D-Day kicks off with battles, history lessons

Aug. 18—CONNEAUT — D-Day Conneaut kicked off with a bang on Thursday.

The event returns for 2023, the 79th anniversary of D-Day, with amphibious landings at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

D-Day Conneaut, which takes place at Conneaut Township Park, includes a variety of battles between Allied and German re-enactors, presentations on various aspects of World War II history, and a wide variety of vendors of World War II-era equipment.

Connie Hoover, who works at At The Front, a vendor at D-Day Conneaut, said the vendor has been attending the event for nearly 20 years

April Frank, also with At the Front, said this is one of the biggest shows they visit.

She said they sell replicas of German and U.S. military gear.

The Erie Vet Center is also present at the event this year.

Tony Reitz, with the Erie Vet Center, said the group is at D-Day Conneaut reaching out to veterans.

"We've probably been involved [with D-Day Conneaut] for maybe 10 years," he said.

Reitz said participating in D-Day is part of the Vet Center's community outreach efforts.

He said they see hundreds of veterans every year in Conneaut.

Early Thursday morning, Conneaut Township Park played host to the re-enactment of a skirmish between German soldiers and French Resistance fighters, one of a number of smaller re-enactments that take place throughout the weekend.

Making its return for its second year is a re-enactment of the British Airborne's assault on Pegasus Bridge, which will take place at 12:30 p.m. today and Saturday.

David Spencer, who has helped organize that part of the event, said D-Day Conneaut is the best overall event he has ever been to.

"The crowds are all very appreciative, they ask great questions, and they're here to enjoy it as well," he said.

He said recognizing veterans and their families is important.

D-Day was a massive operation, and Spencer said re-enacting Pegasus Bridge is a chance for participants to show one small part he believes is critical to the success of the operation.

"We're just so excited to be able to do these specific types of scenarios, and bring the history to the people," Spencer said.

He said re-enactors are trying to make the event interesting and educational.

The British troops who participated in the Battle of Pegasus Bridge landed at midnight, and took the bridge in 16 minutes, Spencer said.

At the battle, re-enactors will be wearing night-time camouflage.

Spencer said he will be narrating the events of the battle while they are happening.

Spencer said after the first re-enactment of the battle of Pegasus Bridge, they started working to determine what could be done better.

D-Day Conneaut draws visitors and re-enactors from around the country, Spencer said.

Also taking place today and Saturday, though not technically part of D-Day, is an airborne drop, located along Hatches Corners Road, just south of the city of Conneaut.