Again, the usual disclaimer about some photographs nicked from other participants' pages.
So I went to WF08 and shot guns and fell in the mud and drank and generally behaved badly.
Here are some representative participants of the event:
Fun for the whole family. Note infant-sized splinter pattern camo smock. Sam's Militaria in Tokyo also sells similarly-proportioned SS oak leaf print pants and jumpers for those who want to get their offspring off to an early start at a lifetime of questionably-tasteful antisocial hobbies.
Forgive my dopey expression in the photo, I'm a little knackered for reasons that will soon become apparent. On Saturday afternoon they ran an all-eastern front game. Highlight for me was stalking through the woods, rounding a corner, and coming face to face with this guy completely by surprise. We both slap leather, I get a mag-related stoppage, he fumbles the bolt and high tails it through the woods trying to clear the thing on the run. I slam mine home and barrel after him, branches whipping my face but my blood is up and the game's afoot, so tally ho. Finally catch him on this muddy path, and just for effect's sake shout "Hände hoch!" from a range of about 5 yards...and my man actually stops, drops his still-useless rifle, and surrenders to me! That would NEVER HAPPEN in a normal airsoft game, they would either make you shoot them from dangerous range and then bitch about it, or even ignore the hit and shoot you in the face at point-blank for even attempting such a thing. The sportsmanship and desire to have a cinematic experience in the WW2 community wins out over anything else. As I made a show of shouldering his rifle and searching his pockets, the rest of my guys caught up and took in the whole scene and my Wehrmacht strasse cred shot through the stratosphere. He and I became best of friends on the way back to base camp, where we introduced him to the other hiwis and set him to work making us some ersatz coffee.
Thematically unrelated to this post: Bumper stickers for Dyslexics.
Faced off against these worthies:
Plz. to be forgiving the Thompson, Kar 98, utterly inexplicable M1917 US Enfield, etc. Red Army airsofters are in a world of pain when it comes to finding weapons. It was a fun game though, hard fought but we basically schooled them.
THIS. This right here is the spirit of modern Japan in a nutshell. Man on cell phone, with Mt. Fuji in the background, wearing a jump smock. This should be the cover of the next Lonely Planet guidebook, give that hackneyed Geisha and Tea Ceremony bullshit the toss. The Japanese, bless their hearts, are all huge, huge farbs but they do it with such childlike joy and contagious, unrepentent enthusiasm you can't help but love them. I mean, these are the people who brought CARDBOARD HALF-TRACK in to this world. I predict difficulties adjusting to the "We're so damn realistic we aren't even enjoying ourselves" western re-enacting community when I get back.
US MPs to errant Fallschirmjager: "now you run along home, scamp, and don't let me catch you running around with a G43 in Carentan after 9pm again!"
Note the thoughtful addition of Iwate Prefecture AND Wehrmacht Heer license plates. "Vatevah do you mean, invasion, this far east? Lächerlich. Vee are merely sightseeing, ja."
This fucking incredible thing made another appearance, and it kicked just as much ass as the first time I saw it. Still smashing everything in its path like some pleistocene horn-beast and owning you [Video of the monster in action here. ] Kettenrad rules so much. Monstrously over-engineered, only Germans would ever make something this gloriously overdone, but god DAMN. What I cannot crush with my will I will crush beneath the clanking tracks of HALF TRACK MOTOR CYCLE.
Oh yeah, and another prominent participant at this years event:
FlaK 38 20mm automatic antiaircraft cannon. Friggin' 65 years old and still ruling you with an iron fist by just sitting there. Some insane nutter of a collector bought and restored the thing from somewhere, and just, wow.
They had a whole area set aside for living history display, no modern items allowed, which meant everyone had to use old hand-cranked wooden cell phones to send animated .gifs of 1940's black and white tentacle porn to each other. Off to the side of the gun, way too close for realism but it made a nice photo, is a period pack radio set, and in the rear you can see the Flak's towing carriage and an authentic German army field kitchen. This becomes important later. Oh, and the tents in the backdrop were so musty and genuine that they burst in to highly realistic flames from an unattended lantern later on in the evening, it was all very atmospheric.
