Combat vehicles and memorabilia

| 22 Feb 2012 | 08:22

    Eighth annual show and swap meet featured plenty of history, By John Church AUGUSTA — Augusta went green last weekend — olive drab green. Fair weather greeted fans at the Military Transport Association’s eighth annual Military Vehicle Show and Swap Meet held on the Sussex County Fairgrounds Saturday and Sunday. Collectors, restorers and the curious found a wide assortment of new and used parts to keep American military history rolling. For the less mechanically inclined there was a row of tents manned by historical re-enactors explaining the uniforms and equipment used during WWII. “This would be the first stop for a wounded soldier after being tended to by a medic in the field,” said John Dwyer of Clinton as he explained the contents of a tent set up as a battalion aid station. Nearby, Phil Rocklen of New Haven, Conn., and Brian Bancale of Sussex assembled a .50 caliber machine gun behind a low wall of sandbags. “This is the same machine gun used in WWII, Korea and Vietnam and up to today,” said Bancale. “A crew of three would mount the 85-pound gun onto a ground tripod or a mount on a wide variety of vehicles.” Weapon fans seeking a little more bang for the buck could listen to an explanation of the workings of a bazooka at a tent set up by the 78th Infantry Division WWII Living History Association. “The bazooka firing tube is thin and lightweight as it did not have to contain high pressure gas like a gun barrel,” said Matt Paluba of Philadelphia. “The projectile is rocket propelled allowing the weapon to be hand held when fired. It also emits a large back blast so you do not want to be behind the weapon when it was fired.” The six 78th Infantry re-enactors were displaying equipment and uniforms used on D-Day. An unusual part of their uniforms was a heavy paper sleeve worn on their left biceps. “This paper sleeve is a gas brassard,” said Matt Carroll of Westville. “It is a litmus-type device that would turn pink in the presence of poison gas. The planners were aware that a logical place to use gas was on the invasion beaches and equipped the troops with these simple detection devices. At the first sign of pink you would don your gas mask. Luckily the Germans never used gas.” All of the equipment on display was not born green and that is where Paul Viens of Exton, Pa., steps in. Viens has collected unopened cans of military paint and used small samples to reproduce fresh batches of the exact shades of paint needed for accurate restoration work. “I reverse engineered the colors to find the various tints used and can make any color in modern two-part urethane paint,” said Viens. “The tricky part was developing a lusterless material for military vehicles.” The marking of newly manufactured vehicles was complicated by the need for secrecy. “The fear was a spy could take a photo of a vehicle storage facility and a second photo some time later,” said Viens. “By comparing serial numbers the spy could estimate production rates. Blue-drab color will not show up on black and white film at more than 35 feet away. I sell the blue-drab color that was used.” Spectators could also browse through the buildings full of vendors in search of military treasures.