By Tom Pawlesh
D-Day Conneaut in Conneaut, Ohio is the largest D-Day reenactment in the world and is getting bigger and better every year. Totally funded by sponsors and donations, this huge event is free to the public. The mission of D-Day Ohio is to educate the public about the sacrifices of those who fought and those who died on the beaches of Normandy, and to encourage remembrance, honor and respect for the soldiers of the Allied and Axis armies of World War Two.
Taking place over the weekend of August 21st/22nd this year, over 1,200 reenactors took over beautiful Conneaut Township Park on Lake Erie and set up in three camps, Allied, Axis and Occupied France. The re-enactors are enthusiastic and happy to explain how the Second World War’s soldiers lived and fought. Many have prized possessions from WWII that they have collected over the years to help make their re-enactment as authentic as possible. The camps are filled with vintage military vehicles, armament, mess tents and motor pools; everything that an army on the move would have required in WWII. Besides the main attraction of the Normandy Invasion re-enactment, three other narrated battles are staged, the Battle of La Fiere, the Battle for Foucarville and the Marquis Attack featuring the French resistance. Throughout the day, there are many demonstrations and talks, including a tent where veterans tell their personal histories. There are vendors selling military memorabilia and period clothing and many food choices on the grounds.
The D-Day Invasion re-enactment, which took place on Saturday afternoon, began with three 3/4 scale Titan T-51 Mustangs coming in low off the lake. The German anti-aircraft guns open up on the fighters as they got within range. The Yankee Air Museum’s B-17G Flying Fortress “Yankee Lady” and B-25 Mitchell “Yankee Warrior” came in next to bomb the German defenses. The aircraft continued to make low passes as half a dozen Higgins Boats, DUKW’s and LTV’s hit the beach with hundreds of soldiers aboard. The invasion forces made their way up the beach over the course of an hour, with narration describing what they were engaging in. Their objective was the German bunkers high upon the bluff behind the beach. Wave after wave of soldiers spilled from the amphibious boats, while aircraft screamed overhead and tanks and armored trucks fired blank round after blank round. The noise was deafening. Finally, the first Allied troops make it to the top of the hill, and the German soldiers threw down their weapons in surrender. The spectators went wild! Cheers, whistles, clapping and even a tear or two, this is D-Day Ohio! While it all may seem a little over the top, these re-enactors are keeping the memory of service above self and self-sacrifice alive for the younger generations; something we could all do well to remember. WarbirdsNews wishes to thank Tom Pawlesh very much for his article, and for the stunning images which accompany it here. We hope you have enjoyed them!
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