Tag Archives: World War Two

New Book: The Mafia at War


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The Mafia at War: The Shocking True Story of America’s Wartime Pact with Organized Crime (2012, Skyhorse Publishing) is a dramatic account of how a criminal organization exploited the grim realities of war to revive its fortunes and dominate global crime. Anyone with a passion or interest in World War II or the history of organized crime in America will find it engrossing reading.

Using firsthand testimonies and declassified intelligence reports, author Tim Newark (the author of several crime and military history books) traces the relationship between the Mafia, Hitler, and Mussolini, and tells the remarkable story of Mafia—Allied collaboration during World War II. For The Mafia at War, Newark also carried out archival research in London, New York, Washington, and Sicily.

Newark shows how Jewish gangsters clashed with Nazis on the streets of New York City; how Mafiosi nearly issued contracts to kill top Nazis, including Hitler; how British “Bobbies” patrolled the then deadly streets of Palermo; and how Mafia-backed bandits conducted a guerilla war for Sicilian independence including General Eisenhower’s arming of the Mafia during the invasion of Sicily.

Author Tim Newark is also the author of Boardwalk Gangster: The Real Lucky Luciano; Empire of Crime: Organised Crime in the British Empire; and Highlander. He has also worked as a TV scriptwriter and historical consultant, resulting in seven TV documentary series for BBC Worldwide and the History Channel, including the thirteen-part TV series Hitler’s Bodyguard. He contributes book reviews to the Financial Times. Visit www.timnewark.com.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

N-Y Historical Society Planning WWII & NYC Exhibit


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The most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history will be the subject of WWII & NYC, a major new exhibition planned for the New-York Historical Society from October 5, 2012 through May 27, 2013. The exhibit is expected to feature New York City’s multifaceted role in the war, and commemorate the 800,000 New Yorkers who served in combat while also exploring the many ways in which those who remained on the home front contributed to the war effort. Continue reading

‘Churchill: The Power of Words’ Exhibit at the Morgan


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Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) is considered by some to be among the finest orators and writers of the twentieth century. His speeches galvanized Great Britain at its darkest hour during World War II, and his letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt were instrumental in building support for the war effort from the United States, the country of Churchill’s mother’s birth. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 for his contribution to the written and spoken word, Churchill became an icon of the post-war age and an internationally recognized leader.

Churchill: The Power of Words, on view from June 8 through September 23, 2012 at The Morgan Library & Museum, hopes to bring to life the man behind the words through some sixty-five documents, artifacts, and recordings, ranging from edited typescripts of his speeches to his Nobel Medal and Citation to excerpts from his broadcasts made during the London blitz. Items in the exhibition are on loan from the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, as well as from Churchill’s house at Chartwell in Kent, which is administered by Britain’s National Trust.

The exhibition includes an audio-visual space where visitors may listen to Churchill’s major speeches, as well as an interactive timeline with touch screens that explores the context of Churchill’s broadcasts and writings with related images.

“Few modern statesmen have approached Sir Winston Churchill’s skill with the written and spoken word,” said William M. Griswold, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. “He made his name as a writer, he funded his political career with his pen, and he carefully crafted his words to serve as tools for international diplomacy and as patriotic symbols for a nation at war. This exhibition shows why words matter, and how they can make a difference for the better, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that the Morgan, with its extraordinary literary collections, should host this exhibition.”

The physical and intellectual heart of the exhibition is Churchill’s own voice, as recorded in some of the broadcasts that were received in the United States, and as set out on the page in his own annotated speaking notes. The exhibition highlights a number of the speeches that he made between October 1938, when Hitler began to dismember Czechoslovakia, and December 1941, when Pearl Harbor brought the United States fully into World War II.

Churchill’s broadcast to the United States on October 16, 1938 was made from the political wilderness, as he no longer held high political office in Britain, but is a powerful articulation of the need for the United States to become more engaged in Europe and to play a role in containing Hitler. It is also a clear statement of the power of words and ideas: “They [the dictators] are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”

Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, the very day the Germans launched the blitzkrieg offensive against France and the Low Countries. Within weeks, France had fallen, and Britain was facing the possibility of invasion. Churchill’s speeches during the aerial Battle of Britain and the German bombing campaign known as the ‘blitz,’ were composed and delivered at a time of extreme national emergency. Yet Churchill’s words were carefully chosen to deliver several messages simultaneously: maintaining British morale, while also sending a message of hope to occupied Europe, a message of defiance to the enemy, and an appeal for help to President Roosevelt and the people of the United States.

Churchill’s speech of September 11, 1940, is a dramatic example, and reaches across the years to another, more recent September 11. His response to the blitz bombing of London, which had begun two days earlier, was to invoke British history in order to send a personal message of defiance to Hitler, stating, “It ranks with the days when the Spanish Armada was approaching the Channel” and, “He [Hitler] hopes by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorize and cow the people of this mighty Imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government, and thus distract our attention unduly from the ferocious onslaught he is preparing. Little does he know the spirit of the British Nation.”

The documents on view provide a unique insight into the development of these great speeches, from the first heavily annotated typescripts to the final speaking notes, set out in a blank verse format that enabled Churchill to achieve the memorable rhythm, emphasis, and phrasing of his speeches and broadcasts. Churchill’s typed speeches served as a prompt-copy for his performance, and in these documents one can see vividly his mind at work.

How did Churchill’s power with words develop? His school records show that he was far from a model pupil. But the early death of his father, and the sudden need to make a name and an income, led him to pick up his pen while serving as an officer in the British army.

The exhibition features some of Churchill’s early letters and writings. In 1897 he managed to get himself attached to the Malakand Field Force fighting against the Pathan people in what is now Afghanistan. A letter to his mother, written after his return, reveals his yearning for a mention in military dispatches: “I am more ambitious for a reputation for personal courage than of anything else in the world. A young man should worship a young man’s ideals.”

One of the few handwritten pages that survive from Churchill’s draft of his first book, The Malakand Field Force, is on view. Written one hundred and fifteen years ago, and published in 1898, his remarks about the challenges of fighting in the hills of Afghanistan resonate to this day.

Progressing through the exhibition, the visitor is able to see Churchill’s writing grow in breadth and confidence. Churchill not only made history, he wrote history, and in 1953 he was rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Medal and Citation, on loan from the National Trust, Chartwell, are a fitting centerpiece to the exhibition.