This is a photograph I will look at 40 years from now in order to remember a time when I ruled the known universe.
Barrel and bore welded shut and missing the optics, naturlich, but the elevation and traverse hand-cranks still work through the full 360x85 degrees and basically parking one of these on your front lawn sends a powerful proactive message to itinerant dogs and Jehovah's Witnesses and other unwanted riffraff to keep a respectful distance.
Detail of the breech. That big cage looking thing would have a canvas bag hung over it in action to catch the hot brass ejected from the weapon so it didn't pile up underfoot and cook off nearby ammunition.
Yes, I pretty much had that "kid in the world's most violent toy store" look beaming on my face the whole time. I think right about now I am aiming at the crown of Mt. Fuji and vividly fantasizing blowing it off in a maelstrom of fire. To be strictly accurate, I should have the red collar patches of the Luftwaffe flak artillery branch, but again, few were in a position to quibble with their beloved national symbol in my sights and one light tap on the foot-trigger away from destruction.
Sadly, no 20mm airsoft ammunition was available with legal amounts of muzzle energy. Believe me, we tested all available makes and models on some unattended local poultry, and this was all that was left:
Nah, that's just dinner. The lovely and charming Motoko of the Deutsche Rotes Kreuz whipped this spicy concoction up for us. She is a darling.
She also lives in Osaka, and as such is emblematic of the Universe's casual contempt for my happiness. Yes, she likes all kinds of hateful music and has full sleeve tats on both arms and they go all the way up and a considerable distance beyond. Erm, yes.
She and her friend here ran a Red Cross aid station for weary frontkämpfer.
Admiral Donuts and pangefried Kampfgefritters were on offer.
I suppose here is a thematically consistent moment to sneak in a shot with me and my new bandolier. sokkmonkey, your blocks of wood as stripper clip suggestion worked like a charm. Also barely visible is the strap for the new FJ gasmask bag, can't for the life of me figure out how that intricate bondage-harness alien arthropod thing is supposed to attach so I just slung it and hoped for the best. Again, sorry about the quality of the pictures, there was a lot of glare that day.
German word for radio: "funk". Hence, a field radio is "feldfunk". I am having a good time envisioning Parliament and George Clinton sprinting through Kharkov with these on their backs putting some serious funk in the Bolsheviks' trunk. Thoughts like that are why I am an idiot man-child who will never fully integrate in to polite human society, and I'm okay with that. "Growing up": popular euphemism for becoming humourless, well-drilled drones grimly going through the motions of a life bereft of hope.
And while we're on kitspam, check out the very, very nice Enfield [not sure if it was a firer or just a model gun], and fair-to-middlin' conversion of a VSR below. Sure, not likely to win any awards, but given the dearth of British arms and the fact that the whole thing was done for less than 10,000 yen/$100, it's a pretty good job.
You know, I'm pretty sure I'll probably see a more unlikely combination of items in a single photograph at some point in my life, although I confess I cannot imagine what that might be.
Surely things cannot get more unlikely than this?
Oh, wait. I spoke too soon.
Welcome to Wagner and Hein's crib...believe it or not, I don't actually know them by anything other than their Wehrmacht drag names. They are probably the most hardcore and non-farby WW2 guys in Japan, and make a real effort to be accurate and also UNIFORM, meaning they all get their stuff from the same sources and try hard to synchronize.
They did a pretty passable Heer rifle section this time out but they also do FJ, Afrika Korps, etc.
No idea what those little bunny ear thingies on Hein's cap are, though. Headphones of some kind? Shot is kinda blurry. Hanni, girl on the end of the line, standing...don't let her lilliputian dimensions fool you, she is a stone killa.
