Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Something to Do (for the war effort): World War II Weekend at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum

Last month I officially took on another period (because I needed another one), and attended my first WWII event! Of course, I already like the 1940s and have attended '40s events before, but this was my first time attending a reenactment/living history event for the period. In fact, I haven't been to anything in that vein in years, and I wasn't sure what to expect. It turns out, I had a blast! Women were heavily involved in a lot of different positions during WWII, and that is a part of history I find fascinating--plus, it meant there was a lot for me to do!

In particular, I took pictures. 

The event was hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, and the annual event offers camp displays, skirmishes, air demonstrations, veteran talks, swing dancing, shopping, and several other attractions. There was a lot to see! I was quite impressed with the displays different groups had set up, and particularly awed by the "French village" several of the groups have constructed on the site. Each contributing group has a different building, with the bottom floor open to the public (displays ranged from a cafe, dress shop, and hotel to signal corps equipment). The village is also where the skirmishes between the Allied and German troops took place, which was way more interesting than open fields and a lot of marching (like what I remember from Gettysburg). 

on the steps of the Signal Operations building in the village
We camped with the Big Red One Living History Organization, since they were kind enough to let us join and put us up in a tent. (People were incredibly friendly and welcoming all weekend, and I can't really express what a difference that made to my experience at the event.) BROLHO doesn't have a building, but they did have a neat medical setup and an array of vehicles, which were awesome. I suddenly feel motivated to learn to drive a manual shift so that I can be a motor pool girl...

Antonia portraying an enlisted member of the Women's Army Corps in front of a BROLHO truck
While I did a lot of reading about the Women's Army Corps (the WAC), I decided to portray a civilian at the event--a photographer, to be exact. There were several American female war correspondents working overseas during WWII, and they were all incredibly smart, resourceful, driven, and fearless. Expect more on that soon! War correspondents were technically civilians, but they worked very closely with the armed forces to report the war from theater (although women weren't allowed at the front lines), and depending on their capacity wore uniforms. So as a war correspondent I had a WAC uniform with a few differences: patches to signify my WarCo status, a beret (not a standard hat for WACs, but worn by some of the war correspondents I researched), and no WAC insignia.

in my war correspondent uniform
Most importantly, I had something to do! I modified an original (but no longer operational) Speed Graphic camera--a common model for press at the time--to hold my modern digital SLR, so that I could actually spend the weekend shooting the event, but still have it be something in period. I had so much fun capturing the event, and I am really happy about the way several of the pictures turned out.

So without further ado, here is my photographic report from the European Theater...and the view from inside the reenactment. I am just as interested in trying to capture the weird we're-a-museum-display phenomenon as I am in capturing the event itself.

the camp directly across from us

during the convoy into town on Friday

while parked in town during the convoy on Friday

a vehicle parked in our camp

peaking out the window of a house in the "French village"

one of the village civilians

equipment repairs in the Signal Operations Building

working the telephone switchboard in the signal building (or pretending to!)

the "officer's club"

the crowd of attendees gathered to watch the first skirmish of the day (I shot this from the back porch of one of the buildings)
A different set of spectators
an event attendee I saw later in the day, playing war in the village
German troops shooting during the skirmish

shot from inside a building, thus the door frame cutting up my shot

a civilian family in the French village. I thought this was very well done, and I'm glad this aspect of the period was represented at an educational event--it's important (and also my heritage)
a different side of WWII families: a girl scout and her father collecting scrap metal for homeland defense
All in all, a really great weekend! I'm excited to go to another event in the future. Definitely worth the 12ish hours of driving in 3 days.


  1. Your pictures from the event came out great!

  2. Switchboard and nurse. Great pictures! :)