By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
HUDSON – The echoes of the American Heritage Museum’s Battle for the Airfield reenactment rumbled and cracked through the woods around Lake Boon, Oct. 9 and 10, as hundreds convened for the first such reenactment since 2018.
The museum welcomed attendees from throughout the region for what Director of Marketing and Communications Hunter Chaney described as a “living history” event.
“It’s really nice to be able to get back doing this again,” he said.
“It’s really quite exciting to see the machines operating,” he added, noting the large collection of tanks and other armaments in action. “They take on a whole different personality.”
Reenactment showcases American Heritage Museum
The American Heritage Museum has blossomed out of the long and continuing legacy of the Collings Foundation.
Founded in 1979, the Collings Foundation initially focused on preserving and educating individuals about historical aircraft.
Connections made at the annual Wings of Freedom Tour, however, helped the group acquire the massive military vehicle collection of Jacq Littlefield.
The American Heritage Museum opened in 2019 as a way to showcase and educate using that collection. Following the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, Chaney said he still viewed this recent reenactment as a coming-out party of sorts.
“For a lot of people here, it’s all brand new,” he said.
Event organizers gather reenactors through broad search
Reenactors go through a rigorous process, Chaney said, to participate in what is one of the largest area World War II reenactments in existence.
“All the reenactors here take a lot of pride in making sure that everything is exactly original and to the T of what they saw back in 1944,” he explained.
That takes on added importance, Chaney said, as the generation of individuals who fought in World War II ages.
“It’s not more than a couple of years, and we won’t see these guys anymore,” he said.
“We’re starting to find, as they’re nearing the end of their lives, that a lot of them are starting to come out and actually share what they were doing during the war,” he continued.
‘We’ll never let go of the importance of World War II’
Gunsmoke still drifted over the field behind him as Chaney reflected on the importance of reenactments like this recent Battle for the Airfield.
These types of events, he said, aim to capture the attention of attendees to then hopefully bring those individuals into museums and direct conversations with surviving World War II veterans now sharing their stories.
On Oct. 9 in particular, several of those veterans gathered steps away from the reenactment battlefield for a roundtable discussion.
“It really wasn’t that long ago,” Chaney said of World War II. “So, it’s up to all of us to continue this history, to continue these legacies even when they’re gone. We’ll never let go of the importance of World War II even after the generation goes.”