BERWICK – Jim Davis finally got to see a piece of history.
The Warrington, Mo., resident was born and raised in Berwick, and his father worked at the former American Car and Foundry where thousands of Stuart tanks were built.
Now, he finally got the chance to see one up close.
“I never had seen a Stuart tank before,” he said as he stared at 1942 Berwick-made tank named Lady Lois. “I think it’s noble attempt to bring back a tank that was built here for it to stay here.”
The Stuart Tank Memorial Association held the final day of its 3rd annual Berwick World War II Weekend at Test Track Park on Sunday, drawing droves of attendees from across the country to get a glimpse at history.
Thousands of Stuart tanks were produced at the foundry during the war, but less than 300 remain today. The memorial association was able to track down and purchase a Berwick-built tank, with it making its homecoming in 2016.
Since the inaugural event, the annual weekend has doubled in size each year, according to association board member Tom McLaughlin. The weekend features nearly 350 re-enactors hailing from 14 states and Canada, as well as 50 vehicles, presentations, entertainment, vendors and more.
Now thanks to some local sponsors, the event is also free.
“We’ve had over 50 sponsors who have actually contributed so that we could make this free to the public,” he said. “But we are dependent on donations.”
Aside from restoring Lady Lois, the association is also working on the creation of a museum that would house some other Berwick-made historic pieces, including an older M3 Stuart tank and D7 bulldozer, which was also crafted at the foundry.
Proceeds from the event go toward the restoration of Lady Lois, as well as the creation of the museum. McLaughlin said he hopes the museum would be open to the public by year’s end.
As many attendees made their way through he rows of re-enactors, Pine Grove residents Mike and Lisa Miller decided to make the event a family affair. Dressed as a WWII-era soldier and factory worker, the couple attended the event with their son, Logan, who was portraying a war chaplain.
The duo said they enjoy meeting new friends at the event, as well as hearing stories and presentations from various veterans.
“We enjoy just meeting people and seeing what the soldiers did for us during World War II,” he said.
While the event largely features re-enactors of Allied Forces, folks were able to gain a different perspective thanks to some members of the German Army.
Riding horses through the event, Winchester, Va., residents David Miller and Sheila Galdfelter happily spoke with attendees. Miller portrayed a soldier with the 13th calvary regiment in the second company of the German Army, with Gladfelter acting as a female horse trainer for the Axis Forces.
Both he and Gladfelter said they enjoyed their first time at the event and were eager about returning next year to continue educating people about the roles of German soldiers.
Standing in front of Lady Lois, association board member Bill Hartzell said the event aims to keep a piece of local history alive and is happy to see how much the weekend has grown in three years.
“We want to make sure that the people who manufactured the tank and died in the tank are remembered,” he said. “We want to honor those people because they were the greatest generation, and we’ll do everything we can to keep that history alive.”
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