1,300 Reenactors Converge at Midway Village

Infantry catching a ride the front on Harold Bottolfson’s M4 medium tank.

Infantry catching a ride the front on Harold Bottolfson’s M4 medium tank.

by John Adams-Graf

Located in Rockford, Ill., Midway Village is an open air museum comprised of 26 Victorian buildings. Once a year, however, it becomes the pivot point of several reenacted WWII battles, as entusiasts from around the nation converge for the largest event of its kind in the Midwest.

Nearly 1,3000 reenactors from 40 states representing soldiers of the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Italy, and China participated in this year’s event. In addition, about 50 original and recreated vehicles—everything from Jeeps and motorcycles to Kuebelwagens and Kettenkrads—rolled through the village and camps. Heavier vehicles included an M4 Sherman, M22 Locust, M5 Stuart, a Hetzer, Panhard armored car, and many half-tracks, trucks, and field guns.

WWII Days is much more than just a reenactment. A “Behind the Lines” tour on Friday evening guides visitors through the Village to preview the weekend activities. Reenactors labor intensely in the woods, constructing outposts, bunkers, and trench works.  On Saturday, this area opened to the public. Skirmishes occurred in the late morning in the woods and the village.

These were followed by all-out battles, one depicting an Eastern front action complete with Soviet tanks and partisans, and the other, a Western Front with US armored troops clashing with tenacious anti-tank defenses thrown up by Wehrmacht and SS troops. The evening wrapped with a USO-style dance.

 

SS troops passing from the village into an open field where they would deploy for anti-tank action.

SS troops passing from the village into an open field where they would deploy for anti-tank action.

 

On Sunday, the encampments reopened to the public. In the afternoon, the event culminated with one battle reenactment.

A commercial area was open to the public both days. This has grown considerably in the past few years with vendors of original militaria equalling those of reenacting supplies: About 30 in all.

Late Saturday afternoon rain did not hamper attendance as thousands came through the gate to interact with reenactors and watch the battles. The Midway Village staff have made a great contribution to introducing a large audience to the reenacting, collecting, and military appreciation communities.

For more information, contact: Midway Village Museum, 6799 Guilford Road, Rockford IL 61107; 815-397-9112, ext. 110; admin@midwayvillage.com or log onto www.midwayvillage.com.

More photos from the “WWII Days Scrapbook”…

There were many female participants, like these two Soviet infantry soldiers.

There were many female participants, like these two Soviet infantry soldiers.

 

Group of correspondents were busy interviewing soldiers and taking pictures.

Group of correspondents were busy interviewing soldiers and taking pictures.

 

Bands of partisans could be found roaming through the woods. During the battles, they fought alongside their national counterparts.

Bands of partisans could be found roaming through the woods. During the battles, they fought alongside their national counterparts.

 

All sorts of daily routines were demonstrated in the encampment area.

All sorts of daily routines were demonstrated in the encampment area.

 

A conservative estimate would suggest there were about 25 1/4-ton vehicles present—about 1 for every 50 soldiers!

A conservative estimate would suggest there were about 25 1/4-ton vehicles present—about 1 for every 50 soldiers!

 

Nick and I eagerly supplied copies of Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine to the troops who devoured the “news from home.”

Nick and I eagerly supplied copies of Military Trader and Military Vehicles Magazine to the troops who devoured the “news from home.”

 

German paratroopers passing a Hetzer on the way to the front.

German paratroopers passing a Hetzer on the way to the front.

 

American paratroopers prepare to leave the village.

American paratroopers prepare to leave the village.

 

A USO show included appropriately attired--and sounding--performers.

A USO show included appropriately attired–and sounding–performers.

 

 

 

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