The 6th Annual WWII re-enactment of the battle at Remagen, Germany, in Tidioute will be bigger and louder this year.
"This is the first year we've ever had large scale tank and armored cars. We actually have almost 300 re-enactors this year, our sixth-year and our largest ever," Patrick Tarasovitch, event coordinator said. "People are coming from Arizona and all across the United States now. Finally it's becoming a big advantage for Warren County and Tidioute itself."
Times Observer photos by Ben Klein
Above, Henry Russo of Greenville, Pa. prepares for the Battle of Remagen Bridge in Tidioute on Friday. Below, left, Arnie Boyer of Wilmington, Delaware, and John Mick, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, brought a German Tank Stug III to this years re-enactment.
The encampment will be set up in the Limestone Township Ballfield next to the Tippy Canoe Inn on route 62 just south of the Tidioute Bridge. The camp will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today before the battle for the bridge that begins at 3 p.m. Tidioute Bridge will be closed to all traffic from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for pyrotechnic display set-up. Areas of the borough will be roped off and on Route 62 hill above the bridge. Spectators must view from behind theses lines for safety.
Veteran's of all wars have reserved seating in Tidioute next to the Bridge. Water, seating and shelter are provided for them.
Family members of men who fought at the battle are interested and are contacting the group members, Tarasovitch said.
"It's a small battle that changed the course of the war, is what this bridge did. It opened a front that the Germans didn't want opened up and that was the downfall. Weeks later the war was ending," Tarasovitch said. "Come check the camp out, ask questions. Our re-enactors are well knowledgeable...and we have quite a few veterans coming."
John Lind director of the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum brought an M20 armored car.
"This would've been one of the vehicles at the bridge," Lind
said. "This is a .50 caliber, same weapon they use today. Hasn't changed much at all."
The M20 was mainly used for armored reconnaissance to scout the opposition, James Bertolino, historian at the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum said.
"Figure out where the enemy is at, scout your positions and then pull back," he said. "Very lightly armored, but very fast though too. You can get in and get out very quickly."
For an armored vehicle it can reach 55 miles per hour, fast even for modern vehicles, Lind said adding about 3,800 of the M20's were made by Ford in Chicago.
Lind said he bought the M20 as a shell and rebuilt it over about three years of research.
"What we do know is this did serve in Europe, it was rushed to Europe and it was built November 1 1944 and it was actually in the theater by the first of December. So within 30-days it made it all the way to the theater. These vehicles are big time desirable. They have run flats, which means you can shoot the tires out and they'll run on hard rubber...this one would've been at the bridge. It would've been one of the first vehicles to the bridge for sure.
Phil Hagan of Wolf Lake, Michigan brought a 1941 M2 American half-track which he said was used heavily for artillery tractors. Hagan has also been restoring the M2 for about three years.
"This variant would've been there, probably pulling at 57 millimeter anti-tank gun," Lind said. "M2's were rare that was one of the Marine's favorite half track right there, the M2."
Hagan said about only 3,500 of them were made.
Arnie Boyer of Wilmington, Delaware, and John Mick, of Old Bridge, New Jersey brought the German Tank Stug III.
"It's a replica vehicle, it was built by HBO for "Band of Brothers" series," Boyer said adding it was in the Carentan episode and was hit by a bazooka. "It's a replica but it runs, it's got a diesel engine."
"We were doing an event in Ohio back in '07 and Pat approached and said 'What does this look like to you?' and I said it looks like the bridge at Remagen, a smaller version," Mick said.
Boyer said the Stug III out numbered the German Panzer in production with nearly 15,000 made.
"If there was anything on the front lines helping the infantry it was usually these," Boyer said. "This could penetrate the armor of any American tank, the front really was the only part armored against anti-tank shells, the sides and back were only to stop small arms fire and fragments."
Special Guest Speaker will be MSgt. Steven G. Appleby, Director of the Eldred, Pa., WWII Museum, who will speak during the opening ceremonies at the Veterans tent area on Buckingham Street beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Spectators are asked to remain outside roped areas during the re-enactment and to follow instructions of the Fire Police and re-enactment volunteers.
Viewing areas are available on both sides of the river with limited parking.