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Cameras for the World War II Reenactor

Cameras for the World War II Reenactor

This article was written by a friend of mine Corey Hodgson, reprinted as permitted. If you have any specific questions you may contact him: chodgson1945@gmail.com, 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.

Rollei

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.

For more information on Rolleiflex cameras and models:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Rolleiflex
For more information on Rolleicord cameras and models:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Rolleicord

Original (New and Old Standard made between 1932-1941) Rolleiflex cameras look like this:

Rolleiflex Camera
Rolleiflex Camera

While Rolleiflex Automats (Models 1 and 2 made between 1937 – 1945) look like this:

Rolleiflex Automats
Rolleiflex Automats

Leica

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.

For more information on Leica Cameras:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Leica For More Information on Soviet Leica copies:

http://fedka.com/Frames/Main_Frame.htm

A typical Leica I:

Leica I
Leica I

A typical Leica IIIc:

Leica IIIc
Leica IIIc

Argus

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:

Argus A
Argus A

Typical Argus C3:

Argus C3
Argus C3

Kodak

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.

For More information on the Kodak Retina I: http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kodak_Retina_(folding)
For more information on the Kodak Retina II:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kodak_Retina_II
For More information on the Kodak 35:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kodak_35
For more information on the Kodak 35RF:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kodak_35_RF

Typical Kodak Retina I Type 126:

Kodak Retina I Type 126
Kodak Retina I Type 126

Typical Kodak 35:

Kodak 35
Kodak 35

Typical Kodak 35 RF:

Kodak 35 RF
Kodak 35 RF

Typical Kodak Retina II Type 122:

Kodak Retina II Type 122
Kodak Retina II Type 122

Contax

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.

For more information on Contax Cameras:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Contax_rangefinder
For information on Soviet Copies:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Kiev_rangefinder

Typical Contax I:

Contax I
Contax I

Typical Contax II:

Contax II
Contax II

Typical Contax III:

Contax III
Contax III

Zeiss Ikon

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.

For more information on Zeis Ikon:
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Zeiss-Ikon
For More information on Ikonta and Super Ikonta cameras:
http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/zeiss/sikonta/sikonta.htm http://www.pacificrimcamera.com/pp/zeiss/ikonta/ikonta.htm

Typical Super Ikonta B 530-16:

Super Ikonta B 530-16
Super Ikonta B 530-16

Typical Ikonta 520 Series:

Ikonta 520 Series
Ikonta 520 Series

Typical Super Ikonta A 530:

Super Ikonta A 530
Super Ikonta A 530
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World History II SOL 14b African Independence

Lesson Plans World History II SOL 14b African Independence

Standard: The student will demonstrate knowledge of political, economic, social, and cultural aspects of independence movements and development efforts by

Objective: describing Africa’s achievement of independence, including Jomo Kenyatta’s leadership of Kenya and Nelson Mandela’s role in South Africa.

Lesson Plans:
Introduction: A Bell-ringer activity
Notes: Students copy-down and discuss teacher generated notes
Activities: Students complete various in class activities to support learning including video analysis, maps, charts, diagrams, graphic organizers, worksheets, text-book questions, group discussion, KWL Charts etc.
Assessment: Informal, Formal, Exit-Questions, Teacher Questioning. Quizzes, Tests, Projects.

Essential Knowledge:

    The independence movement in Africa

• Right to self-determination (U.N. charter)
• Peaceful and violent revolutions after World War II
• Pride in African cultures and heritage
• Resentment of imperial rule and economic exploitation
• Loss of colonies by Great Britain, France, Belgium, and Portugal; influence of superpower rivalry during the Cold War

    Examples of independence movements and subsequent development efforts

• West Africa: Peaceful transition
• Algeria: War of Independence from France
• Kenya (Britain): Violent struggle under leadership of Jomo Kenyatta
• South Africa: Black South Africans’ struggle against apartheid led by Nelson Mandela, who became the first black president of the Republic of South Africa

Activities that support lesson plans:

Premium Lesson Plan Cry Freedom Film Lesson Plan and Worksheets: Includes PowerPoint, activities, and video viewing guide.

