D-Day Ohio, held annually in Conneaut, Ohio is fast becoming one of America’s premier living history events, featuring the most realistic and educational reenactment of the events of June 6th, 1944, D-Day. Since 1999, this annual recreation of the amphibious Allied landings upon the beaches of Normandy, France, has thrilled thousands of spectators. The event occurs within the grounds of Conneaut Township Park in Conneaut, Ohio, and assembles hundreds and hundreds of re-enactors from across the United States and Canada, who storm ashore from Lake Erie onto a beach and surrounding terrain that bears a remarkable resemblance to Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.
Tom Pawlesh Reports:
Four P-51 Mustangs come in low over Omaha Beach, the German gunners nervously wait until they are in range and then open fire. One P-51 is hit, with smoke trailing from its engine, it pulls up and out of the battle. A B-25 Mitchell Bomber follows, you can see the bomb bay doors open as it nears the beach, then you feel the concussion of exploding bombs. The invasion has begun!
Half a dozen amphibious Higgins Boats, DUKW’s and LTV’s hit the beach and hundreds of soldiers spill out into the waves, some sink to the bottom from the weight of their equipment, others are wounded before they even get to the beach. They are followed by more and more troops as the boats drop their ramps and reinforcements come ashore.
They slowly fight their way up the beach, their objective: to take the German bunkers on the high bluff. The machine gun fire from the bunkers is intense. Overworked medics brave the no-mans land to attend to the wounded. A soldier comforts his wounded buddy while near by a Chaplain gives prays over one not so lucky soldier. A news correspondent tries to steady his shaking hand as he films the invasion with his clumsy 8mm camera.
The battle rages for an hour, aircraft are screaming overhead, wave after wave of amphibious vehicles shuttle more and more soldiers to the beach. Tanks and armored trucks pound the German bunkers, the noise is deafening. Finally, the first of the Allied troops make it to the top of the hill, the German soldiers throw down their weapons and surrender… and the crowd goes wild! Cheers, whistles, clapping and even a tear or two, this is D-Day Conneaut!
This year, five aircraft, five amphibious landing craft, armored vehicles, a 1944 Sherman Tank and over 1000 reenactors came together to make this the largest D-Day reenactment in the country. In addition to the Normandy Beach Invasion, there are two smaller battles staged, the battle for Foucarville and the Marquis Attack featuring the French resistance. There are both Allied and Axis camps where reenactors explain how the soldiers of WWII lived and fought. Also on display in the camps are many vintage military vehicles. WWII veterans tell their personal stories daily in the hospitality tent and on Friday night there is a USO-style dance. Amazingly, to the credit of D-Day Ohio, Inc. there is no charge for admission. The entire event is funded by corporate sponsors and donations.
The mission of D-Day Ohio is to educate the public about the sacrifice of those who fought and those who died on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944 and to encourage remembrance, honor and respect for the soldiers of the Allied and Axis armies of World War II.
Next year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day and D-Day Ohio 2014 promises to be bigger and better. The Douglas C-47 from the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York is scheduled to attend. This aircraft, called Whiskey 7, is an actual D-Day veteran and dropped paratroopers on June 6, 1944. The Liberty Jump Team will add another aspect of realism to the reenactment as they parachute onto the beach of Conneaut from their venerable W-7. More information about this amazing, and growing event can be found at www.DDayOhio.us