Tag Archives: World War Two

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.

Rare World War II Relief Quilts Make First NY Stop


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For the first time in New York state, a rare collection of quilts and comforters used by children, Jewish fugitives, Nazi Resistance workers, and Mennonite refugees fleeing the post-war Soviet Union who were given shelter by a Dutch Mennonite woman will be seen Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays April 24-June 28 at the Seaway Trail Discovery Center in Sackets Harbor, Jefferson County, NY.

The New York Council for the Humanities, Mennonite Heritage Association, Seaway Trail Foundation, Town of Hounsfield, National Grid and Key Bank are sponsoring “Passing on the Comfort: World War II, Quilts & The Women Who Made a Difference” that tells the story of a young Mennonite minister and his newlywed wife who participated with the Resistance movement in the Netherlands.

The professionally designed interpretive and interactive exhibit that features a rare collection of quilts and comforters made by Mennonite women in the United States and Canada; interpretive panels with historic images of wartime life in the Netherlands, and a DVD sharing the story of An and Herman Keuning-Tichelaar who sheltered people in their parsonage. In the DVD, Keuning-Tichelaar herself says, “I sorted my memories as I folded and unfolded the (few, worn) quilts telling my unspoken tales.”

Phyllis Lyndecker, president of the Mennonite Heritage Association, says, “We are always making quilts for relief efforts and this exhibit is a special opportunity to see quilts that reached their destinations and actually provided comfort and security to those in need.”

Great Lakes Seaway Trail Foundation President Teresa Mitchell says, “The Great Lakes Seaway Trail pleased to host this rare exhibit illustrating the intertwining of global history, philosophy, ethics, and religion.”

Mitchell says she expects the exhibit to attract quiltmakers, family, school and church groups, veterans, tourists and senior citizens. The quilting tradition is a popular cultural and arts heritage travel theme for the 518-mile-long byway that has clusters of Mennonite and Amish quilters in its 11 counties along the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River and Lake Erie in New York and Pennsylvania. A 22-mile loop tour off the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in Orleans County, NY, features more than 40 traditional quilt block patterns painted on barns.

The Seaway Trail Foundation has won Upstate History Alliance and New York State Governor’s Tourism awards for its heritage programming related to historic shipwrecks. In August, the three-story, limestone Seaway Trail Discovery Center (built in 1817 as the Union Hotel) will host a presentation on the World War II refugees who found “safe haven” in Oswego, NY from 1944-1946 in Oswego, NY.

For more information on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, visit www.seawaytrail.com or call Seaway Trail Foundation, 315-646-1000.

Wartime Writings of French Intellectuals At NYPL


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Hitler’s occupation of France presented writers with a difficult, often dangerous dilemma: keep silent, collaborate, or resist the Germans and their Vichy allies. A new exhibition at The New York Public Library explores how Sartre, Gide, Cocteau and dozens of other public intellectuals responded to Nazi rule. Personal correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, books and posters — most displayed for the first time in the United States — illustrate the contrasting, often complex response by writers to the country’s defeat and the Vichy regime. Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation is on view at the Library’s D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall from April 3 to July 25, 2009. Admission is free. The exhibition is accompanied by a companion volume presenting more than 650 archival documents, an April 3 symposium featuring leading French and American scholars, and screenings of rarely shown French films created during the Nazi period.

The period of the Vichy regime, which lasted from 1940 to 1944, was a tumultous time for French literature. A number of the best-loved writers of the twentieth century produced some of their finest works, such as Sartre’s No Exit, and the intellectual foment helped inspire more than two hundred films and numerous literary and artistic works, many of them clandestine. The exhibition features original copies of illegal underground publications by resisters such as Mauriac, Camus and Aragon, along with the writings of Nazi-favored authors like Céline and Drieu La Rochelle and brilliant efforts by Sartre and other resisters to circumvent the censors.

“Some writers worried about whether they were collaborating even by writing a book, because it would seem that life was normal in Vichy France. Others wanted to show that France still lived through its arts,” says co-curator Robert O. Paxton, Mellon Professor Emeritus, Columbia University. “It’s the moral ambiguity of what seemed like ordinary actions by a writer – such as publishing a poem – that makes Vichy such a fascinating period for the arts.”

