For close to an hour, the area south of Waxahachie city hall and around the old train station was turned into a simulated World War II battleground. Sounds of gunfire and smoke bombs filled the air. This year was the10th year for the Battle of Waxahachie re-enactment.
The Allied forces regained control of the old train station after a German surrender.
The railroad tracks marked the boundaries of the Allied and German camps. By early Saturday afternoon the park south of the railroad tracks was turned into the Allied forces camp.
This year’s re-enactment had a first-time event. With the railroad tracks dividing the two cams, not one but three freight trains thundered through the re-enactment battleground. The first just before the battle began, the second during the battle. The last one came just after the surrender just north of the tracks.
General Patton was asked after the surrender what effect the trains’ interruption had on his battle plan, “It gave us more time to see where those lousy Germans were and come up with a plan to defeat them,” he said.
The re-enactment was put on by members of several World War II re-enactment groups. Included in the 200 re-enactors were approximately 150 who participated in the actual battle dresses in actual World War II uniforms. An additional 50 were wives and friends who dressed in clothing typical of the 1940s.
“This is a lesson in World War II history to the public. Every history student needs to see these and participate to understand the significance of the war,” Charles Varner, Patton said.
For the members being a re-enactor is a quest to be as authentic as possible. This means collecting original uniforms, emblems, hardware, weapons and even vehicles. For the collectors, they seek out original uniforms, however due to the scarcity and fragility of the original, their re-enactment uniforms are duplicated as closely as possible, right down to the cloth, buttons, thread and stitching pattern.
Many of the members, when not putting together a uniform or preparing for a re-enactment, study the history of battles and learn as much about the leaders they portray.
One of those who has studied his character is Varner of Grandview. But Saturday afternoon, Varner became General George Patton.
“When Patton commanded the forces in Europe, he was the same age, same height and close to the same weight as I am now. Besides we are strikingly similar is appearance,” Varner said
When Varner started getting interested in reliving history, he began restoring and collecting World War II vintage cars. Presently he has six. Two of his cars are a Dodge Command Vehicle and a Pontiac, similar to what President Harry S. Truman would have ridden in.
When Varner is not in his Patton character, he and several others are restoring or maintaining their collection of World War II vehicles. He named off several he owns, but his favorite is the command vehicle with the three stars on the windshield frame; the same vehicle he commanded from during Saturday’s battle.
Many of the re-enactors arrived as early as Thursday to prepare for the weekend’s events. The Allied troops set up camp in the park next to the old bridge. The German’s established their camp beside the Boyce Gran and Feed Store. Both camps’ tents and equipment were as authentic of what was used during World War II.
Anticipating the encounter with the Germans, to defend their position, “Every year we run these Germans out of town and they keep coming back,” Varner said in his Patton persona.
Trying to hold their position between the train station and the bridge, the German forces faced the Allied army from two fronts.
“We staged an assault that they could not match,” Varner said.
Saturday’s battle ended with the Allied forces crossing the tracks suppressing the Germans into surrender. After the German general surrendered his side arm to Patton, both generals exchanged salutes.
There were no casualties; soldiers on both sides shook hands then greeted the many onlookers answering questions about the equipment and what they had just experienced.
After the battle, looking at the crowd of bystanders, “We we’ve run them out of town again, but I suspect they’ll be back again next year,” Varner said.
Varner and other members of the re-enactment said the Battle of Waxahachie is the longest running in the state, being held annually for the past 10 years.
“Waxahachie is the only city that we have been in that lets us have the whole downtown area for the weekend,” Varner said.