Close Assault 2011

This past Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to attend "Close Assault", a WWII reenactment staged at Camp Mabry in Austin. This performance was a reenactment of a ground attack on a Nazi stronghold by the 36th Infantry "Texas" Division. It was my first time attending such an event and being a somewhat of a WWII buff I couldn't resist the chance to see one. Since one of the main purposes of the reenactment is to honor those who fought, it seemed like a great way to spend an afternoon over the holiday weekend.

For those who have never been to something like this, it is a great lesson in history. Over an hour was devoted to a telling of the history behind the 36th Infantry and explaining the gear and weapons used in the war. The weapons were demonstrated one by one and the actual reenactment concluded the event. The reenactment itself was surprisingly short! I fired a lot of frames during the flurry of action. I came away with some nice action shots, but my favorite images were the candids I snapped before and after the performance. One of my self criticisms is that I tend to focus more on things and actions than the people involved in events like this. So, I made it a priority to capture close images of the actors and create a more personal look at the event.

One of the things that I noticed about the actors is how happy they were to put on this performance and share a bit of history. It was really hot that afternoon, but the heat didn't dampen anyone's spirits.

A smile crept across this corporal's face as he waited in the shade of a camp mockup prior to the performance. All of the actors were happy to show and explain their gear. Note the enbloc clips holding blank rounds clipped to his straps. I believe I heard that this group spends around $600 per performance in blank ammunition costs.

Another neat thing about this event was how many young people participated. This youngster was taking a break in the shade prior to the performance. I was impressed by the dedication of these young people.

I noticed these young fellows taking a closer look at some small models on display. I was glad I had my camera ready at my side. It was a fantastic moment, seeing the look on their faces as they studied the small vehicles.

Must be a couple of officers! The small rifles carried by these men are M1 Carbines, a favorite gun of mine. These small and light rifles were typically carried by officers or communications persons already carrying a heavy load of gear.

Most soldiers carried the heavy (9+ pounds) M1 Garand. This formidable semi-automatic rifle really tipped the scales in favor of our soldiers at a time when enemy soldiers were primarily equipped with bolt action rifles. General Patton called this rifle "the greatest battle implement ever devised." It feeds from the 8 round clips seen earlier and it makes a distinctive "ping" sound when it ejects the clip after the last round fired. There was no mistaking when the gun was empty.

You can't stage a reenactment without including portrayal of the enemy forces. The Nazi side assists each other with getting their gear on. It is amazing how detailed and historically accurate these actors are dressed.

A Nazi and American soldier chatting jovially on the battlefield? Must be a reenactment! This guys stayed on the field after the reenactment to chat with anyone interested in discussing the event and help kids find spent brass cases for souvenirs.

While this was a reenactment, there is a lot of work that went into it, along with a certain amount of danger. Everyone has to be in the right place at the right time to avoid injury from the explosive gasses emitted by the blank firing guns. There was a certain look of concentration on many participants prior to the reenactment.

This young man looked particularly lost in thought as he reclined in the shade before his performance. He reminded how young some of the guys are who go to war in defense of our country.

This guy playing a Nazi officer caught my eye. He was drinking water from a French wine bottle. No detail was spared by these guys!

This is my favorite image from the event. It was kind of a surreal moment where I raised my camera and his eyes met my lenses just as I brought him into focus. I call this the battle stare! I promptly got out of the way before I was run over by his jeep.

This is a lot of images to share this time around! I took many more, so please check out my full gallery of this event. There are plenty of action shots that I didn't share here. If you get the chance to attend a war reenactment, I highly recommend it.