National Warplane Museum reenactment pays tribute for 75th Anniversary

GENESEO — With 2019 being the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, the National Warplane Museum paid tribute to the fallen heroes at this year’s Geneseo Airshow.

The Greatest Show on Turf was held July 12-14 with thousands of people from all over the country coming to take part in several historic activities.

On July 13 there was a D-Day mock battle with Liberty Jump Team, US Air Force tribute, and National Guard display. There were also hundreds of reenactors from all over the country portraying various aspects of the war. Visitors were able to see actual warplanes from WWII and take a look inside to see what renovations had been made. It was a weekend filled with honor, history, and respect for those who have paved the way for our freedom.

Barry Fait, Virginia Ann flight crew member, said the WWII plane was part of the D-Day 75th Anniversary in Normandy.

“It has been quite an adventure. We have never been at the Geneseo Airshow before, but it is a nice setting. I have never seen anything like this before,” he said. “It is good for people to be able to come and see her. We have photos inside of the men as they were seen in Normandy. We are very lucky to have those photos.”

Fait added the Virginia Ann flew in a combat mission over Normandy. She was chosen since she was brand-new at the time. The Virginia Ann Flight Crew has had her for seven years now, and they repainted her two years ago.

“We were part of the group that flew over President Trump in Normandy. It was the first time civilians were able to fly over the POTUS on D-Day,” he said. “D-Day is normally a day of rest. We flew over Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and President Trump.”

Jim Brown, American Airpower Museum member, said they have several WWII planes. Four of them were at the Geneseo Airshow. The Douglas C-47 Skytrain was one used in the mock battle for D-Day reenactment.

Brown said these are the original plans from WWII, and they all have a heroic history attached to their wings.

“Miss Hap was named for General Hap Arnold. It is the oldest B-25 that still flies. She was the fourth one ever built,” he said. “Everything we have at our museum flies. We have been coming to this (Geneseo) Airshow for a long time.”

Connor Kress represented the Dog Company 5th Ranger Battalion.

“We wanted to come and see the planes. We are part of the headquarters unit this time, so we can wear whatever we want. We like to talk to people about WWII. There is a lot that people don’t know about it,” he said. “We are portraying the 20th Group, which was the largest in the war. We did a lot of paperwork even though everyone wanted to be John Wayne with their guns. We are not on the frontlines, so we have women in our unit. There were a lot of women in this unit who did a lot of the work.”

Kress said it was good to bring this unit to the light so people could see that women played a big part in the war efforts as well.

“We are seeing people go beyond what they normally did in reenactments. I see them digging holes that they plan on sleeping in overnight. It really has become something real. Youngstown, Ohio is planning on turning a factory into a scene for a huge battle. No one will be able to have anything modern on display,” he said. “We are also starting to see more Pacific Theater come into play. There are a lot of guys that are 16 years old getting serious about reenactments. I remember my grandpa fought in WWII, and he thought the whole idea of this reenacting was silly. He never wanted to serve or wear the uniform. He just wanted to survive and come home.”

The 75th Anniversary of D-Day was honored with the telling of the Invasion of Normandy, paratroopers jumping from three WWII planes, and ground troops battling it out on the field. This entire mock battle was put on by Liberty Jump Team.

Kimberly Alexander, 272 Battalion Infantry Germany, said that there are two sides to portray in every war story. It was her first time being at the Geneseo Airshow.

“I am portraying a German Civilian, my daughter, Patricia, is portraying a German nurse, and my husband and his son are military police. We are showing the German side of the war,” she said. “I am wearing a Mother Cross in Bronze that shows I have three children for Germany. German women wore stockings with no seams as well.”

Alexander mentioned that a code was put in place with German mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and other women.

“The German women would knit and crochet messages in the clothes. They would put dots and dashes like Morse Code. Often these women lived near the railroad tracks and could easily send them. The grandmothers and mothers were the ones who did these on a regular basis,” she said.

Alexander added that many of the items in their reenactment come from antique shops they find along the way.

“I love to show the civilian side of the war. You find what works for you, and other people join you along the way,” she said. “We get most of our things from antique shops we find along the way. We do a lot of antiquing in the off season when we are not reenacting.”

Andrew Tripp, 39th Soviet Army, said he originally did Civil War reenactments but wanted to bring awareness to the 39th Soviet Army in WWII.

“The Soviet Army lost 25 million soldiers and civilians. They suffered the most loss in that time, and they get a paragraph in our history books. We lost eight million in four years. They lost 18 million in the first 18 months,” he said. “Every one of them was a human being with a family. We wanted to add an extra layer of history to this event. D-Day was not fathomable without the Soviet Army. They were allies to the American armies. They were allied with Great Britain before that. They fought Hitler over common aid like steel, gas, and war commodities.”

Most of the items for the 39th Soviet Army reenactment are original for the WWII era and come directly from Russia.

“It intrigues us to be able to share the story of 25 million people. We want everyone to know the whole story. These are 25 million faceless soldiers and civilians that were killed. There were 2,000 civilians killed every single week. Their story deserves to be told,” Tripp said.

Tripp added that the cross trenches the Soviet Army made was in keeping with the fact soldiers were unable to stay in one place for long.

“We have done this Soviet Army Unit 1941-42 for a couple of years now, and we really love bringing this history to life. We are a brand new Western New York Unit that is bringing this history to as many people as we can,” he said.