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WWII re-enactment attracts hundreds

Rick Fulton
Gettysburg Times

(9/22) World War II re-enactment events, including the annual Eisenhower National Historic Site World War II encampment, were held this past weekend in Frederick and Adams counties.


Allied equipment "stacks up" on a narrow dirt road at Buck Forest Farm, Rocky Ridge, Md., on Saturday after the head of their column is hit by German troops. After the half-hour battle that soon followed, the convoy moved off to confront the Germans again in Emmitsburg.

The weekend events were kicked off with a non-public engagement of German and American troops Saturday at Rocky Ridge, Maryland.

Including the Germans, more than 60 World War II re-enactors and two dozen period vehicles participated in the attack at Rocky Ridge.

Around 8:30 a.m., German soldiers, representing the 2nd Gebirgsjager Division, arrived at the Buck Forest Farm, owned by John and Linda Ballenger, Rocky Ridge, and deployed in advance of the arrival of the Allied convoy.

Elements of the 4th Infantry Division Military Police Platoon, 8th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne, and the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion were among those in the convoy.

That Allied convoy, lead by motorcycle-mounted scouts backed up with a fully-functional armored half-track, and followed by the rest of the military vehicles involved, arrived around 9:15 a.m. via Motter Station Road, and proceeded to the farm down a dirt road.

As the Allied convoy crossed an old farm ford and traveled up a narrow dirt, fence-lined lane, the Germans attacked, and a half hour-long skirmish ensued.

Small arms and heavy machine gun fire mixed with commands being shouted in English and German could be heard echoing across the fields as Allied forces fought to suppress the German effort to assail the convoy.

From Rocky Ridge, the Germans made their way into the streets of Emmitsburg while the convoy was reorganized to follow them.

"The Liberation of Emmitsburg" represented the second year that this portion of the event was held. However, last year there were no Germans present.

Hundreds of spectators lined the streets, many waving American and French flags. Individuals re-enacting the French resistance were planted among French students from Mount Saint Mary’s University as the town awaited the arrival of the Germans.

When the Germans arrived and began "interrogating" a member of the French resistance, others, bearing machine guns and rifles stepped out of the crowd, including "armed" resistance member Emmitsburg Commissioner Glenn Blanchard, and compelled the Germans to surrender in front of Saint Joseph’s Church.

The Allied convoy soon arrived to officially liberate the town and take custody of the German prisoners.

The bells of Saint Joseph’s Church resounded as the convoy passed as part of the liberation celebration.

French re-enactors presented the soldiers with bottles of (non-alcoholic) wine, roses and bread as the vehicles progressed into the parking lot of Saint Joseph’s.

The bottles of wine with World War II labeling were provided through a contribution made toward the re-enactment by Cathe Curtis, Gettysburg, on behalf of paleoplastic.com.

Tim Kuntz, Lancaster, served as the German commander at Rocky Ridge and Emmitsburg, while William Buker, Catonsville, Md., a member of the 4th Infantry Division of Military Police, took charge of the Allied operations and the two adjoined events.

After the "Liberation of Emmitsburg," the convoy made its way to the Eisenhower Farm National Historic Site’s World War II encampment to join in the activities being held there Saturday and Sunday.

Hundreds of World War II re-enactors held demonstrations and gave talks amid the dozens of period tents set up and laden with a wealth of war-time equipment and memorabilia.

Hundreds of spectators attended the weekend event just outside Gettysburg, but park officials did not have a count as of press time.

Farm owners John and Linda Ballenger have expressed an interest in having a larger, annual World War II event at the farm. The non-public fight at the farm Saturday was arranged to permit the soldiers to get a feel for the lay of the land and decide if the site would work for the re-enactors.

This Times reporter was in charge of arranging for the Buck Forest Farm battle Saturday and selecting the scene of the battle. Michael Hillman, president of the Emmitsburg Area Historical Society, organized the "Liberation of Emmitsburg" portion of the events in Maryland.

Hillman credited the Times with helping to make the event successful with pre-event coverage.

The historical society president said members of other community events came forward after the "liberation" and offered to help with next year’s event in Emmitsburg.

The society president said a number of things can be incorporated next year "so citizens can have a much nicer experience and I’m looking forward to working with other community organizations and re-enactors to make next year’s event five times better...a larger event."

Hillman said he saw a couple of elderly town residents "with tears in the eyes" as the Allied convoy passed.