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Authenticity

Authenticity, a world of pain to the nth of degree. Call it a must, call it a need, call it required, but we all call it a pain in the you-know-where sometimes. Pardon us while we haul out the soap box for a few brief paragraphs. 

You will hear a lot about authenticity at events, in their AAR reports/reviews, and from other units. It is a subject of ceaseless debate (and joke) and will continue to be one for the foreseeable future. The hard-liner approach to authenticity goes something as follows:
 
We honor the veterans more by being more authentic, inform the public better with authentic items, get better 'feel for what it was like', put on a better 'show', and increase overall bragging rights and 'holier-than-thou' status. There is no excuse for inauthentic items since originals are fairly cheap and reproductions widely available, funds are assumed to be unlimited. New reenactors have no excuse since their units should loan them everything and inject all the knowledge they need into them like they did to Neo in "The Matrix". 

Whether you follow this hogwash approach or not is up to you.

Our unit is realistic when it comes to authenticity. We want to do the right things, and do them right. Thus, as a unit, we have tried to do two basic things in regards of authenticity over the years:
  1. Improve our own level of authenticity over time
  2. Focus on ourselves and not others
It could be said 'our' approach is:

By being 'authentic' we attract positive attention (public attention and reenactor attention [recruit more members]), we become respected as a unit within the reenacting community, we improve the reenacting community as a whole in the long run, we become the standard, and don't have to hear or gripe about inauthenticity at events. We will help members along within reason and do not expect them to shell out thousands of dollars overnight. Members should bring their passion, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn and listen to events. We focus on what we can directly control and nothing else.

Fairly reasonable, yes? We are by no means perfect, we are inauthentic at times, have improper items, do things improperly, but we recognize them and work to correct them.



Authenticity:

We will divide the rest of this section up into some simple standards on authenticity and how to tell if something is more authentic than something else. We'll start with the latter first.

Questions to ask:
Ask yourself the following questions when in doubt. The more answers you get telling you it 'could be' authentic, the more likely it is.
-Is it dated? If it's war dated, it could be authentic.
-Was it used? If it was used, it could be authentic.
-What does the maker tag say? Check the date, check the QM date, if it's right, it's probably authentic (or a great reproduction).
-Is it made of nylon? With only a handful of exceptions, nylon wasn't used in items.
-Is it the right pattern? If so, it could be.
-Has it been altered? If so, when? If it's an old alteration, then maybe.
-Does it match the one seen in original photos? Could be authentic
-Does another reenactor with many years of experience say it's authentic? If yes, it could be authentic.

Note how we say "it could be authentic" and not "it is authentic". Even if you're wearing 100% original gear, recreating exactly what is seen in a photograph, and packing entirely what was carried in that photo... some may still argue that you're not authentic.... yeah, it's BS, we know...... we know......... but that's not the worst part....

The argument: You're wearing 65+ year old originals, not 'recently issued' gear out of the quartermaster supply line, so that's farby. Also, the dirt doesn't quite match what is seen in the photo, you really need to dirty up your high-dollar minty originals, otherwise, you're farby. Furthermore, if you start wearing reproductions to create the 'recently issued' feel, which aren't perfect (reproductions are generally 'close' for most items and 'exact' on some items), that's farby. The fact that you're not hungry, exhausted, a smoker, actually firing live ammo, scared shitless, and not 'authentic sized' is farby.... Gods help you if you're using boot insoles, have anything greater than .01mm worth of facial hair (they shaved daily, even if they didn't have anything to shave!), or HEAVENS FORBID.... are wearing contacts. 

See how far this madness can go? Thought so.... so lets leave la-la land and return to the realm of reality.

OD3 / Khaki
What is OD3? OD3, Olive Drab #3, a color of green. Commonly called, inappropriately, "Khaki". Not to be confused with the 'tan' color of "Khakis" (the modern dress trousers). Can OD3 be a 'tan'-ish shade of green? Yes, it can be. There are many shades of OD3. We will end this confusing discussion with this: There were dozens of contractors making uniforms, who had contracted dozens of mills to produce material for them. Colors vary, colors fade, colors wear out, dyes differ. Somewhere within the millions of uniforms made by dozens and dozens of different contractors, the color is going to vary a wee bit. It might be darker, it might be lighter. Is it good enough for government work? Yes it is.

Original vs Reproduction
What is more authentic? Sometimes this debate comes up, whether to use all original items or all reproductions. The fact of the matter is this: reproductions are limited at times (we know this all too well as the 10th, our specialized gear is not widely reproduced). Originals can be expensive and wear out quickly. Thus, a 'mix' is required. But, think of it this way: If we are acting as if it really was 1945 in Italy, the gear and equipment we use would not look like it was 65 years old, it would look 1-3 years old. Dirty and beaten, yes, but not 'vintage'. Just something to chew on. This is not a verdict. 

