The Smiley GI

The Smiley GI Reid is a public historian who likes to dress up in old uniforms, sleep in uncomfortable places, and

Merry Christmas all!
12/25/2023

Merry Christmas all!

A spooky story that haunts many a reenactor. Happy Halloween! Ignore the stupid autocorrect typo in the second pic lol
10/31/2023

A spooky story that haunts many a reenactor. Happy Halloween! Ignore the stupid autocorrect typo in the second pic lol

It’s well overdue, but as this crazy year winds down a bit, I’m planning on revamping the ol’ website a bit overhauling ...
10/30/2023

It’s well overdue, but as this crazy year winds down a bit, I’m planning on revamping the ol’ website a bit overhauling the organization and both adding new articles that have been sitting in drafts for a year and updating a few other articles. Let me know if you have feedback before I get going and I’ll let y’all know when articles are posted here!

There’s been some times where I’ve thought about getting out of Living History/Reenacting but Rockford 2023 really broug...
10/11/2023

There’s been some times where I’ve thought about getting out of Living History/Reenacting but Rockford 2023 really brought back some of the passion that I think waned in 2022/2023. I’m trying to rethink how I do content here and on other platforms—I know reenactors love “aesthetics” and “vibes” but I want to figure out a way of sharing all the research I do. If you see me with an impression, I’ve likely read at least 5-20 books on that impression and have something like a 15 page document full of notes somewhere on my computer. I’m thinking of first trying to work on some topics to cover the Spanish Civil War and try to make as much sense of it as one can make in bite-sized chunks without losing the important nuances, but if there’s any other topics you’d like to see covered, let me know!

Pictured: American volunteer in training at Albacete, 1937

Thank you  for the fantastic shots at Rockford this year! On the Jarama front with the XV Brigada Internacional (Abraham...
10/04/2023

Thank you for the fantastic shots at Rockford this year! On the Jarama front with the XV Brigada Internacional (Abraham Lincoln Battalion). March, 1937


“Holding the line for months at a time” on the Jarama front with the XV Brigada Internacional (Abraham Lincoln Battalion...
10/03/2023

“Holding the line for months at a time” on the Jarama front with the XV Brigada Internacional (Abraham Lincoln Battalion). March, 1937


An American volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion poses for a propaganda shot at Jarama during the first year of th...
10/02/2023

An American volunteer in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion poses for a propaganda shot at Jarama during the first year of the Spanish Civil War. Early June, 1937

Another Rockford WWII Days in the book! It was amazing seeing so many old friends and meeting some new ones too! I’ll be making some posts about it and the history my unit represented in the coming days/weeks.

08/27/2023

.videos on TikTok/Instagram did a great vid on Germans using drugs in WWII-here's some more info with some book recommendations

*Trench Raider kit unlocked* Happy Silly Saturday folks! Obviously this isn’t historically accurate, and I don’t recomme...
03/04/2023

*Trench Raider kit unlocked*
Happy Silly Saturday folks! Obviously this isn’t historically accurate, and I don’t recommend biting a 3-edged trench knife, as you will feel it for days after 😅

“Listen up!” GIs receiving a briefing before scouting German positions north of Avranches, July 1944.Taken August 2019  ...
03/01/2023

“Listen up!” GIs receiving a briefing before scouting German positions north of Avranches, July 1944.

Taken August 2019

GIs of the 4th Armored Division East of Avranches,  July 1944 (taken on an immersion trip to France, August 2019)       ...
02/28/2023

GIs of the 4th Armored Division East of Avranches, July 1944 (taken on an immersion trip to France, August 2019)

Cleaning my war room, came across some artifacts I inherited from my Gr Gr Uncle Clar Church who served with the 137th B...
02/02/2023

Cleaning my war room, came across some artifacts I inherited from my Gr Gr Uncle Clar Church who served with the 137th Battalion and then the 49th Battalion aka the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. He was wounded in the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917 and later returned to Vimy in 1936 for a commemoration of the battle. According to family lore, this reunion triggered some severe PTSD that he never fully recovered from, turning to alcohol to push down the pain.

Based on what I can figure out, he seemed to be quite the collector—I’m not sure how he got his hands on the 1914 Christmas box but it’s surely a neat thing to have! If anyone can help identify the other tokens in this collection, I would greatly appreciate the insight!

#1917 #1918 🇨🇦

Need a new movie to watch?Tired of your 15th rewatch of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan? Here’s The Smiley GI’s...
01/19/2023

Need a new movie to watch?Tired of your 15th rewatch of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan? Here’s The Smiley GI’s recommendations for the Best WWII Movies set in Europe:

