Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s – 21st Anniversary World War II Weekend

MAAM WWII Weekend: Reading PA

The stage was set for the 21st annual WWII Weekend in Reading PA.  The cast of characters were the over 2000 military and civilian re-enactors, that assembled here to provide an awesome living history experience. It has been characterized by many as like being on a movie set…you pass through the gates and you  find yourself in a quaint French villa.  Soldiers mingling about, while families sit outside their homes, enjoying a cool breeze and watching the children playing ball nearby. Other encampments depicting the Allied and Axis forces, the Pacific and European theaters were also on hand to demonstrate the life of the soldier, their military equipment and  discuss their involvement in the war.

All the re-enactors are very knowledgeable in their respective displays and offer great insights to the WWII era. For the die-hard aviation enthusiast, this may not have been an event you would have considered.  It doesn’t have the usual aerobatics or the jet team demonstrations  It does however, display a large gathering of classic warbirds.in static and flying displays.  So although the airshow is not the primary  focus of the weekend, it certainly offers up it’s importance to the war effort.

All the classics were here…The B-29 “Fifi”, a crowd favorite, B-17, four B-25 Mitchells, FU-Corsair,  six T-6 Texans, Avenger, Dauntless, Helldiver, Spitfire, P51D Mustang, Wildcat, P61 Black Widow, PT 19, PT 26, Liason aircraft, C470 Skytrain…even the Ely-Curtiss Pusher, the forerunner for our Naval airpower, made a high speed flyby at 50mph. Unlike most of the other air shows that has the WWII Warbirds providing a wartime scenario, you are asked to imagine the conflict at hand as a  P51 Mustang takes chase of a  Japanese Zero.

This event allows you to gain a greater understanding as you are able to visualize the ground troops, hear the distant gunfire in simulated battles as the planes pass over head.  It is the “total picture” that sets this event apart from the rest. As a nurse myself, I found the field hospital of particular interest.  This really makes you think of the sacrifices made to maintain our freedom.  The life and death drama unfolds in pre-op where injured solders were triaged and care provided accordingly.  The neurological injures, head and spinal cord injuries, were evacuated to a “cleaner: environment for surgery.  All others were treated in the OR of the field hospital…gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, amputations, burns…it was all seen in the make-shift hospitals with medical staff working non-stop to save these young lives. Many nurses were casualties themselves, particularly in the Pacific Theater, were there was little respect for the Red Cross/hospitals by the enemy and would be fired upon.

Another unique feature of the WWII Weekend is the demonstration of “The Home Front”.   The Victory Society, an association of women depicting home life,  displays a home where the children can gather for a game of  Sorry, or the ladies can fix a meal with the vegetables picked from their Victory Garden.  These ladies also present a 1940’s fashion show which is popular with men and women alike.  I must say, the men were dashing in their suits of the day and hair styled just so.  The ladies were dressed to the hilt as well.  Seeing these re-enactors helped me to reflect on my own grandparents…a young couple with 3 small daughters…made it a more personal experience for me.

As visitors strolled along viewing the static displays, they were treated to the sounds of Ladies of Liberty, the Manhattan Dolls, Teresa Eaton as they sang songs of the day.  On hand was also a live radio show performance featuring all the favorites, including a new program, “The Green Lantern“.  Abbott and Costello was also present offering up their classic humor. The sites and sounds of home reminded us that we were all in this war together.

As with many or the air shows around the country, there were some veterans on hand to share their accounts through discussion or their own books.  These first-hand accounts are becoming fewer and more precious all the time.  The men and women that served,  proudly wore their uniforms and still inspire us today with their bravery and perseverance.

The 22nd annual MAAM WWII Weekend will be held June 1-3, 2012.

So, come for the airshow, but be prepared for so much more…hope to see you there!

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