2023 MAAM WWII Weekend

June 3rd, 2023 - a time machine to 1944

Chaz JT

6/5/20235 min read

The roar of twin-engine C-47s overhead, men clad in green US Army uniforms jumping out and floating down in their parachutes... No, I'm not describing the initial stages of the Normandy D-Day invasion; I'm talking about the 32nd Annual Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's WWII Weekend.

Located in the town of Reading, Pennsylvania, at the Reading Regional Airport for three days in June, almost 2,000 people show up before the first visitor sets foot onto the premises to reenact the roles of WWII soldiers, civilians, pilots, barbershop quartets, tank drivers, and basically any other occupation you can think of from the 1940s. It's astonishing that I had never heard of this event until last year, but you can bet I will help spread the word. I decided to attend the event with my father-in-law, who also enjoys seeing WWII-era aircraft, and we stayed at a Comfort Inn on Friday night, about 17 miles south of the airfield. I chose to go on the Saturday edition of the show since it had the longest scheduled day of activities and I figured it would be the best day to attend as a first-timer.

We arrived at the airport around 8:15 AM (gates open at 8:30 AM) and immediately realized we had almost arrived too late, as traffic was already backed up to the main road. After parking on a grassy hillside, we boarded one of the many school buses that were ferrying attendees to the front gate. At that point, we encountered the only part of the experience that could use some improvement: all the attendees had to go through a single entry point, resulting in a very long queue. Once security checked our bags, we walked through the gate and immediately stepped into a time machine. Small buildings representing a French town, makeshift soldier camps with multiple nationalities represented, American and German armored vehicles glistening in the sunlight, Glenn Miller's music faintly playing from a faraway speaker... It was all such a surreal experience.

Both of my grandfathers were World War II veterans, but I never had the chance to speak to them about their experiences. One of them passed away at the age of 46, and the other when I was only 3 years old. It was truly a great experience to get a small glimpse into what life was like back then.

Food and drinks were available in abundance, with your usual pop-up & food truck style establishments plus some camps were making Army-style breakfast for attendees at a very reasonable price. Event t-shirts were available for purchase from the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's tent. There were a ton of flea market style vendors as well, although I was not able to visit many of them. I had heard that you cannot see everything in a day, especially if you watch the airshow too, and that was 100% truth.

After walking around for awhile taking in the sights and sounds, we watched an impressive military vehicle parade featuring over 50 examples of WWII motorized vehicles in great condition and running order.

Once the parade ended, it was time to find a spot to view the airshow from. Chalk it up in the lessons learned for next time, but all spaces next to the fence were taken long before we went looking for one. Thankfully I'm a tall person, so we just found a open spot about 20 feet from the fence and plopped down our lawn chairs. Even though various aircraft had been flying all morning taking people on rides, the actual airshow part of the event started off around 1:00PM. For a WWII history buff and plane nut like me, this airshow was fantastic. I checked off numerous examples of aircraft on my bucket list that I want to see in person like the Grumman Wildcat fighter and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The weather alternated between sun and extended periods of clouds, so photography was a challenge, but the event had set up a "photographer's pit" on the opposite side of the runway on a small hill, something I will definitely attempt to gain access to next time.

The airshow announcer did an excellent job of keeping the crowd engaged and informed about the aircraft in flight. During breaks between acts, he shared interesting stories about the planes, including anecdotes about unarmed reconnaissance planes that were occasionally "armed" by their pilots.

As someone who has read many, many books and writings about World War II aviation, it made me so happy to experience the sights and sounds I have read about. The distinct growl of the P-51 Mustang, the "scream" of the F4U Corsair, the incredibly loud propellers of the B-25 Mitchell upon takeoff; the list could go on.

a man in a plane with a man in the background
a man in a plane with a man in the background

Seeing as we had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us at best, we headed for the exit and the bus stop after the completion of the B-29 Superfortress "FiFi" flight. Aircraft were still in the air at that point, and a certain sadness crept in since I wouldn't see the actual end of the day, but also a joy knowing that what I had seen was incredible and that I would certainly try to attend future editions of the show.

A huge thank you goes out to all the volunteers who came to reenact the various aspects of WWII, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum, the Commemorative Air Force, and the Reading Regional Airport. I highly recommend this show to anyone with an interest in history, WWII aviation, or just an appreciation for the greatest generation to ever live. Till next time!