The sights, sounds and smells of World War II filled the air around Reading Regional Airport as the 30th annual Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II weekend wrapped up on Sunday. About 60 World War II era aircraft and about 1,700 living historians took part in the three-day event. Last year’s show was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
By Tom Pawlesh
The MAAM’s WWII Weekend covers a large part of the Reading Airport in Reading, Pennsylvania. There is so much to see that one day is really not enough.There was a large flea market with over 100 vendors selling everything WWII and 1940’s, from military uniforms and clothing to jewelry, vintage suitcases and bicycles. Everything required to dress the part of a WWII serviceman or civilian could be found in the flea market. Every day of the show there were many WWII veterans in the main hangar where you could meet and speak with them. In fact, one of the more popular aspects of the event is the opportunity for visitors to meet World War II veterans, get their autographs and hear their stories. Some had published books of their wartime experiences and were autographing copies. Many of the veterans also recounted their stories on stage and answered questions.
In the Homefront area you can stroll along Main Street and catch a movie at the Victory Theater, stop in the beauty parlor to have your hair done in the latest fashion or have your car serviced at the Gulf Oil station. There was a 1940’s fashion show that not only modeled the clothes of the day but explained how people maintained their elegant look during wartime rationing. At the radio station, you can listen to the latest wartime news or watch as the “Spirit of the Airways” performers play out a radio drama. Remember, there wasn’t any television back then!
The Base Club was the place to sit and relax with a cold Coke and listen to the Forecast Quartet, America’s Sweethearts, Frank Sinatra and Theresa Eaman.On Friday and Saturday night the hangar was cleared and made into a dance floor for the sounds of the Big Bands.
For those that wanted to experience the air war from a vintage WWII aircraft, rides were being sold on the PT-19 Cornell, C-47 Skytrain, P-51 Mustang, SBD Dauntless, TBM Avenger, B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-29 Superfortress. No place but the WWII Weekend could you have a choice to ride in eight different warbirds provided by the Commemorative Air Force and the Yankee Air Museum.
For those that wanted to keep their feet planted firmly on the ground there was a night photo shoot featuring a B-25 Mitchell Bomber, SBD Dauntless and P-51 Mustang. The lighting was provided by professional photographer Pete Lerro. Pete is very experienced at setting up themed photo shoots for aviation and railroad enthusiasts. During this specially ticketed event the ramp was soaked down by the fire department to give some nice reflections and each aircraft in turn ran their engine for ten minutes. This was plenty of time to get photos from both sides of the aircraft and a head on shot.
The airshow each day featured more warbirds doing fly-bys and aerobatic routines. Everything from primary trainers to L-birds to fighters to transport and heavy bombers were in the air during the afternoon. Aerobatic routines were flown by Kevin Russo in the SNJ, John Current in the CAF Airbase Georgia’s FG-1D Corsair, Mark Todd in the P-63 Kingcobra and Craig Hutain in the P-51 Mustang. Mark Murphy flew a nice routine in the rare Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 Zero.
If you have not been to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s World War Two Weekend this event needs to be on your bucket list.This report is only a small sample of what can be seen and experienced during the weekend. Finally, I would like to thank all the people that make this weekend happen, from the re-enactors to the pilots and ground crew to the musicians and WWII veterans.The volunteers that are already planning next years event.The bus drivers, the trash collectors, the cooks, the ticket sellers.To the hundreds of people that give their time to honor our “Greatest Generation”, THANK YOU.
WarbirdsNews.com/Warbird Digest wishes to thank Tom Pawlesh for his article and Dave Brown for their marvelous photography! We hope you’ve all enjoyed seeing it too!