Putting my nerd cap on they appear to be going for a mid-1943 impression here, based on the fact that they have an MG42 but have not yet apparently been issued the M43 field caps. Of course, I could just be talking out my ass as usual, but what a freakishly overspecialized cute little ass it is.
Never seen them as SS, which is a nice change, because if reenactor demographics are to be believed, the black hats made up like 80% of the Wehrmacht. I mean, I know they were "cool" and have this bad-ass mystique and all, but seeing the same overglamourized shit everywhere constantly gets old. I'm more impressed by someone who just completely throws the textbook out the window. Someone like these hepcats:
This dude was brilliant. Portraying a member of one of the SchuMa [Schutzmannschaft, protection personnel] battalions the Germans stood up from local volunteers in the Baltic states to fight communist partisans. Complete with obsolete WWI M1916 stahlhelm, field flashlight, and feldgendarmerie gorget. Not visible: two foot long braided ponytail, a stylish affectation of many Estonian men at the time.
Friggin' Cossack Wehrmacht auxiliary helping out at the field kitchen. Sadly, no shashka sabre, but he did wield a mean ladle. THESE GUYS are the ones I always befriend at events, the ones who dare to be a little different. At this point I would like to point out the hilarious insanity of the mental landscape I inhabit, in which the sight of Japanese men accoutred as Waffen-SS grenadiers is "typical and yawn-inducing", but there it is. May you live in interesting times.
And of course, THIS HOMEY:
Sam of Sam's Militaria in Tokyo, the organizer and head of the far east Axis occupation authority. Here he is telling us to not to get too drunk and watch we don't get hypothermia or twist an ankle in the dark on one of the innumerable volcanic rocks underfoot. Tectonic activity in the Kanto region of the North German Plain is a constant impediment to military operations. Entire panzers regularly disappear in the yawning lava-filled crevasses torn open by the fitful, brooding slumber of Mt. Doom.
Welcome to the Maschinengewehr Café, where a mere 500 YenMarks buys you the finest German army oden or curry rice.
We had the usual booze-up the night before, purely to hold winter's chill at bay, of course. Had lots of great talks under the stars with perfect strangers, with a candor not easily extracted from the Japanese in other settings. Only minor annoyance was this one bald thuggish yakuza-looking oaf who kept calling me "gaijin, gaijin" after I told him I actually had a name. I considered some cutting remarks on the logical disconnect of an Asian in SS uniform making borderline racist comments about a white person, but I figured his life already sucks enough that my revenge is just not being him. One douchebag out of more than 300 is a better ratio than you will likely find in any school or office. Anyway, this time I managed not to get heroically drunk and be completely wrecked on game day.
And of course, no Winter Front would be complete without the requisite scratch-build vehicular menagerie.
The mini-SP gun from last year made another appearance, diminutive yet fearsome as always.
It would be extremely hard to top the sheer surreality of cardboard Hanomag:
But that didn't stop folks from giving it the old college try:
Cardboard Horch staff car...
And of course this uncanny thing showed up again...3-foot plywood Hetzer...
WAS DIE FICK JAPANISCHES?
[ok, so this right here is high in the running for the funniest thing I have ever seen at any game, ever]
Wagner and his crew of lunatics bashed up this 37mm PaK 36. Even had the upper plates on the shield spring loaded to fly off in all directions when the gun was "knocked out". It was kind of wasted since there was no Allied armour to shoot up, but knowing the performance of the real steel 37mm it likely wouldn't have made much of a difference either way. WW2 saw the most precipitate and frantic battle of escalation between projectile and armour in all of military history...20-40mm guns in 1939, 75-128mm just 6 short but highly eventful years later.
Split trail, elevation and traversing gears, breech block...but the secret ingredient is LOVE.
Screw this immobile deathtrap, just give me eight stick grenades and some wire, I'll show you how it's done. COURAGE IS OFTEN INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM INSANITY.
Some Nordic supermen parade past a miscellany of captured American hardware. Despite the dire transport situation in the last year of the war, they are loath to besmirch their Teutonic dignity riding around in conveyances so crassly utilitarian and style-devoid:P
The human bipod is my man K., he is new like me but a cunning warrior. Do not move around upright while Allied and in his front 180 degrees.
