CONNEAUT — 1940s music and the sound of weapons fire filled the air in Conneaut Township Park on Thursday afternoon, as D-Day Conneaut kicked off.
Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to visit the park over D-Day’s two and a half days with 2,100 reenacters registered for the event..
As usual, there are a number of events scheduled. On Thursday, there were no battles, but there were still some bangs as WW2 Armor fired off a ceremonial salute.
WW2 Armor is based in Florida, and they brought a number of interesting vehicles to the event.
The most recognizable were two versions of the M4 Sherman tank, a number of which landed on the beaches on D-Day. The group also brought an M-7 “Priest” mobile gun, and an M-18 Hellcat tank destroyer.
Biggest of all is the 155mm M2 Long Tom, named KELEV GADOL — Big Dog in Hebrew — which anyone in proximity to the beach will probably hear this weekend. The M2 and the tractor that pulls it, an M4 High Speed Tractor named KELEV KATAN — Little Dog in Hebrew — were on the beach next to WW2 Armor’s tanks.
WW2 Armor also had a display playing training films for the public.
Joshua Collins, who does research for WW2 armor, disputed the commonly held belief that German tanks were superior to American tanks. Sherman tanks destroyed more than two pieces of German armor for every Sherman lost, Collins said. The M18, which is also at Conneaut, destroyed eight pieces of enemy armor for every M-18 lost.
Eric Bowen, a reenactor from Austin, Texas, drove to Conneaut with a group based at a museum in Austin. This year is Bowen’s first visit to D-Day Conneaut. “This is the event to do, if you’re going to do one,” Bowen said.
Eric Montgomery, veteran coordinator on the D-Day Conneaut Board, showed off equipment used by the Naval Beach Battalion during D-Day 75 years ago, elements of which will be used at Saturday’s landings.
Montgomery’s great uncle, Amin Isbir, who was a member of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion died on June 6, 1944.
Because of the amount of ships that are taking part in this year’s landings, the signal corps will be using a number of tools to help guide the ships onto the beach, including signal flags and different kinds of portable signal lights.
“We have so many boats landing this year. We want to make sure we don’t run into each other, for number one. We’re the traffic cops on the beach, so we’re the guys with the flags, telling them when to come, and where to go. Because they can’t see what we can see,” Montgomery said.