South Africa Lesson Plan After Apartheid: Activities about post-apartheid South Africa

Nelson Mandela Biography: Short biography reading on Nelson Mandela

Apartheid Viewpoints : Viewpoints on Apartheid.

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Perfect Record Label

 

Perfect Record Label 1922-Apr. 1938

A budget brand of the Pathe-Actuelle Label. The Perfect Record Label operated under the Pathe-Actuelle controlled Perfect Record Company. Early Perfect labels were black for popular music or maroon for classical. These early labels used an octagonal border. By 1923, the label design changed to two nude sun-worshippers. Red shellac pressings were introduced in late 1924 but discontinued in 1931 in favor of black shellac. Perfect created a series called Perfect Star Series for higher-end talent. After being bought by the American Record Company (ARC) in 1929 the label remained the same until a re-design in 1937 to an undistinguished blue-and-silver label without a pictorial trademark. Perfect would be discontinued by ARC in April 1938.

Music Genres: Pop, Orchestra, Classical, Band, Blues

Pre-1941 Label:

Perfect Record Label: 1922-1923. Notice the octagonal border.

Perfect Record Label. Early
Perfect Record Label. Early

Uncle Josh (Cal Stewart) was a monologuist known for telling humorous stories with a unique laugh. I’ve included a link to the audio of Uncle Josh at the Circus below. It is on a Columbia record.

Perfect Record Label: 1923-1937. The record may be black, blue, green, or red shellac with nude sun-worshippers.

Perfect Record Label: Note the Sun Worshippers
Perfect Record Label: Note the Sun Worshippers

Perfect Record Label: 1937-1938. Blue and Silver.

Perfect Record Label Blue and Silver

1941-1945s Label: None

Post-WW2 Label: None

Numbers from start to 1945: #100-16000. A listing of records from 1928-1931 can be found here:
http://www.78discography.com/PE15000.htm

Notes: The Race series was called Perfect 100s. It was started in July 1926. These were duplicates of Pathe’s race series (#7500). Rosa Henderson and Mary Staffard would feature prominently on the Perfect race-record series. Another race artist include Big Bill Broonzy  (operating under the pseudonym of Sammy Sampson). Big Bill would also have a side project with Tommy Dorsey, called The Famous Hokum Boys.

Sources:
–Rust, Brian. The American Record Label Book. Arlington House Publishers, NY. 1978.
–Sutton, Nauck. American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891-1943). Mainspring Press, CO.2000.
Perfect Race Record Blues Encyclopedia Entry
–Discography of Perfect Race Record Numbers

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Melotone Records

Record Label: 1936-1938: Back to original blue and silver

 

Melotone Records (Nov. 1930-1938)

Melotone was owned by Brunswick Record Corporation and marketed as a budget-brand record. It was discontinued by 1938. Melotone labels were silver on blue, but in 1934 the colors were switched to gold on dark green. By late 1936 or early 1937 the label went back to silver on blue. Melotone would often carry duplicates of music found on other labels. Many of Melotone’s recordings were done under pseudonyms or anonymous. Several important artists recorded under this budget brand: Blind Boy Fuller, Eddie Cantor, Annette Hanshaw, Lead Belly, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter.

Music Genres: Pop, Country, Western, blues, jazz, swing, Cajun, Hawaiian, Mexican.

Pre 1941 Label: A combination of silver on blue or gold on dark green.

The original label was silver on blue. This color scheme was in production between 1930-1936.

Record Label: Early label. Original silver on blue
Record Label: Early label. Original silver on blue. 1930-1934.

Sometime in 1934 they made a switch to a gold and dark green label. This would be in production until 1936.

Record Label: 1934-1936. Gold and dark green.
Record Label: 1934-1936. Gold and dark green.

In the label’s final years they would switch back to the original silver on blue label. Note the “Full Range Recording” at the top.

Record Label: Early label. Original silver on blue
Record Label: 1936-1938. Back to the original blue and silver.

