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.
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.
More photos from the “WWII Days Scrapbook”…