Churchill’s public writings and speeches are juxtaposed with some of his personal and official correspondence. While resolute in public, his telegram to Roosevelt’s key adviser Harry Hopkins, written in August 1941, sees him voicing his fears over lack of greater American involvement in the war: “…there has been a wave of depression through Cabinet and other informed circles here about President’s many assurances about no commitments and no closer to war etc.” Churchill’s immediate response to Pearl Harbor was to fire off a telegram to Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera, offering, “Now is your chance. Now or Never. ‘A Nation once again’.”

By opening up the Churchill dispatch box we gain some insights into the personalities behind the politics; Roosevelt’s telegram to Churchill on D-Day, or King George VI’s handwritten message to Churchill about Roosevelt’s death, serve to remind us that these were real people wrestling with enormous challenges.

On a lighter note, Churchill’s letter to the Duke of Devonshire upon receiving the gift of a living lion in 1943, reveals his mischievous side, showing that, even at times of great stress, words and wit could be used to enliven events.

Half American by birth – his mother, Jennie Jerome, who became Lady Randolph Churchill, was born in Brooklyn, New York – Churchill became an Honorary United States Citizen just before his death. He was a lifelong observer of American affairs, and New York was both the first (1895) and last (1961) American city he visited. Churchill’s first experience of Manhattan came in November 1895, just short of his twenty-first birthday, and en route to observe military action in Cuba. He was well looked after by his mother’s friends and relatives and in a letter, featured in the exhibition, wrote: “What an extraordinary people the Americans are! Their hospitality is a revelation to me and they make you feel at home and at ease in a way that I have never before experienced. On the other hand their press and their currency impress me very unfavourably.”

While New York was often a place to relax, there were incidents. In December 1931 he made the very British mistake of looking the wrong way while crossing Fifth Avenue and was hit by an automobile. The collision occurred at Fifth Avenue and 76th Street, at a time when traffic was still two-way on Fifth. For Churchill the accident meant a hospital stay, a lecture tour postponed, and a long recovery. Yet he turned it to his advantage, writing some newspaper articles on what it was like to be run down, and securing a doctor’s prescription, on view in the exhibition, for alcohol – for medicinal purposes – at the height of prohibition.

In March 1946, Churchill came to New York fresh from having delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, Missouri. It is now largely forgotten just how controversial that speech was, criticizing the Soviet Union, with whom the United States and Britain were still allied, so soon after the end of the Second World War. Churchill was forced to defend his remarks in the address he gave at the Waldorf Astoria, and found himself on the receiving end of both a ticker tape parade and some protest demonstrations.

Churchill was only the second person to be accorded Honorary US Citizenship (ironically, the first was Lafayette, for fighting the British). The exhibition features the grant of Citizenship, signed by President Kennedy in April 1963, and the accompanying passport, which Churchill was not able to use before his death in January 1965.

Additional Public Programs

LECTURE: We Shall Not Fail: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill
With Celia Sandys
Friday, June 8, 6:30 p.m.

Celia Sandys, internationally acclaimed author, television presenter, and granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, will provide insight into Churchill’s extraordinary leadership skills and his fascinating political and personal life. This lecture, part of the The Tina Santi Flaherty – Winston Churchill Literary Series, is presented in partnership with Hunter College/The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute and The Writing Center, and The Churchill Archives Centre. Free; Advanced reservations: 212.685.0008, ext 560, or tickets@themorgan.org.

CHURCHILL ON FILM
To coincide with the exhibition, the Morgan will screen two dramas and one documentary that explore both Churchill’s public and private life.

The Gathering Storm
Friday, June 15, 7 p.m.
(2002, 96 minutes)
Director: Richard Loncraine
Based on Churchill’s memoirs about his life leading up to World War II, this biographical drama won two Golden Globes and stars a stellar cast. Albert Finney plays Winston Churchill, who struggles to establish his political presence in the House of Commons. With Vanessa Redgrave as his wife Clementine, and also featuring Derek Jacobi, Jim Broadbent, and Ronnie Barker. Free

Winston Churchill: Walking with Destiny
Friday, July 6, 7 p.m.
(2011, 101 min)
Director: Richard Tank
This compelling documentary film highlights Churchill’s earlier political years, focusing on the period just prior to his ascent to prime minister, through the end of 1941 when America entered World War II. It examines why Winston Churchill’s legacy continues to be relevant in the twenty-first Century and explores why his leadership remains inspirational to current day political leaders and diplomats. Narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley and with commentary by historian John Lukacs, and Churchill’s official biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, among others. Free

Young Winston
Friday, July 27, 7 p.m.
(1972, 157 minutes)
Director: Richard Attenborough
This historical drama is an account of the early life of Winston Churchill (Simon Ward), including his childhood years, his time as a war correspondent in Africa, and culminating with his election to Parliament at the age of twenty-six. Based on Churchill’s book My Early Life: A Roving Commission, it also stars Robert Shaw (Lord Randolph Churchill), John Mills (Lord Kitchener), Anthony Hopkins (David Lloyd George), and Anne Bancroft (Churchill’s mother). Free

GALLERY TALK
Churchill: The Power of Words
Friday, June 22, 7 p.m.
Declan Kiely, Robert H. Taylor curator and head of the Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, will lead an informal tour of the exhibition. Free

RELATED PROGRAMMING

* Bloomsbury.com will make available a selection of important Churchill documents free of charge as part of its launch of the comprehensive online collection of Churchill Papers.

* Hunter College will sponsor a three-part Churchill Lecture Series, the first of which will be held at the Morgan on Friday, June 8, to coincide with the opening of the exhibition. The Hon. Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Churchill, will discuss his leadership style in a talk entitled, “We shall not fail.”

* The Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York, will host a one-day seminar/symposium on the topic of the close and complex relationship between Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

* In conjunction with the exhibition opening, author Sir Martin Gilbert will publish an edition of Churchill’s writings titled Churchill: The Power of Words (Da Capo Press).

The exhibition is organized by the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, in conjunction with Chartwell, Churchill’s house in Kent, which is administered by Britain’s National Trust.

