Dade Battlefield and New WWII standard

Recently, I saw a fuss raised on facebook. Usually, I would not comment about it. But it has to do with a change of an upcoming event at Dade Battlefield.

Dade Battlefield does an annual World War II event and has for probably the past 20 years. This is relevant to what happened there. Back in World War II, the Army Air Corp took over the park and turned it into a training base and prevented outsiders from visiting, due to the secrecy of the training. I am not sure how long this lasted, but I believe that the dates on Wikipedia are wrong, which only say about five months. There is much more information in the state archives of what happened at the park during that time.

For those not familiar with Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, the park was established in 1921 or 22. The monuments, stone bridges, and a band kiosk are the oldest structures in the park. The museum was not built until 1957. Other than that, there is an activity lodge with a kitchen that can be rented, picnic pavilions with a restroom, and a playground. A nature trail, and in total, 80 acres. It is a small park, and I am not aware of anything that remains from WWII. But, that is still part of the history.

Why the Army Air Corp picked a monument / memorial park to set up a training base seems a little strange to me today. It's like setting up in a cemetery. The park has never been hooked up to adequate water and sewer to handle a large number of people, and is still on septic tanks, as a lot of the local rural area.

The people of Bushnell loved to come to Dade Battlefield because it was the only park at the time, and they had a big community July 4th celebration there every year before WWII. But the park was off limits due to the secrecy of the training being conducted. The local people complained, and the post commander finally relented and allowed them to have their July 4th picnic within certain limits of the park. This was sometime during the war; I don’t remember which year.

So, here is what raised a fuss on facebook. There has been a change in policy to the historical weapons firing safety program. I helped start the program back in 2007 with several other park staff and volunteers. But since I am no longer with the state parks, I have not kept up with the policy changes. Apparently, due to the controversy over recent gun violence, and shootings in schools across Florida, it has been decided by the FPS that there will be no weapons firing at interpretive events for WWII and later time periods. 

Displaying the weapons is okay. They will not be fired as part of a demonstration by park staff or volunteers.

No, I don’t understand it. Especially at Dade Battlefield which is between gun-happy Ocala and Brooksville. People in that area do not get frightened over weapons firing. 

And you can’t tell me that each weekend around New Year’s; since 1985, that in the afternoon when the woods erupt in 100 muskets and cannon fire, that anyone who lives in that neighborhood is going to be caught unaware of what is happening. The local neighbors were saddened to miss it that year when we got rained out. 

The public is not allowed to handle weapons, which has always been the policy in the state parks. Yes, you may have seen a stray reenactor let the public hold a musket at a reenactment. They are not supposed to do that, but it happens. I’ve never been fond of people handling any of my equipment.

So, when this new policy (of no WWII firing) was announced, some of my friends, said, “No problem!” This is something they can work around. They still want to come to the event and have an enjoyable time educating the public about this time period.

Other people have said, “If that’s how it is going to be, then I’m not coming!” Well, I will miss the firing line. But if the only reason that you are coming is to shoot the weapons, then you can always do that at the gun range. If that’s all you want to do at interpretive events. 

I started out in the reenactments partly for the battle reenactments when I was young and liked to run around and do that. But I quickly learned that I had more fun at small events that were educational, and sometimes we didn’t even fire the muskets. That’s why I stuck with it for almost 35 years. I can always learn more and interpret and educate. I am not able to run around anymore and do battle reenactments like I was at age 22.

So maybe you can’t fire a few rounds at Dade Battlefield at this upcoming event. I will miss that show myself. If you know some history or what went on with the Army Air Corp back around 1944, maybe you can tell people some amazing history. It is all about interpretation, so be creative! 


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