On January 27 of this year, my dad and I attended the Battle of the Bulge Reenactment at For Indiantown Gap, PA put on by the The World War II Federation. The reenacting had been taking place all week and we visited on the second to last day.
The toughest part was finding the place, but after that, we only had the 20-degree weather to deal with.
Overall, our experience was good and bad. It’s tough to complain about a free event, so I’ll try to offer my experience as an observation of expectations exceed and not met.
The uniforms were superb. These guys spent a lot of time and effort putting together these outfits and getting these guns. The most impressive uniforms were displayed by some Germans. I saw a couple of them with the long black coats. There were also girls dressed in 1940’s style dresses with their hair up.
During our stay there, we heard explosions and gun fire happening in the distance. When we grabbed a Nazi to ask how we can see the action, he explained that we were hearing the “private reenactment”. This is where all the vehicles were being used along with 300-400 soldiers. To see it, you had to be a part of it. However, there would be a public reenactment later with about 30 soldiers.
Not as eventful as we had hoped, but what do you want for free?
There were loads of soldier barracks. Few of them had signs outside, so we played “choose your own adventure” as we walked into each building not knowing what to expect.
The first round of barracks was a giant swap meet of World War II stuff. There was everything you could imagine including uniforms from all sides, patches, insignias, videos, books, and a World War II American ambulance. If you wanted to get involved in these types of re-enactments, this place had everything you needed except the guns. There was even someone selling German and SS papers to make a mock passport.
After some walking around, we figured out that there were a few rows of barracks selling stuff and the rest housed the soldiers.
The soldier barracks were segregated by Americans and Germans. Inside, there would be posters, flags, equipment, and other time-era items decorating the bunks. Some barracks would have radios playing 1940’s music.
While the efforts ranged from barrack to barrack, there were some people had spent loads of time and money to give their temporary home a World War II feel. A couple had mock checkpoints built outside. The best part of the experience was walking through these barracks and talking with the actors about equipment. The know loads and are ready to give little-known facts about their gear.
One actor showed us two versions of a mounted German machine gun with a scope. He explained that when the gun was first used in battle, a lot of the operators were getting shot in the head. As a result, the Germans repositioned the scope three inches lower.
There was a married couple (doctor and nurse) in a German barrack that had a bunch of front-line medical gear. They were given explanations on how the German medics would treat people that were injured and then what would happen once the injured made it to an actual doctor. One person asked about how the injured Americans were treated. The doctor explained, “Believe it or not, the Americans were treated just like anyone else. On the front-line, people were operated on based off of who needed it the most.”
Our day was filled with interesting information like that until we got to watch the reenactment. The actors shot at each other for about 20 minutes until all the Germans were dead.