The exhibition is curated by Allen Packwood, director of the Churchill Archives Centre, and by Declan Kiely, Robert H. Taylor curator and head of the Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at The Morgan Library & Museum.

The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today, more than a century after its founding in 1906, the Morgan serves as a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. In October 2010, the Morgan completed the first-ever restoration of its original McKim building, Pierpont Morgan’s private library, and the core of the institution. In tandem with the 2006 expansion project by architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan now provides visitors unprecedented access to its world-renowned collections of drawings, literary and historical manuscripts, musical scores, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, printed books, and ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets.

Photo: Churchill as a young officer, c1895 (Courtesy of the Churchill Family).

Women’s Rights NHP Showing ‘Top Secret Rosies’


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Women’s Rights National Historical Park will show the documentary film Top Secret Rosies this Friday and Saturday, March 30 and 31, at 12:00 noon.

Top Secret Rosies documents the lives of the female mathematicians who designed ballistics tables and programmed computers for the United States Army during World War II. This film is 60 minutes long.

The film is being shown as part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s first Winter Film Festival. The park exists to commemorate and preserve the events of the First Women’s Rights Convention that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848. “We are proud to be part of the National Park system, and we invite everyone to join us in celebrating our shared history and culture through film,” said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne.

The park is also showing the film as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month in March. “We are inspired by the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and countless other women and men who struggled for equal rights in this country,” said Duchesne. “Their stories continue to resonate with people across the globe.”

Top Secret Rosies is approximately 60 minutes long and intended for a general audience. All Winter Film Festival movies will be shown at 12:00 noon on Fridays and Saturdays, November through April, in the Guntzel Theater, located at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park Visitor Center at 136 Fall Street in downtown Seneca Falls. Because film lengths vary, visitors are encouraged to call if they are interested in a particular showing. All park programs are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit call 315.568.0024.

You can also follow the park’s social media sites for Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming events and programs.

WWII NY National Guard Records Go Online


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When 28,969 New York National Guard Soldiers mobilized in the fall of 1940 as the United States prepared for war, clerks filled out six-by-four inch cards on each man.

Now, thanks to a team of 15 volunteers, those records–listing names, serial number, home, and unit, and later on annotated with hand written notes on whether or not the Soldier was killed or wounded– are available online from the New York State Military Museum.

“I’ll bet you that we are the only state that has such an item on the web,” said retired Army Col. John Kennedy, one of the volunteers who turned the index card information into digital data.

Kennedy, a World War II veteran himself, and the other volunteers spent a year keying the information on the cards into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The digital information is now available on the museum’s website and can be downloaded and searched.

The museum put this information online so it can be used by people researching their family history or the history of World War II and New York’s role in it, said Jim Gandy, the assistant librarian and archivist at the museum.

“Not only can you research a specific individual but you can also research who enlisted from what town; where men in the New York National Guard were born, or how old the average age of the men was. We indexed most data points on the cards including: date, city, state and country of birth; ID number; hometown, unit; rank; as well as enlistment and separation dates”, Gandy explained.

In September 1940-a few months after France was overrun and defeated by the German Army and the British were fighting for survival in the air-the United States had an Army of 269,000 men. The German Army, meanwhile, had 2.5 million.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt convinced Congress to call up the 300,000 men in the National Guard for a year to double the size of the nation’s Army and prepare for any German threat.

On Oct. 15, 1940 the 28,969 members of the New York National Guard, including the entire 27th Division, reported to their armories to begin processing for a year of active duty. This is the data now available from the museum website.

For the 90-year old Kennedy, who keyed in the data on 6,500 Soldiers, the task brought back memories of his own World War II service. A Cohoes native, he joined the Army Reserve in 1940, transferred to the New York National Guard in 1941 and went to war in Europe in 1944 with the 8th Infantry Division.

He recognized the names of many of the 108 Soldiers on the list who cited Cohoes as their hometown because he had grown up with them, Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who now lives in Florida and served in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard until retiring in 1981, volunteered to help with Gandy’s project because he’s made the history of World War II and the role of New York’s units in it his hobby.

Bruce Scott, an Albany resident and another volunteer who keyed in the data, got involved in the project because he wanted to do something from his home that would be useful to others.

Scott, Kennedy and the other volunteers were critical, Gandy said. Without their work this kind of project would be impossible for the museum to carry out.

Eventually the Soldiers of the 27th Infantry Division who were called for training in the fall of 1940 went on to serve in the Pacific, securing Hawaii from a feared Japanese invasion in February 1942, invading Makin Atoll and the Island of Saipan, and eventually fighting on Okinawa. Other New York National Guard Soldiers called up in 1940 served in rear area security duty and fought in Europe.

The museum’s next web project is to create an index of which battles New York’s Civil War Regiments fought in, Gandy said. The data base will make it easier for historians to determine which regiments fought in which battles and the losses that were sustained in each fight. If anyone would like to volunteer, they may contact the museum at 518-581-5100, Gandy said.

The index card database can be found on the museum website.

Photo: A typical index card of a New York Army National Guardsman. Each card was 6 inches wide and 4 inches high.

Charles Jennette: ‘Called Too Old to Marry’


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In 1936, at a birthday party in the Adirondacks, the honoree claimed he would be married within two years. He passed away six years later, but during that span, he received more than 100 letters and 9 personal visits from female suitors; became engaged; was dumped the day before the wedding; was the guest of honor at several dinners, birthday parties, and parades; regularly mowed his lawn with a scythe; joined a ski club; and received the Purple Heart for war injuries.

Nothing particularly unusual―unless, of course, at that party in 1936, the birthday boy was turning 99 years old. Review those events from that perspective, and now you’ve got something.

Meet Charles Jennette, for a time the most famous man in the Adirondacks. His greatest fame came in his 100th year, when he became engaged to Ella Blanch Manning, a New York City woman who had attended his 99th birthday party several weeks earlier. Days before the wedding, an Albany headline read “100 Called Too Old to Marry; Man Will Take 3d Wife at 99.”

But after a visit with her daughters, and just 24 hours before the wedding, Ella changed her mind. Already a media sensation (and despite being left high and dry), Charles continued with his post-wedding plans of a boat ride and dinner, remaining hopeful of marriage in the near future. After many interviews, he was only too happy to return to an otherwise quiet, humble life.

