Tag Archives: World War Two

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