World War II re-enactment occupies Reading this weekend

Mark Abrams
June 06, 2019 - 5:00 am
A P-40 Warhawk

Mark Abrams/KYW Newsradio

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READING, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Re-enactors are gathering this weekend at the Reading Regional Airport to pay tribute to World War II veterans and bring to life the period in which they lived.

This gathering of "warbirds" is being staged by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, located at Reading's airport.

The museum organizes the event each year, marking its 29th re-enactment this weekend.

Brenda Saylor, a manager with the museum, said the observance of the 75th anniversary of  D-Day makes this year very special for those who faithfully recreate a 1940s era wartime encampment.

She said the event includes "1,800 World War II re-enactors in their encampments — their tents are set up — (and) 80 or so World War II vehicles, anywhere from motorcycles to tanks."

"Anything that you would find during the war, it's out here on the field," she added.

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Several veterans who fought on a variety of battlefields in Europe and the Pacific have been invited to attend and share their stories with visitors.

Saylor said their stories are oral history from eyewitnesses. 

"This is an outlet or a venue for them, if you will, where they can finally talk about things that they hadn't talked about before," she suggested.

An impressive array of World War II-era planes will also be on display — on the ground and in the air.

"Some of the aircraft will fly in on Saturday and Sunday — we have an organized air show. A lot of the aircraft are fly-bys and the announcer will say, 'These are examples of liaison aircraft.' And then we have trainers, and then we have fighters and bombers and he'll explain some of it. Some of the aircraft will do aerobatics here. 

"Everything that flies will be a World War II-era aircraft."

Visitors will get to see the museum's showpiece: the P-61 Black Widow fighter. It's only one of four surviving P-61s in the world. Saylor said the museum is planning on flying it once restoration is complete. 

A mock-up of a French village erected on the airfield also draws quite a crowd a couple of times a day.

"We have a skirmish here," Saylor said. "You have the Americans and the Germans, and they fight it out in there. And — I'm going to ruin the ending — the Americans always win."

Blanks, not bullets, are fired, and the re-enactors make it look like the real deal.

The show runs Friday through Sunday, rain or shine.