PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. --
The award-winning Living History Detachment of the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society represented the Marine Corps in one of the nation’s largest gatherings of World War II re-enactors last week in Reading, Pa.
The team, totaling 10 LHD members, traveled nearly 700 miles to the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum toting a 1942 Ford GPW Jeep and a truckload of historic equipment to provide the Marine representation for the World War II Weekend.
They spent four days camped in pyramidal canvas tents with no modern supplies or running water, while surrounded by 1,200 other devoted role players who represented almost every country and military involved in the war.
“We all have a passion for Marine Corps history and we want to honor the veterans - that’s who this is about,” said Eric Junger, a retired major, who is the officer-in-charge of the detachment.
“Things like this build teamwork and esprit de corps for us,” said Ray Cording, a founding member of the LHD. “That’s one of the reasons I do it. You feel like you belong to an organization that really works together to educate people about history.”
The LHD also set up a static display within their encampment, showcasing the era’s weapons such as a Browning automatic rifle, an M-2 bazooka, and combat uniforms from the period.
They offered battle studies of Saipan and Tarawa to wandering spectators, and retired Sgt. Maj. Dave Robles lead a presentation on basic drill and rifle manual. Ever supporting the recruiting effort, the historians gave away motivating posters, hats and key chains to attendees.
Though there to educate folks, members of the LHD took every chance to learn from other historians at the event, said Cording, of Lady’s Island, S.C.
“You’ve got to see the Abbot and Costello impersonators,” he said. “They almost never come out of character, and they’re hilarious.” Other historical impersonators took on roles of troops, entertainers, civilians and commanders. There was a mock-USO show, a swing-music band, hostile Germans and even Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur showed up to inspect his troops.
Of course the most rewarding aspect of the event, LHD members agreed, was the presence of actual veterans from the time period. One World War II Marine, former Cpl. Ernie Baals, was pleased to learn Parris Island was represented at the event.
“I don’t know which was worse; Iwo Jima or Parris Island,” said Baals, of Philadelphia, who served as a machine gunner with the 3rd Marine Division at Iwo Jima. Several veterans approached the LHD to thank them for their tribute to the men of World War II.
Membership to the LHD is open to those who have the desire, determination and willingness to devote their free time to preserving the Marine Corps and Parris Island heritage, Junger added. He can be contacted at 263-3290.