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Orange military expo features reenactments, historical exhibits on Civil War to Vietnam

  • The historical war plane Whiskey 7 sits on the runway after touching down at the Orange Military Expo.  —Recorder Staff/ Christie Wisniewski

  • Civil War re-enactors practice for their battle demonstration later in the day.  —Recorder Staff/ Christie Wisniewski

  • Complete with accurate uniforms, artillery, vehicles and battle techniques, a reenactment group displays a typical World War II battle at the Orange Military Expo. Recorder Staff/Christie Wisniewski



Recorder Staff
Monday, May 21, 2018

ORANGE — As the air raid siren sounded, soldiers scrambled on the battlefield and gunshots echoed. Smoke from artillery blasts clouded the air and a war plane droned overhead.

This World War II battle marked the first of three battles reenacted on the last day of Orange’s Military History Expo this year, which took place over Armed Forces weekend.

Reenactment soldiers depicted what a typical battle scene would look, feel and smell like during WWII, complete with accurate vehicles, artillery and uniforms. At the end of the battle, spectators clapped and cheered.

As she left, a bystander commented to another about the realness of the scene, especially the smell of smoke lingering in the air.

Two more reenactments would be performed in the coming hours: Civil War and World War I. In the meantime, guests could meander through almost 20 acres of military history including WWI trenches, military vehicles from each era — including some horses — camps, first aid tents and more.

The event ran Friday through Sunday, each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One of the main attractions was a true WWII veteran: a rare C-47 warplane known as Whiskey 7, which some lucky event-goers got to take for a ride. This same plane deployed paratroopers over Normandy during the infamous D-Day invasion.

The warbird flew over the battlefield during the WWII reenactment as spectators craned their necks to catch it in action.

The expo featured tangible military history from the Civil War, WWI, WWII and Vietnam. To add authenticity to the event, signs mimicked the WWII-era Burma Shave signs along the road leading to the battlefields. An announcer in an Armed Forces Radio Service tower occasionally interrupted his announcements with Burma Shave advertisements. In between, WWII-era music played over loudspeakers.

Re-enactors in a variety of uniforms strolled the grounds alongside visitors, many of whom were veterans themselves. Some drove historical military Jeeps around the grounds.

Military vehicles, including tanks and ambulances, were parked throughout the venue so people could tour them. Some younger event-goers got to climb inside.

Each “era” set up in different spots throughout the grounds. Toward the entrance, vendor tents set up with food, military-themed apparel and more.

“To me, this is a way to bring museums to people who can’t travel to DC,” said event organizer Missi Eaton. “Our displays are more interactive.”

She believes it helps people become interested in other military time periods they may not have had an interest in before, or even help reenactment groups recruit new members.

Eaton and her husband Dan have been putting on the expo for “four or five years” and have drawn increasing crowds. Dan estimated that possibly more than a thousand people had come to this year’s expo.

A 12-member board helps put the event together, and the planning takes months of coordination.

“Today, we live in a digital world,” said Dan. “People can get their opinions from a meme. (This event) showcases history and allows people to experience it and feel it.”

“We try to strive for historical accuracy,” he added.