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The invasion of Williamsport

Museum hosts WW2 re-enactors

Museum hosts WW2 re-enactors

September 11, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

WILLIAMSPORT -- It's not exactly like D-Day, but a small wave of Jeeps, light-armored vehicles and other World War II-era U.S. Army equipment will occupy Williamsport this weekend.

The Williamsport Town Museum at the Springfield Farm will host a World War II Weekend on Saturday. The day, which begins at 10 a.m., will include static displays, period military equipment, a USO canteen dance and living history units from both the Pacific and European theaters and from the home front.

"We're holding a veterans recognition at 3:30 p.m. It's turned into a really impressive event," said Joan Knode, a member of the Williamsport Town Museum board. "We're giving veterans a ribbon. We're asking them to bring a picture of themselves in the service. We'll play taps for those that have passed away."

Kim Bowers, another member of the Town Museum board, proposed the idea for the World War II re-enactment a couple years ago, Knode said. Bowers, who had been a Civil War re-enactor, went to a big World War II re-enactment in Reading, Pa., and was impressed.

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"I took my son, and the more I went around the more I got interested," he said. "This (war) was a major event in the world, not just the U.S."

Bowers said he got involved in World War II re-enacting, but it took a few tries to find his place.

"At my age -- I'm 53 -- I'm not very convincing as a soldier," he said. "But I can be on the home front."

So Bowers is a member of a Kilroy's Homefront Commandos, a civilian defense unit like those that provided coastal security and auxiliary police and firefighting manpower, operated air-raid sirens and educated the public on matters such as collecting scrap steel, conserving electricity and responding to a potential attack on American soil.

Kilroy's Homefront Commandos will be at the Williamsport World War II Weekend. Other units who have said they will attend, according to Bowers, are Airmen's Preservation Society, F Company of the 5th Rangers, Fighting Polar Bears, another civil defense unit, and members of Easy Company of the 101st Airborn -- "They officially represent the 'Band of Brothers' group from the HBO movie," Bowers said.

Bowers said he loves meeting World War II veterans at re-enactments.

"It has brought a lot of them out of their shells," he said. "For a lot of re-enators, interacting with the veterans is their top priority."

Bowers and Knode want the re-enactment to appeal to old and young.

"During the war, Williamsport's population was only 2,000, but we had 800 in the war," Bowers said. "Practically everyone else worked for Fairchild."

Knode said the response to the weekend's activities has been good. Tickets to the USO canteen show are nearly sold out. The museum board is already talking about next year's re-enactment.

"We're gonna try to make this an annual event," Knode said. "We're thinking about moving to July, because they say we can get more people."

She added that people know about Civil War re-enactors, but the war itself was nearly 150 years ago. World War II was just 75 years ago, and there are people alive who fought in the war or supported their efforts on the home front.

"We're doing it to recognize the veterans," Knode said. "And there are kids that don't know the sacrifice (veterans) gave. When I talk to some of these guys, they tell me that was the best time of their lives."

If you go ...



WHAT: Williamsport World War II Weekend

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 13; activities begin at 10 a.m.; the USO Canteen dinner and dance is 6 to 10 p.m.

WHERE: Town Museum at Springfield Farm Barn, 14 Springfield Lane, Williamsport

COST: Activities during the day are free; $25 per person to attend USO Canteen dinner and dance

CONTACT: Call Kim Bowers at 301-223-5002 or Joan Knode at 301-223-7229.

MORE: Military displays, equipment, weapons, uniforms, World War II re-enactors, Willys Army Jeep, radios of the '40s. An Abbott & Costello tribute is at 2 p.m. Veterans will be honored at a ceremony at 3:30 p.m.

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