SAMPSON - UNITED STATES NAVAL TRAINING STATION
Note: Facts compiled from many sources by Stephen W. Bull, Chairman, Memorial Museum Committee
May 13, 1942, construction of a second military installation in Seneca County, on the east shore of Seneca Lake, was announced in the nation's capital. The new facility, a Navy Station for training recruits and for technical school on over 3000 acres was to cost $25,000,000, and train an estimated 20,000 men at a time.
The Station finally covered 2535 acres and was completed in 270 days at a cost of approximately $56,000,000. The cumulative weekly payroll for all personnel at the Station exceeded $24,000,000 during 1943. A total of 411,429 naval recruits were trained there during the three and one-half years of operation.
Sampson Station was to train 5,000 recruits per unit, and was developed around a parade ground and drill field of 14 acres, adjoined by a drill hall with a two-acre indoor drill area gymnasium, swimming pool, moveable stage and motion-picture equipment. The mess hall would serve the men cafeteria style. Twenty-two story barracks, housing 228 men each, were to provide the units' living quarters. Two separate barracks would house chief petty officers. Each unit would have two dispensaries and a ships service building for recreation as well as an administration building, rifle range, small-arms magazine and a large store house.
A central group of buildings would provide recreation needs for the station as a whole: a large auditorium - seating about 2700; a reception building to entertain visitors; a chapel seating approximately 400; and a special recreation building for chief petty officers. A group of central administration buildings would house the administrative staff as well as provide a receiving building, post office, brig, disciplinary barracks and guard barracks. A special group of buildings were to accommodate men awaiting assignment after completion of training or schooling. The typical station plan included a 100-bed hospital, housing for personnel, and a school to train hospital corpsmen. Thirty, one-story war buildings comprised the main hospital facility with additional special-service buildings, quarters for officers and nurses, as well as a recreation building and barracks for corpsmen.
Work began at Sampson at the end of May, 1942, expecting to employ 12,000 - 14,000 workers.
The contractor at Sampson adopted a speedy method of construction for the roofs of the six large drill halls. Each laminated wood arch - 120-foot span with rise of 45 feet - arrived in three equal sections. Normally the two side sections were raised, then the crown section placed and spliced. At Sampson the arches were all matched and laid on the drill hall floor forming a nested pattern the length of the building. Attachment of permanent and temporary trusses stiffened each assembled arch, which was then raised by two traveling cranes, and set on its footings. For the last drill hall built the required arches were erected in one day.
The first training-unit group, F unit, was complete by September 15, 1942. The commissioning coincided with the arrival of the first group of recruits October 17, 1942.
The recruit arriving at the station on a train, which will drop him along with some hundred or more fellow "boots," will pass to the receiving station where he will be examined, uniformed and otherwise "processed," and then be assigned to one of the barracks units. This will be home for two months and he will stay only for study, waterfront and seamanship training, and perhaps a night or two of liberty in Geneva. One of the barracks buildings will be his immediate home and from the 223 other novice sailormen bunking in the same structure he will choose his close pals, men who in many cases will be his buddies in subsequent Navy days aboard ship and friends for life.
In these two-storied wooden buildings, with foundations of concrete, the trainees will sleep in rows of double-decker bunks. Lavatory and shower rooms at one end will provide just enough space for the bustling gobs at reveille time each morning; washing-and-drying rooms will give most of them their first experience in doing their own laundry, a practice which later will occupy many hours on shipboard.
From the barracks the fledgling seamen will emerge at 6 a.m. (0600 in Navy chronology) each day to fall in for inspection and calisthenics on the broad parade ground, 1200 by 600 feet, which forms the dominant landscaping feature of each unit.
After drilling, mess hall will be the next stop on the day's schedule, a huge mess hall where on specially built tables with attached benches 1700 men can eat at once. Above the mess hall on the second floor are living accommodations for mess attendants, cooks, etc.; alongside the mess hall are galleys, cold-storage rooms and complete accessory space for cooking for 5000 men at once.
In the huge gymnasium and drill hall, 600 feet long by 120 feet across, with high wooden-arched roof, the men will have formations in bad weather and learn some of the tricks of the sailorman, climbing rope ladders, working in rigging, or learning close-order drill. In each drill hall a concrete swimming pool, 60 feet by 75 feet, will be a guarantee that no sailor leaves Sampson who has not learned to take care of himself in the water, For leisure hours and physical development, basketball and other indoor games will be housed in the huge drill halls. In the rifle ranges, the sailors will get a taste of firing small arms.
