World War II Weekend 2019
In it’s 29th consecutive year, World War II Weekend descended upon Reading, Pennsylvania during the first weekend in June. I discovered this show in 2010 and have attended regularly since. To be assigned as the lone media representative from Photo Recon was a privilege but also daunting because this show is so big. It is, in fact, the largest World War II event in the country.
Thousands of reenactors take part and the vast encampments preserve the authenticity of the period. There is so much to see and I admit that I do not take the time for a lot of it. I have followed a consistent pattern of behavior year after year where I enjoy the displays, the reenactors, various goings on around me and the flea market. I then relocate to the fields on the other side of Reading Regional Airport to photograph the airshow with a cooler full of food and drinks and the sun behind my back. I also only attend the show for one day.
For photography, the sun is good in the morning on Runway 13/31but deteriorates by the afternoon for the airshow. My one track mind to photograph aircraft always has me on the other side in the afternoon so I have not seen what goes on within the show grounds in the afternoon. For instance, I have never seen the recreation of the Battle of Iwo Jima and the flag raising on Mount Suribachi but I have seen the smoke from a distance.
By the time the airshow started, the runway operation changed to the 13 end. Not as desirable as a Runway 31 operation from our vantage point. All-in-all, though, the weather was very good all weekend except for some clouds and although a few aircraft did not make it in, the flying schedule was pretty full and plenty exciting.
Morning operations give you plenty of opportunities to photograph the aircraft offering rides like the B-29, B-17, B-25, P-51, P-40, PT-17, PT-19 and T-6. They are out 15 to 30 minutes before returning. The rest of the time is spent exploring the grounds among the reenactors. There is also a parade of all the World War II vehicles from jeeps to half tracks and tanks. The atmosphere is a lot of fun.
Fast forward to the airshow. The airshow follows a familiar pattern of Warbird shows where Liaison aircraft and trainers get things started. A T-6 breaks out into a solo aerobatic routine by Kevin Russo.There were a few other aerobatic acts like the BU-133 “Jungmeister” biplane and Greg Koonts in a Piper J3 Cub.
Some amphibious aircraft participated which included the PBY Catalina and a Grumman Widgeon in Coast Guard colors that I have never seen before.
The Pacific Flight was next and featured an FG-1 Corsair, TBM Avenger, FM-2 Wildcat, Replica Japanese aircraft, a Kate torpedo bomber, a Val divebomber, a Zero, and there was an actual rebuilt Zero that encountered a problem and did not launch.
The Corsair performed a solo routine. Later, Greg Shelton also performed a solo routine in the Wildcat. The Zero was supposed to simulate a dogfight with him. I did catch a little of this from afternoon practice on Friday.
A massive flight was combined when the transports were sent up with the bombers. C-47 “Hairless Joe”, C-46 “Tinker Belle” (Actually named The Tinker Belle), B-17 “Yankee Lady”, B-24 “Diamond Lil”, and B-25s “Yankee Warrior” and “Panchito”.
B-29 “Fifi” has a flight slot all to herself. She lumbers by at high speeds and you can feel the power.
The fighters closed out the show featuring solo routines from Thom Richard in the P-40 “Jacky C” and a P-51 Mustang, “Tiger’s Revenge”. The other P-51, “Red Nose” and the relaunched Corsair joined up for the missing man formation. All aircraft landed and the airshow was officially over. Once the waiver expires, aircraft take off again for more rides. On the show grounds, there is a dinner and hangar dance to round out Saturday night.
Whenever anyone asks me about a good Warbird airshow or a World War II experience, in general, I tell them about World War II Weekend. This is the place and the show you need to visit. Authenticity in the large number of reenactors, veterans present and sharing their stories, a flea market where you can buy almost anything from the era, and a really fun atmosphere that keeps me and even the wife coming back every year.
With our World War II Veterans passing in great numbers every year, if you ever thought about coming to the show, put it on your calendar for next June and do it. Your life will forever be enriched by sharing a moment or hearing a story from our greatest generation.