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Get ready to swing! World War II encampment, USO show coming to Stronghold this weekend

Vintage vehicles, living history re-eneactors all part of the event

The German soldier climbed on the 1944 DKW NZ 350-1 motorcycle, kick started it, put an unfiltered Camel cigarette in his mouth, and casually drove on to the sidewalk on the north side of the Ogle County Courthouse?!?!

Yep. That was just part of the scene on the courthouse square in Oregon last Saturday as the World War Two Historical Reenacting Society began an Armed Forces Weekend Commemoration that culminates this weekend with a WWII Battle Reenactment at Stronghold Camp and Retreat Center, north of Oregon.

“We were just out on a day trip and we saw all this and had to stop,” said Sandy Russell, Rock Falls.

In addition to the motorcycle “all this” included a WWII Jeep, tents, and gear along with living history re-enactors in uniforms from a couple of wars including Vietnam.

“We are with C Company, 1st Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division,” said re-enactor Todd Lamb, from Crystal Lake as he showed passersby his gear.

World War II tanks, jeeps, and motorcycles along with re-created battles with troops in uniforms are all planned at Stronghold on May 20-21.

Approximately 360 living history re-enactors from various states will be at this fundraising event for Stronghold, held in conjunction with the World War Two Historical Reenacting Society.

“There will be World War II re-enactors in World War II-type encampments along with vehicles from that era on display,” said Rich Russo, a member of the society’s event development team (and the German soldier on Saturday). “We try to make everything look as historically realistic as possible.”

The event will include uniform and weapon demonstrations with re-enactors portraying troops from Germany, Poland, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and, of course, the United States.

“We plan on having a German Red Cross Field Hospital and a European cafe that will be open to the public,” Russo said. “We will have flyovers and pyro-technics, weather permitting.”

A USO show complete with period music is also being planned for Saturday night.

“The USO show will be held in our Brubaker Center’s dining hall with a cash bar being run by the Oregon VFW,” said Danny Pierce, executive director at Stronghold. “Period piece music will be played.”

“The music will be WWII era with swing, and we are encouraging the public to dress in 1940-era costumes to get in the mood,” said Russo.

Battle re-enactments will be held twice on Saturday and Sunday (around 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) on the grounds with a special battle in the courtyard near the castle around 5 p.m. on Saturday.

“One of the strangest battles of World War II was the Battle of Itter Castle where Americans and Germans fought together against the SS to protect the prisoners being held in the castle,” Russo said.

Russo said the Stronghold site, along with its iconic castle, will provide the perfect site for the event.

“We will also be having a veterans hospitality tent for all us veterans,” Russo said. “The local VFW will be providing the honor guard for the flag raising ceremony as well as hosting the beer tent as a fundraiser for their organization. There will also be food and military vendors on site.”

A convoy of the vintage vehicles is planned for Friday night around 7 p.m. “They plan on driving down to Jay’s Drive In in their vehicles and uniforms to the downtown to promote the weekend event,” Pierce said.

Admission to attend is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under the age of 6 will be admitted for free. There is an additional $10 admission for the USO show on Saturday night.

All activities are weather dependent and visitors should check the schedule when they arrive.

A reproduction Civil War cannon, located on the east side of the courthouse, also drew its own audience on Saturday.

“I was just driving by and I saw the cannon. I can’t pass by a cannon without stopping,” said a smiling Warren Mitchell of Belvidere.

The Civil War cannon will be also be on display at Stronghold over the weekend.

Pierce said he hopes to make this an annual week-long celebration of Armed Forces Services Week.

“We’re just excited to be part of the community. We hope this is an event the community will embrace and as a way to honor all our veterans,” Pierce said.

For more information about the society, visit http://www.worldwartwohrs.org or Stronghold at www.strongholdcenter.org, 815-732-6111.

Stronghold is located two miles north of Oregon, along Illinois. 2.

About the Society (from www.worldwartwohrs.org)

World War Two Historical Re-enactment Society is an organization of more than 1,200 men and women members from coast to coast, as well as Canada and Europe.

Our mission is to bring the history of World War Two to life with public displays, simulated battles, participation in parades, and a variety of other community activities.

The society strives to honor and preserve the memory of those who served in World War Two, as well as preserve the artifacts of that period.

Our members carry out a wide range of historical impressions, including those of The United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany.

Our focus is entirely on the military history of World War Two. We have no sympathy for the ideology of nazism or fascism. Such beliefs are not welcome here.

If this exciting and rewarding hobby appeals to you, please consider joining us.

Our hobby is dependent upon the talents and enthusiasm of its members and there is always room for new interest!

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