Jennette was born in Maine in 1837. The family moved to Canada when he was five, and returned to the US when the Civil War began. At Malone, Charles enlisted for three years with Company A, 95th NY Volunteers, but served only nine months. His time was cut short in 1865 when he was wounded in the Battle of Hatcher’s Run (also known as Dabney’s Mills) in Virginia. He was still in the hospital when the war ended.

In 1866, he married Emily Proulx in Ottawa, a union that would endure for 57 years. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Charles tried to enlist at the age of 61, but was refused. He lived much of his life in the St. Regis Falls area as a lumberman, toiling in partnership for many years with his son, John.

They ended the business relationship in December 1915 when Charles was 78. In the following year, he built a cottage at Old Forge. In 1921, the 84-year-old was one of only six attendees at the final meeting of the Durkee Post GAR in St. Regis Falls. GAR represents Grand Army of the Republic, the title given to Union forces in the Civil War. Because few veterans remained, the local group was discontinued.

His wife (Emily) died in the mid-1920s. Charles began spending summers in Old Forge and winters in Ilion (near Herkimer). He also made regular visits to family in Tupper Lake. In 1935, he married for a second time (in Montreal), but his new bride died just two months later.

He was generally known as a remarkable old-timer, but fame arrived in 1936 when, at his 98th birthday party, Charles announced he expected to wed again before he reached 100 (because, he said, “over 100 is too old”). Several hundred people attended the festivities.

After addressing more than a hundred female suitors (ages 42 to 72), he made plans to marry Ella Manning. Instead, at 99, he became America’s most famous groom to be jilted at the altar.

After that, it seemed anything he did was remarkable, and at such an advanced age, it certainly was. In 1937 (age 100) he rode in a Memorial Day parade as guest of honor. Shortly after his 101st birthday, he attended the Gettysburg Annual GAR Convention, 72 years after his combat days had ended.

In 1940, on his 103rd birthday, he used a scythe to mow the lawn, and otherwise continued his daily ritual—trekking nearly two miles to retrieve the mail, and taking time to read the newspapers (and he didn’t need glasses!). He made maple syrup every spring and tended a garden each summer.

In August 1940, at Oneida Square in Utica, Charles was honored in a ceremony at the Soldiers’ Monument, which was built in 1891 to memorialize the Utica men who “risked their lives to save the Union.” Seventy-five years after suffering wounds in battle, Charles Jennette became a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (which had been formed during WW I).

At age 104, perhaps still holding a marriage possibility in the back of his mind, Charles became the first male allowed to join the Old Forge Sno-Flakes, an all-girls’ ski club. He soon expressed regret at not having taken up skiing “when I was young, say 70 or so.”

In mid-1942, in support of the WW II effort, a photo of Charles purchasing war bonds was widely distributed among newspapers. He continued to attend American Legion rallies and make other appearances. Finally, in December of that year, he passed away at the age of 105.

Photos: At age 99, Charles Jennette with his fiancé, Ella Manning; one of many headlines generated by Jennette’s story.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Books: America in the Forties


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In America in the Forties, Ronald Allen Goldberg is professor of history and chair of the History Department at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia, energetically argues that the decade of the 1940s was one of the most influential in American history, a period marked by war, sacrifice, and profound social changes.

With great detail, Goldberg traces the entire decade from the first stirrings of war in a nation consumed by the Great Depression through the conflicts with Europe and Japan, to the start of the Cold War and the dawn of the atomic age.

Richly drawn portraits of the period’s charismatic and often controversial leaders — Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Harry Truman — demonstrate their immense importance in shaping the era, and in turn, the course of American government, politics, and society.

Goldberg chronicles the US role during World War II and the early Cold War, showing how these military and diplomatic developments helped lay the foundation for the country’s current role in economic and military affairs worldwide.

Combining a readable narrative with analysis, America in the Forties is useful introduction to understanding a pivotal era.

Goldberg is also the author of America in the Twenties.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

Barrage Balloons in the Adirondacks


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It’s the 1940s, and a world war is raging overseas. The fear of a homeland invasion is constant, and in communities across the nation, air wardens monitor the sky daily for enemy planes. The Adirondack Park seems like a safe haven, but just a few miles from its northwest corner, a military installation is suddenly called to action. A large aircraft has penetrated US air space, and ground damage is reported. Sheriff’s deputies, New York State police, military MPs, and foot troops spring into action.

It’s a great show of force, but it’s not enough. After several unsuccessful encounters with the vessel, reinforcements are needed. Corporal Boyd Montgomery of the 34th Armored Regiment is dispatched, speeding across the countryside in an army tank.

Power lines are downed by the aircraft, but Montgomery continues his pursuit. Two miles into the chase, he employs a bit of ingenuity to bring the craft down. It is soon nothing more than a flattened heap.

That’s how it happened in July 1943. It’s all true, but with a few details omitted. The craft that was spotted actually was huge (75 feet long) and it did come from a foreign land (Kingston, Ontario, Canada). The damage was no less real―a dangling cable tore down power lines between Evans Mills and Philadelphia in Jefferson County. Lawmen from several agencies did pursue the craft, but three times it slipped from their grasp.

The military installation was Pine Camp, later expanded and renamed Fort Drum. And it was an Army tank that provided the solution, driving atop the 1800-foot-long cable after a two-mile chase, forcing the vessel to the ground until nothing was left but a flattened balloon.

That’s right … a balloon. But this wasn’t just any balloon. A staple of defense systems around the world, this was a Barrage Balloon. If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve probably seen them in photographs but didn’t realize what you were seeing at the time. Though they weren’t ever deployed in the Adirondacks, they did pay the area a few surprise visits during the war.

The primary use of Barrage Balloons was to prevent attacks by low-flying aircraft, and it was in WW II that they became ubiquitous. A heavy cable was used to tether the gas-filled balloons, and when hovering from a few hundred to 4,000 feet high, the effect was often deadly. Any dive-bombing aircraft had to avoid the cable tether, which could easily tear a wing off and cause the plane to crash. Besides negating low-level attacks, the balloons forced other planes to fly higher than intended on bombing runs, thus affecting their accuracy.

Many tethered balloons were flown simultaneously, and the result was multiplied when several additional cables were suspended from each balloon, providing a veritable curtain of protection from strafing aircraft. The Germans countered by equipping their planes with wing-mounted cable-cutting devices, and the British responded with explosive charges attached to many of the tethers, set to detonate on contact.

