These are a series of pamphlets produced several times a month throughout the war for soldiers. The pamphlets contained articles, combat tips, proclamations, maps, drawings, cartoons, news, updates and other general information.
Some links download from this site while other links go to my dropbox account. If DropBox gives you errors or cannot connect, please try clearing your browser’s cache, cookies and disable any third party-plugins (such as adblocker or Privacy Badger) as they may interfere with the ability of DropBox to render the pdfs. Special thanks to the 90th ID for making some of these available.
The Rank and file in combat, What they are doing, How they are doing it. The suggestions in Combat Lessons are drawn from the experience of the World War II American Soldier in both Europe and the Pacific.
This article was written by a friend of mine Corey Hodgson, reprinted as permitted. If you have any specific questions you may contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “GI camera guide”. You may also download a copy of this article in a pdf format here.
The following guide is an attempt to inform WWII reenactors, portraying typical US soldier in Europe. While the guide can be used for those portraying infantry and Marines in various other parts of the global conflict, be sure to research what cameras would be available to a soldier (for example: a Leica or other German made cameras would be next to impossible to obtain for a Marine on Tarawa).
This guide is not meant to be a guide for those wishing to portray a War Correspondent or a member of the United States Signal Corps. While some did choose to use 35mm and 120mm cameras (Like Robert Capa, who chose to use Leica, Contax, and Rollei branded cameras throughout his time in the Mediterranean and European Theater of Operations), the primary choice for the Signal Corps was the trusted Graflex Anniversary Speed Graphic, with its massive 4×5 negative. Please research your specific impression before purchasing any cameras, as you can easily spend a great deal on something you cannot (or rather should not) use.
Cameras we obtained in three major ways: Gifted to the soldier, purchased by the soldier, and stolen by the soldier.
A twin lens reflex is a camera that has two lenses, stacked one above the other, that allows the user to focus using the top one, and expose a 6x6cm negative on 120mm film. The Rollei has, and still is, a rather expensive camera. The build quality is above average, being created for professionals, most lasting longer than the original owners themselves. Robert Capa was known to use a Rolleiflex “Old Standard” (made before 1939) during his WWII travels.
Appropriate for use would be the Rolleiflex Original, Standard, New Standard, Baby 4×4 (all pre-war models made from 1931-1943) Automat Model 1, and Automat Model 2. Also appropriate would be the cheaper entry level Rolleicord, any models manufactured between 1933 and 1949 (The Models Ia Type 3 and IIc were both manufactured through the war and continued for a few years after the war).
A word of warning though, the average GI attempted to reduce weight as often as possible, and a Rollei TLR is not the smallest or lightest camera available. Therefore I highly recommend that you avoid taking this camera in the field, instead using it as a “pre-invasion” camp camera. These cameras would have also been very expensive, costing far more than the average GI could afford.
A cheaper alternative would be the Ciroflex Model A, manufactured in Detroit, Michigan prior to the war and then in Delaware, Ohio during the war. Only the Model A was made during the war. Also available would be the Primarflex I made in Germany prior to the war.
Original (New and Old Standard made between 1932-1941) Rolleiflex cameras look like this:
While Rolleiflex Automats (Models 1 and 2 made between 1937 – 1945) look like this:
Just as it is today, the Leica brand was one that was known world wide for quality and an enormous price tag. There are two types of Leica cameras to look at: With a Rangefinder and without a Rangefinder.
Unlike today’s cameras, which allow you see what you shoot before you shoot it, a rangefinder shows the photographer only what will be in focus. A rangefinder splits the image and when the photographer makes the two images overlap perfectly (creating one image on the item you wish to focus on), the focus is set and the picture can be taken. Without a rangefinder, the photographer has to either know or guess the distance between the camera and the subject.
Leica cameras load from the bottom, and I would highly suggest you do independent reading on cutting and loading film for any Leica or Leica copy (the Soviet made Zorki and FED cameras) as the film leader must be cut to load film into vintage Leicas.
Acceptable models for use are Leica I, Ic, IIc, IIIa, IIIb, and IIIc. Avoid all gold versions, or ones marked with Luftwaffe markings (and other Nazi markings on the top). 9 out of 10 times, these cameras are going to be fakes and while they might be mechanically sound – they usually aren’t due to them being bastardized Soviet copies (A Soviet Copy of a German camera, made to look like a German camera).
Leica cameras are relatively expensive, and again, the average GI would not have ordinary access to any of the cameras – unless they stole them or found them.
Soviet models, that would be acceptable for just playing around with, include any of the FED 1’s (not the 2, 3, 4 or 5!) and the Zorki 1 and 2.
