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February 11, 2013

Many made stop at upstate naval base


I prayed that dear old Dad never saw the inside of this place!

The tour was fascinating. Dolores took me from room to room of the brig-cum-museum, and each one had a different theme. One room was filled with photographs of entertainers who visited Sampson during the war. “Marian Anderson sang here, Bob Hope brought his troupe here and boxer Joe Louis held exhibition fights here,” I was told.

I asked her where the recruits came from to be “booted” here during the war.

“Well, they came from all over mostly, but surely almost every central New Yorker who enlisted in the Navy came through here.”

The museum has an amazing variety of memorabilia.

“Everything we have here has been donated by a veteran, or their family. We have dozens of uniforms, hundreds of weapons and thousands of photographs,” Dinsmore said.

It was the photographs that intrigued me the most. Those big black-and-white photos of rows and rows of uniformed men posing with the other members of their units. I kept an eagle eye out for my dad.

“Unfortunately, it will be almost impossible to find him,” she told me. “These photos were taken when the men graduated, and each one was given a copy to take home. The men in turn usually gave the pictures to their mothers or sweethearts and from there, who knows?” she said. “Sadly, none of them are labeled on the back.”

I pored over dozens of photos from Dad’s era that have returned to Sampson, squinting through a magnifying glass trying to find him. It should be easy, I thought. A young, rail-thin 20-year-old guy with big glasses, a shock of thick black hair and a devilish smile. I saw 500 men who all looked like they could have been Don D’Imperio.

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