Blind Boy Fuller: I’m Goin’ to Move

1941-1945 Label: None

Post-WW2 Label: None

Numbers from start to 1945: 12000-13457. Prior to 1935 Melotone records started with an M. However, by 1935 some started with a “35” or a “5.” Some numbers for 1936 start with a “6.” Some numbers for 1937 start with a “7.” Some numbers for 1938 start with an “8.”  The early label Melotone’s numbering system would include the date as representative as the last 2-digits (12030 would mean a record was made in 1930).

Notes: None

Sources:
-Rust, Brian. The American Record Label Book. Arlington House Publishers, NY. 1978.

-Sutton, Nauck. American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891-1943).Mainspring Press, CO.2000.

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Sears Store Brand Record Labels

Sears Store Brand Record Labels

Harvard Records

Oxford Records

Silvertone Records

Supertone Records

Challenge Records

Conqueror Records

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Conqueror Record Label

Conqueror Record Label: 1938-1942. Black color with shield.

 Conqueror Record Label

Produced from 1926-March 1942 exclusively for Sears at a price of 39 cents. Designed as an expensive label to complement the Silvertone, Supertone, and Challenge labels. Pressed by Regal Record Company from 1926-June 1929 and then pressed American Record Company (ARC) from 1929 onward. When ARC took over the pressing, they dropped all mention of Sears on the record. The trumpeters were removed in 1934 and replaced by a simplified shield design. When ARC was bought by CBS in 1938, CBS kept the Conqueror label and packaged the label in sets. In the label’s final days (1938-1942) the Conqueror’s shield appeared as black rather than red. Many of Conqueror’s artists used pseudonyms and because Sears was at various times contracting three different record companies to produce music and those record companies often drew from the same catalogs or master records there is considerable duplication of music. However, some records may be alternate takes, and records produced after the 1938 acquisition tended to be artists from the CBS catalogs.

Music Genres: Country, Jazz, Blues, Swing, Pop.

Pre-WW2 Label: Red background with decorative rim and trumpeters.

Record Label:  1929-1934. Note the absence of Sears. May be in red or orange.
Conqueror Record Label: 1929-1934. Note the absence of Sears. It may be in red or orange. This indicates it was made by ARC.

From 1934-1938 the record label has a basic red shield without the trumpeters.

Record Label: 1934-1938. Red color with shield.
Record Label: 1934-1938. Red color with shield. Notice the lack of trumpeters.

1941-1945 Label: After being bought by CBS, the label switched to being all black.

Conqueror  Record Label: 1938-1942. Black color with shield.
Conqueror Record Label: 1938-1942. Black color with shield.

Post-WW2 Label: None.

Numbers from start to 1945:  7000-10000.  Numbers 7254-7277 are race and country artists.

Notes: Famous artists found on this record label include: Big Bill Broonzy, Lucille Bogan (aka: Bessie Jackson), Amos Easton aka Bumble Bee Slim, Lil Johnson, and Memphis Minnie. Other important artists include Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Gene Autry.

Listen to Dear Old Western Skies by Gene Autry on a 1934 Conqueror Record.

Listen to My Gage is going up by Memphis Minnie on a Conqueror Record most likely from the early 1930s.

Sources:
http://www.mainspringpress.com/sears-labels.html

Rust, Brian. The American Record Label Book. Arlington House Publishers, NY. 1978.

Sutton, Nauck. American Record Labels and Companies: An Encyclopedia (1891-1943). Mainspring Press, CO.2000.

The Blues Encyclopedia

Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942

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Challenge Records

Challenge Record Label

 Challenge Records by Sears

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 is 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.

Challenge Record Label
Challenge Record Label by Sears: 1926-1930

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.

Sources:

http://www.mainspringpress.com/sears-labels.html

Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942

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Silvertone Records

Silvertone Record Label (1916-1950) by Sears

Silvertone Records: For label discussion and analysis

Silvertone Record Label Link

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Oxford Record Label

1906 El Capitan March. 7in. disc. Probably made by Columbia

Oxford Record Label (1906-1916)

The Oxford Record Label was a Sears label that came after Sears’ discontinuation of their Harvard Label. They are single-sided and can be found as either a 7in. disc or a 10in. disc.  At the start, Sears used Leeds and Catlin from 1906-1908 to produce the record, switched to Columbia from 1908-1909, then to Victor (using their Zon-o-phone masters) between 1909-1911, and then back to Columbia between 1911-1916. Indeed, Columbia continued to produce for Sears under the Oxford label a 7in. disc while Victor produced a 10in. disc. Recordings are mostly anonymous For an excellent review of the Oxford label see the sources below.

