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Maneuvers Planes Over Field - Tennessee Maneuvers Remembered

How did you become interested in the Tennessee Maneuvers?

I get asked this all the time! Most folks assume it is one of two reasons: I either have a close relative who served in the maneuvers or I just love WWII history —- in fact, neither is the case.  Here’s the story!

The first heard about these large scale simulated combat training exercises in 2010. At this time, I was writing a full-page feature article for my hometown newspaper, the Carthage Courier. It was titled: Visions of Smith County.

In the spring of that year, the newspaper’s publisher, Scott Winfree, asked me to attend a meet-and-greet/book signing for a book titled: In the Presence of Soldiers – the 2nd Army Maneuvers & Other World War II Activity in Tennessee written by Wood McMillin, with help from retired Army Colonel Jerry McFarland.

Before the event, Scott and I decided to put a notice in the paper asking folks who witnessed the maneuvers and/or had artifacts to contact us or attend the gathering — with the idea of including their stories in the article.

Several folks showed up! We had ourselves a great story!

Now, I know what you are thinking — where is the story! Well, I can’t find it right now — I am going to have to go to the newspaper’s office and go thru their archives — BUT I WILL FIND IT AND POST IT HERE — I promise!

After the event, Jerry and I traded phone numbers and emails — and I did not think about the maneuvers for the next six years —- that’s when Jerry called me.

He had seen my stories on the popular television PBS program called Tennessee Crossroads and asked if I could shoot and edit a series of videos for a veterans’ museum that was going to open soon. I said sure!

While Jerry and I were working on these videos, he asked me to help him promote the premiere showing of a short film chronicling the missions of a WWII fighter pilot from Wilson County. I agreed. The event was held inside the new museum – despite it being a cold day, the place was packed!

While the pilot who was featured in the film did not participate in the maneuvers, portions of the film included the pilot’s friends who shared their memories of WWII and those included a lot of stories about seeing the maneuvers in Wilson County.

This prompted Jerry and me to think about the possibility of producing another film focusing solely on the maneuvers and using the same producer. Together, the three of us shot a few interviews — but due to a series of issues – Jerry and I parted ways with this producer.

Despite this setback, Jerry and I were committed to moving on – we were going to do “something” to preserve and honor these historic events. Because of his contacts, we were able to find several folks to interview including witnesses and soldiers.

About this same time, Jerry told me Kelly Magill, owner of KGV Studios in Nashville, had called him to discuss her desire to produce a documentary about the maneuvers. She’d just recently found out about the training exercises after reading her great aunt’s diary.  Just so happens, her great aunt witnessed the maneuvers when she lived in the Grant community of Smith County!

Kelly asked Jerry to help her set up sit-down interviews. He agreed.

After meeting Kelly, Jerry thought it would be great if we all could worth together to ensure these historic events were documented and remembered.

The three of us agreed it would be the perfect partnership!  We began to share information and tag team on multiple sit-down interviews from soldiers who trained here —- to men and women who witnessed the activities — to the son of a German Prison of War who was held at Camp Forrest, TN.

Over the years, our group’s focus has shifted away from film production to tourism development. These efforts include our annual Tennessee Maneuvers Remembered Living History Event held each year the first weekend in May in Carthage.

Our other project includes Self-guided Driving Tours of locations related to the maneuvers. We are nearing completion of the first one. It includes eight stops in, where else, Smith County!

Oh yeah, all those interviews have not been wasted! There will be QR codes on all the tour stop signs linking you to an interview related to that particular stop.

Kelly has not changed her focus. She will be releasing a multi-episode documentary just in time for the 80th Anniversary of V-E Day which is May of 2025.

Now you know how/why I became interested in the maneuvers. And I bet your next question is – Why do you keep doing this? It must take up a lot of your time and energy?

The answer is — yes, it does! When I get discouraged, I remember the smiles on the faces of all the people I’ve interviewed — as they thanked me for allowing them to share their memories of the most historic events to ever take place in Middle Tennessee —- the Tennessee Maneuvers!

Founder Tressa Bush, Tennessee Maneuvers