SPRINGFIELD, IL (11/14/2011)(readMedia)-- Living History Detachment and period actors portray World War I life and combat
Story by Sgt. James D. Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
SPRINGFIELD - The silence was broken by gun shots and shouts in German and English, a once empty field is now a trench battlefield outlined with mines and barbwire with Soldiers fighting in the middle of it all.
This is no modern battlefield, but rather scenes in history reenacted to preserve significant moments in the history of the Illinois National Guard in the "Great War" during the Veterans' Day weekend.
The Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield and Lincoln Land Community College sponsored an event called the "Great War" encampment Nov. 12 and 13 to tell the story of the First World War.
Members of the Living History Detachment along with other period re-enactors came together to reenact the living conditions and methods of fighting from nearly a century ago during the two-day event.
"The Illinois National Guard's 33rd Division and the 370th Infantry played major roles in several of the battles in World War I," said retired Illinois National Guard Brig. Gen. Stewart Reeve, the director of the Illinois State Military Museum. "The actions and valor of the 33rd were renowned throughout Europe during the war. The "Great War" encampment preserves the legacy of yesterday's veterans for today's generation."
This was the second Great War Encampment this year, said Reeve. The first was held March 5 and 6.
"It was a good event that not only educated people about World War I, but it was another opportunity for the public to become acquainted with the Museum and the history of the Illinois National Guard," said Reeve.
The encampment told the story of Illinois National Guard Soldiers out on the field and provided education on the impact of the Great War on Sangamon County and Illinois.
"With the 100th anniversary of the Great War coming up shortly and the passing of the last American World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, in February of this year we wanted to create an event to educate the public more about the great war," said Hellar Armbruster of Springfield, a former member of the Illinois Army National Guard, now a period re-enactor and the event coordinator.
"The two-day event was not only outdoors but in the museum with Professor Chris McDonald of Lincoln Land Community College giving lectures on the Great War as well as several displays and the 33rd Division film that was done in 1918," said Armbruster.
McDonald, a professor of Political Science at Lincoln Land Community College, said the similarities between the mission statements from the 33rd Division in World War I and the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team's (IBCT) recent deployment to Afghanistan were so similar he put together a presentation paralleling the two events with side-by-side photos of the training, departure and interaction with the local civilians from both wars nearly 100 years apart.
"I have several friends who were in the 33rd that deployed to Afghanistan. This is a kind of
connection to that as well as getting the opportunity to show people what history was like and the experience of living it myself," said Jeremiah Wayne Brady of Georgetown, a chemist and period re-enactor portraying a German Soldier.
According to historical 33rd Division documents Maj. Gen. George Bell Jr., received the following telegram from Gen. Henry Rawlinson of the British Army:
"Am anxious to express to you, General Bell, and to all ranks of the 33rd (Illinois) Division, my warm thanks for the gallant part taken by part of your division in the attack at Hamel and Vaire Wood on Independence Day. I hear nothing but praise of the manner in which your units fought the enemy and my only regret is that I was not permitted to employ a larger portion of your fine division. Perhaps later on there may be another opportunity."
Following the 33rd IBCT's deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 to 2009, the unit suffered 18 casualties and returned with more than 4,600 total awards including 66 Purple Hearts and accolades from several Coalition Forces. Almost a hundred years prior The 33rd Division endured almost 1,000 casualties and 5,871 wounded, and is also credited with nine Medals of Honor.
Among the Medal of Honor recipients was Johannes S. Anderson of Chicago.
According to the Medal of Honor citation, while Anderson's company was being held up by intense artillery and machine gun fire, 1st Sgt. Anderson, without aid, voluntarily left the company and worked his way to the rear of the machine gun nest that was offering the most stubborn resistance. His advance was made through an open area and under constant hostile fire, but the mission was successfully accomplished, and he not only silenced the gun and captured it, but also brought back with him 23 prisoners.
Pablo Baum, a living historian, from Mexico, Mo., portrayed Gen. John Pershing. He gave two short speeches and participated in a re-enactment of the presentation of the Medal of Honor to Anderson.
More than 1.5 million individuals served from Illinois in WWI, totaling almost 7 percent of the U.S. forces. There were more than 4,000 casualties from Illinois forces alone.
"The encampment event allowed us to honor the heroics of Illinois National Guard World War I veterans on this Veterans' day weekend," said Reeve. "It is with the sacrifice of yesterday's heroes that make the Illinois National Guard and this nation what it is."
Photo 1) Photo by Sgt. James D. Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ The Illinois State Military History Museum in Springfield hosted the "Great War" encampment displaying living conditions and combat skirmishes from World War I Nov.12 and 13. Depicted here is Germans Soldiers capturing Allied Soldiers after attacking their trench.
photo 2) Photo by Sgt. James D. Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ The Illinois State Military History Museum in Springfield hosted the "Great War" encampment displaying living conditions and combat skirmishes from World War I Nov. 12 and 13. Jeremiah Wayne Brady of Georgetown, a chemist and period actor portrays a German Soldier manning a machinegun position.
photo 3) Photo by Sgt. James D. Sims, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/ The Illinois State Military History Museum in Springfield hosted the "Great War" encampment displaying living conditions and combat skirmishes from World War I Nov. 12 and 13. Period re-enactors interacted with the visitors who came to observe the static displays and skirmishes as well as lectures covering World War I.