Elaine Westmiller (left) of Weedsport, Bob Eaton of Cato, Ralph Milligan, tour guide at the Sampson Naval Museum; and Wanda Eaton looked over a display of Navy uniforms during the museum's 60th anniversary celebration yesterday afternoon. Bob Eaton, who was celebrating his 76th birthday, said he trained at the Sampson Naval Training Station in 1944 and '45.
Proud return to Sampson

Finger Lakes Times Friday September 13, 2002

World War II vets note Anniversary

By Denise M. Champagne

Times Staff Writer


A proud spirit remains in the hearts of World War II Navy veterans who gathered yesterday to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the site where they trained.

The Sampson Salts met with friends and family members at Sampson State Park, home from 1942-46 to the Sampson Naval Training Station, where more than 400,000 men and women prepared for duty in World War II.

They reminisced about the frightening days following the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that led to their service and the lingering pain of the Sept. II, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

"Sixty years ago, I was here," said Stephen Bull, president of Sampson WW-2 Navy Veterans Inc., opening the ceremony that also marked the 15th annual reunion of the group. "It was 1942, and it was 42 degrees below zero without any insulation in the barracks. I never left the base. We were just snowed in - shoveled snow for a couple of months."

The weather was quite different Thursday as temperatures hovered around 70 degrees under mostly sunny skies with a nice breeze blowing off Seneca Lake.

"If you Came here 60 years ago, I salute you and your patriotism, your dedication and your support," said Bruce Fullem, park manager, who presented a plaque "saluting the Sampson Salts for 60 years of service to America."

Irene Nolda, president of the auxiliary, reminded people the men were very young when they answered the call to arms and, against tremendous odds, succeeded on every level to rid the world of two tyrants.

"You are our heroes, the greatest generation," she said.

 Bull then announced a $50,000 check had been signed Wednesday, creating a historic trust for the museum among the Sampson veterans' organization, the park and New York state.

"We have a future," he said. "This museum will be here long after we're gone."

Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a lieutenant commander in the New York State Naval Militia, paralleled the bombing of Pearl Harbor with last year's terrorist attacks just one day after the first anniversary of the latter event.

He said the Sampson Salts all know where they were Dec. 7, 1941, and now later generations will recall exactly what they were doing Sept. II, 2001.

"Both days interlocked and bring together not just calendars but generations," Nozzolio said. "Both days changed our world forever, but one thing the forces of evil failed to change was the American spirit."

He also talked about heroes and mentioned steps are being taken to establish a New York State Veterans Cemetery at Sampson. He said Gov. George Pataki is behind the measure, which requires lengthy documentation with the federal government.

Nozzolio said he and Bull have been working on the cemetery proposal for four years. He complimented Bull for his persistence and presented him with the Senate Lady Liberty Award  "for all he has done to keep the flame burning."

"Golly," said Bull. "Thank you very much."

Chaplain Arthur Gardner then talked about Richard Myers. He and his wife, Maybel, were charter members of the Sampson WW-2 Navy Veterans Inc. He died earlier this year, and his ashes were scattered on the ground below wreaths in front of the podium.

The day had extra meaning for Seneca Falls resident Fran Caraccilo, president of the Friends of Sampson, who commented on the "distinguished history" of the station.

"My father was a Sampson Salt," he said. "Being here today is very special to me."

Also attending were members of the Naval Reserve Center in Horseheads, the outfit Bull said was responsible for the placement of memorial bricks in the courtyard.

"I wasn't here 60 yearsago, but I thank Mr. (Grant) Covill for inviting us," said Lt. Commander Matthew Childs. "Most of all, I'd like to thank you all for leaving us a legacy of nobility. We will do our best to uphold it."

Covill, a member of the Friends of Sampson, led the presentation of colors of the Sampson World War II Navy Veterans Color Guard at the beginning of the event.

Other local speakers included Edward Boudreau of Waterloo, who serves on the Seneca County Board of Supervisors and is also a WWII veteran.

"I can't tell you how honored I was to receive an invitation to this place," he said. "At 17 years old, I spent 10 weeks here as a boot in C Unit, Company 147."

Geneva Town Supervisor Mary Luckern said: "I think it's so appropriate in today's world we honor all of those who served in our armed services and never forget those who served in World War II."

Other participants included the Dundee Bagpipe and Drum Corps led by Ray Brewer and the Ovid Veterans of Foreign Wars Color Guard and Rifle Squad led by George Artley.