In case a rookie isn't feeling well, cut his finger or has a toothache, two dispensaries in each 5000-man unit are ready. During their stay at Sampson all trainees will have a complete physical and dental going-over at these dispensaries. In case of serious illness, the patient is sent to the station hospital.
In his leisure time, the trainee may head for the ship's service building. Here are a barber shop, short-order cooking restaurant, soda fountain, shoe repair, laundry and tailoring facilities, post office, bowling alleys, card tables, and upstairs the study rooms and library, along with a porch overlooking the hill-crowned surface of Seneca Lake. With movies in the evening in the drill hall, tabs by 11 p.m. and a full day's schedule facing him, beginning before 6 a.m. the next morning, is it any wonder that the average young BlueJackets is counted on to spend most of this time in his own barracks unit?
A visitor entering the grounds of the huge new U.S. Naval Training Station here might be struck by the odd contrast in 26 otherwise uniform storehouses near the road. Of the 26 storehouses, 20 were of concrete block and the other 6 of brick. The reason? No, it's not an experiment, nor was brick used in 6 structures for any mysterious reason. There simply was not enough concrete block available when the storehouses were built, so brick was used to complete the work on schedule.
With war priorities creating shortages in almost every kind of construction materials, the task of seeing that the Sampson Station was rushed to completion on schedule was formidable. With combat needs monopolizing steel, for example, it was necessary to use only an absolute minimum of this material. The Sampson Station, when completed, would have less steel in its 392 buildings than any other project of its magnitude built since the introduction of reinforced steel construction. Such items as swivel chairs were unobtainable because of steel priorities. Filing cabinets and office equipment were wood or plastic, even the drawers ran on wooden rails instead of steel.
The buildings, of course, were predominantly of wood with concrete block foundations, but a large amount of gypsum, insulating board, asphalt-shingles and other non-wooden material was employed in construction. Pre-fabrication was the construction rule wherever possible, and the speed at which the building arose inspired one newspaper correspondent as early as June 10, a few days after work began, to say they were "going up like magic." A total of 41,000,000 board feet of lumber went into the frame buildings making up the station. The cuttings were saved to help heat the buildings in winter. To supply the lumber and other materials, an average of 30 railroad cars a day entered the station area during the construction period, reaching a high of 80 cars one day - while truckloads from outside reached a maximum of 1038 a day.
If World War II should bring to the United States the same kind of disastrous epidemic which the nation experienced in late 1918, the Central New York area around the new Naval Training Station at Sampson would be vastly better fortified to meet the crisis than before. The huge new training station for 30,000 Navy recruits will have a central hospital of 1500 beds, along with 13 separate medial and dental dispensaries. In case of a civilian emergency these facilities, staffed with Navy doctors and dentists, would multiply many times the normal hospital establishments in the area.
Capt. C. W. Carr, Medical Corps, USN, will be head of a department of 75 medical, 3 dental, 5 pharmacist officers, along with a staff of 440 enlisted hospital personnel, 150 commissioned women nurses and a civilian force of 225, including laundry, telephone exchange and maintenance employees.
In the training unit, Capt. W. W. Hall, Medical Corps, USN, will have charge of the general health of all officers and men. His authority will cover the 13 dispensaries located throughout the station, two in each barracks unit of 500 men, where combined medical and dental facilities will be maintained.
The hospital buildings will be built on largely the same plan as barracks and other structures except for communicating corridors among the buildings and more fire-resistant construction of the frame buildings. There will be 44 ward buildings, along with laundry, telephone exchange, gallery and private residences for the three senior officers, all located in the hospital's own section of the Sampson Station area. The hospital section stands high on a slope overlooking Seneca Lake nearly a mile south of the station proper, commanding a fine view of the rolling countryside and lake. There are laboratories, physiotherapy, urological and eye, ear, nose and throat sections, isolation wards and neuropsychiatric and dermatological buildings, along with general wards and separate facilities for sick officers. All are housed in uniform wooden frame buildings heated, unlike the general barracks which have their own furnace units, from a central hospital heating plant.
By August, 1943, 40 WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) were serving the patients at Sampson Hospital as pharmacist's mates and hospital assistants; 47 more were in training under Ensign Elizabeth Wilson, USNR, Marion, Indiana. At the end of October, 1943, the hospital facility was officially commissioned.
