As World War II escalated, the Evansville region stepped up in defense of freedom. About half of the United States’ fleet of P-47 Thunderbolt airplanes, as well as 167 landing ship tanks – massive vessels that carried forces into combat – and various forms of ammunition were manufactured in the city.
It didn’t go unnoticed. In December, Evansville was among 19 U.S. communities recognized as a World War II Heritage City by the National Park Service, an honor only one city per state may receive. The designation then inspired Indiana officials to create a statewide military trail, announced in February.
“Everyone came together in Evansville throughout World War II on every front, and everyone together made a difference in the outcome of the war,” Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says.
The city’s World War II history is honored at the Evansville Wartime Museum, where a P-47 known as Hoosier Spirit II is based (the original Hoosier Spirit was the first P-47 made in Evansville, in 1942); at the U.S. LST Ship Memorial; and at the Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, which has a war-themed exhibit, “Arms for Victory.”
Area residents will get a taste of Evansville’s World War II history during this summer’s ShrinersFest on the riverfront.
At 1 p.m. June 24, the LST-325 and wartime museum will team up for a reenactment of the D-Day invasion. “Allied forces” will approach the Downtown Riverfront (standing in for Omaha Beach), with “German forces” awaiting them on land.
The reenactment is returning after a COVID-19 pause, and plenty of volunteers are committed for the day, says Chris Donahue, an LST-325 Ship Memorial board member.
The LST-325 and two Higgins boats – landing crafts used extensively by Allies during the war – will participate. Donahue says reenactors will have an encampment along the riverfront, between the Four Freedoms Monument and the Pagoda, for festivalgoers to view.
The Evansville Wartime Museum plans to bring several items to ShrinersFest for viewing. That includes its Sherman Tank, recently named “Rosie’s Revenge.”
“Any vehicle that runs, they are going to have out there,” Donahue says.