D-Day Conneaut, Ohio - Book Signing Event – August 16-17, 2013 - Overview
This was the first time I participated in such a large Living Historical WW2 event - D-Day, in Conneaut, Ohio, overlooking the beautiful bluffs and beaches of Lake Erie. I portrayed Fraulein Dieter, troop leader of Landjahr Lager based upon my book “Through Innocent Eyes – The Chosen Girls of the Hitler Youth.” Over 20,000 spectators came to watch over 1000 re-enactors commemorate the 69th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy.
It started on Friday morning with the flag raising ceremony in the center main field and the Sherman tanks firing over the upper eastern bluff. The event continued with the flag raising ceremony by the Memorial Wall and by noon with the WWII Veteran's private lunch. All day long, rides were being given on the Higgins Boats, which would later be used by the soldiers the next day for the beach invasion. I felt a deeper sense of connection with our soldiers who used similar boats to invade the beaches in Normandy, and those who had lost their lives. As people were mingling around both camps, and talking with the re-enactors, bombers and planes were flying overhead and the Road to Victory Battle took place at mid-park on Grove St. The ladies were enjoying their morning tea and fashion/makeup class and show, as the vintage vehicles were lining up in the lower pavilion. This was followed by the open house at the future D-Day Museum at the church (corner of Lake Rd and Harbor St.)
The following day, the Veterans told their personal stories as the Allied and Axis camps once again welcomed the tours. I was in the German PX selling my book "Through Innocent Eyes." I received many warm welcomes from my readers who stopped by for an autograph first print edition copy and speak with me. In the afternoon, I had to move my table behind the PX before the Marquis attack/La Fiere-Bridge Battle begun in the lower park.
As I stood up on the hill, thousands of rounds of blank ammunition went off, with the thunderous roar of the tanks gaining control of the bridge. As the narrator explained the event over the loudspeaker, the men were fighting and vying for control. Some 'played dead' as others continued to fight. I was impressed with their re-enacting skills for one soldier jumped over the creek and landed right smack in the middle. As he crawled out, his body was covered with mud. Another was shot in the neck and fell helplessly to the ground. Tears slowly started running down my cheeks when I watched the soldier grabbed his neck, pretending to hold back the blood as it was gushing out from his neck, draining the life force from his body. His body rolled back and forth from side to side until it slowed and stopped. His arms went limp alongside his body and he was (play) dead. I got chills only to think about our soldiers on the beach sixty-nine years ago, and how the sacrificed their very own lives for our personal freedom! Afterwards, it took me a little while to regain my composure. My father fought the Germans in WW2 and I could only image what he witnessed.
There was a reprieve in the events until last seating was called at 2:30 for the main beach landing event. At 3:00 pm, the epic drama of the Beach Landing Battle commenced as 20,000 spectators watched the invasion. Our camp was completely deserted except for a few of us who stayed behind to watch over each others' camps. At the end of the battle, the crowd roared in applause. It was time for the camps to close, and the vendors to start packing up. A few companies remained on site until Sunday. I volunteered and help to pick up what little garbage remained on the park grounds.
The evenings were full of excitement with an outdoor showing of the movie "Casablanca," the USO-style dance show, a 1940's Evening in Paris, and the German re-creations show in the Bier Garten.
There were so many more events that I cannot list them all here. Each tent recreated a little part of history based upon the re-enactors own personal interests. Believe me; I was very impressed with the authenticity. Some re-enactors spend in upwards of 10’s of thousands of dollars to re-create living history. Commemorative items were for sale in the military PX tent/building in the upper and lower parks. I hope each and every one of you was able to walk away with a little piece of history.
Next year, on August 22 - 23, 2014, this same event will commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the D-day landing, which will also be http://www.ddayohio.us 's - 15th anniversary. And when that happens, I'll be there!
I want to graciously send a special thank you to the following people for their continued education, dedication, commitment, and underlying support to make this event possible:
2013 D-Day Board of Directors:
Betsy Bashore - CEO
Lori McLaughlin - COO
Jennifer Palagyi - CFO
Robert Trumbull - Director Allied Re-enactors
Dan Merzke - Director Axis Re-enactors
Chris Bartone - Director Museum Development
Eric Montgomery - Director - Veterans Outreach
Waye Heim -Director - Media and Communications
Patrick Cavanaugh - Director
Lisa James - Director
Pat Rowbotham - Director
and to all the Sponsors and Veterans. I also need to thank Lisa James and Dan Merske for the gracious hospitality. It was also a pleasure meeting Deanna Fleischmann - Assistant Director at Villa at the Lake, Donna the manager of the Railroad Museum, the Conneaut Historical Society, Executive Director, Nancy Pape and her assistant Cindy, from the Conneaut Public Library and to the hundreds of people I met during my two day visit including, Lisa James, Dan Merzke, Molly Hoffman, Nancy Lare, Betsy Bashore, Lori McLaughlin, Heathyr Haskins, Bernadette Crumb, Jeanne Onuska, Christine Albin, Al Parents, Bill, Craig from the OKW group, Unit Commander - Ted O’Sullivan, Jen from Brighter Horizons, Paul Fischer – The German Cultural Society of Erie, PA, Gary Weltlich – VP of Auld Crafters & Associates, and Drew from 1994 Militaria, I thank each and every one of you for stopping by the German PX and purchasing an autograph copy of my book. It was a pleasure to meet you and hear your own personal stories about your family! I look forward to next year's 70th Anniversary D-day event! Keep up the fantastic work everyone! God Bless You All!
Cynthia A. Sandor
"Through Innocent Eyes - The Chosen Girls of the Hitler Youth"