World War II comes to Tidioute - Titusville Herald: News

World War II comes to Tidioute

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Posted: Monday, August 5, 2019 5:00 am

TIDIOUTE — Tanks rolled through the streets of Tidioute as German soldiers chased Allied forces and the history of World War II came alive.

Saturday saw the annual Tidioute World War II reenactment return for its 11th year. While going strong for more than a decade, the event went through a major change in 2019 as reenactors played out a different kind of battle.

Rather than the traditionally performed Battle at Remagen, spectators saw the Battle of Nijmegen, which was part of Operation Market Garden in 1944. Lee Lindemuth, one of the lead organizers for the event, noted that the 2019 reenactment was unusual because it was one of the few where the Germans won the battle.

Before the reenactment began, Lindemuth spoke to spectators about the importance of remembering history, even in cases where America lost. He also said that much of the reason Operation Market Garden failed was at the strategic level, and the actual soldiers themselves usually exceeded in their goals, sometimes to the point they pushed too far and couldn’t be resupplied. He praised the allies for their ability to bounce back from the loss.

“Tenacity and a never quit attitude won the war,” he said.

The reenactment brought people from all over, both to participate in the event or to serve as spectators. Among them were four World War II veterans, consisting of Art Hodges, Guy Prestia, Paul Hannhold and James Slupe.

While fighting in the same war, many of these veterans had completely opposite experiences from one another. Hannhold served in the South Pacific, nearly on the opposite side of the world from where Operation Market Garden occurred. Nevertheless, seeing the battle evoked a nostalgic feeling from him.

“I guess it brings back old memories,” he said. “I went in 1942, and I had two brothers who went to Europe.”

Hannhold was a member of the 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion, which he said were among the first soldiers to land on islands during the Pacific campaign. Their armored vehicles would clear a beachhead for infantry to follow. He was involved in the Battle for Iejima, called Ie Shima in English, and was still serving in the South Pacific when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Inside a tank, lots of the small arms fire sounded like popcorn,” Hannhold said of his experiences in the war.

Prestia served closer to the area of Operation Market Garden, having been under the command of the famous General George S. Patton in the European theater as a member of the Fifth Army in the 45th Infantry Division, known as the Thunderbird Division. Prestia’s tour of duty took him to Sicily, Italy, Southern France and then into Germany. He was part of the forces that liberated the Dachau concentration camps.

His service not only saw Prestia meet Patton, whom he described as a strict but respectable man who tended to lead from the front, but also future president Dwight Eisenhower. While in Italy, he saw the corpse of Benito Mussolini after the dictator was executed by communists.

Prestia echoed Hannhold’s sentiments on what viewing the reenactment was like for someone who had served.

“It brings back a lot of memories from what you saw,” he said. “The only difference is that they use blanks.”

Lindemuth encouraged those at the reenactment to speak with one of the World War II veterans in attendance and thank them, noting that there would one be a day the men and women who fought in the conflict would no longer be around.

The battle itself saw more than 200 volunteers participate, each of them using privately-owned uniforms and equipment. The German forces had a number of armored vehicles, including two tanks, while the Allies rode in Jeeps and lighter halftrack reconnaissance craft. Explosives simulated artillery fire, including a creeping barrage that followed Allied forces as they retreated across Tidioute bridge toward the end of the battle. The streets of Tidioute were littered with brass casings, which attendees were able to take home as souvenirs upon the battle’s completion.

The reenactors came from far and wide, hailing from Michigan, Canada, Ohio and more. Some of them, however, were a bit closer to home. Gavin Griffin, 15, is a Titusville native who participated. He was taking part in the battle alongside several friends, including Michael Sanderson of St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania. The pair were part of the Allied Forces during the reenactment.

Griffin had taken part in the Tidioute reenactment before, and called the new battle a nice change of pace. Sanderson thought the same, though said that having to be the ones retreating met a lot of extra work.

“It was definitely more intensive,” Sanderson said. “A lot more running on our part.”

Both fairly young, with Sanderson being 24 years old, the two said their participation showed a much closer picture of the reality of World War II than many people may think.

“Most of these guys were young and fighting for freedom,” Griffin said.

Sanderson said many of the people who fought in World War II were just out of high school when they were drafted, risking life and limb. Griffin and Sanderson both notably did not “survive” Saturday’s battle, falling during the Allied retreat.

One of the motivating factors for many reenactors is getting the chance to meet actual World War II veterans, according to Tony Trout, of Mt. Jewett. Trout was also part of the Allied army alongside a group of friends, who played the part of the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion.

“It’s extremely humbling for anyone who is doing it, and it’s really a treat for anyone to hear them,” Trout said of meeting a veteran.

Another member of Trout’s group, Jeff Schatz of Kersey, Pennsylvania, agreed.

“Hearing the stories first person is way better than reading a book about them,” Schatz said.

Saturday’s event saw a bit of international participation. Reenactor John Newton, while currently living in the Detroit area, originally hails from England. He is a member of the 9th Parachute Battalion, a group of reenactors made up of British people or Americans of British descent. This was the first year the group took part in the Tidioute battle, as it was the first time British units were allowed.

The 9th Parachute Battalion use entirely British gear and weapons, or those that were send to the British army under America’s lend-lease policy. Newton said this makes finding all of the appropriate fixings for the battalion’s outfits harder, but is worth the effort.

“When a kid comes up and we put a rifle on their shoulder, a uniform on them that their grandfathers might have used, they’re like a sponge,” he said. “They suck that history right up.”

Humorously, Newton noted that he hated history growing up, finding reading about kings and queens throughout Europe’s past to be dull. However, he finds living the experience to be much more fulfilling.

Of course, fighting against the many Allied soldiers was a much larger contingent of German reenactors. According to Lindemuth, the Germans outnumbered the Allies at the reenactment by about 50 more people. Among those was John Tyler, who lives near Ithaqua, New York. Tyler portrayed a German Military Police officer in the battle, riding a motorcycle with a side-car into action.

Tyler said there are actually several advantages to portraying a German soldier over an Allied one. American, British and other Allied badges are not allowed to be worn by reenactors by law, as part of a requirement to not impersonate a serviceman. As the German army from World War II is now defunct, German reenactors can wear badges and medals, adding some extra flair to the costume.

Plus, Tyler said, there wouldn’t be a battle without the German army.

“You can’t have the battle without the bad guys,” he said. “You can’t have cowboys and Indians without the Indians.”

While Saturday’s reenactment did have an accidental early start, Lindemuth called the event an overall success. He said that the organization committee will meet soon to decide whether to do the Battle of Nijmegen again next year, or return to the Battle of Remagen for its 75th anniversary.

Ray can be reached, by email, at sray@titusvilleherald.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.

2 comments:

  • Noahs Bark posted at 7:23 pm on Tue, Aug 6, 2019.

    Noahs Bark Posts: 118

    We need these guy to protect our city. Hire all of them as deputies!



     
  • Jahoba posted at 7:35 am on Tue, Aug 6, 2019.

    Jahoba Posts: 240

    Why in the world would anyone want to celebrate a battle that was won by the German army? Has this area of the country been overtaken by white supremacists? For shame.



     

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