Navy vets set out to restore brig at Romulus training camp.
By David L. Shaw Staff Writer-Herald
ROMULUS -- Some Navy veterans who trained at Sampson Naval Training Facility during World War II probably spent a bit of sobering time in the brig, the result of wild weekends in nearby Geneva and the like, according to Sampson veteran Barney Olschewske of Seneca Falls.
Now the remaining Navy vets who were trained at Sampson want to preserve, restore and renovate the Navy guardhouse into a memorial museum and library commemorating the 40,000 people who were trained at Sampson during the war.
"Anyone from outside the area going to Sampson State Park today would have no idea what happened there during the war. We think it would help draw people to the park and honor those who were there. Some of them later died at sea," Olschewske said.
Some 200 of the Old Salts came back to Sampson last September for their first-ever reunion. There was the old brig, one of the old buildings still standing.
It's showing the ravages of time, but still there.
The Sampson vets formed a permanent organization called Sampson World War II Navy Veterans, elected officers, charged $10 membership fees, formulated by-laws, wrote a newsletter and plan to meet again September 9-10. They want to restore and preserve the brig for use as a memorial library in memory of the thousands trained there.
William Russell of Corryton, Tenn., was the inspiration behind the reunion last year and worked with officials of Waterloo VFW Post 6433 to organize last year's meeting.
Over the past year, membership has grown from 48 to more than 300, Olschewske said. They hope to make the reunions annual events.
The Navy operated Sampson from September 1942 to May 1946. It was converted to an Air Force base from 1950 to 1955, became Sampson College for two more years, Sampson State School for the mentally disabled until 1971 and has been a state park since 1971.
Olschewske was married and had two children when he was drafted at age 23. He spent about a month at Sampson before being ordered to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"I was part of the liberation of the Philippines and saw action at Okinowa. Our ship got hit by a Japanese suicide plane, but I was lucky to escape injury. Many other ships in that area weren't as lucky," Olschewske said.
"We've contacted state parks commissioner Orin Lehmann, Finger Lakes Parks head Andy Mazzella, Sampson park director Ted Sanford, and local state legislators to help us get something going at the brig building," Olschewske said.