PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
The explosive sounds of Springfield and M-1 Garand rifles punched through the smoky air as bounding Marines rushed with a bazooka and two blazing M-2 flamethrowers toward Japanese bunkers.
The battlefield looked like fiery chaos, however, this was actually a carefully choreographed recreation of World War II-era tactics performed in Reading, Pa., to educate and entertain spectators during the Mid-Atlantic Museum’s annual World War II Weekend.
“It’s a total assault on a fortified Japanese position,” said Frank Junger, a member of the Parris Island Living History Detachment. “We hit them with everything we’ve got.”
The Depot’s living historians performed the presentation twice last weekend at the Carl Spaatz Airfield for thousands of spectators during an airshow. Marines from the LHD opposed a Japanese force calling themselves the 8th Red Regiment.
Two Marine fire teams, their weapons loaded with blank ammunition, attacked the seven Japanese stand-ins who returned fire with authentic Arisaka rifles and Nambu pistols. The Marines, most of whom are actual veterans of the Corps, advanced up the field destroying one Japanese bunker with a bazooka, thrilling the crowd.
“The bazooka just fires off some black powder,” explained Nick Stergias, a member of the LHD. “We wire a satchel charge into one of the enemy’s bunkers and detonate it just after I fire the shot,” said Stergias, of Savannah, Ga. The simulation was perfectly timed during last weekend’s shows to look like a real round had blown up the bunker.
After the bazooka shot blew the hay bales from the first bunker, the Japanese were pressed to fight from only one fortified position. They charged the Marines in a final desperate attempt, screaming as they opened fire.
The Japanese simulated the act of giving their lives for their emperor. The 8th Red Regiment was devoted to representing the World War II-era Japanese accurately and honorably.
“Coming here and participating with the Marines to do the skirmish gives me a total appreciation of World War II that I’ve never had before,” said Tan Nguyen, a Japanese impersonator who has performed the presentation for five consecutive years.
“This is as close to immersion as you can get in a learning environment,” added Nguyen, from Princess Anne, Md.
Once killed in action, the 8th Red Regiment actors laid on the field as their bunkers were devastated by the authentic M-2 flamethrowers. The hay surrounding their fighting holes was doused in fuel before the show so it would ignite dramatically.
At the conclusion of the tactical demonstration, five Marines and a Navy corpsman charged to the summit of “Mount Suribachi” and raised the American flag to the roar of an audience.
“The flag raising looked just like Rosenthal’s photo,” said Rodney LaPearl, a spectator at the show. “The whole show is a really powerful tribute to the veterans of World War II, and I’m glad they came to do it.”