Expanded Delaware Goes to War rekindles life at Fort Miles during WWII

Post Del goes to war U-858 surrender

A German submarine crew member is checked for weapons during the re-enactment of the surrender of U-858 at the 2014 Delaware Goes to War event at Fort Milles in Cape Henlopen State Park. The surrender of U-858 is among the many historical attractions slated for this year’s event, set for Saturday, April 25. (Sussex County Post/Glenn Rolfe).

 

LEWES – Fort Miles at Cape Henlopen State Park comes to war-time life through re-enactment Saturday, April 25 with an expanded edition of Delaware Goes to War that that will also salute the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe.

Re-enactors in period dress, with period equipment and weapons will recreate garrison life at Fort Miles during World War II.

post Del goes to war grossdeutschland oliver ecke

Oliver Ecke, a member of the Grossdeutschland Living history Group, shares information on German weaponry at the 2014 Delaware Goes to War event.

 

Among the highlights: re-enactment of the surrender of German submarine U-858, the firing of the fort’s guns, tours of Battery 519 and a step back in time to WWII on America’s eastern seaboard home-front.

The event runs from 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

Admission is the standard state park fee.

There is designated event parking with shuttle service to and from Fort Miles.

Master Sgt. Dr. Donald Hattier, spokesman for the Harbor Defenses of the Delaware Living History Association, predicts this year’s event will be bigger and better than its predecessors.

“By the looks of it, the registry and reenactors coming is much bigger than what it was last year,” said MSgt Hattier.

Whether it’s the Battery 519 bunker, the mess hall, firing demonstrations or the crew of U-858 surrendering, sights and sounds of WWII will abound.

“We have the Civil Defense people coming back to put on a program,” MSgt Hattier said. “The musical group WW Tunes is back.”

Also returning is Indian River High School graduate Olivia Cress, who is attending the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music.

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Scott Wallen, of Rehoboth, and Candace Rogers of Lincoln, both members of the 261st Coast Artillery living history group, clean utensils World War II style during the 2014 Delaware Goes to War.

 

“She is our version of Francis Langford, a singer-actress,” said Dr. Hattier. “Olivia did a wonderful singing impression last year. She’s got a great voice and it just really came across well.”

The Harbor Defenses of the Delaware Living History Association (HDD for short) brings together two components of Fort Miles: the 261st Coast Artillery and the 1252 Service Command Support Unit-Quartermaster Corps.

“This year we decided that since the post also had what they called a service command, that we have reactivated the 1252 Service Command Support Unit-QMC,” Dr. Hattier said. “They are the people that provided all of the supplies. The Coast Artillery people were the ones that fired everything but we’re the ones that arranged all of their support.”

Gun firings will have an added twist.

Post DEL GOES TO WAR Troop 170 gun NJ

Among the visitors at last year’s Delaware Goes to War event, these scouts in Troop 170 from New Jersey set their sights on one of the guns at Fort Miles. This year’s expanded event is Saturday, April 25.

 

“It will be bigger than last year’s. We added some propane fire guns, they’re fully automatic simulators,” MSgt. Hattier said.

The PX (Post Exchange) will feature period type military items.

In that there can’t be war without an enemy, German re-enactors from Grossdeutschland 7th Kompanie will be back, in period dress with arms. They’ll participate in the ceremonial staging of U-858’s surrender.

Through the efforts of the Fort Miles Historical Association and its “Bunker Busters,” the bunker has been transformed into a virtual museum, complete with working phone systems.

Those chowing down at the “mess hall” will be sitting on tables made by MSgt Hattier’s son, Donald A. Hattier, who took on the project in Eagle Scout quest.

“He has been making picnic tables – or dining room tables as they called them – according to plans from a 1942 book; that was standard military issue,” MSgt. Hattier said.

MSgt. Hattier noted the work of re-enacting Major Michael Rogers, a real-life U.S. Army Sergeant who has returned from an active tour of Afghanistan.

“We’ve become much more organized,” MSgt. Hattier said. “Major Rogers has done a superb job of pulling that together and getting all of the staff to kick in and really make things happen in a big way this year.”

Built in 1941, the massive coastal fortification was designed to defend assets along the Delaware River and Delaware Bay – as oil refineries and factories – as well as the city of Philadelphia during WWII.

The Delaware Goes to War event has grown since its inception.

“Fort Miles involves re-enactors, civilians, Civil Defense, females, the state park system, and now the United States Air Force, the U.S. Navy with the (USS) Missouri barrel… and the U.S. Navy and Army donated cannons,” said MSgt. Hattier. “So you’ve got so many different groups that have come together to make this a really neat experience. It’s not just local anymore; this is spreading now. All in all, it should be a very big and very well-attended event.”

Attendees should have no trouble parking as the state park service has again arranged for shuttles. “That has been a wonderful thing for us because parking was always an issue,” MSgt. Hattier said. “Now, there are no parking problems.”

The 2015 Delaware Goes to War is being staged less than two weeks shy of the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, which occurred May 8, 1945.

In observance of that, the Harbor Defenses of the Delaware Living History Association is in its second year of the Challenge Coin. These fundraiser coins – which show the submarine on one side, and Victory in Europe on the other – are $15 each.

“They are sure to become collectors’ items at some point,” MSgt. Hattier said.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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