"This is the 1940s"
Remind yourself of that when looking at things or doing things. Times were different, mindsets were different, needs/wants were different. We approach things with the 'bias' of our own times and the habits of our own times, for better or worse. Military training was different, lifestyles were different, values and ethics were different. This applies more to 'personal authenticity' here, but can vastly improve an impression or while talking to the public.

"If they had it (in the supply line where they were or could have possibly come across it), they would have used it"
A logical argument and when scaled into thousands of men, the odds of this statement becoming truer increase. When applied to issued gear, it's relatively cut and dry (was it issued?). With capture pieces and 'non-reg' things, there is greater grey area. There are a few 'checks' one must do. 
Check #1: What was issued?
The 10th Mountain was issued specialized gear and, over time, received what was in the supply line (M43s). HBTs, suntans, M38s, M41s, etc. might be more authentic for a 'stateside' 10th Mountain impression, but may have been used in theater (check!). Just because they may have come across a M42 jump uniform and jump boots, does not mean they would have worn them. Take into consideration where you are and what specific 'period' in the history of the 10th you are portraying.

Check #2: Personal preference.
The manual might say to wear item X like so, but it's uncomfortable for you and it's better if you wear it someplace else on you gear.  They might frown upon you linking together web belts in place of combat suspenders (which have replaced your real suspenders), but so long as your CO doesn't chew your ass out or look at you and shake his head... it's probably alright.

Check #3: Is it a matter of life-or-death? Are you representing it in this way?
Meaning, a GI may have picked up a MP40, Mauser, or MG42 in the course of battle - there are pictures and accounts where they did so when their own weapons were lost/damaged/out of ammo. Meaning, it was life or death. Doing so may be authentic in that context alone. The US Army didn't supply 8mm or 9mm parabellum or give extensive training on German weapons, thus a GI would have HAD to go back to using US weapons at the next possible moment.

Check #4: Would you carry this for 50 miles on foot? Where would you carry it?
Something small may not be that big of a deal. Something larger (than, say, a K-Rat meal), or heavier may become a greater problem.

Check #5: Would you want to be captured with it?
Germans might frown upon you having that Luger or having some decorations or insignia of their comrades in your pockets. You might wanna ditch those before going into battle... Again, maybe they won't care...

Check #6: Did you stretch this statement to say "If they WOULD have had it, they would have used it."?
If so, stop right there. I can say unequivocally that whatever you are doing is wrong. Just because they had a nuclear device at their disposal does not mean that they.... would.... have......... $#!& nevermind, bad example. 


"Tips & Tricks" to Being Seen as Being More Authentic

Get a haircut
Does not need to be period style, just keep it short, off the ears, and sideburns short. Do these things and never be called out. Avoid 'high and tights', these have been a subject of debate... and if it's under debate, avoid it. 

Shave
Just do it Friday night/Saturday morning and you'll be fine for the weekend.

Hide your eyeglasses
Do you have "inappropriate" eyeglasses? Take them off at S&A then put them back on. Cheating the system? Yes, but you won't hear grief from the S&A official. You know they're inauthentic, you don't need them to tell you too. Alternatively, buy a pair of eyeglasses, they can be had for under $75 and work as a spare set.

Keep Farb Out of Sight
Throw out garbage, keep it out of your pockets, keep it covered and away. Fairly simple rules, but difficult to follow. Even some of us who's self-proclaimed duty is to watch for it have a tough time.

Follow the Leader
Don't know what to do? You have a squad/section leader, they should know you don't know and tell you what you need to know. If they don't, speak up and ask. The only stupid question is the unasked one. (sarcastic remark: There are no stupid questions, only stupid people)

Admit it First
"Yeah, I know these boots aren't right, Mr. S&A Official, but I'm gonna buy some today from the vendors." Whether you're outright lying or telling the God-honest truth, they'll eat this up. It means you know what is right and wrong and are taking steps to fix it. This is all most S&A officials ask for. Beat them to the punch by pointing out your own farby items before they open their mouth. Nobody knows better than you (in most cases), what is not authentic.

Ask Them Their Opinion
"Is it right to wear this like this, Mr. S&A Official? Or is this better than this?" They'll eat this up too. Everybody LOVES sharing their opinion and feeling like they are a "trusted and respected repository of knowledge which others are lining up to seek pearls of wisdom from". Asking an S&A official what they think regarding 'debatable' items does two things: 1) negates any negativity connected to the item (they know you're aware of the farbyness) and 2) scores major brownie points.

Better to be Nice than Right
No matter how right you are, no matter how much proof you have, no matter how solid your argument... nobody likes an asshole.

Don't Bullshit
You are surrounded by self-proclaimed 'authorities' on WWII history, equipment, memorabilia, and other associated junk who have been "reenacting longer than you have". If you try bullshitting your way out of something, somebody's going to smack you down with their own 'truth' (could just be better formed bullshit, commonly accepted bullshit, or bullshit covered truth) and now you've just managed to jump out of the frying pan and into the blazing inferno.... but that's not the worst part... you may not be bullshitting at all and somebody say's you're wrong..... all you can do is nod your head and agree at this point.

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