Former Marines Pay Homage to WWII Comrades with Vintage Uniforms During CMP Games Match
December 29, 2014Civilian Marksmanship Program▸The First Shot▸Former Marines Pay Homage to WWII Comrades with Vintage Uniforms During CMP Games Match
By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer
PHOENIX, AZ – Steve Brubaker, 55, of Saint Robert, MO, and Alan Little, 53, of Lakewood, CA, have been competing in the Western Games for the past seven years. Brubaker, a retired Marine, and Little, a former Marine turned Los Angeles police officer, usually participate in the CMP Games as a way of quenching their internal need to fire their World War II military rifles. This year, however, they chose to completely immerse themselves in history – both with their rifles and the clothes on their backs.
The two Marines decided that instead of just firing the weapons their comrades used to defend our country, they would also honor the memory of World War II era Marines by wearing reconstructed uniforms – an effort that has been years in the making.
“We were both Marines, and this was a way to acknowledge our brothers from the past. An event like this, especially shooting the M1 Garand, or maybe even the Springfield, with the uniforms they wore,” said Brubaker. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Since the Marines used a variety of rifles during WWII, CMP’s Vintage Military Match, in which Brubaker and Little fired in Phoenix, was the perfect setting to wear the uniforms.
According to Brubaker, the Marines originally carried M1903 Springfields, and later on, the 1903-A3. While the Army had M1 Garands during the war, the Marines decided to stick with the 03’s until they saw the firepower of the M1’s during the Pacific theater victory in Guadalcanal. It was then that the Marines decided to switch over to the more powerful M1 in 1942-43.
The uniforms Brubaker and Little wore were modeled after the 1942 WWII Marines – some pieces recreated and others completely authentic. Brubaker’s cartridge belt, canteen and cover were all original – worn by his Marine uncle during WWII. His boots and leggings, however, were reproduced, though constructed the same way they were during the ‘40s – including stitching and color.
Because of the authenticity in the craftsmanship, Brubaker and Little had to be patient in completing their $400 vintage uniforms. The boots alone, created by WWII Impressions in California, took three years to fashion.
As an unusual touch, Little donned items from the Army division of the Military. Though it may have seemed to be a mistake, intentionally wearing the Army gear was actually a nod toward the WWII Marines.
“During WWII, the Army was also in the Pacific – Marines were known to steal their stuff, so that’s why I wore the Army,” Little said, with a laugh.
The two elected to wear pith helmets instead of the traditional camouflage-covered steel helmets only the Marines wore during WWII. Unfortunately, the sweltering Arizona heat made it way too difficult for Brubaker and Little to wear the steel while competing.
Wanting to stay cool and as true to the uniforms as possible, the two also fired in the match without a shooting jacket – causing them to be unable to firmly stabilize their rifles against their shoulders. Brubaker said he realized just how tough it must’ve been for those Marines to be accurate marksmen, without the fancy equipment used in rifle matches today.
“You really appreciate that shooting jacket and the pad that’s on there – how tight you can get your position. I shot without a glove, I shot without a jacket, and it slips,” he said. “How those guys shot expert back then is beyond me, but they did. It’s rough.”
For Little, it was especially important for him to be able to pay tribute to ALL Marines who served – crediting more than just the uniforms they wore on the outside, but also what was underneath.
“Another thing too, a lot of people think there were no blacks in the Pacific. That’s not true. Blacks were in the Marines in 1942 . . . they were in the support units,” he said. “President Obama just recognized them two years ago with the Congressional Gold Medal, because they weren’t recognized during WWII.”
Brubaker added, “People think the Marine Corps was only white back then, but the Marine Corps has always had all the races in it.”
After waiting years to fire in their vintage uniforms, Brubaker and Little finally got their chance. With a successful run at the Western Games, now, the two may have begun a new tradition for themselves in future CMP Games events.
“That’s our intent. Every time there’s a Garand Match, we’re going to try to shoot in this uniform,” said Brubaker. “We plan on doing it next year at Camp Perry.”