Made in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Argus A and Argus C3 popularized the 35mm format in the United States. These cameras were relatively inexpensive for consumers to purchase, and were very common.
The cameras take 35mm film, are built like bricks (the C3 was, and still is, affectionately named “The Brick”), and are very durable. These would be more common amongst the average Joe. For more information on the Argus:http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Argus
Typical Argus A:
Typical Argus C3:
Kodak produced many inexpensive cameras, made to encourage everyone to enjoy photography (and purchase the film that Kodak produced). Cameras were manufactured in two primary locations: The Rochester, New York factory, and the Kodak AG factory in Stuttgart Germany.
Acceptable Models: Kodak 35, Kodak 35 RF (not very common due to the $48 USD pricetag – $700 USD in 2007), PH 324 (Very rare and not suggested because of that. Due to the US government’s contract with Kodak, the PH 324 cameras were collected and bulldozed as to not flood the commercial market), Retina I (Types 117, 118, 119, 126, 141, 143, 148, 149, 167), and Retina II (Types 122 and 142).
Retina cameras were made by Kodak AG in Germany, and after 1941, the production ceased for the remainder of the Second World War.
On the success of Leica, another German company (Zeiss Ikon) created the Contax I to compete with Leica. These high-end models were known for their wonderful focusing abilities, a removable back for loading film, a quick and reliable brass shutter, and a new bayonet mount lens system (as opposed to Leica’s screw mount lens system).
There are three acceptable models for the time period: The Contax I, II and III. The III has a selenium light meter on the top to calculate exposures with. While this feature was revolutionary at the cameras creation in 1936, today this feature is at best, barely accurate. It is best to use a different form of metering for your exposures, as over time the selenium cells have grown to be less accurate than at their creation. After the war, Contax began production in West Germany of the Contax IIa and IIIa. These cameras are also acceptable for use as they are hard to distinguish between the pre-war models (the rangefinder window is smaller, but these cameras are still recommended over the Soviet Copies).
These cameras would not be common amongst the average GI, instead being common in the hands of professional photojournalists like Robert Capa.
There are Soviet copies of the Contax II & III, as the Soviets had taken the machinery from the factory and brought them back home as war spoils – in fact, the Soviets brought back not only the machinery used to make the Contax cameras, but they brought back ALL the parts the remained. This actually resulted in the first batch of Kiev II cameras having the Contax logo on the inside – with the Soviet KIEV printed on the front. Models that are suggested are the Kiev II and the Kiev III. The Kiev 4 features a different appearance and it is generally not suggested you purchase one for reenacting. The author has used the Kiev II in reenacting previously, and while the camera performed well, the KIEV print on the front stood out rather well. Soviet copies should be avoided if you are looking for a 100% authentic impression.
In Germany the two major producers of optics and camera equipment were Zeiss and Leica. Zeiss Ikon was the product of four major German camera companies in 1926. Known for innovation, quality, and for their excellent medium format cameras, Zeiss Ikon cameras were fairly common – in the authors view they were along the lines of Kodak in America.
Zeiss Ikon produced many 120mm folders, including the Nettar, Ikonta, and Super Ikonta (an Ikonta folder with a coupled rangefinder). Acceptable models for the use by reenactors include the Nettel, Super Nettel I & II, Nettax, Nettar (510, 510/2, 515, 515/2 and 515/16), Ikonta (A, B, and C models that begin with 520 or 521), and Super Ikonta (A, B, and C). For specific information on the many models, please do research on Camerapedia or on Pacific Rim Camera.
The Challenge record label was a budget label for Sears. It was produced from 1926-1930. It was pressed by the Starr Piano Company and would duplicate recordings found on Gennett and Champion records. Most were of anonymous recordings.
The Challenge Label sold for 24 cents and are generally of inferior quality. Starr struggled to produce records and, in its final years, Sears used The Scranton Button Company to press the records using master-records from Plaza Music Company.
Music Genres: Waltz, orchestra, race-records, blues, country, popular, reprints of Gennett and Champion records.
Pre-WW2 Label: This was the only label design for the record production: 1926-1930. Green and Gold with a Knight in Armor imagery.
Note: Wikipedia for some reason has the record below but in black and white which is inaccurate.
1939-1945 Label: None by Sears
Post WW2 Label: None by Sears.
Numbers from start to 1945: 101-810
The Challenge Label has an unknown number of recordings but the series consists of 3 digits.
101–271, 301–431, 501–506 = Gennett
532–698, 763–793, 811–999 = Plaza and successor American Record Corporation;
700–760 and 801–810 = Miscellaneous sources
Note: Many of the country artists were pseudonyms.
