Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Time Machines

Or, tanks for the memories, World War II-style.

By Jesse Pool

MAY 1, 2000:  "Some people say we're weekend warriors and laugh at us, but most of us are serious historians," the soldier says outside of his World War II encampment on the Pink Palace lawn.

The soldier's name is Andrew Pouncey. He works for the city of Germantown. He's also the president of the Memphis chapter of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. The MVPA is an international organization dedicated to restoring and preserving military vehicles from a bygone era.

Pouncey and others like him are weekend warriors -- they spend their weekends reliving the past and fighting to preserve as much history about the second World War as possible. This weekend, at the Southaven Spring Festival, the MVPA will be putting on a European Theater-set static display, in which onlookers can ask questions and interact with the participants.

According to Pouncey, most of the MVPA's 10,000 members are in Europe because the U. S. military left many vehicles behind after the war.

For the Memphis group, the vehicles are the focus and any reenacting tends to be secondary, although owning a vehicle isn't necessary to be a member. The Memphis group was founded in 1990 and has about 50 members, most of whom are between the ages of 40 and 60. Pouncey says at least two members are veterans of World War II, and some other members are veterans of the Korean War and Vietnam. The group also boasts owning roughly 25 antique military vehicles. Pouncey says MVPA attracts history buffs and model builders as well as people interested in the vehicles and reenacting.

"We're a fast-moving society," says MVPAer and farmer George Jones. "It's good to remember our history -- good and bad."

Pouncey agrees, though he points out that the reenactors can't capture "the heart of it -- the emotion, the stress."

Sometimes members of the audience can, however. Pouncey says sometimes a veteran sees a static display or a battle reenactment that stirs memories which have been bottled up. Pouncey recalls one man who was "more informed than we were" who was talking to them about a gun mounted on a vehicle and then started telling his story to people standing nearby.

Pouncey has his own vehicle -- a half-ton 1941 Dodge Carryall four-wheel-drive truck.

"My vehicle was replaced in 1942," he says. "It never made it to the war."

Vehicles aren't the only authentic items on display. Everything from the tents, ammo boxes, and chairs to the uniforms, wristwatches, and the coins in Pouncey's pockets are from the time period.

"If we're going to communicate this to the public, we've got to do it right," Pouncey says.

Most reenactors share Pouncey's attitude and try to be as true to the time period as possible. There are even sub-time periods during the war that reenactors pay attention to -- for instance, there were uniform changes during the war, so they will agree on an exact time period before an event and everyone will dress accordingly.

Doing it right is expensive. Most of the antique equipment is hard to come by, and it is almost always high dollar. Pouncey says the pants he wears cost him about $80. The typical World War II reenactor can expect to spend anywhere between $600 and $1,000 on basic equipment not including a weapon, and if a they want a vehicle, it can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $40,000 to acquire one. Then there are the extra costs of the vehicle's restoration and maintenance.

Maintenance can be even more expensive for show vehicles. Some people don't realize that the vehicles are private property, Pouncey says. Often, they will have to remind the public that a member has invested a lot of time and money in a vehicle when someone tries to mount it for a photograph.

Most of the vehicles in the Memphis chapter of the MVPA were acquired by a couple of the group's founding members who took a trip to Norway in 1993 with several other collectors. One of them, Bruce Gray Jr., says he acquired 20 vehicles in Norway and shipped them back home, for a total cost of about $65,000. Gray says many of the vehicles the group purchased were in northern Norway and had to be shipped to Oslo by truck before they could leave the country.

"In some cases, it cost more to get them to Oslo than to get them here from there," he says.

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