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Columns

February 11, 2013

Many made stop at upstate naval base

My father was in the U.S. Navy. Not for long, but he did enlist out of high school in 1944. He did his naval training at Sampson Naval Training Base in Romulus. Shortly after Dad’s basic training, he was honorably discharged because of a health issue. So, although his service was brief, I needed to find out as much about it as I possibly could.

Off to Sampson I went.

The U.S. Navy purchased nearly 3,000 acres of lush farmland and vineyards on the shores of Seneca Lake in 1942. The training base it built was one of the largest in the Northeast. By the time my dad would have arrived, the base would have been humming. Ultimately, more than 400,000 recruits did their basic naval training at Sampson. And that includes hundreds, if not thousands, from The Daily Star’s readership area.

And Sampson is still there.

On the day I arrived for a visit, it was a sunny afternoon with not a cloud in the sky. As I drove in the front gate, many cars and vans were lined up before and after me to enjoy the natural beauty of the Finger Lakes rolling landscape at the park. But I veered off just as I entered the gate and parked in front of the Sampson Military Museum. It is housed in the last remaining building from the base’s 500 World War II era structures.

And what a building it is.

It’s the brig.

“Look how small these cells are,” Dolores Dinsmore said to me. She is the director of the museum. “This is where the baddest of the bad ones came. You’d have to do something serious to land here, like go AWOL or commit a crime. They got two straight days of bread and water and then on the third day they got a meal.”

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