Armed Forces Edition Books: A Reenactor’s Perspective and Analysis
One of things I like to do at reenactments is read. Once, after digging a slit trench with a fellow reenactor, I dug out a book I had on 1940s science from my pack and began to read it. We soon broke out into a wonderful discussion on the merits of of what-was-then 1940s science and technology. Fortunately, the Germans attacked way down at the other end of the line.
For the bibliophile reenactor there was not many options in terms of reading material.
You can use period printed books such as Purple Heart Valley, Guadalcanal Diary, or any other WW2 era book. However, you run the risk of damaging these books. Indeed, the paper they are made with is of a lighter material (due to a War Production Board ruling in 1944) and more prone to tearing.
Original magazines such as Yank or Saturday Evening Post are also an option. Again, same problem. These were printed on cheap and non-durable newsprint. Therefore, they are not designed to last and taking them out in the field is asking for trouble though soldiers at the time did use it for a variety of shall-we-say “hygiene solutions”. Reenactors have access to more modern cleanliness solutions.
For the soldier who had access to travel material or likes to sing there are city guides and army song books. Again same problem. All original, all cheaply printed, all designed not to last.
Alternatively, you could brush up on your language skills. Though you run into the same problem. Cheap books, not durable, and very limited copies produced compared to others.
Finally, one could read your copy of FM 21-100 for the dozenths time. Though, this manual was printed by the millions and there enough copies around that you mightactually be able to take this into the field, destroy it, and be able to find another one cheaply.
However, there are some reenactors who do want to take out original copies to trash in the mud, dirt, and rain. Indeed, some individuals have reproduced newspapers and magazines but those are very costly to print especially in small numbers.
When I attend a reenactment I bring a copy of of FM 21-100 and some “trashed” magazines. These are magazines that have covers ripped off, pages missing, and are in a general state of disrepair. In other words, perfect for getting destroyed. I rationalize the possibility of destroying these artifacts of history as:
“They made millions of these magazines and enough are still around that preserving a WW2 magazine with a defect makes no sense when others can still be bought cheaply and in much better condition”
The current option that blends an economical advantage with historical accuracy are the books produced by The Legacy Project. The Legacy project is a non-profit that seeks to distribute stylized-Armed Forces Edition books to soldiers stationed overseas. Obtaining the books can be a bit tricky. I would suggest three places: Amazon Ebay Shop Goodwill
I was able to find my copy: Man in the Arena on Amazon. The books prices can range anywhere between 8-14 dollars (without shipping). Compared to trashing a mint condition original book the price is worth it. The book looks like this:
Similarities between Original Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project’s Armed Forces Edition
1. Hip-sized style still the same
2. Cheap pulp paper
3. Back of the book is similar
4. Similar in a side-by-side comparison Note: The War Time Production Board limited the the margin of books to conserve materials and space. Books produced by the Legacy product do not need to adhere to such rulings and hence there books are longer and thinner.
Differences between Original Armed Forces Edition Books and Legacy Project’s Books
Note: The reason, I would guess, has more to do with modern printing costs and technology.
1. The Legacy Project Armed Forces edition books have a glossy cover. The original ones do not.
2. The size of the Legacy Project’s books are not 100% accurate when compared to originals.
3. Included in the Legacy Project’s books are facets of modern publishing such as Web address, modern printing dates, and modern addresses.
4. Originals had staples that kept the binding together. Staples were along the binding and either included the the books cover in the staple punch OR skipped the cover and started at the first interior page. The books cover would then be glued. The Legacy Project’s books lack the staple and it appears that the binding is glue only.
5. Original books included on the first interior page an outline of the books title in dotted, solid, or double-solid line.
6. Original books have a listing of other Armed Forces Editions on the back interior page.
7. Original books have an Armed Forces Edition statement on the back of the front cover.
As a reenactor I value historical accuracy but realize that we are not living in the past and must strike a balance between what is practical and what is ideal. The Legacy Project’s Armed Forces Editions look very good close-up and are within the unofficial reenactor rule of 3-feet. Though there are some things that can be done to help “de-farb” the book. More on that later.
A collaborative effort between historical reenactors of how to use the SCR-300 Radio for World War Two Reenactments.
The SCR-300 Radio is a backpack (or manpacked) FM radio designed during WW2 as an inter-company or regiment radio. I purchased several in the late 1990s during the heyday of Cold War surplus sales.
Several years ago I worked with a buddy of mine to make available a resource that World War Two SCR-300 enthusiasts could use to analyze and learn about the radio. The article is posted on his website:
World War Two games were an important part of a solider’s life. As a Second World War enthusiast and historical reenactor, I thought I might share an especially small and unknown historical niche in the history and hobby: Games.