Music Genres: Waltz, Black or “Coon” music, Orchestra, Marches, Operettas.

Pre World War II Label: Purple with Oxford in a scripted style.

1906 El Capitan March. 7in. disc. Probably made by Columbia
1906 El Capitan March by Soussa. 7in. disc. Probably made by Columbia.
1908 Negro Laughing Song. Probably made by Victor using Zonophone masters.
1908 Negro Laughing Song by George W. Johnson. Probably made by Victor using Zonophone masters.

While not an Oxford Label it is an example of the Negro Laughing Song by George W. Johnson who was the first African-American to sing on a record.

Leg of Mutton Oxford Record label 36773
Leg of Mutton Le Gigot. 12in. Oxford Record Label #36773. Probably made by Columbia in the early 1910s.

 Leg of Mutton Le Gigot, 1913.

Numbers to 1945: Columbia will switch to a new label called Silvertone in 1915/1916.

1-1000 (by Columbia, Zonophone)1000-2000 (by Columbia, Zonophone)
3000 – 5000 (by Columbia)        5000 (by Zonophone)

Sources:
http://www.mainspringpress.com/sears-labels.html

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Armed Forces Edition Books

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.

WW2 Printed Books
WW2 Printed Books. BAD do not take into the field!

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.

1944-1945: Yank and Newsweek
1944-1945: Yank and Newsweek. BAD do not take into the field

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.

WW2 Soldiers City Guide Florence
WW2 Soldiers City Guide Florence. BAD to take into the field! GOOD to take on leave to Florence!

WW2 Army Song Book
WW2 Army Song Book. BAD, singing in the field attracts Germans

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.

WW2 Language Books
WW2 Language books:
Top-Left to bottom-right-
Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Persian, French, German

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 might actually be able to take this into the field, destroy it, and be able to find another one cheaply.

FM 21-100
Yay! FM 21-100 great late night reading material…


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”

Trashed WW2 Mags
Trashed WW2 Magazines that I take into the field. Some have pages ripped out, covers missing, or are generally defective in someway that warrants risking destruction in the field.

Currently, there exists an option to buy inexpensive Armed Forces Edition/Armed Services Edition reproduction books to take out in the field. Much has been written about the history of these “pocket-sized books”(see links below) so I won’t dive too much into the history of the books.
NPR Story: By the Books: The Pocket-Size Editions that Kept Soldiers Reading
Book: When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II
Atlantic Monthly Article: Publishers Gave Away 122,951,031 Books During World War II
The Art of Manliness has a historical review of the books
Wikipedia has an article dedicated to it
From the Library of Congress Books in Action: The Armed Services Edition
Virginia University Special Collections Exhibit:  Books go to War
Listing of Armed Forces Edition Book Titles
Listing of Armed Forces Edition Book Authors
Related Publications of Interest including collectors guides
Saturday Evening Post, June 1945: “What the GI Reads”

Armed Services Edition
Armed Services Edition Examples

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:

 Legacy Project Armed Services Edition Book: Man in the Arena
Front Cover
Legacy Project Armed Services Edition Book: Man in the Arena

 Legacy Project Armed Services Edition Book: Man in the Arena
Inside Cover
Legacy Project Armed Services Edition Book: Man in the Arena

 Legacy Project Armed Services Edition Book: Man in the Arena
Preface
Legacy Project Armed Services Edition Book: Man in the Arena


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.

Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison
Front of Book
Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison

Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison
Back of Books
Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison

Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison
Side-by-side
Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison

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.

Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison
First Interior Page
Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison. Note the Armed Forces Edition statement on the top book.

Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison
Back Interior Page
Armed Forces Edition and Legacy Project Comparison. Note the listing of other Armed Forces Edition books.

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.