churchill called the Battle of the Bulge "undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war and regarded as an ever-famous American victory." 

German troops fighting in the Ardennes, 1944 (via Wikipedia)
I have been told that one of the things that makes the Gap event so neat is the tactical exercises, which allow reenactors to get into the nitty-gritty of battle. The event is held on a National Guard base, so units convoy up into the mountainous exercise area for the battle parts of the event, which last over two days. We faced some gruelingly low temperatures ourselves during those days, but unlike in 1945, the higher-ups cancelled the second day of the tactical for safety reasons. That was the day I was planning to go out, which was disappointing. Instead, I shot the smaller public battle demonstration held in a wooded area near the barracks (which is why my photos are full of brush). It wasn't exactly the Bulge, but it was still an adventure to run about getting knee-deep in snow to try and get the shot while staying out of the way of the oncoming line!

First men ahead of the main line

The Allied line moves forward

The remaining soldiers regroup towards the end of the skirmish--you can see the "casualties" in the distance to the right

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