1) Battleground (1949). I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen this film, but I still catch something new in it every time. The extras are mostly veterans from WWII, and the film is arguably made for WWII veterans and their families. It’s funny, brutal, and poignant. If you only watch one movie on this list, watch this one. Often available for free on YouTube.
2) A Walk in the Sun (1945). This is not a typical war movie. Following an unnamed landing in (presumably) Italy, this film follows a unit trying to accomplish their preliminary objectives. It unflinchingly captures the griping, confusion, fear, horror, and boredom of war. Available for free on YouTube.
3) The Story of GI Joe (1945). This movie centers on war correspondent Ernie Pyle’s experiences in North Africa and Italy (and was released two months to the day after Pyle was killed in the Pacific). Shot during the war, the film seamlessly blends real footage with staged combat scenes using veterans. Often available for free on YouTube.
4) The Big Red One: Reconstruction (aka Extended Edition). Based on 1st Infantry Division veteran Samuel Fuller’s novel, the extended edition shows the dynamics of a unit as they fight through North Africa, Sicily, Omaha Beach, Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Though hardcore history nerds may nitpick some details, this film should be thought of as how veterans experienced and thought of the war—a series of interconnected anecdotes. It’s overall well worth watching (especially given the appearance of a young ). I’m not sure if (much better) Reconstruction version is streaming anywhere, but the DVDs are available for under $10 on eBay.
5) The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). While not a “combat movie” per se, this film is unique in its raw portrayal of the PTSD and general trauma that veterans experienced during the war. Following a sailor (played by Harold Russell, who lost his hands during his service), an infantryman, and an Army Air Force pilot, we see the difficulties of returning home after a long and hard war. I find myself watching this one almost every year to remind myself of how even those who came home alive still bore deep scars.
Bonus 6) Kelly's Heros (1970): Ok, so it's not the most historically accurate on this list and is full of camp and 70s aesthetic.
That said, it's one of the few movies I've seen made after the war that really captures the feelings (cynicism and bitterness) a LOT of GIs felt in 1944 (to learn more, check out the WWII Museum Podcast Service on Celluloid episode about this movie. It's the most lighthearted of the movies on this list, and one of my favorite films in general.

A member of Coy A, 1st Engineer Combat Battalion posing for the camera in Sicily (Rockford 2021)                       #...
12/08/2022

A member of Coy A, 1st Engineer Combat Battalion posing for the camera in Sicily (Rockford 2021)

#1943

PC:

Happy 4 Year Anniversary of Meeting, ! OTD in 2018, my buddy Chris invited me to dress up and go to a 1940s “Home for th...
12/07/2022

Happy 4 Year Anniversary of Meeting, !

OTD in 2018, my buddy Chris invited me to dress up and go to a 1940s “Home for the Holidays” dance with him hosted by the . Between Jenny, Shawna’s friend, telling me to “dance with the girl in the teal dress” and Chris’s insistence that I keep dancing with the cute girl in the teal dress, Shawna and I ended up dancing and talking quite a bit together that night. We’ll be married in May.

I’m really thankful for whoever took this picture of me looking at Shawna that night.

“It’s good to be home.”Taken on an original 1941 Pullman Train courtesy of the  (Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum) back ...
12/06/2022

“It’s good to be home.”

Taken on an original 1941 Pullman Train courtesy of the (Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum) back in 2021.

#1945

Advancing to battle. A convoy of troops from I Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division reconnoiter a hi...
12/05/2022

Advancing to battle.
A convoy of troops from I Company, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division reconnoiter a hill near Le Petit-Celland, France. 7 August 1944.

This photo was taken during a trip commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Mortain (called Operation Lüttich by the Germans). On 7 August 1944, the German XLVII Panzer Corps, comprising 3.5 divisions of Waffen SS and Heer troops, attempted to cut off General Patton’s breakout around Avranches. Their plan was to use the last of their reserves in Normandy to split the American forces in two and try to destroy Patton’s army while the Allied command recovered.

Little did German General Kluge and the Wehrmacht suspect that Allied decoders had intercepted and translated these top secret German plans on August 4th. Allied command had a difficult choice—try to save the men in the way of this savage German counterattack or protect the secret of Ultra and possibly secure a further breakout from Normandy.

The 120th Infantry Regiment would pay the price of keeping this deadly secret. 700 men of the 2nd Battalion, 120th IR were surrounded on Hill 314 outside of Mortain for nearly a week, fighting desperately with no food, little water, and a rapidly depleting supply of ammunition. Only 400 walked off the hill unscathed. ~2,500 Americans were ultimately killed halting the offensive, with thousands more wounded. But their sacrifice was not in vein—their stubborn resistance allowed Allied forces to rapidly flank a significant chunk of the German forces in Normandy. The German counterattack stalled, and threatened by encirclement, the German army began a desperate retreat starting 13 August 1944–a retreat now known as the Falaise Pocket. The Wehrmacht lost most of its heavy armor and tens of thousands of troops, allowing Allied forces to swiftly capture much of the rest of France in the following weeks.

#1944

A member of the 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division recovering after the Battle of Mortain. This photo was t...
12/04/2022

A member of the 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division recovering after the Battle of Mortain.

This photo was taken at the end of a 10 day event during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Mortain.

#1942

Two poems written by my Uncle Robert's Uncle Harry "Henny" Bowman during his service in WWII.  He was killed in action f...
11/11/2022

Two poems written by my Uncle Robert's Uncle Harry "Henny" Bowman during his service in WWII. He was killed in action fighting with the 94th Infantry Division in 1945 and is buried in Luxembourg (I included a picture of him, his gravestone, and two letters concerning his death).



Thank you Cindy for passing these along!