The balloons caught on in a big way in England and were often used effectively. During one of the two major German onslaughts on London during the war, 278 Flying Bombs were intercepted by the balloons, surely saving many lives.

In summer 1941, British officers warned America that Nazi planes could fly at 20,000 feet and reach the US mainland within 12 hours, with no defense system to greet them. Months before the United States entered WW II, the Navy established two Barrage Balloon squadrons with more than 150 balloons.

Intended to protect American fleet bases from air attacks, the balloon strategy was very popular for another reason: cost. Building a large coastal hangar for planes involved an expenditure of $600,000; a more secure underground facility carried a price tag of $3 million; but each barrage balloon cost only $9,500.

After the assault on Pearl Harbor, America employed an extensive balloon defense capability. Attacks were feared by the Germans on the East Coast and by the Japanese on the West Coast. San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle were among the cities protected in part by Barrage Balloons, along with Norfolk, Pensacola, and New York City in the east. Vital facilities in the Great Lakes were also shielded.

Many North Country men were assigned to Barrage Balloon outfits, and it was anything but a cushy job. Since troops as well as installations needed protection, balloon men were often among the first ashore, as was the case in several beach landings in Italy and North Africa. And on D-Day, Barrage Balloons dotted the sky above the invasion fleet.

Back home in America, balloons occasionally broke free and floated towards the North Country, causing a bit of excitement. Sometimes rogue balloons escaped capture for extended periods (the Fort Drum balloon was loose for more than a week).

In March 1943, a hulking Barrage Balloon 65 feet long and 30 feet in diameter toured the Central Adirondacks, damaging power lines before snagging in a balsam tree a few miles south of Indian Lake, where a crew of men managed to deflate it.

To raise public awareness of the war effort and relieve anxiety about the occasional balloon escapee, the military dispatched a road crew in an army jeep with a smaller, 35-foot balloon strapped to the roof. In summer 1944, they visited Troy, New York. The craft was inflated and floated at 300 feet for an entire day while the men fielded questions. It was the same model as those used to defend the city of London and the beaches of Normandy.

Towards the end of the war, German capabilities of long-range attacks drastically reduced the effectiveness of the balloons, and in 1945, Britain ended their Barrage Balloon program, which at one time had upwards of 3,000 in use. The same was done with the US system, which once featured more than 400 balloons at home besides those deployed overseas.

Photos―Top: Barrage Balloon on the cover of LIFE magazine. Middle Right: The training facility on Parris Island, South Carolina (1943). Middle Left: Barrage Balloons above the Normandy shore (1944). Bottom: German plane equipped with a cable-cutting device.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Franklin County War Hero Without a Gun


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In the early 1900s, woodsman Oliver Lamora of Brandon, New York became somewhat of an Adirondack hero, earning coast-to-coast headlines with his ongoing battle against billionaire William Rockefeller. At the same time, just 20 miles north of Oliver’s homestead, a young man began a career destined to earn him international praise as a hero of two world wars—without ever hoisting a gun to his shoulder.

Darius Alton Davis was born in 1883 in Skerry, New York, and worked on the family farm about ten miles southwest of Malone in Franklin County. The Davis family was devoutly religious, following the lead of Darius’ father, Newton, who took an active role in the local church, Sunday school, and county Bible Society.

In 1903, Darius graduated from Franklin Academy in Malone. At the commencement, several students presented papers to the assembly. Darius chose as his subject David Livingstone, the legendary Scottish explorer and medical missionary. The audience heard details on Livingstone’s humble beginnings, hard work, civility, and desire to help others. What young Davis was presenting, in fact, was a blueprint for his own future.

Darius attended Syracuse University (1903–1907), where he studied theology and played a leadership role on campus. “Dri,” as he was known, was a top oarsman, guiding the crew team to many sensational victories, including one world-record effort that stood for five years.

In 1905, he was elected president of the university’s YMCA (recently renamed “the Y”), an event that would determine his life’s direction. Prior to graduation in 1907, Darius accepted a position as religious director for the YMCA in Washington, D.C. After marrying his college sweetheart, he worked three years in Washington while continuing his studies, attending four terms at the Silver Bay YMCA School on Lake George, New York.

His personality, intelligence, and work ethic made Darius a very capable leader, and in 1910, the International Committee of the YMCA assigned him to establish a presence in Constantinople, Turkey. From the position of general secretary of operations, Darius built a membership of nearly 600 in the first year.

In late 1912, the Balkan War broke out, and Davis assumed the organization of Red Cross aid. He also volunteered, serving for six months as an interpreter in a Turkish hospital. His selfless dedication to war victims did not go unnoticed. In appreciation, the Turkish sultan awarded him a medal, the prestigious Star of the Third Order of Medjidieh.

In 1915, within a year after World War I began, Darius was assigned to work with prisoners in France and Italy, both of which were unprepared for the mounting number of captured troops. The YMCA assumed the challenge of caring for the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of the men held captive. The organization’s efforts were based on Christian charity, but it mattered not what one’s beliefs were: the YMCA was simply there to help anyone.

Access to prison camps had been largely restricted, but Davis was a great negotiator and spokesman. Dealing with various government officials, he stressed the YMCA’s neutrality, which was a powerful argument.

The French were skeptical. They had recently developed a Foyer du Soldat (Soldiers’ Fireside) program featuring a series of buildings (small to large facilities, but often referred to as “huts”) where French soldiers could go to relax, read, snack, play games, and enjoy entertainment. Sensing an opportunity, Davis offered to support and expand the program while making it available to captives as well as troops. France’s war prisoner department finally relented.

They soon discovered the great value of Davis’ plan. Soldiers and prisoners alike were thrilled with the results, and within two years, 70 huts were established across the country. Eventually, more than 1500 were in place. In early 1917, when America entered the war, General Pershing requested that Davis provide the same program for the huge number of Allied troops destined for service in France. That meant quadrupling their efforts, which required enormous infrastructure.

Undaunted, Davis led the way, and within a year, the YMCA was operating what was once described as “the world’s largest grocery chain.” At a cost of over $50 million, it included more than 40 factories for producing cookies, candies, and other supplies, plus warehouses, banks, hotels, cafes, dorms, and garages for vehicle repair. Their own construction and repair departments built and maintained the facilities.

