World War I re-enactments are mostly kept from the public, according to Great War Association member Chris Garcia.
WWI often is referred to as the Great War, and the GWA is comprised of 45 units across the country that portrays troops from various countries that participated in the war.
They usually keep their re-enactments private for members only. The association owns its own property in Pennsylvania where Garcia said most of the Western Front re-enactments take place.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI. The Virginia War Museum and the Great War Association are hosting “America Mobilizes 1917” at Endview Plantation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to commemorate the occasion.
“Normally, we do them for our own value rather than public entertainment,” said event coordinator Garcia. “This is one of the few occasions there’s an actual, reputable World War I event that is going to be open to the public.”
The re-enactors will portray American, British and French soldiers. It will also include WWI battle re-enactments, which Garcia said only happens about two times a year for private audiences.
Garcia said there are only about 150 legitimate WWI re-enactors in the country. The museum is expecting about 50 to 60 re-enactors from the Great War Association to attend this weekend’s events. He said the museum has been planning the event for two years.
“The Great War Association is really the only reputable World War I re-enacting organizations in the United States,” Garcia said. “We’ve been around now since the 1970s, so only Civil War and Revolutionary War re-enacting have been around longer than we have been.”
The American camp will show how recruits were processed during WWI. The British and French soldiers will demonstrate several pieces of war equipment.
America Mobilizes also includes displays of weapons, uniforms and equipment used by the U.S. Army.
According to Garcia, who also serves as the Virginia War Museum’s education coordinator, Newport News was an important port during the war. The city, according to Garcia, served as a giant Army camp, where American soldiers were trained and shipped to sea.
“We are going to show people the training and equipment American soldiers had to use and the kind of camps they lived in over here in the United States,” Garcia said. “It’s a way of bringing history alive to the public.”
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, visitors will be able to scan documents, including letters and photographs, from the archives of the Library of Virginia. Scanning is free.
This event is one of many happening across the country to commemorate the 100th anniversary, Garcia said.
Joseph can be reached by phone at 757-374-3134.
Want to go?
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Endview Plantation, 362 Yorktown Road, Newport News.
Cost: $10 adults, $4.50 children 6-16.
More info: warmuseum.org or 757-247-8523.