GETTYSBURG, Pa. – On September 16 and 17, the National Park Service will sponsor its 21st annual World War II living history weekend at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. The public is invited to tour World War II encampments of over 700 living historians portraying Allied and German troops. The camps are authentically recreated by over 90 living history units and include original World War II vehicles.
Living history volunteers will present programs throughout the weekend on WWII weapons and equipment, communications, medical services, military vehicles, and the life of the common soldier. Dozens of operational WWII vehicles will be on display, including a Sherman tank and a tank destroyer. Visitors have the opportunity to participate in an Army Air Force mission briefing, join an infantry platoon on patrol, and listen to stories of civilians from the Home Front.
The weekend also features book signings, special guided tours of World War II burial sites in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and a World War II style “USO” dance. Both days, visitors may purchase lunch at the site courtesy of the Heidlersburg Volunteer Fire Company.
Guest speakers for the event include World War II veterans, authors, camp survivors, a playwright and more:
Saturday, September 16
10:00 a.m. – Kenneth Weiler, author of several books on World War II, will speak on why the Normandy Invasion was closely tied strategically to what was happening on the Eastern Front.
11:00 a.m. – Colonel Dick Camp is an author, historian, and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. He will discuss the daring U.S. Marine raid on Makin Island that took place in August 1942.
12:00 noon – David S. Wisnia is a survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. During a transfer from Auschwitz to Dachau, he escaped and was “adopted” by the 506th Parachute Infantry Reg., 101st Airborne Div. for whom he served as interpreter.
1:00 p.m. – Catherine Ladnier has written a play, Letters to Eva, based on the life of a Jewish soldier in the U.S. Army, Corporal Herbert Rosencrans, and the letters he sent home to his mother. Her program focuses on the Jewish contribution to Allied victory in the war.
2:00 p.m. – Bill Wagaman served with the 36th U.S. Infantry Div. in Italy and France during 1943-1944. Shortly after the Allied landings in the South of France, he was wounded and captured by the Germans and spent most of the rest of the war as a POW.
3:00 p.m. - Bob Stanley will discuss U.S. Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright who was captured in 1942 when the Philippines fell to the Japanese.
Sunday, September 17
10:00 a.m. – Bob Cutler has written a book about the Bakers Creek air disaster that took place in Australia during World War II. The crash of an American military plane was kept top secret so the Japanese would not be aware that the U.S. was sending over troops and supplies with the intention of using Australia as a major base of operations.
11:00 a.m. – Suzi Camp, author of several books, will give a talk entitled “A Marine at Nuremberg,” about Marine Sergeant Stuart Schulberg who was with the OSS’s photographic branch and provided film evidence used against Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
12:00 noon – Harold Angle served as an infantryman in the 28th Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. His unit suffered so many casualties in the Battles of Hurtgen Forest and the Ardennes that it was nick-named “The Bloody Bucket” by the enemy.
1:00 p.m. – Mary Murakami will share her experiences as a Japanese-American during World War II when she and her family were placed in relocation camps due to Executive Order 9066. She spent all of her high school years at camps in California and Utah.
2:00 p.m. – Darrell Blizzard was a B-17 pilot in the 8th U.S. Army Air Force in Europe who flew numerous combat missions. Orphaned as a child, he had attended school in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
3:00 p.m. – John Schaffer fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a member of the ill-fated 106th Infantry Division, the rookie unit that bore the brunt of the German attack on December 16, 1944.
Both days, retired National Security Agency employee Rick Henderson will be on hand to demonstrate a captured German Enigma Code Machine, the code of which was cracked by the Allies, allowing them to intercept and decipher important messages transmitted by the Germans.
Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel will present free guided tours of the World War II burials in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Though well-known for Civil War burials, the National Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 400 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen who died between 1941 and 1945. The interments include men who fell at Pearl Harbor and on D-Day in Normandy. These hour-long free guided walks are offered Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The tour begins inside the Taneytown Road cemetery gate.
Saturday night, a World War II style “USO” dance will be held at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., featuring 1940s music by the Gettysburg Big Band. Open to the public, tickets will be sold at the door for $10.00. A cash bar will be available.
The encampment will be open Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Shuttle buses for the event depart from the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center located at 1195 Baltimore Pike. Cost of shuttle bus tickets are: Adults, $9.00; Children 6-12, $5.00; Children age 6 and under are admitted free. Weather permitting, free on-site parking for passenger vehicles only will also be available in a farm field accessible off of Emmitsburg Road, Business Route 15. Bus groups and visitors using wheelchairs should plan to use the shuttle system. For reservations, call 1-877-874-2478.
Eisenhower National Historic Site preserves and interprets the home and the farm as a fitting and enduring tribute to the life, work, and times of General Dwight David Eisenhower and to the events of far reaching importance which occurred on the property. Learn more at www.nps.gov/eise
Photo below: An M4 Sherman Tank and M36 Tank Destroyer owned by Frank Buck, of Gettysburg, will be on display September 16 and 17 at Eisenhower National Historic Site.