After the war, Davis was appointed the senior YMCA representative in Europe, and from that position, he organized YMCAs in several countries. In 1925, he became secretary of the National Council of Switzerland (a neutral country), and in 1931 was named associate general secretary of the World YMCA based in Geneva, a position he held as World War II began.

In that capacity, he worked with the War Prisoners’ Aid program, an advancement of the work he had done with prisoners during World War I. In late October 1940, Davis completed a three-week tour of POW camps in Germany. At the time, the YMCA was already providing recreational and educational services to millions of prisoners, but sought to do more.

Though many were well treated by their captors, they often lacked warm clothing, news from home, adequate food, and other daily needs. Books were one of the most desired and requested items in every camp. Many organizations (like the Red Cross) addressed that problem—the YMCA alone had distributed hundreds of thousands of books to prison camps across Europe.

Their aim was to provide the essentials to prisoners held in all countries, and Darius was relentless. By January 1941, negotiations had been conducted on behalf of an estimated 3 million POWs in Australia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Palestine, Rumania, Sweden, and Switzerland. As the war continued, that number kept rising.

In a speech he gave in mid-1942, Davis spoke of the more than 6 million war prisoners they were helping to care for. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it gave the prisoners a voice and a connection to the outside world. It also allowed independent observation of the goings-on inside many prison camps, a comforting fact to both the prisoners and their families back home. One newspaper noted, “The YMCA already is conducting welfare work among the largest number of war prisoners in the history of mankind.”

After the war ended in 1945, Darius spent four years aiding refugees and citizens who had been displaced. In 1953, he was awarded the Officers Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his work with German POWs. Ten other European governments likewise honored Davis for his work on behalf of prisoners. The onetime farm boy from Skerry touched an untold number of lives. Darius Alton Davis died in 1970 at the age of 87.

Photo Top: Darius Alton Davis.

Photo Middle: A Foyer du Soldat in France, 1918.

Photo Bottom: An appreciative WW II prison camp poster.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

World War II Veterans Sought to Share Stories


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On Wednesday, December 7, 2011, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, the Schenectady County Historical Society invites local World War II veterans to share memories of their wartime experiences with the public. This event will be structured as a roundtable, with veterans sharing their stories and audience members having an opportunity to ask questions.

Of the 16,112,566 Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated in November 2011 that only 1,711,000 nationwide are still living. This event provides us, as a community, with a valuable opportunity to honor and appreciate the WWII veterans that are still living among us.

In addition to the event on Wednesday, December 7, participating veterans are encouraged to schedule an appointment with Librarian Melissa Tacke for an individual oral history interview. One-on-one interviews allow time for veterans to tell their stories in greater detail and preserve veterans’ recollections for generations to come. Veterans may choose to come to the Schenectady County Historical Society for an interview, or an interviewer can arrange to interview the veteran at his or her home. An audio recording of the interview will become part of the Schenectady County Historical Society’s Grems-Doolittle Library collection of oral history interviews. Recordings of the interview will also be provided to the veteran and his or her family.

This event is free and open to the public; WWII veterans who would like to attend are encouraged to RSVP for this event. Veterans who cannot attend the December 7 event, but who are interested in participating in an oral history interview, are welcome to contact the Schenectady County Historical Society to schedule an oral history interview.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Melissa Tacke at 518-374-0263, option 3, or librarian@schist.org. The Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

New Windsor Purple Heart Appreciation Day


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National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site will celebrate Purple Heart Appreciation Day this Saturday August 7, 2010 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the New Windsor Cantonment.

228 years ago General George Washington’s orders created the Badge of Military Merit. It was to be a heart shaped piece of Purple cloth, given in recognition of a singular act of merit and was the inspiration for the modern Purple Heart. The award we now call the Purple Heart was created in 1932. Today’s program honors all who have earned the Purple Heart, and commemorates the history behind this award.


The day’s program will include a military time line of America’s soldiers from the 17th through 20th centuries and will also feature Veteran’s Administration and local veteran’s organizations to provide information to veteran’s of the services available to them.

Throughout the day 18th century children’s games will be available.

1:00 p.m: In the Temple of Virtue there will be a short lecture on the history of the Purple Heart

2:00 p.m.:A weapons firing demonstrations that will show weapons across time.

Admission is FREE

For more information please call 845-561-1765

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Sites are located at 374 Temple Hill Road (Route 300) in the town of New Windsor, three miles south of I-84 exit 7B and I-87 exit 17. Parking, gift shop, and picnic grounds are located on site. Museum exhibits are open 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Monday – Saturday and from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Sunday.

Civilian Conservation Corps Program, Reunions


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On Friday, June 25th, 2010, the Schenectady County Historical Society will host a reunion of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) alumni, family, & friends, from 10:00 am to noon at 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY. Marty Podskoch, CCC researcher, will give a short presentation and will invite participants to share memories of the camps.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began on March 31, 1933 under President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to relieve the poverty and unemployment of the Depression. Camps were set up in many New York towns, state parks, & forests. Workers built trails, roads, campsites, dams, fire tower observer’s cabins & telephone lines; fought fires; stocked fish; and planted millions of trees. The CCC disbanded in 1942 due to the need for men in WW II.

A part of the history of the CCC was saved recently by the daughter of a man who was in one of the camps. She donated a CCC Schenectady District yearbook for 1937 to the Historical Society. The yearbook has a history of the District, along with photos of officers and the men at the camps. Many men from Schenectady were in Company 219 (Cherry Plain, NY); and Company 222 (Middleburg, NY).

Marty Podskoch is a retired teacher and the author of five books: Fire Towers of the Catskills: Their History and Lore, two Adirondack fire tower books: Adirondack Fire Towers: Their History and Lore, the Southern Districts, and Northern Districts and two other books, Adirondack Stories: Historical Sketches and Adirondack Stories II: Historical Sketches from his weekly illustrated newspaper column.

