During World War II, Greensboro was home to the largest urban military base in the United States. This weekend, the Greensboro History Museum celebrates the pivotal wartime role played by the Gate City with Forties Flashback.
The massive base — some 650 acres in size — was known as the Overseas Replacement Depot (O.R.D.), where more than 330,000 troops were processed in and out of service or sent elsewhere. Greensboro History Museum Director Carol Hart says it began as an army air force base for training and redeployment. Later it became a basic training center for soldiers including women and Black airmen, and eventually the East Coast’s primary O.R.D. where personnel prepared to go overseas to combat. In researching Forties Flashback, Hart and her colleagues turned to newspaper accounts, letters, journals, and oral histories.
"And there are so many really heartrending and wonderful different stories of how so many people in the community stepped up and would go to the base and take home different people for dinner for service people who were on their way to the war," says Hart. "And they would have dinner with them and try to take their mind off where they were going."
This weekend there will be uniformed WWII era reenactors, including from the Women’s Army Corp. Attendees can plant victory gardens and bake with wartime rations in honor of civilian contributions. There will be period newsreels and films, and short flash talks on local heroes like famed journalist, wartime correspondent and Guilford County native Edward R. Murrow, and air force ace and Greensboro native George Preddy.
Hart calls the event serious fun.
"We have our after-hours events which includes a seven-piece swing band that will be playing music from the period," she says. "There will be dance lessons. There’ll be a 40s-inspired fashion show and a costume contest."
1940s Flashback takes place this Saturday at the Greensboro History Museum.