A Look Back at Reading World War 2 Weekend 2023 By Don Linn

SBD Dauntless

The Commemorative Air Force SBD-5 climbs to altitude as it departs Reading Airport to begin the Friday afternoon show.

Photos and article by Don Linn

The Reading World War 2 Weekend shows are one of the best warbirds displays in the East. The 2024 show is only a few months away and looks to be one of the best since the Pandemic. The aircraft rooster has not yet been published, but word of mouth indicates a great show is planned.

C-47 Placid Lassie

A true World War 2 veteran is C-47 Placid Lassie, restored to its original war time markings, took part in Operation Market Garden, the Allies massive September 1944 air borne parachute assault on German occupied Netherlands to capture strategically important bridges over the Rhine, it was the subject of the popular movie “A Bridge Too Far”.

Not only is it an outstanding flying display, but there is also the static aircraft display with the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s display aircraft, including their P-61 Black Widow restoration project. A regular visitor will note the progress of the on-going restoration. Hopefully I will get to see the finished restoration and the Black Widow fly. Equally important are the WW 2 reenactors who perform mock battles complete with real flame throwers, shooting out their deadly fire, and meticulously restored Army half-tracks and Sherman tanks firing their cannons as they accompany infantry on their assault. There are numerous jeeps and 2-1/2-ton (duce and half) trucks taking part for a full-blown infantry assault. The fire fight begins with an airborne assault with period paratrooper reenactors jumping from C-47 Placid Lassie complete with black and white invasion strips. All the while fighters and bombers fly overhead providing air support. It’s a spectacular choreographed sight with lots of cannon fire and M-1 rifle and Carbine fire reverberating in the air. Added to this is the pyrotechnics exploding with big clouds of black smoke. The whole event is exciting and draws a large crowd of eager spectators.

Corsair-FG-1-Checker-tail

A perennial favorite at Reading is Commemorative Air Force’s FG-1 Corsair “white 530”, it put on a fantastic flying display and made a spectacular high speed low pass past the photographers. The Corsair is in the markings of USMC 1Lt. Merritt O. Chance of VMF-312 Checkerboards while based at Okinawa in 1945.

The reenactors are US Army, British, and German Wehrmacht with French resistance fighters operating from a mock French village, each wearing correct period uniforms or civilian dress, it is all great theater. But for me I go to see the flying display. The thrill of seeing B-29, B-17 and B-25 bombers flying low level, followed by fighters in mock combat with Japanese dive bomber and Zeros from the Tora!, Tora!, Tora! Squadron is what I came to see.

B-29-FiFi-Reading-2023

Smoke from the Canadian and New Jersey Forest fires is starting to dissipate as the big B-29 FiFi departs Reading early Friday afternoon.

The 2023 show was limited in the number of aircraft flying performances; my guess is the WW 2 Weekend show was still recovering from the COVID pandemic of the two previous years and the resulting loss of revenue from lack of attendance. Also, I can only guess, but I think the smoke and haze from the combined Canadian and New Jersey wildfires that filled the skies in Pennsylvania and the Northeast, may have caused some flying performers to stay home or perform at another venue not affected by the smoke and haze.

PT-17 #23

Michael Kuhnert is the owner of this beautiful 1943 Fairchild PT-19 Cornel seen after takeoff from Reading’s runway 31 on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

I arrived on Friday, as usual, to catch the arrivals and practice flying, which was difficult to photograph due to the subdued lighting from the smoke and haze. Saturday I arrived early hoping the forecasted winds would clear the sky, and it did. The sky was free of the previous smoked filled sky. Sunday I was unable to attend due to a family function and, of course, that was the better day for photography. Attached is a sampling of my better shots when the lighting was good.

Pair-of-SNJs

Two of the SNJs climbing to join the six ship for the fly-past.

An added event to the show over the last few years is the night photo session hosted by the MAAM, with fighter aircraft parked with their engines running and professional lighting on the aircraft. And in 2023 another special event was added. It is a photographer’s only “photo pit” located away from the main crowd on the opposite, sun side, of the runway. This allowed for great take off and low level fly-by opportunities.

There is an additional fee for each event, but if you are a serious photographer and have the extra money, it is well worth the cost. These events are limited in available spaces, if interested you need to sign up early to guarantee a spot.

The 2024 show will be from June 7 to 9, Friday to Sunday. I plan to be there.

B-25-Panchito-Reading-2023

Friday, with a smokey sky, finds annual visitor B-25 Panchito, departing from Runway 31 with landing gear retracked. Panchito is carrying passengers who paid for the experience and thrill of flying in the World War 2 bomber.

PT-17-No.75

This image of the bright yellow Boeing Stearman N2S-1 No. 75, with the two pilots wearing period flight suits, could have been taken eighty years ago during the height of World War 2. The bright yellow Navy trainer paint scheme caused young naval aviators to name the N2S-1 Yellow Peril.

FM-2 Wildcat

The FM-2 Wildcat from the Military Aviation Museum at Virginia Beach is a veteran of combat in the South Pacific.

P-51D-Red-Nose

Another regular at Reading World War 2 Weekend is P-51D Red Nose, painted in the World War 2 markings of Capt. David W. Howe as it appeared during January 1944 while serving with the 334th FS, 8th AF when based at Steeple Morden, England. Today the 334th FS flies the indomitable F-15E Strike Eagle.

Boeing Stearman N550DH

Chris Kappler is at the controls of this immaculate 1939 Stearman PT-17 on a much brighter Saturday afternoon, the smoke and haze visible from forest fires on Friday is no long a problem.

Texan Formation

 It is always a great event when six Texans, (SNJs), fly information. The sight and sound is reminiscent of what was common during World War 2.

 

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