Presently, Marty Podskoch is conducting research on the Civilian Conservation Camps in the Adirondacks and Connecticut. He is interested in meeting individuals who may have CCC stories to contribute to his next book. Marty Podskoch will have all of his books available after the presentation for sale and signing. For those unable to attend this reunion, Marty Podskoch has planned five other reunions:

June 22 6:30 pm Oneida Historical Society, 1608 Genesee St., Utica (315) 735-3642
June 23 6:30 pm Franklin Co. Hist. Society, 51 Milwaukee St. Malone (518) 483-2750
June 26 1 pm Fulton Co. Hist. Society, 237 Kingsboro Ave., Gloversville (518) 725-8314
June 27 2 pm Bolton Landing Hist. Society, Bolton Free Library (518) 644-2233

For more information on the reunion in Schenectady, contact Katherine Chansky,Librarian/Archivist, Grems-Doolittle Library at: (518) 374-0263, librarian@schist.org. The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking.

If any one has information or pictures to share of relatives or friends who worked at one of the CCC camps, please contact, Katherine Chansky (518) 374-0263 at the Grems-Doolittle Library, or Marty Podskoch at: 36 Waterhole Rd., Colchester, CT 06415 or 860-267-2442, or podskoch@comcast.net

Local Radio Rewarded For Polish Legacy Piece


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Buffalo radio station WBFO (88.7) has received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award by the Radio-Television News Directors Association for a story about the Polish Legacy Project (PLP), a group of people whose aim is to capture the stories of Polish survivors of World War Two while they are still alive. The piece aired last year just before the PLP’s Untold Stories Conference.

The story was produced by Joyce Kryszak. You can listen to the story and hear clips of interviews with Polish WWII survivors here.

World War II Ship USS Slater Seeks Guides


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The USS Slater, located in the Hudson River north of the Port of Albany is preparing to begin their 13th season. Each year they hire 6-8 part-time tour guides who learn the history and technology of World War II with “on-the-job” training from veterans, as well as from experts in historic ship preservation. Guides have an opportunity to improve their “people” skills by interacting with a variety of age groups on a daily basis; the
hours are flexible.

For an application, contact Business Manager Rosehn Gipe at info@ussslater.org or by
phone at 518-431-1943.

Saratoga: World War Two Vets Recount Their Stories


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The public is invited to a panel discussion this Sunday, December 6th, at 2:00 pm at the Saratoga Library (13650 Saratoga Avenue in Saratoga Springs). Saratoga Historical Foundation Historian Ray Cosyn will moderate as veterans from World War II recount their memories.

Participating in the panel will be George Cooper who flew P47’s in the European Theater with 77 missions; Herbert Kwart who flew a Flying Fortress as part of the 8th Air Force with 35 missions; Ed Pack, with the 59th Signal Battalion and later the 8th Corp part of those liberating the concentration camps; Bud Rideout, on of the Flying Tigers; and Mac McCaughey part of the 94th Division who landed on Omaha Beach.

Light refreshments will be served. The event is free to the public. The Saratoga History Museum is sponsoring the event.

Photo: USS Saratoga During World War Two. From the collections of the Library of Congress.

World War II in New York City Materials Wanted


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The New-York Historical Society is soliciting donations of materials relating to the impact of World War II on New York City. They are interested in snapshots of armed forces personnel (particularly leaving and returning to the city), photographs of victory gardens, women in the work force, minority communities, and locations in the city that relate in some way to the war effort. They would also like to receive soldier’s diaries that include descriptive passages about the city or the war experience, vivid and distinctive letters to or from New Yorkers and ephemeral material such as posters, broadsides, propaganda pamphlets, menus, programs, etc. All items should be identified clearly with names, dates, and locations, when known.

Please DO NOT send materials directly to them. They can only handle a limited number of items and cannot return unwanted material to donors. Instead, submit descriptions of what might be of interest with scans or photographs, if possible to wwii@nyhistory.org.

The New-York Historical Society will not be able to accept magazines, newspapers, newspaper clippings or material that is in poor condition (i.e., dirty, moldy, unreadable) or outside the scope of our collection. Materials selected by the staff may be used in the Society’s upcoming (2012) exhibition on World War II in New York; some may be added to our permanent collections; some may appear on web presentations.

For more information contact: wwii@nyhistory.org

Photo: A crowd watching the news line on the Times building at Times Square, NYC, on D-day, June 6, 1944. Large-format nitrate negative by Howard Hollem or Edward Meyer, Office of War Information.

History Channel to Feature Saranac WWII Veteran


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A History Channel documentary will feature an Adirondack veteran of World War Two: Archie Sweeney of Saranac Lake. The 10-hour series WWII in HD, which will air over over five consecutive nights from Sunday through Thursday, November 15-19 will be narrated by Gary Sinise.

Archie Sweeney was a resident of Saranac Lake Village (where one of his sisters still lives; another lives in Glens Falls), who came to the series late in production according to Larry Miller, who did research and character development for most of the men and women in the series. “I had finished preliminary work for six characters when I got a call from the producer who told me that they wanted a character who was killed early in the war, preferably in North Africa,” Miller told me. “That was going to be a problem for several reasons. Men who died early in the war had very little time to write letters or diaries so there would probably be very little material to work with. There would be no oral histories recorded and obviously no book written.”

What Miller hoped to find was a man who had surviving family members and who had saved information relating to his experiences. “Almost immediately, my thoughts turned to the Adirondacks,” Miller says. “My chances to find surviving relatives were better if I could find someone from a small town rather than, for example, Manhattan. These families were, at the time, less mobile than those from larger cities. A side benefit would be that I could work and be in the Adirondacks simultaneously.”

Miller began his search by reading the casualty lists published in the New York Times where he found three men from the Adirondack region who had been killed in action in North Africa. A search of their obituaries told Miller that two of the men were survived by only their parents – the third was Archie Sweeney, whose several siblings survived the war. “After several months of researching newspapers, public records, service records and interviewing his surviving relatives, I had gathered enough information about the young man to write a narrative of his short life and brave death,” Miller said.

Larry Miller sent the short biography he wrote about Archie Sweeney to the Almanack. Here it is in its entirety:

Corporal Archie Sweeney was twenty one years old when he graduated from Saranac Lake High School in Saranac Lake, New York. He was not their best student. Once he teasingly told his two little sisters that when you did well in high school they used the word “flunked”, so when he came home one day and told his mother that he had flunked math, the girls greeted him with hugs and congratulated him.

