Part artillery display and part living history lesson, the third annual Operation Anvil World War II reenactment scheduled for Oct. 2 at Phil Moore Park promises to be the biggest battle yet.
“We had 120 reenactors last year, and this year we already have 145 pre-registered,” said Ron Cummings, executive director of the Honoring our Heroes nonprofit that was established in 2019 to coordinate an event geared toward honoring military veterans.
“We’re anticipating more than 200 reenactors,” he said.
Those reenactors, portraying both the German-led Axis forces and the U.S.-led Allied forces, will bring to life battles in southern France that allowed that country to be liberated from Nazi Germany in 1944.
Played out on the large field across Scottsville Road from the Phil Moore Park ballfields and gymnasium, the reenactment will include authentic uniforms and equipment during mock battles scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Those battles are open at no charge to spectators, who will also have the opportunity to visit the encampments of Allied and Axis reenactors before and after the battles.
Cummings and other Honoring our Heroes members said what takes place between battles is more important than the battles themselves.
A ceremony honoring all military veterans in attendance is scheduled for 11 a.m.
“The biggest part of the event is recognizing our veterans,” said Paul Correa, a founding member of Honoring our Heroes. “We’ll present medals and gift certificates to them. That’s the highlight of the day.”
Another highlight, at least for military history buffs, will be the presence this year of an operational Tiger tank of the kind used by the German army during WWII.
“We will have a unique vehicle this year,” said Robert Decker, another Honoring our Heroes board member. “It’s a Tiger tank reproduction that a man in east Tennessee had built. It’s the most realistic Tiger tank I’ve seen.”
Cummings said the Tiger tank is one of only a handful still in operation worldwide, and he said having the vehicle here has increased interest in this year’s Operation Anvil.
“A good portion of the reenactors who are coming want to be involved in a battle that has a Tiger tank,” Cummings said. “We have reenactors coming from at least seven states.
“It will probably be the only time they ever get a chance to see a live, operational Tiger tank in person.”
In addition to the increase in the number of reenactors, Cummings expects a higher number of spectators this year.
“We had about 2,500 spectators last year,” he said. “We’re expecting 5,000 this year. People can come before the first battle or between battles and mingle with the reenactors.”
Those reenactors will be firing blank rounds, but the Tiger tank and other vehicles and weapons used in the battles are certain to make a racket, Cummings said.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said, “but it will be really loud. You may want to bring ear protection.”