The Marines are returning this weekend to hit the beach at Solomons Island, commemorating the island's little known history as a key amphibious training installation for troops sent to fight in World War II.
Following last year's inaugural event, the Calvert County community again will play host Saturday and Sunday to "Solomons: The Cradle of Invasion-1999."
The two-day event, featuring historically trained reenactors who will storm the beach on Solomons, will likely be repeated every year hence for the foreseeable future, according to organizers.
This year's commemoration includes a number of new features, including a 1940s-style fashion show, a USO show and an address by an actor portraying President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Organizers are expecting a crowd of 7,000, about twice the number that attended last year's event. The success of the 1998 event has led organizers to try to make the commemoration an annual fixture.
"The response from the community was very positive," said Karen Stone of the Calvert Marine Museum, which is sponsoring the event along with the United States Marine Corps Historical Company. "Everybody said it was worth doing. It's such an important part of our history."
Publicity of last year's events has generated more interest in the commemoration this year, Stone said. "All the campgrounds and beds and breakfasts are full," she said.
The Navy chose to establish the Naval Amphibious Training Base at Solomons in 1942 because of the deep water in the area--100 feet in many spots--and its wide, sandy beaches, according to historical accounts.
About 68,000 servicemen from the Navy, Marines, Army and Coast Guard were trained at Solomons from 1942 to 1945, and many went on to participate in the war's landings, including those in North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Normandy, Iwo Jima and, ironically, the Solomon Islands in the Pacific.
Appropriately enough, organizers say, Saturday marks the 57th anniversary of the day in 1942 when elements of the 1st Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands chain.
This was the first offensive landing operation carried out by the United States during World War II, and the training for it took place in Calvert County. The fighting on Guadalcanal was the subject of a recent movie, "The Thin Red Line," based on the novel by James Jones.
During the war years, Solomons Island's population soared from fewer than 300 to more than 2,600 and the base was plagued by inadequate water supply and lack of organization.
This weekend, Marine, soldier and sailor reenactors in World War II garb will storm ashore in an amphibious landing similar to those conducted on the same shores more than 55 years ago. Reenactors will go over the side of the SS John W. Brown, a World War II Liberty ship, climb down cargo nets into awaiting landing craft and assault the beach with flame throwers and explosive ordnance.
A World War II-era training camp also will be re-created to allow visitors to interact with historically trained reenactors and see how soldiers and sailors of the period lived and worked. World War II and modern military vehicles will be displayed.
The museum will feature an exhibit of World War II photographs by Edward Steichen on loan from the Navy Museum. There also will be training films, slide shows, memorabilia vendors and a food court.
Band concerts, exhibits by veterans organizations, book signings, swing dancing and model boat demonstrations also will be featured throughout the weekend. For more information about the event, call the museum at 410-326-2042.