FOR THE PAST DOZEN YEARS, the largest D-Day reenactment in North America has regularly taken place in mid-August with Lake Erie filling in for the English Channel and the beach at Conneaut, Ohio serving as Normandy. In many ways this small Ohio town, an hour east of Cleveland is “invaded” with more than 2,500 reenactors coming to take part in the three day event, as thousands of spectators come to see the spectacle that is D-Day Conneaut.
The event actually began as a private, low-key event featuring a couple of dozen reenactors back in 1999 before becoming an official and well-organized event in 2007.
Visitors can take part in Higgins Boat rides on Lake Erie, attend a Church service conducted by military chaplains, and even see a 1940s-style USO show.
Weapons, Equipment and Gear
Of course this event is about the guns, equipment, and vehicles. While not 100 percent historically accurate—D-Day Conneaut features reenactors who are clearly older and much better fed, not to mention there were Waffen SS and other units that weren’t actually in Normandy on June 6, 1944—this is the next best thing to a trip back in time.
Over three days there were multiple “engagements” including two beach landings and even raids by French resistance and British Commandos; as well as weapons demonstrations, a tank parade, and artillery firing!
What sets D-Day Conneaut apart from other reenactments is that this one is truly meant to be a public display, and it offers a hands-on approach to attendees and offered a history lesson on the weapons and equipment. This included short lectures, demonstrations and other talks.
Attendees could walk in the camps, talk with the reenactors and feel as if they were traveling back in time or making their way through a living museum. Even if the reenactors were a little too old (as noted) the uniforms and equipment were truly timeless
Big Guns and Tanks
D-Day Conneaut has also become akin to a military vehicle show, but instead of one where the tanks and jeeps are merely parked in a lot or field, these vehicles can be seen on the move. Numerous vehicle collectors rolled into town mid-week and continued to arrive on Friday morning. This included an assortment of original World War II motorcycles and sidecars, Volkswagen Kübelwagens, and even armor!
Impressively there were nearly a half a dozen German tanks, including Panzer III, Panzer IV and Sturmgeschütz IV assault guns; which were replicas, each built on a British armoured personnel carrier chassis and mocked up to resemble the wartime armored vehicles. Eagle eyed viewers (or model builders) might note that these tanks had fewer “road wheels” than the real German Panzers, but these were far more accurate than the tanks seen in various Hollywood movies, notably Patton and The Battle of the Bulge , which merely dressed up Cold War tanks.
There were also original American pieces of armor, including several M4 Sherman tanks, landing craft, and even some large caliber artillery pieces. In other words the reenactors brought out the truly big guns!