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Warbirds gather for 33rd annual World War II Weekend

A crowd of thousands couldn’t help but look skyward as the supercharged roar of the P-51 Mustang’s engine sang across the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s airfield’s Saturday afternoon.

Looping and barrel rolling, the famed World War II fighter soared with a ferocity that likely struck fear in those flying the 4,950 enemy craft that P-51 pilots destroyed in the war—more than any other US Air Force fighter in Europe.

The P-51 “Red Nose” Mustang, from the Commemorative Air Force Airbase in George, was one of 80 World War II aircraft flown and displayed at “A Gathering of Warbirds,” the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s 33rd annual World War II weekend event.

Flying such planes is second nature to Leo Eugene Dorman, a former Lieutenant Commander with the Navy who served throughout the 20th century’s most pivotal conflicts, including World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Dorman, 99, a guest of honor at the event, said his service took him worldwide.

Leo Dorman with his flight jacket he wore as a naval aviator during World War II. Dorman is a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Leo Dorman with his flight jacket he wore as a naval aviator during World War II. Dorman is a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“I’ve been all through the far east, I’ve been as far south as New Zealand, as far north as the Arctic circle,” Dorman said. “Sometimes when you get to a little village in a foreign country and they don’t know anything about the airplane, it has a problem, and you want to go and you can’t, it kinda gets a little shaky, haha.”

As a flight instructor, Dorman trained about 300 pilots, and flew 35 aircraft, ranging from single engine fighters to large, four engine transports.

“I enjoyed doing it, it was just a thrilling experience for me,” Dorman said. “I was a small-town boy growing up in Louisiana.”

Leo Dorman wears his flight jacket in ths photograph taken during World War II. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Leo Dorman wears his flight jacket in ths photograph taken during World War II. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

He said he remembers one stop off in Morocco where he made friends with some of the locals.

“I never got a camel ride, I was hoping for it, but it didn’t happen,” Dorman said with a laugh.

Dorman and other veterans and history buffs set up displays of World War II memorabilia in the museum’ main hanger.

Behind tables splayed with uniforms, combat knives, and other World War II artifacts in was Randy Kauffman of Hamburg.

Some of the uniforms on display were from Reading natives who served in the war, including Marines Edward Schappell, Leon Koch and Warren Harper.

Also on display was an invasion map of Iwo Jima that Kauffman’s associate found in an old storage locker that had been unopened for over 50 years.

Randy Kauffman of Hamburg talks about the rare map of Iwo Jima that had been in the footlocker of a Marine for 50 years before he acquired it. Above the map is a seabag that belonged to Edward Schappell of Reading, a member of the Second Marine Division. Kauffman has been displaying his artifacts during the WWII Weekend for 30 years Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Randy Kauffman of Hamburg talks about the rare map of Iwo Jima that had been in the footlocker of a Marine for 50 years before he acquired it. Above the map is a seabag that belonged to Edward Schappell of Reading, a member of the Second Marine Division. Kauffman has been displaying his artifacts during the WWII Weekend for 30 years Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“In the mid-90s, we got it from a Marine in New Jersey,” Kauffman said. “It’s pretty rare stuff.”

Kauffman, whose father served as a combat engineer in the Pacific during World War II, said he has a personal connection to many of the artifacts in his collection.

“So many of these things, I knew the people,” Kauffman said. “Yes it’s a neat item, but when you can put a face to the item, it adds so much more.”

A personal connection also drives Ken Reimert to don his uncle Robert Koch, of Reading’s, uniform as a reenactor.

“He flew 52 missions and got home,” Reimert said of his uncle. “His last mission, his plane was shot up so bad he couldn’t get over the cliffs and had to land in France. But he lucked out because the part of France he landed in was occupied by the Americans.”

Reimert himself served in the Air Force from 1955 to 1961, servicing P-51s as a mechanic.

On Saturday, Reimert, of Reinholds, tended bar at the Officer’s Club, wearing his uncle’s uniform and wings.

Ken Reimert of Reinholds, Lancaster County, tends bar in the Officer's Club, wearing the uniform and wings of his uncle, Robert Koch of Reading, who flew missions in a B-17 during World War II. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Ken Reimert of Reinholds, Lancaster County, tends bar in the Officer’s Club, wearing the uniform and wings of his uncle, Robert Koch of Reading, who flew missions in a B-17 during World War II. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

He said he participates in reenactments to honor those who died so that others could live.

The gravity of soldiers’ sacrifice wasn’t lost on Andrew Cameron and Ayden Chopp when they took a tour of the interior of an M4 Sherman tank.

“It certainly gives you an appreciation for how those men fought and lived in those close quarters,” Cameron said.

Cameron and Chopp spoke with reenactors on the site, who told them what it was like to fight inside a tank.

Ayden Chopp, 13, of Tom's River, N.J., climbs out of the hatch in a Sherman M-4 A-1 tank during the WWII Weekend Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Ayden Chopp, 13, of Tom’s River, N.J., climbs out of the hatch in a Sherman M-4 A-1 tank during the WWII Weekend Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

“They keep 75 shells in there, after 5 minutes you’d be puking from the smoke and you wouldn’t be able to hear, but you had to keep loading shells, your life depended on it…It’s crazy. Movies don’t do it any justice.”

Chopp, 13, said being in the tank wasn’t what he expected.

“It was something different, compared to movies and shows,” Chopp said. “(They don’t) show what (soldiers) actually went through…It was a great experience.”

In all, over 200 military vehicles were displayed at the event, as well as 20 acres of World War 2 encampments set up on the field by reenactors.

A French flower shop is part of the reenactments during the World War II Weekend Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
A French flower shop is part of the reenactments during the World War II Weekend Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum in Bern Township. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)


Source: Berkshire mont

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