I recently ran across a stash of old photos I had taken one day when Mother and I had gone shopping and accidentally stumbled across WWII underway in the heart of our downtown. This was 2012 and we were in the downtown square in Waxahachie, Texas.
Waxahachie then had a population of just over 31,000, so it wasn’t a huge city but it hasn’t been entirely “rural” for a long time. It’s also the county seat of Ellis County and so has a grand courthouse. It has a beautiful downtown square surrounding the courthouse and lots of little shops and restaurants. We were just there to do a little Christmas shopping. Luckily, I almost always have my camera with me.
The first thing that was odd was running into two young men dressed as old-fashioned soldiers.
Then two more showed up.
When the medic shows up, you start paying attention.
Then we started seeing military vehicles.
It wasn’t long before we caught up with where they were forming.
Finally, we ran across an advertisement that explained it all. There was a “Black Market on the Square” from 9 to 3, a Veteran’s Ceremony at the Civic Center from 10 to noon, a battle reenactment at the train station at 3, and a WWII-era film to be shown at the local feed store at 7. (The local feed store, by the way, is a thing of true beauty).
It was an amazing event and I’ve never seen the like of it before or since.
They had set up tents near the old railroad depot.
And settled right in.
As we talked to reenactors, we found people representing the Australians, the Russians, the British, and, of course, our boys. It turns out that the reenactment was the liberation of Nancy, France from the Germans.
The equipment was amazing. Where do they get all of this stuff?
And you might be saying that they are just jeeps and trucks. Okay, I’ll give you that. But what about this?
This shot I just love.
We never saw any Axis troops. Or, if we did, we didn’t recognize them. I think that there might be one in the photo below, I’m not sure.
I had hoped at the time that the idea of reenactments like this would catch on. Spalding Gray had a theory that reenactments were like “war therapy”. They help us remember without inflicting the pain of doing it again. They also build a bridge between the soldier in war and the civilian in peacetime and, in so doing, help us appreciate what we lost and honor our dead.
There are several videos on YouTube of the annual liberation of Nancy, France in Waxahachie, Texas. I don’t know how we had never heard of it, but we hadn’t. Several of the videos have some slideshows of some great still shots followed by live action. I liked this one, a mock movie trailer, because it is actually kind of funny.
I googled WWII reenactments to see if I could catch one here in Virginia. Just from a quick Google, it looks like OH and PA are the best states for lucking into a WWII reenactment. Here are the sites that I found:
- WWII Historical Reenactment Society Inc.
- The Reenactor Post
- The Great War Association
- Living History Reenactment Association
Has anyone heard of events like this in Virginia or North Carolina? I’d love to hear more about them.