World War II didn’t just happen “over there.” It happened over here, too. And this October, it’s happening all over again.
The good parts, that is.
The 5th Annual World War II Days takes place in mid October at Springfield Farm in Williamsport, just south of Hagerstown. The event not only offers a glimpse into the military world, it also provides a colorful re-creation of life on the home front. This year's theme is "Fall of 1944," with attention given to how the "Over by Christmas!" push affected both the Allies and the Germans.
Activities open with “A Night at the Movies” on Friday. Faithful to the cinema-going experience of the time, the evening includes newsreels, cartoons, and a Three Stooges short. This year's feature is the 1944 comedy The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, listed among the American Film Institute's 100 greatest comedies.
Throughout the weekend, reenactors portray both Allied and Axis units, including the German 31st Regiment of the 24th Infantry Division Field Hospital, which has won several awards for authenticity. The group’s portrayal is so realistic, in fact, that other reenactors sometimes seek them out for medical attention when injuries occur, according to "chief surgeon" Peter Gentry, a Baltimore County educator.
Several skirmishes are planned, and reenactors are more than happy to show visitors the firearms, equipment, and vehicles used during the war.
David Michel, a reenactor from the 51st Engineer Combat Battalion, has attended all four of the Williamsport reenactments held so far.
"It's a good venue with the historic buildings here,” he says.
“There's a good mix of living-history units that come, and so there's a variety for the public to see. The thing about these kinds of events is that we have an opportunity to meet veterans of this conflict that we would not have otherwise."
Visitors will meet more than military reenactors, however.
Bill Riley and Joe Ziegler, who perform the "Ultimate Abbott & Costello Tribute Show," will give three performances, and the Maryland Minute Men will be on hand to protect the home front. Various other civilian reenactors will appear, as well, including those with the Berlin 5 Café, the German equivalent of a USO canteen. The Washington County Master Gardeners will also present a demonstration on wartime Victory Gardens.
Libby Rocco from Woodstock, Virginia, whose interest in the era runs deep, coordinates a WWII-era fashion show to be held Saturday.
"Women like clothes! The fashion show brings the women in and, in turn, they often become involved in the event," she says. Many of the civilian reenactors are indeed women, who re-create a variety of roles.
Rocco, along with her husband, Keith, is also part of Jump Alley, the swing band that will perform at the USO Dance on Saturday night in Springfield Barn. The highlight of the weekend, the dance also features the Hub City Lindy Hoppers who, in their zoot suits and period party dresses, give a rousing demonstration of swing dancing at its best.
"The dance is a great event, not only for the reenactors, but for the public," says Michel.
Adds World War II Days coordinator Kim Bowers, "We have a great group of reenactors, many of whom have volunteered to organize various aspects of the event.
"This weekend is another wonderful reason to come out and enjoy the beauty of western Maryland in the fall."
The 5th Annual World War II Days takes place October 12-14 at Springfield Farm in Williamsport. Most activities are free. For more information, visit www.williamsportmd.gov.