BY VENI FIELDS
PUNGO – While locals picked berries along Princess Anne Road on a May weekend, the ground shook and the air came alive. Along the air strip at the Military Aviation Museum at the Virginia Beach Airport, bits of World War II history were taking place.
Tucked among Pungo’s strawberry farms and rows of budding corn resides what Baltimore, Md., resident Kate Gentry calls one of her favorite jewels.
“I wish more people knew about this,” Gentry said, speaking of the museum. “It really is a treasure.”
Gentry, who portrayed a German woman, joined about 300 reenactors from across the country for the Warbirds Over the Beach air show, an annual event that took place May 15-17 at the museum.
Her husband, Peter, operates a Flak 38 anti-aircraft gun for battle reenactments and demonstrations as part of their German WWII unit, the 24th Infantry Division, 31st Regiment, called Eis Bar, or Polar Bear Division.
“It’s about education,” Gentry said. “People can know about the wars, but very little about what daily life was like for families, and especially for women, and especially in the other countries involved in the war.”
Past contemporary vendor stalls, soldiers and airmen walked in WWII era uniforms between two rows of tents, lean-tos and camouflage netting over various displays, from rations and canned goods to weapons and vehicles. German, Russian, British and American units were represented.
Toby Wacker and Donalda Wengel arrived in Wacker’s brown 1940 Dodge half-ton truck, which would have been issued, he said, by the War Department and used by all branches of the military at that time. Born in Germany and now a Beach resident and mechanical engineer, Wacker’s love of the era and its vehicles started with toys that captivated himin his youth.
“When I got to America,” he said, “it was like heaven, because I can buy them here and restore them.” Dressed in American tech sergeant coveralls, Wacker attends these events whenever he can.
That May weekend was Wengel’s first. In 1940s civilian nurse’s dress, cap, stockings and shoes, Wengel said the Warbirds weekend was an overwhelming experience.
“I researched this because I wanted it all to be right,” she said, “right down to the makeup, pins in my curls and matte lipstick. Standing here, this is amazing.”