Haha, this guy. The best thing about him is that he did not break character even once. No, he was this ramrod-straight ice-cold meticulous Prussian Junker the whole time, giving these poetic soliloquies on fortitude and endurance in service of the nation in antiquated bombastic Samurai-movie Japanese. I guess that is how folks picture European militarists must act, and from within their narrow cultural context it makes perfect sense.
OK, the game itself.
Briefing. Hsf. Nakama shows his contempt for enemy snipers by openly strutting about in a schirmmütze like he owns the place. Jäger Jamor's headless torso, right foreground, fails to grasp the minute subtleties of plan issued in rapid-fire Japanese, but can accurately be summed up in most instances as "talk about what would happen in an ideal world where the sun never set and babies shat gold nuggets for fifteen minutes or so, decide upon some intricate well-coordinated scheme of maneuver, then throw hands up in despair as within two minutes of the start everyone is scattered and intermixed in twos and fours all across the field. Oh, and I think a few stragglers later turned up in Holland." Yeah, trying to execute complex plans with troops who have no collective training is an exercise in comic futility. Mostly I just occupy this dead time whispering the mantra "blood for the blood god, skulls for the skull throne" over and over to myself as a means of getting in the proper frame of mind. Custom airsoft chainsword in the works.
Yoshino/Gutfeld in a lighter moment. Whether this was before or after the Americans staged a mass prisoner execution after failing to extract useful intelligence of the whereabouts of our headquarters, I don't really recall. I put a stop to this behavior by shooting at the firing squad.
Hall here is the tits. This distinguished school principal type runs around in the bush mixing it up with kids 30 years his junior and more than pulls his weight the whole time.
I have no idea what's going on here, but judging by the shovel and conspiratorial looks on the perpetrators, I'm betting it's not a rendition of Beethoven's 9th.
Nashing to see hier, herr leutnant...
Many of these gentlemen would become my brothers-in-arms at the following Market Garden event. But for now, cruel twists of fate and geography condemned them to ruthless destruction by my hand.
Well, actually, as per usual I just ran around a lot and contorted dramatically while being shot, but it was fun just the same. Lots of point-blank exchanges of greetings in the woods, interspersed with some more leisurely open spaces to run for your life across. I dunno, I'm sure the bang-bang blank-shooting aspect of "real reenacting" is fun and all, but the visceral thrill of actually thinking to yourself, "if I don't move my ass fast and hard and get down in time, I WILL be shot about a a dozen times by those persons over there" is a real rush for me.
Sprinters and his guys move out. We had an interesting little game of hand grenade secret santa in the woods at one point. Everyone was pinned down by mutual exchanges of fire so we just clung to the dirt and lobbed plastic frags at each other. When it was over everyone stood up and double-taked because two section-sized groups had been lying a grand total of about THREE YARDS APART the whole time, and not once caught a glimpse of each other in the undergrowth. That is the worms-eye-view of the battlefield that fire, terrain and friction imposes, people. Just unbelievable until you experience it yourself. And ours is but the palest shadow of what those doing the real thing must have to contend with.
And the final combat glamour photo hootenany:
Chow time! MP40-toting chef is there to ensure no unauthorized seconds.
Winter Front's approximation of a German field ration consisted of some sort of vegetable stew and a wiener-on-a-stick. As a consolation, that burn-your-nuts-off German mustard was flowing freely. But the supreme irony was yet to come:
Yes, this Nazi Field Kitchen is *KOSHER*.
The when-worlds-collide-ness of this made me all Verklempt. Sometimes Japanese ignorance of other cultures is irritating, even offensive. Other times is is straight-up HILARIOUS.
And then it was time to go. That they drove home like this, without even a tarp, is one of the things I love about Japan.
The smoke cleared, the guns went silent. Back to the hateful grind of "reality".