Get prepared for a lengthy post with lots of pictures, folks!
Last weekend, Sep 25-26, a few of us spent a marvelous few days at the Remembering WWII reenactment event in Linden, TN.
This was an incredible small event put on by friends of ours and it was amazing. The whole small town pitched in, and it was the most interactive experience possible – for a few days, it was as close as we'll get to actually living in the 1940s.
Storefront windows in the square were decorated with vintage displays, and there were so many people in costume. Soldiers and ladies walked the streets by the dozens, and there were military vehicles, an encampment, a parade, WWII vets to meet and hear stories from, two big battle reenactments, a black and white war movie, and a USO show each night with Period songs and entertainment.
It was a treat to hear the lovely and talented Boyer sisters several times during the weekend!
Despite the fact that it was sticky and rainy most of the time, everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. It looked like a street fair! There were even WWII dressed MP's directing traffic at “checkpoints”.
Two newsboys chat, holding War is Declared papers.
Live big band music on Saturday provided by a great band, Merchants of Cool, gave a few folks an opportunity for a little informal swing dancing.
My little niece held by her soldier uncle, while we listen to a man tell of his experience as a 12 year old Jew in Lithuania and a concentration camp.
Window shopping, 1940s style.
A window shopper in training!
My Saturday outfit. (Details in an upcoming post - look for it next week.)
Each battle (these photos are from both battles) started out in occupied France, with a Nazis flag on the courthouse and Germans and civilians on the street.
The Cafe was a favorite spot.
A Nazis stops a French citizen to check her papers. Reenactors had passes, which if a German demanded and you didn't have, you were arrested for questioning.
At the opening shots, the civilians flee for shelter in the courthouse and the Nazis dash for cover.
A wounded Nazi gets some help.
Here come our boys!
Follows a very loud skirmish, with the American vehicles advancing, and the American soldiers clearing out each barricade as they come. The machine guns are spitting shells out, and most of the spectators have their ears covered.
The Americans are pushed back and the Germans take cover behind a hit American vehicle.
By this time there are wounded and dead from both sides on the street.
A writhing, screaming German soldier is dragged out of the way by his comrades.
The Nazi commander keeps his field glasses handy while he directs his men. (While standing in front of a memorial to the fallen from WWII!)
For a moment it looks like the Germans are winning, but wait! The Americans in an unexpected maneuver flank them behind the courthouse and the tide has turned.
"Let's go, boys!"
A wounded German abandons his machine gun and gets out a hand gun.
Very soon there are white flags of surrender from the Nazis.
The commander is captured, the prisoners rounded up, and the civilians released from the courthouse to a liberated city.
Amid loud cheers and applause from the spectators and soldiers alike, down comes the giant Nazis banner.
It was probably as realistic as most of us will experience, even without the shells and live ammunition and men really dying. I loved seeing the reactions of the spectators as they cheered the advancing Americans and gasped at the huge vehicles and guns. It brought history to life.
After the battle the soldiers and civilians mingle with the spectators again. People went to get food at the stands (Coke in glass bottles was a favorite), explore the encampment, or to check out the vendors.
The military and vintage vehicles are in big demand all day and are constantly giving rides, to spectators and reenactors alike.
Visiting veterans lining up for a photo shoot. These were the real soldiers of WWII – the normal young men who in the Providence of God had to face things we can't imagine – and some of their stories were incredible.
Some inevitable cute kid photos. Old cars and a niece and nephew in costume – how can I resist?
There was a short parade, too, led by the color guard in attendance. (It was great to see quite a few real military men there mingling with the reenactors.)
I don't know – maybe it's just me – but it just doesn't seem right that the vets should be given rides by the Nazis!
Here comes our guys' outfit!
My two brothers are center back and right.
Watching the parade.
In the encampment.
Elizabeth sees her Daddy coming.
Some of the extremely hardworking staff for the event. This event would not have happened without the two lovely young ladies on the right.
The color guard presented the flag; the names of the recently fallen from Linden were read, and Taps played.
The evening ended with a formal-dress dinner to live big band music, and another USO show. It got rained out, but there was still an impressive display of fireworks at the very end and everyone walked back through the puddle-soaked streets in their limp evening wear, talking and laughing and reluctant for it to be over. (Unfortunately this is the only photo of me in my new 1940s cocktail dress from that evening.)
Most folks who didn't know what to expect at the event were blown away by the attention to detail on so many layers, the amount of people in costume because they wanted to be, and the many talents of the reenactors and performers.
The next day after an open air church service there was a clean up crew working in town, loading up the barricades and sandbags and benches, dismantling the Cafe. But one highlight for us after church was hearing the story of Art Staymates, a humble God-fearing man who was called Lucky after he lived through his D-Day landing and the Battle of the Bulge, and who guarded high-ranking Nazis officials, including Field-Marshal Goering, during the Nuremberg Trials. We got to meet him, which was a deep honor.
Which reminded us all of the reason for having or attending this event in the first place. Not so we can have fun getting dressed up or playing with big boy toys, but to honor the heroes, walk as much as we can in their footsteps, know why they fought and what was worth fighting for – to make history come alive for us their grandchildren. So we never forget.
For more photos from another perspective, including one of me and my brother dancing, check out the Boyer sisters' lovely blog post about the event here!
Find the Remembering WWII Facebook page here with lots of info and pictures.