Besides medical and dental care to insure physical condition, the Navy took special pains in another department to make sure its "boots" were strong, healthy and happy - and that was food. At Sampson, the job of feeding 30,000 trainees and additional station personnel had been dropped in the lap of Commander James Fellis, Supply Corps, USN, an officer up from the ranks who was recalled from retirement just before the war, to supervise all food buying in the Fourth Naval District, which included the big Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Since mid-August, Commander Fellis had been at Sampson, making his office in a big storeroom, going over lists of supplies and pondering where he could purchase such items as 5,000 gallons of milk a day. Commander Fellis actually began feeding about 200 men a day on Sept. 15, when the first Navy mess got under way at the station. To fill the larder for this group, which included Navy veterans who will be teachers or administrative personnel at the station, the commander began by ordering 41,700 pounds of refrigerated meats from the Navy Supply Depot at Bayonne, N.J., along with three carloads of canned goods. This was just for advance personnel; when the trainees start to arrive in November the commander will be handling almost that much every day.
Cooking equipment in the huge galleys is of the latest design and almost entirely electric, with labor-saving devices on all sides to speed the work of 289 cooks and 80 bakers who will dish up the chow for the station...
Feeding a seagoing fighting man ashore cost Uncle Sam in the neighborhood of 60 cents a day.
Ceremonies were held on Saturday, October 17, in the cavernous confines of a drill hall, marking the formal establishment of the new training station. The invited guests were taken on a tour of inspection of grounds which a few months earlier had been primarily grain fields and wooded lots. The first contingent of 200 recruits arrived on October 12; James K. Boyle, 22, of Brooklyn, was the first to be received. After shedding civilian clothes and taking physicals, recruits were welcomed into a crew; each barracks functioned as a ship, housing more than 200 in orderly rows of double-deck bunks.
When the recruits arrive they file directly into the station's huge reception center and line up on what they are informed is a deck, no longer a floor. Walls cease being walls and become bulkheads. Stairs are ladders and the men are told they have just come aboard. The Navy makes a great point of stressing sea language throughout the course.
As the recruits stand in rows, answering to their names and receiving numbers, the sweeping diversity in types and ages is startlingly revealed. A large number come out of New York City's melting pot. There are boys who look less than seventeen years old, minimum enlistment age, youths to whom razors will be superfluous for some time to come and who would look more at home playing baseball on corner lots. And there are men in their late twenties, with city-wise faces, truck drivers, longshoremen, clerks, varying in shape and size. The average has had from two to four years of high school education, There are few over thirty-eight who have enlisted voluntarily although they are above draft age.
After passing through the ear, eye and teeth examinations and having their blood tests, the recruits take off their civilian clothes and put them in boxes, which the Navy sends to their homes. Each man is permitted to keep his toilet articles and personal effects.
Clothing, $119.19 worth, is handed out to each new boot, who carries it off to the barracks in a mattress cover, forming a huge bundle frequently bigger than the boot himself and weighing 75 pounds. The Navy spends $2,000,000 a month on clothing alone at Sampson. The most expensive item is a $15.50 pea jacket. A boot receives about 100 articles in all, ranging from a whiskbroom and a ditty bag, for his personal things, to a pair of undress jumpers, blankets, a feather pillow and some black thread for sewing his own gear. He also gets two pair of leggings - the basis of the term boot - which is what a BlueJackets is called during the indoctrination period. When he discards them, it is a sign he has graduated from apprentice seaman to second-class seaman, at $4 a month more. Each man also receives a dog tag, a metal identification disk which bears his name, his service number, his blood type and the date of his tetanus injection.
Trucks and buses now take the new BlueJackets to one of the training units of the station, where they will pass nine-tenths of their time during the training period. Separating one unit from another is a series of natural ravines in which the boots receive commando training, rushing up and down the sides and over obstacles.
Starting in the third week of training, each boot receives six tests which help the Navy determine his aptitudes. The tests are in mathematics, English, spelling, radio ability, mechanical ability, and general intelligence. Occasionally, when a recruit does particularly well, he is allowed to enter a service school at once. After the tests, a squad of forty interviews....deliver work lectures in the units and conducts private fifteen-minute talks with each BlueJackets. By and large, the Navy considers, first, what it needs of the moment are and secondly a man's preference.
