OTTUMWA — Don’t be alarmed if you see soldiers fighting in Ottumwa Park this weekend.
David Gordy, head of the Third Pionier re-enactment group, has organized a World War II combat re-enactment event in conjunction with Oktoberfest. About 60 participants from across the Midwest will be in attendance.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the war in Europe, which began Sept. 1 1939, with the German invasion of Poland.
To Gordy, it’s an important opportunity for people to learn about history outside the realm of books and classrooms. The re-enactors will perform military maneuvers and give talks, and real artifacts from the war will be brought out for attendants to see. Authentic campsites will also be on display.
“We’re hoping to get vets out,” Gordy said. “We need to get them out there talking about it so once they’re gone it’s not just lost forever.”
The Friends of NAS Ottumwa will also come out and talk about the history of the Ottumwa Naval Air Station. People will be able to donate to the organization’s ongoing restoration efforts. Others will be fundraising for the Wapello County Historical Museum.
The area was heavily involved in the war. Apart from the many veterans who served, the NAS trained Navy pilots throughout the duration of the war, including future President Richard Nixon. John Deere produced components for tanks and other vehicles, and local produce went to feeding Allied soldiers.
Gordy hopes to make this an annual event. Depending on attendance and re-enactor participation, he would like to include expensive vehicles like Sherman tanks in future demonstrations.
The event begins Friday, Oct. 4, at noon and goes until 4 p.m. Oct. 6.