Decision to Abandon Sampson Meets With Varied Reaction Here
Announcement in Washington yesterday that the huge $55,000,000 Sampson Naval Training Center will probably be abandoned by the Navy Department not later than Sept. 30th met with varied reaction in this city and other communities of the Finger Lakes region today.
Should the decision stand to abandon the Center entirely, it would see a quick end to the war boom which has brought millions of dollars to the region, boosted prices and rents as high as OPA and other government agencies would permit, created pronounced labor and housing shortages and had many other affects on the social, civic and economic life of the community and nearby towns.
Most informed sources here and at Sampson also held to the theory today that the government would not order entire abandonment of the center, however, but would probably transfer the facilities to some other use, perhaps a huge facility for the treatment and processing of returning veterans.
Congressman John Taber of Auburn, ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, was quoted in Washington yesterday as saying that he had been assured by Brig. General Frank T. Hines, head of the Veterans Administration, that the latter agency was prepared to ask the use of the center as a veteran's facility as soon as the Navy gave it up.
Representative W. Sterling Cole of Bath, high ranking member of the Naval Affairs Committee, said he was ready to fight the move to abandon the station and would seek to have it continued on its present basis.
"We must be careful that we do not make the mistake we made after World War One, when we allowed our Navy to disintegrate," he was quoted as saying in published Washington dispatches. "I think the Sampson station should be continued to train officers for the large peacetime Navy that we know we're going to need and I shall do my best to see that it is continued."
Reports have been current here for several weeks past to the effect that activities at the center would probably be sharply curtailed within a short time but few expected announcement to the effect that the huge establishment would be abandoned within a few months. Word to the effect that nearly all National Service selectees being drafted from now on would probably be ticketed for service in the infantry of the U. S. Army heralded some curtailment at Sampson and the question as to what would be done with the center has been voiced by hundreds of Geneva citizens for many months.
Meanwhile, Chambers of Commerce, civic groups and public officials throughout the area were moving to protest total abandonment of the center. The Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Secretary John F. Gleason, indicated this afternoon it would probably take no definite action immediately, preferring to wait until further information as to possible future developments could be obtained. The Directors of the Chamber are scheduled to meet a week from tomorrow, he said, at which time the matter will probably be discussed.
Decision to abandon the station for Naval purposes Sept. 30th came as a result of action by a naval subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee and was designed to save some $3,000,000 from a $4,000,000 budget for the center.
The House subcommittee, headed by Representative Harry R. Sheppard, California Democrat, made a choice between Sampson and the Port Deposit, Md., station and if finally approved would wash out some $606,000 in pending works projects at the nearby center. The fiscal year begins July 1st and the station would operate three months longer.
It was believed that the Sampson Naval Hospital, recently made the headquarters for the treatment of tuberculosis in Naval personnel for the entire area east of the Mississippi River, would be unaffected by the decision to close the station. The hospital, although part of the training center, can be operated as a separate station and was originally constructed for longer life.
The proposed closing also will not affect the training of personnel already there or those who will enter up to July 1st. After that date recruits will probably be sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, San Diego, Calif., or the big temporary station in Maryland.
Meanwhile Commodore Harry S. Badt, commandant at the center since it was opened
Oct. 17, 1942, would not comment on the Washington reports other than to say that no official word of any such impending action had been received here. Lieut. Commander John T. Casey also had nothing to say regarding the reports.
Since it was opened in 1942, the station has trained about 350,000 recruits and sent them into service and at one time the population of the huge establishment reached a maximum of nearly 50,000 persons. At present the Center can accommodate 42,666 men and has a daily average population of 29,300.
The station was constructed by the John A. Johnson Contracting Company and the Mount Vernon Contracting Corporation and during the construction process hundreds of laborers and tradesmen of all classes were imported here from every part of the country. The area occupied is about 2,500 acres and there are hundreds of buildings, many of them of a permanent type. Complete water systems, with filtering units, a vast sewage system with a disposal plant, hundreds of miles of lighted paved streets and many parade grounds, recreational areas, a baseball park and a football field are included in the station area.
Those closely associated with the contractors recalled at the time the station was completed that the specifications indicated a life expectancy of only seven years and those who gained the impression the center would be a permanent fixture, it was said, were misinformed. A local resident associated with the contractors said today there never was any intention of making the station permanent.
An editorial in this morning's edition of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle expressed hope the station would be transferred to the Veterans Administration and indicated the belief it would serve admirably for such a purpose during the years immediately following the war.
The editorial follows:
"Representative John Taber of Auburn, ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, has made the very practical suggestion that if Sampson Naval Training Station is abandoned, as the committee now is planning, it be turned over to the Veterans Administration as a hospital.
"President Roosevelt is known to have suggested consideration of such use of the military and naval training establishments that had to be set up for quick training of men for this war. And the facilities at Sampson, particularly the large and well-equipped hospital, are excellently adapted to this purpose.
"Sampson is the second largest naval training station in the United States. Its construction, though adequate, was temporary. It is well built, however, and would serve well during the few years immediately following the war when a large number of returning men will need temporary hospitalization.
"Some new and interesting principles of construction were developed in its planning and erection, which like other mechanical and scientific developments of the war will be of great benefit to the country.
"It is assumed, naturally, that the House Committee's intention to cut off appropriations for the station with the end of this fiscal year is conceived on competent advice of Naval authorities."