The service schools at Sampson are under the direction of Lieutenant Commander Karl H. Nonweiler. The men of the service schools live in a separate unit at Sampson and attend classes in still another unit, adjacent to quarters. As many as 5000 students can be housed and taught at a time. After a sixteen-week course the men can qualify as third-class petty officers at $78 a month. About 70 percent do. The rest are called "strikers." They remain first-class seamen ($68 a month) or second-class seamen ($54 a month) - and are under-studies in their special fields. Many of them earn their "crows" - petty officer markings - subsequently.
The various units at the station have been named after war heroes, past and present, while roads are named after heroes born in New York State.
Training Units: Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennison, who lost his life on the battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor; Rear Admiral Daniel Judson Callaghan, who was killed on the cruiser San Francisco during the Solomon campaign; the late Rear Admiral George Dewey, Spanish-American war hero; radioman gunner John O. Edwards, killed during the battle of the Coral Sea; Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, the victor of Mobile Bay in the Civil War.
What was believed to have been the largest military Mass in naval history took place at Sampson on July 4, 1943, when 20,000 BlueJackets and civilian worshippers participated in a solemn Pontifical Mass. It was by far the largest assemblage on the shores of Seneca Lake.
Boyce Memorial Chapel (named after a Spanish-American War chaplain), a unique worship center at the station, built to seat 1000, equipped for interchangeable use by Protestant, Catholic or Jewish worshippers, was dedicated August 15, 1943. A cathedral-size altar, on a turntable, with three complete altar faces and screen arrangements of walnut and oak, manually operated, was used by any religious group. At no other house of worship in the nation was such a manner and speed of change possible.
The chapel was designed under the supervision of Chaplain Captain William W. Edel, USN (senior chaplain of the 13 Protestant Chaplains) who had built more Navy chapels than any other man. He also was responsible later for the Roman Catholic Chadwick Chapel, named for the Chaplain on the Maine.
The men who operate Sampson, from Commodore Harry A. Badt, USN, the commandant, down to the lowest ranking petty officer, are for the most part veterans of the Navy.
Sampson Station has had only one commandant He reported for duty at Sampson from sea duty as Captain of a destroyer and left Sampson Navy Training Center a Commodore and a job well done.
The base was opened to the public for the first time on Navy Day in October, 1945. A Plaque, set in a hand-carved mahogany frame, was unveiled in memory of Sampson-trained men who gave their lives in combat. This Plaque, which was dedicated by Commodore Harry A. Badt, is now on display in the Sampson Museum.
Sampson Naval Training Center War Diary concluded on May 31, 1946.
World WWII Navy Veterans
Sampson Memorial Naval Museum
Sampson WWII Navy Veterans, Inc., in conjunction with the State of New York, State Parks Commission, have built a Memorial Naval Museum at Sampson State Park, Romulus, N.Y. The building selected for this purpose is the still-standing single-story brick building that was built for a Naval Brig in 1942. This is a recognized national Navy World War II Veterans Museum and New York State-maintained and staffed.
During WWII the site of the present Sampson State Park was a Federal Property known as Sampson Naval Training Station and 411,000 Navy Boots were trained there. The site also contained the largest Naval Hospital on the eastern seaboard, including several training schools. We are talking about nearly 1,000,000 citizens going thru this base during the war years of 1942 to 1945. This Naval Veterans Organization was formed in 1987 by 48 concerned Sampson Veterans. It was realized that there was no indication that the present Sampson State Park was a major naval facility that contributed to a successful conclusion of World War II.
This Museum is the third step of the purpose of this Naval Organization.
Step #1: Purchase a road side marker identifying the site as a Naval Training Station during World War II and installing it at the entrance of the current Sampson State Park.
Step #2: The placing in entrance of park between two flag poles, a 9-foot bronze of a sailor with a seabag on his shoulder and waving good-bye, going off to war after finishing his boot training. This statue was purchased from Mr. Felix DeWeldon, the artist who designed the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington and busts of World War II admirals at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.
Step #3: The building of a museum to house the collected artifacts of NTS Sampson, and Navy-type materials of the era.
The uniqueness of this project is --
(1) Physically built by Navy Boots of WWII;
(2) Moneys raised within the organization for this project, over $250,000;
(3) Museum will be staff and maintained by New York State;
(4) This Museum is a Navy and New York State tourist attraction in the Finger Lakes Area.
For more information: 1-800/
1-315/585-6392 Chamber of Commerce Seneca Park Office