“Polite” was the term most often attached to his name. It helps to be polite when you share your living space with eight brothers and sisters. And it becomes a survival skill when you are separated from your family, Archie to one relative and his two younger sisters to another, because your mother has died and your father is too ill to care for you. (His mother died from cancer and his father has a broken neck that he sustained while digging trenches along the roadside. After his accident, he spent many months in a body case.)

At the time of her death, Archie was working two jobs and attending high school. He loved his days spent on his father’s farm in Lawrenceville, a tiny village in upstate New York almost as much as the times he and his brothers spent at their dad’s hunting camp Floodwood, a speck on the map located in the Adirondack Mountains, where they hunted and fished during the fall and winter when the farming was idle. It was during those frigid winters that his sisters remember Archie bundling them up, seating them in a sleigh, hitching the horse up and driving them to church.

When the war broke out, Archie was the first young man whose number was called in the draft lottery held in nearby Lake Placid. But Archie has enlisted the previous day. On New Years Day, 1941, he told his older brother that this was a good way to start the year. It was time to move on; to see what life had in store for him. Two days later he walked to Lake Placid a few miles away, to report for his physical.

He took a train, the first time he had ever been on one, to Fort Bragg, N.C. where his politeness was put to the test training with the 39th Infantry, 9th Division.

By the middle of March, he had been assigned to Company H and proudly sent his company photograph home. There he stood, right next to the company flag, all 5’ 11”, 145 pounds of him, standing ram-rod straight and looking quite serious.

Early that summer, Archie returned home and stayed at the farm. One of his sisters took a snapshot of him standing proudly in front of their barn. That evening, as she was preparing for bed, she saw Archie, standing as comfortably as if he had been sitting, watching as the sun set. “What are you looking at?” she asked. “I’m just looking. I don’t know if I’ll ever see this again.”

On 25 September 1942 the 39th, the Fighting Falcons, boarded 5 ships and sailed out of New York harbor. On the 6th of October 1942 and about 4,000 miles later, the convoy dropped anchor in Belfast Harbor. The 39th moved to Scotland and awaited the departure of the 47th and 60th Infantry Regiments from the US and their first D-Day.

The 9th Infantry Division saw its first combat in the North African invasion when its elements landed at Algeria in Ain-Taya 15 miles east of the city of Algeria on November 8, 1942. Moving swiftly the 39th defeated the Vichy-French troops and had the city surrounded.

The next three months were spent guarding communications lines along their front.

Company B picked up a new rifle platoon leader during this period, Lieutenant Charles Scheffel.

The war was not going well. The Germans were retreating but we couldn’t face Rommel’s tanks with our big guns. The units that tried that at Kasserine Pass suffered a devastating defeat.

The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, to occupy the hills on opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass which would enable the armored troops to pass through the valley without being fired on from its flanks. This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing 5 tanks. The tanks were removed, and the 1st and 9th attacked again the next day at 06:00, moving up and taking several hundred prisoners. However an Italian counterattack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of 9 tanks and 2 tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started.

Captain Scheffel recalled that, “On March 27, 1943, my first wedding anniversary, I took out Ruth’s picture and wished I was back in Enid. I kept thinking what a shitty place to spend an anniversary. At least we weren’t fired on during the first night, and for that, I was grateful.”

On April 1, Archie was writing a letter home. “It’s very quite here this evening. I think the war may be coming to an end.” [see p 7 of my notes-when the skirmish occurred a few days later.]

His older brother, Harold, received a telegram on May 8th, 1943 informing him that Archie was “Missing in Action”. Two days later an Army chaplain arrived at his door to tell them that Archie had been killed the same evening he wrote his letter.

He was twenty five years old; the first Saranac Lake Village soldier to die in action.

Photo: Saranac Lake’s Archie Sweeney during World War Two. Photo provided.

Conference: Poland to Buffalo Through WWII


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The Polish Legacy Project in Buffalo will be hosting a conference, “Poland to Buffalo Through WWII: Untold Stories Come Alive” in that city on October 3rd and 4th. The aim of the conference is to highlight the stories of Polish WWII survivors who settled in Western New York as a result of the war. This is the first time an event such as this has been organized in the 60 + years that these survivors have been in this country. Up until now, they have kept their experiences to themselves and their children, speaking about them almost exclusively in Polish.

Among the survivors speaking at the conference will be: a veteran of the Warsaw Uprising, a veteran of the battle at Falaise, a survivor of Soviet labor camps and a survivor of German labor camps.

For more information visit: http://PolishLegacyBuffalo.com

A Program On America’s Only World War II Refugee Camp


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Sixty-five years ago 982 people arrived at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY. They would stay the next 18 months at the only World War II refugee camp on American soil. On August 20th at 6 pm in Sackets Harbor, Safe Haven President Elizabeth A. Kahl will share the story of those 982 “guests” of President Franklin D. Roosevelt from August 1944 to February 1946. The program is part of the 2009 Great Lakes Seaway Trail Experience Series at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center.

Kahl, who has served on the board of the nonprofit that administers the Safe Haven Museum and Education Center in Oswego since 1999, said in a press release that “The maelstrom that was World War II had millions of fugitives fleeing for their lives in Europe. A continent away, Oswego, New York on the shores of Lake Ontario was to play a unique role in history as the small community who gave 982 people shelter and hope.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is among those who visited the refugees at the fort.

The $5 admission to the August 20th program benefits the Seaway Trail Foundation and its educational programming.

Exhibit Offers Rare Look at WWII Relief Quilts


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The faded color and worn edges of this “Bow Ties” quilt bespeak the toll of the long days of World War II in the Netherlands. There is still time to see this and other authentic WWII relief quilts in an interpretive exhibit at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, NY. The exhibit includes a DVD with An Keuning-Tichelaar telling how she received and distributed the quilts to refugees in war-torn Netherlands.

“Passing on the Comfort: World War II, Quilts & The Women Who Made a Difference” offers a rare look into world history, heartbreak and humanity Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm. The New York Council for the Humanities; the Mennonite Heritage Association, Croghan, NY; the Town of Hounsfield, National Grid, Key Bank Foundation; and the Seaway Trail Foundation, and volunteer docents are making this exhibit possible for the first time in New York state. More info: 315-646-1000, www.seawaytrail.com.