The field outside the Museum of American Armor in Old Bethpage turned into a vintage battlefield Saturday, as World War II-era tanks rumbled past hundreds of spectators in the museum’s largest-ever mobile display.
Bernard Fradkin, 85, of Westbury, had seen only one of the models on display Saturday — a Sherman tank — in combat, when he was an infantryman in the Korean War.
But he recalled other vehicles from World War II movie-theater newsreels he watched as a kid.
“To see our American boys riding on the tanks — it brings back memories,” Fradkin said, referring to museum volunteers dressed in vintage Army uniforms.
Anthony LaGiglia, 44, of Bay Shore, was one of the volunteers from the Long Island Living History Association who either rode in the tanks and other armored vehicles, or explained their history to visitors.
He viewed the event as a tribute to World War II veterans.
“The greatest generation, they’re dying off,” LaGiglia said. “This is a way to keep them alive — the sacrifices they made for their country.”
The tanks and other vehicles are typically within the cavernous museum’s walls. Some have been taken out for re-enactments and other events, but never have so many been mobile at once, said Gary Lewi, spokesman for the 3-year-old museum.
Most were from World War II, but a few were built in the postwar years, including a tank the U.S. Army gave to Jordan, which used it until it was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, he said.
A halftrack — which moves with wheels in front, treads in the back — gave rides to visitors.
Rick Cervantes, 52, of Lindenhurst, imagined himself in battle as he and his 5-year-old son, Jack, circled the field.
“Can you imagine being out there?” he said. “You had guns shooting at you.”
Jeffrey Kao, 10, of Franklin Square, asked the museum’s Kevin Carroll how fast the halftrack could move.
“It all depends on who’s behind you,” Carroll said. “If there were Germans behind you, it went pretty fast.”