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By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN â Norman Dauerer remembered the first chewing gum he ever had, two Chicklets given to him by an American soldier when the 106th Cavalry drove through the German countryside at the end of World War II.
âIt was April 28, 1945 and I was six years old,â he said. âI chewed it until it disintegrated.â
Now 72 and a resident of Hopewell Junction, NY, he shared his vivid memories at last weekendâs show at the Quonset Air Museum, sponsored by the Rhode Island Military Vehicles Collectors Club. A resident of Hopewell Junction, NY, Dauerer had brought his âBantam,â a fully-loaded combat Jeep of the same vintage as those used by the forces that liberated his uncleâs farm where he had taken refuge from Nazi-occupied Munich.
âWe had B-17s dropping bombs everywhere,â he recalled. âThe Germans were retreating but theyâd set up a machine gun nest next to the Munich-Nuremberg railroad [adjacent] to the farm. My mother cooked breakfast for an SS major until the morning an American-fired tank round came through the kitchen window.â
Years later, when he and his wife had raised their three children in the U.S., Dauerer went looking for a Jeep like the ones that liberated the farm.
âI always wanted one,â he explained.
He found this one through Hemmings Motor News, the bible of gearheads everywhere, and did a complete re-restoration from the inside out, including the proper shade of green paint that it lacked.
In honor of the 106th, a division of the 7th Army, he set it up to match his recollections of the cavalry Jeeps that arrived in the German countryside.
It has an operational World War II radio, a Handy Talkie for field communications, a wire cutter, forward step mount for an M2 Browning .30-caliber machine gun and a bustle basket for storage. In wartime, the vehicle would have carried a three-man crew including a driver, radio operator and a gunner.
Dauerer regularly drives the Jeep in patriotic parades and has shown it at West Point as well as the Hyde Park estate of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
His was among an array of Jeeps from World War II and Korea as well as tanks, military motorcycles, bulky aircraft cameras and huge trucks that attracted history buffs, veterans and a number of little boys who were taking up militaria as a shared hobby with their dads.
In addition, vendors offered military history books, uniforms, holsters, belts, compasses and other gear, plus battlefield insignias, medals and ribbons.
Rob Whitford, of Exeter, whose father was a Korean War veteran, brought his nephew Andrew Glawson, 9.
âWe came last year,â said Whitford. âWe had such a good time weâre going to make it an annual event, one of our many adventures. Itâs a good thing to preserve the memory and the history. Itâs stuff he needs to know.â
Carlos Rios of Orange, Conn., who is restoring a 1942 Ford GPW, was enjoying the show with his son, Logan, 9, a military aficionado. Decked out in camouflage pants, a Vietnam War helmet, an Air Force jacket acquired from the Washington, D.C. air museum and carrying an official hard-plastic training gun â a gift from a friend of his dad â Logan had brought most of his headgear collection along.
He changed frequently, going back to the car for medic and MP helmets, a military field hat, a training rocket-launcher and a gas mask.
Another nine-year-old, Silvio Iacone, of North Smithfield, was giving highly knowledgeable tours of two complicated military pieces he helped his grandfather, Paul Baillargeon, restore.
The pieces of equipment Silvio was presenting were a 1963 Cadillac M114 reconnaissance carrier, a 915 hauler and a pristine 1990 Hammerhead TOW anti-tank launcher.
âItâs the newest one,â said Silvio. âIt took six years to restore. We have a whole bunch of stuff at home weâre working on.â
Westerly native Tony Fernando, now of Waterford, Conn., had driven up the night before in his âJungleerâ CJ2 Jeep, widely used in the Pacific theater. A member of the Connecticut branch of the collectorsâ organization, Fernando is a Navy vet with 21 years of submarine service.
âI had a lot of relatives in World War II,â he explained. âThis vehicle is a silent tribute to them.â
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at email@example.com.