Unlike other defeated European countries, France struggled under two dictatorships: the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators. The exhibition explores the deep divisions between left and right, highlighting a perhaps surprising amount of sympathy for the Nazis and the homegrown fascism of Vichy. Original letters and documents, drawn from the Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) and The New York Public Library’s collections, also show the exile experience of Jewish intellectuals such as Hannah Arendt, who escaped to America and artist Otto Freundlich, who died in the Holocaust. One of the most remarkable items is the manuscript of Irène Némirovsky’s Suite française, which became a recent worldwide bestseller after its discovery by her daughter half a century after the writer’s death at Auschwitz.

This exhibition was conceived by IMEC director Olivier Corpet, who presented it with curator Claire Paulhan at Caen in 2008. It has been adapted and reshaped for an American audience by Dr. Paxton. Objects are drawn largely from IMEC, supplemented by materials from The New York Public Library, the Mémorial de Caen, and other private and public collections.

The exhibition opens in the shadow of World War I, with the depiction of a large military cemetery reminding viewers that 1.3 million Frenchmen were killed just two decades before. It chronicles the political instability of 1930s France, with a weak Third Republic, economic turmoil, and the rise of Hitler just over the border causing much agitation between left and right.

The Vichy regime is depicted as an enthusiastic enforcer of fascism in France, rather than simply a puppet to Hitler. The Germans were able to save resources by occupying only part of the country, allowing their ideological ally to rule the rest. Tales of crossing the Demarcation Line, faced with dangers from crooked “passers” and German patrols, are a ubiquitous subject in diaries and letters of the Occupation period, and in later fiction about it. Some of the exhibition’s most fascinating materials deal with how resisters were able to get information across the line and past the censors. In order to write loved ones, authorities distributed pre-written postcards with phrases (such as “I am in good health”) that could be checked off. A 1940 postcard shows Louis Aragon scribbled some extra information to the wife of Jean Paulhan, including the coded phrase “Cousin Mercadier can go to Pierre’s house.” This may have referred to the Aragons’ plan to stay with the poet Pierre Emmanuel in Dieulefit (Drôme).

The exhibition explores the violent fate suffered by many writers during this period. The price for literary resistance during the Occupation was imprisonment or death. And bitterness ran high against those who took Vichy’s side: after the war, four collaborationist writers were shot, and dozens were imprisoned and blacklisted. Others, such as Céline, fled France.

For those who joined the Resistance, there were more than 1,000 homemade, mimeographed publications, often printed secretly in the middle of the night by printers who risked — and sometimes lost — their lives. Included are copies of such clandestine publications as Combat and Les Lettres françaises, to which Camus and Sartre, respectively, contributed.Sartre’s activities during the Vichy period serve as an interesting example of the complex response by writers to difficult politics: his underground writings, a newspaper clipping depicting him sitting at Café de Flore, press commentary and correspondence help to illustrate how the writer-philosopher navigated space for himself both below ground and above, where he put on two plays. There were also the “Little Magazines,” published legally in the Unoccupied Zone, which pushed the limits of censorship. One of the most famous,Max-Pol Fouchet’s Fontaine, published a stirring poem by Paul Eluard in 1942, entitled “Liberty,” which showed the wartime evolution of literary style away from aesthetic artifice and toward simple, straightforward poetry.

“The deep political divisions of the Vichy period are always interesting to study on their own merits, but especially as an influence on the literature of Sartre, Gide, and other major twentieth-century authors,” said Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library. “In spite of censorship and other forms of suppression, some writers of the period produced masterpieces of enduring worth.”

Other highlights include card files containing index cards of banned books written by Jews, Communists or those critical of the Nazis; letters by Céline from Denmark, to which he fled after the war, complaining about his treatment by Jews, and a handwritten note about Hannah Arendt by a member of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars. The German Jewish philosopher, then totally unknown, was described as “swarthy, intelligent, sparing of words, courteous, efficient.”

French and German newsreel extracts, drawn from the 1969 Max Ophüls film The Sorrow and the Pity, will be screened in the exhibition. The April 3 symposium takes place at The New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Participants include prominent scholars from the United States and France. For more information about the exhibition and a link to the symposium schedule, go to www.nypl.org and click on “Exhibitions.”

A companion film series featuresfilms produced in France under the Nazi Occupation, including Marcel Carné’s masterpiece Les Enfants du Paradis [Children of Paradise] and rarely screened works by such directors as Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jacques Becker, and Marcel L’Herbier. Films will be presented at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts every Tuesday in June at 2:30 p.m.

