Remembering the Great War
J.R. 23 is part of a larger organization, the Great War Association, which strives to honor the original participants of the First World War.
The Great War Association (GWA) is composed of individual units (clubs) which portray various original WWI units which existed on both sides, during the Great War. There are many units in the GWA, allowing the reenactor/historian the ability to do the impression he feels is the most interesting (or challenging). There are British, American, French (includes the Russians), Austrian and of course, German units. All of these units are strict about authenticity-much more so than in other reenacting periods-in fact, WWI reenacting is know as "The Reenactor's Reenactment."
Our battle recreations are done at the Caesar Krauss Great War Memorial Site-a living history and memorial site near Newville, PA. This site was built through the joint efforts of the land-owner, Mr. Mark Anderson and the Great War Association as a memorial to his grandfather Corporal Caesar Krauss. Caesar Krauss was a member of the 313th Infantry Regiment (Baltimore's Own), part of the 79th Infantry Division and fought in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. The GWA has now paid over 50% of it's mortgage on the site and is well on its way to 100% ownership.
At this site, we perform battle reenactments and occasionally educational activities are held. Members of the GWA portray some of the sights and sounds of one of the 20th century's most terrible conflicts on this authentically recreated portion of the Western Front . We try and make it look just as it appeared circa 1917-1918. The participants in these demonstrations--the reenactors--wear carefully reproduced uniforms and equipment of the Allied and Central Powers armies.
Former GWA President Marv Chadab places soil from the graves of Doughboys killed in France onto the memorial during the site dedication ceremony, November 1996.
A Personal Connection
Many of us who reenact WWI have relatives who fought in this terrible conflict. My inspiration in WWI reenacting is my grandfather, Pvt. Marshall T. Wise of Co. E, 305th Infantry Regiment, 77th Infantry Division. He was a Chauchaut (machine gunner) gunner during the war. Sometime at an event, ask me about how a can of beans saved his life!
He started off in the "Rainbow" Division and somehow ended-up in a New York unit, the 77th "Liberty" Division. [I find this strange as he was from Oregon (the Rainbow Division was a West Coast unit). If anybody has a good explanation as to why this would have occurred or has any info on him, please drop me an e-mail-I'd really like to hear from you.]
Unfortunately, Grandpa would rarely talk about the war--only occasionally dropping snippets in his conversations. The story about the can of beans, another of shooting at a triplane flying over and the Chauchaut knocking him on his ass, things like that. My aunt has told me how he took her to see All Quiet on the Western Front (the real one) and how he got a real chuckle out of the new recruits peeing their pants at the first shells.
My Dad also told me that Grandpa's best friend was killed right next to him and he never really got over it; if he heard the song My Buddy, he would get really upset. Dad also said he got gassed, which probably contributed to his health problems later in life. He passed away in the V.A. hospital in Portland, Oregon in November 1976--I miss him!