Negotiations Opened to Convert Big Naval Training Center into Upstate Veterans Facility

Sampson Naval Center, the huge $60,000,000 training station on Seneca Lake, that will close Sept. 30 under Congressional plans, last night was eagerly sought by the Veterans Administration as an upstate facility.

Representative John Taber, Auburn Republican, who was instrumental in landing the center for his district nearly three years ago, said in Washington that Brig. Gen. Frank T. Hines, veterans' administrator, had opened negotiations with the Navy to obtain the Seneca County property, a few miles south of Geneva. As soon as he learns definitely of Navy plans, according to Taber, General Hines will requisition the property.

Trained 350,000

The news that the Naval Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, had voted to scuttle Sampson, which has sent 350,000 sailors into service, to save some $3,000,000 yearly in costs, came as a shock to the Sampson region.

It also produced a sharp warning from Representative W. Sterling Cole, Bath Republican, that the action starts a whittling down process for the Navy, and that "we must be careful we don't repeat the mistake we made after World War I when we allowed our Navy to disintegrate. It would be tragic if we do repeat it," he added, according to the Gannett National Service.

The House Subcommittee, headed by Representative Harry R. Sheppard, California Democrat , made a choice between Sampson and Port Deposit, Md. Closing Sampson would whittle $3,000,000 from a $4,000,000 annual budget for the base, as well as wash out some $606,000 in pending works projects at the base. The fiscal year begins July 1, and the station would operate three months longer. Sampson itself had no official word of the proposed closing, public relation officers said.

Hospital Unaffected

It was believed that the Sampson hospital, which recently had been made the headquarters for tuberculosis treatment among Navy personnel east of the Mississippi, would be unaffected by the closing of the Center. That institution , although part of Sampson, can be operated separately, it was said.

Word of the proposed closing was a blow to Geneva and other communities in a 50-mile radius of Sampson. All have been financially benefited by the construction and operation of the mammoth base, and had been advised when the base was opened that it would be "permanent."

The proposed closing will not affect the training of personnel already there, or those who will enter up to July 1, it was said. After that date, the new enlistees probably will be sent to the permanent stations at Great Lakes, Ill., San Diego, Calif., or the big temporary station in Maryland.

The Center can accommodate 42,666 men and has a daily average population of 29,300.

Insisted on Action

Navy officials reportedly were opposed to closing the station, but according to Taber, their testimony before the subcommittee provided enough evidence to sustain recommendation for closing by Sept. 30. The GNS reported that Sheppard insisted upon the action during closed hearings of the committee.

Sampson was opened to its first training unit 30 months ago. Under pressure of supplying a two-ocean and two-war Navy, it rapidly expanded until it was turning out nearly 35,000 trained sailors periodically.

Commodore Harry A. Badt, USN, has been the commanding officer of the base since its inception.

Affected Region

Sampson had a marked effect on the Finger Lakes Region. Like its next door neighbor, the Seneca Ordnance Depot, it cut, like a huge scythe across verdant, agrarian Seneca County, uprooting farms and families. It sent into deep vari-colored Seneca Lake's noted fishing waters a new fleet of craft - huge whale boats in which the men of the fleet first trained.

In advance of the "boots" came the construction gangs, men and women recruited from all parts of the nation, of all nationalities and races. These were people strange to the easy-going folk of the Lakes Country, and they were viewed with some apprehension. But they filled cash registers, although they overcrowded available homes, and they placed a drain on resources of normally small communities.

Then came the sailors, the Navy blue and whites were common to streets that knew such sights in the past only on Memorial Day.

Sampson and the war brought a new, and strange era, for the Finger Lakes.