Farewell, my darling Mischa. You were the best little fur friend I could have ever had the honor of knowing. I’m so than...
11/07/2022

Farewell, my darling Mischa. You were the best little fur friend I could have ever had the honor of knowing. I’m so thankful for the time we had together. Life won’t be the same without you.

Thank you  for grabbing these awesome shots of us Spanish Civil War reenactors at Rockford WWII Days 2022!              ...
11/03/2022

Thank you for grabbing these awesome shots of us Spanish Civil War reenactors at Rockford WWII Days 2022!

#1937

As promised a couple months ago, here’s my *actual* Halloween costume this year.“A lot of lives depend on me doing my jo...
11/01/2022

As promised a couple months ago, here’s my *actual* Halloween costume this year.

“A lot of lives depend on me doing my job and I’m the only one around here who can!” - Corporal Walter Eugene “Radar” O’Reilly from the hit TV show “M*A*S*H”

While the costumes used in M*A*S*H aren’t accurate for Korea (being a blend of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam equipment), this show still had a huge impact on the historical memory surrounding Korea, Vietnam, and the US Military. Here, I post with an original 1950s teddy, a WWII “jeep cap,” a generic khaki t-shirt like those shown in the show, OG-107 fatigues (which first appeared in 1952, but the “Type III” that appears in the show were manufactured between 1964-1989), and M43 Combat Boots.

THE MAN FROM MARS wishes you a Happy Halloween from October 1942!From 22 October - 8 November 1942, the US 1st Infantry ...
10/31/2022

THE MAN FROM MARS wishes you a Happy Halloween from October 1942!

From 22 October - 8 November 1942, the US 1st Infantry Division sailed from England to North Africa in the first of three Allied invasion armadas they participated in during World War II. While I don’t have definitive evidence that the mythical MAN FROM MARS was a Halloween costume put together by some bored member of the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion, I thought it would be a fun homage to honor the young men who made that dreadful voyage this Halloween.

I first found this picture in Eight Stars to Victory: Operations of the First Engineers’ Combat Battalion in World War II and have done my best to assemble what THE MAN FROM MARS might have been wearing. Included:
- US Navy Mosquito Net
- M1 Helmet with Hawley Liner
- Polaroid Goggles
- Gloves, Anti-Mosquito (British) *Special thanks to Frank Brown for correcting me on terminology!
- M41 jacket with gas brassard (to detect if poison gas was in the air) and white armband (used for friendly forces identification during Operation Torch)
- Wool shirt and pants
- M1910 Cartridge Belt with Canteen and First Aid Pouch
- MIVA1 Gas Mask Bag *Special thanks to Joe Coppens for correcting me on the terminology on this bag
- 3 Bandoleers
- M1 Garand
- Leggings and Service Shoes

Let me know what you think, and hope you have a fun and safe Halloween all!

#1942

Thanks  for getting this great shot of us portraying a group of Spanish Republicans and International Brigaders in the S...
10/09/2022

Thanks for getting this great shot of us portraying a group of Spanish Republicans and International Brigaders in the Spanish Civil War at Rockford WWII Days!

Next stop: Normandy. Often overshadowed (at least in the US) by the American and Canadian beaches, the British assault o...
10/06/2022

Next stop: Normandy.
Often overshadowed (at least in the US) by the American and Canadian beaches, the British assault on Gold Beach was both incredibly bloody (with Company A of the 1st Hampshire Regiment virtually wiped out by the end of the day) but also a shocking success compared to the American beaches. The 1st Hampshires accomplished all of their D-Day objectives despite facing murderous fire by well-trained German soldiers. I’m working on a longer form article about the Hampshires on Gold Beach which I will hopefully release in the next few weeks.


PC: Javier Ignacio Tapia Bromberg

Ever wondered why you see white tape in old photos of WWII? Combat engineers used white twill tape to mark the boundarie...
10/05/2022

Ever wondered why you see white tape in old photos of WWII? Combat engineers used white twill tape to mark the boundaries of safe paths and potential b***y traps. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen is a LIFE Magazine photographer’s series of pictures capturing a few members of the 10th Engineer Combat Battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, clearing a safe path around Anzio in June 1944. Though combat engineers tended to diverge from certain parts of the manuals they trained on once they went overseas (see the last picture for a mine field reconnaissance diagram), the white tape proved successful and appears to have been used widely during the war.

To learn more, check out this article I wrote a couple years ago where some buddies and I learned how combat engineers cleared minefields in WWII: https://thesmileygi.com/2021/04/26/combat-engineer-training-living-history-edition/



Source:
https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=274589647793968&set=pcb.274589971127269

One of my favorite parts of doing deep research on a unit is learning about historical jokes and shenanigans. “The Man F...
10/04/2022

One of my favorite parts of doing deep research on a unit is learning about historical jokes and shenanigans. “The Man From Mars” (bottom left here), found in the postwar history of the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, still cracks me up every time I see it. From what I can tell, this guy put on every piece of extra protective gear they were issued (Polaroid Goggles, mosquito net, gas mask bag, gas brassard, etc). I might have to whip it up for Rockford next year 😅
#1942

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Madison, WI

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