World War II military display brings the battlefield to Florida this weekend
(Tribune News Service) — War is coming to Green Cove Springs this weekend, but it's all for show.
And that show will let visitors watch real World War II tanks and historic military vehicles partake in mock battles — complete with ground-shaking artillery fire — to show off America's military might from skirmishes long past.
The First Florida Chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association Winter Rally and Swap Meet runs Friday through Sunday at the Military Museum of North Florida in Green Cove Springs. About 100 reenactors will be on site, joined by nonprofit veterans agencies such as Wounded Warriors and K-9s for Vets and vendors selling parts and militaria.
"We expect a turnout of vehicles to exceed the last time in October 2019," association member Stan Kinmonth said. "Folks are tired of sitting home watching Netflix."
The last MVPA event in 2019 saw 1940s halftracks and tanks; 1990s HUMVEES and German Army Kubelwagens; a British scout car; and even a bright red 1956 Dodge M-56 Rescue Truck. Then there were the four tanks, plus a 155mm “Long Tom” field gun and a tank destroyer taking to the field in a mock battle against a “German” bunker on a hill.
This weekend's event is expected to see M4 Sherman medium tanks and a "Long Tom" artillery gun on display as well as used in the 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday battle reenactments. That mock battle will re-create part of an April 1, 1945, fight between members of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division and British 11th Armoured and 6th Airborne attacking German defensive positions.
Tank destroyers, halftracks and other World War II armor will also join in with reenactors and a display of one of the first Jeeps built in 1941 next to a 2021 model for comparison.
Organizers say the free event is outdoors, but masks will be encouraged as Clay County provides COVID-19 sanitizing stations. Visitors should be aware of uneven ground, plus stakes and lines holding up classic military tents and items protruding from the vehicles that are as they were in the war. And bring ear protection for the mock battle, while pets are not encouraged due to the noise.
The event begins Friday with a sunset display of World War II tank gunfire that will be repeated at sunset Saturday. The event continues at 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with 1 p.m. battle re-enactments both days.
For more information go to the MVPA chapter's Facebook page at facebook.com/firstfloridachapterMVPA.
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"Long Tom," a thundering 155mm field gun, fires a blank round during the Military Vehicle Preservation Association's 2019 Fall Rally next to the Military Museum of North Florida in Green Cove Springs.
DAN SCANLAN, FLORIDA TIMES-UNION/TNS