The familiar displays, re-enactments and other features are back for the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s 30th World War II Weekend.
The three-day event on the grounds of the Reading Regional Airport in Bern Township was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“What’s new is the fact that we are having it this year,” said Jim Swope, event coordinator and founder. “And from the looks of it, we haven’t skipped a beat. There is full participation from the living-history groups and everywhere you look, someone is walking around.”
The air museum planned to hold the exhibition this June even before restrictions in the state were eased, Swope said, noting there would have space on 36-acre grounds to accommodate 50,000 under the safety guidelines.
Swope of Mount Penn, a retired history teacher, said his goal is for the exhibition to faithfully recreate the sights, sounds and smells of the World War II era.
“Hopefully, not the smell of wet canvas,” he said referring Friday morning to the gathering clouds that brought an afternoon thunderstorm.
The event, which runs through Sunday, draws aviation enthusiasts and history buffs from around the world to commemorate the war and honor those who served.
Many of the attendees had fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers who served in the European or Pacific theaters during World War II.
“They can relate intergenerationally to their relatives who were in World War II,” he said.
About two dozen World War II veterans will share accounts of their war experiences and will be available for autographs throughout the weekend.
Although the emphasis is always on those who served, features include displays of authentic World War II aircraft in the air and on the ground.
Themed A Gathering of Warbirds, the 30th event hosts 10 total bombers: heavy, medium, dive and torpedo.
“We have big aircraft, including a B-17 and B-29, participate with flight demonstrations and rides,” Swope said. “There is nothing more famous than a B-17, the plane that led the bombing campaign against the Nazis, or a B-29, the plane that led the bombing campaign against the Japanese.”
The planes are brought in from all over the country, he said. Some are privately owned and others are owned by museums and foundations.
Other highlights include living-history exhibits of American, Allied and Axis equipment, a glimpse of life on the homefront and period entertainment.
“My ultimate goal is to provide visitors with a good three-minute stretch, during which they won’t know if it is 1943 or 2021,” Swope said.