Between Collaboration and Resistance: French Literary Life Under Nazi Occupation will be on view from April 3, 2009, through July 25, 2009 in the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition Hall (First Floor), of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Exhibition hours are Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday through May 17, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Sundays Memorial Day through Labor Day and all federal holidays. Closed April 12, May 23-25, July 3-5. Admission is free. For more information, call 917.ask.nypl or visit www.nypl.org.

Aircraft Carrier Intrepid Returns to Pier 86


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The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid returned home to Manhattan last week. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum’s grand re-opening celebration will be held on Veterans Day, November 11, 2008. Intrepid left her berth at Staten Island’s Homeport Pier on October 2, and was moved north to the brand new Pier 86 following a 22-month overhaul (NYT).

According to Newsday:

Bill White, president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, said the museum has paid $10 million to dredge more Hudson River mud – more than 90,000 cubic yards – than was done for the first unsuccessful attempt to move the 900-foot-long ship to a New Jersey dry dock. And for good measure, the ship’s four 16-ton, bronze, 22-foot-diameter propellers have been permanently removed so they can no longer serve as unwanted anchors. “I am 100 percent confident she will come back in with no problems,” White said.

The ship reopens to the general the public after a private event Nov. 8 at Pier 86, at 12th Avenue and West 46th Street. After an expenditure of almost $120 million since the carrier was finally relocated in December 2006, visitors will see new exhibits, areas of the 29,000-ton ship launched in 1943 that were formerly off limits during its first 23 years on display and additional historic aircraft and they have access from a newly built pier topped by a free park.

The 2008 Veterans Day Parade has been rerouted west across 42nd Street, and north up 12th Avenue, with the parade passing the Intrepid Museum. 5,000 of the parade’s veterans will take part in the Museum’s grand re-opening celebration.

While in Staten Island, Intrepid will undergo the next phase of her refurbishment, and receive an $8 million interior renovation. Of that, $4.5 million has been privately raised – $3.5 million is yet to be procured. Never-before-seen areas of the ship including to the focasle (commonly known as the anchor chain room), general berthing quarters and the ship’s machine shop will be opened to the public for the first time. The hangar deck will feature a new layout and design including new interactive exhibits.

Fort Drum WWII Barracks to be Demolished


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The Watertown Daily Times is reporting that 87 World War Two era barracks at Fort Drum are going to be torn down in the next month:

Those buildings, built in 1941, are being torn down to make way for more construction to accommodate units of the 10th Mountain Division. South post will become the new home for the 91st Military Police Battalion, 7th Engineer Battalion and 63rd Explosive Ordnance Device Battalion — which is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq.


We want to tear them all down eventually,” said James W. Corriveau, the public works director for Fort Drum. “We are building new facilities on that space and falling in on the old infrastructure.”

The demolition of old motor pools along Gasoline Alley has been ongoing this summer.

Here’s a gem from someone with a [ahem] sense of history:

“The nostalgic value of this World War II world isn’t too much,” Mr. Corriveau said. “The Army has lots of stuff from that time period — these buildings weren’t supposed to last forever.”

Here is a little history from the Fort Drum website:

With the outbreak of World War Two, the area now known as Pine Camp was selected for a major expansion and an additional 75,000 acres of land was purchased. With that purchase, 525 local families were displaced. Five entire villages were eliminated, while others were reduced from one-third to one-half their size.

By Labor Day 1941, 100 tracts of land were taken over. Three thousand buildings, including 24 schools, 6 churches and a post office were abandoned. Contractors then went to work, and in a period of 10 months at a cost of $20 million, an entire city was built to house the divisions scheduled to train here.

Eight hundred buildings were constructed; 240 barracks, 84 mess halls, 86 storehouses, 58 warehouses, 27 officers’ quarters, 22 headquarters buildings, and 99 recreational buildings as well as guardhouses and a hospital. Construction workers paid the price, as the winter of 1941-42 was one of the coldest in North Country history.

The three divisions to train at Pine Camp were General George S. Patton’s 4th Armored Division (Gen. Creighton Abrams was a battalion commander here at the time), the 45th Infantry Division and the 5th Armored Division.

The post also served as a prisoner of war camp. Of those prisoners who died here, one Italian and six Germans are still buried in the Sheepfold Cemetery near Remington Pond