Friday, June 12, 2015

WWII Weekend in Reading, PA

Most people who know me know I love history. I love first person reenactors the most, followed by fabulous docents, historical sites, and historical fiction. Anyone who can bring history alive to me, especially anyone who teaches me something new about history, wins a warm spot in my heart forever.

A few years ago someone told me about the Reading Air Show. They loved it, but based on the description (air planes flying about), it did not make it as a priority in my life. World War II history has never really captured my interest like Colonial history has, perhaps because my history teachers never seemed to get that far in the curriculum. My one grandfather served overseas, but died when I was young so I did not grow up with stories about the war. My other grandfather was stateside throughout the war. 

Then in 2013 I met a WWII vet named Andy. I interviewed him about his war experiences, and wrote a book it. Unfortunately Andy died less than two months into the project. While I finished the project to the satisfaction of his children, I still wanted to do more. This weekend, two and a half years after Andy's death, I was able to do that "more" by attending the 25th Anniversary World War II Weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania and getting inside a B-17, similar to the one dropped bombs from during the war.

The event was huge! How huge? Afterwards we found out several different friends went to the weekend at the same time as us and we never crossed paths. 

We had complete beginners' luck this day. Our parking spot was the last on the bus, and the first off. 

The event had tons of reenactors and cosplay. I couldn't tell who was there officially, and who came in costume for fun. They were all awesome. 

Different places in WWII were represented. When we walked in our gate we were in a small village during wartime France. You just wanted to speak French. There was also a section of GIs in "Germany." As well as a section of Russian soldiers.

FDR's processional

The event had tons of WWII era bicycles. Enough for Don to consider making a bicycle calendar out of it for next year (he has already made three bicycle calendars: bicycles from WDW, bicycles from Disney parks, and as seen from his bike rides).

The event had airplanes flying in formation and doing tricks. 

The event had WWII vets. We met a man from the Russian army. Unfortunately he did not seem to speak any English, but it was still cool he was there.

The event had planes we could walk through. We went through the D-8 pictured above and a Neptune P2V from the Korean War.

The event had shopping. It was like Disney for adults.

Reading my description, I am not doing the event justice. There are huge parts of the event we missed -- such as hearing Abbott and Costello, or the Andrews Sisters perform. We met one WWII vet, but there were others at the event (hopefully ones who spoke English). I spoke with a couple of people about Andy's book, and showed it to them, but I was not able to find anyone who knew/knows Andy's friend Joe, who served with him and lived/lives in the Reading area (I don't know if he is still alive). 

We are assuming this was on purpose
The weather was absolutely perfect. The people attending the event were lovely. We did not encounter any cranky people. The biggest issue of the day was the line to exit looked about 45 minutes long. Parking lots were so far away people had to ride in school buses to get to their cars. Of course most people wanted to leave at 5:30 when the planes stopped flying and the entertainment stopped for the night (go figure!). We had a date with a B-17 at 6:10, so we were in no rush to leave. By the time we left, though, the gate we came in was locked and there was not much information about what gate was open (talk about a potential fire or other crisis hazard).

We are already talking about returning in a future year. Probably not next year, though, as the event conflicts with 8th grade graduation.

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