SAMPSON A TRIUMPH OF FAST ENGINEERING
$50,000,000 City Sprang up in Seven Months
--Housing 17,000 Workmen was a big Problem --
Station Has Capacity for 35,000 Men.
By Robert Shaplen Staff Correspondent New York Herald-Tribune
Third of a series about Sampson recently published in the New York Herald-Tribune. Reprinted by special permission.
Sampson, N.Y. -- The construction of the $50,000,000 United States Naval Training Station on 2,500 acres of this low-grade Finger Lakes farm land was a seven-month rush contracting job that stands out as an engineering triumph. And once the 400 buildings of the war-born city were up, and the postoffice installed, placing the town of Sampson officially on the map, the Navy had the equally hard job of getting the new metropolis functioning.
President Roosevelt approved the site for Sampson last May 14. Construction began about a month later. The station was opened officially by Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, on Oct. 17, and began operating partially then. By February the building job was virtually finished.
Over fields where the warlike Seneca Indians once built their villages there now stretch nine miles of specially laid railroad track and fifty-three miles of roadways. With its own water and power-supply systems, two telephone exchanges, a 1,500-bed hospital, a fire house and a housing unit, Sampson is a self-sufficient city capable of caring for 35,000 persons. To the men of the Navy who run it, however, it is referred to as a ship.
Temporary Housing Problem
Twice the size of the peaceful college community of Geneva, twelve miles to the north, the influx of 17,000 workers who built Sampson posed a tough problem of temporary living quarters. Many had to stay not only in Geneva, but in Auburn, Seneca Falls, Canandaigua, Ithaca, Penn Yan, Watkins Glen and other towns as far as thirty-five miles away. There were nights when cots were put up in the Geneva Courthouse for weary workmen.
The firms in charge of building Sampson were the John A. Johnson Contracting Corporation and the Mount Vernon Contracting Corporation. The civilian laborers who earned a total of $1,000,000 a week, put up the buildings according to plans made by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, New York City architects. Commander J. C. Gebhard, of the Corps of Ciivil Engineers, was the Navy Supervisor.
Probably less steel went into Sampson than into any other project of its size. A total of 41,000,000 board feet of lumber was used for the frame buildings, and wood and plastics were utilized for every possible purpose. To supply materials an average of thirty railroad cars a day arrived at the station over special shuttles jutting off the main line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Truck-loads reach a maximum of 1,000 a day.
The railroad, now used for bringing recruits as well as supplies to the camp, is under the direction of Lieutenant John J. McAuliffe, a veteran railroad-man. Once in charge of arranging convention trips for some of the country's largest trunk lines, Lieutenant McAuliffe now has the job of transporting thousands of recruits in and out of Sampson each week and of seeing that thirty-five cars of freight a day are carefully switched onto the proper tracks so that they roll right up beside designated storehouses.
Once out of his hands, supplies come under the jurisdiction of Commander Chester B. Peake, U.S.N., who is a housekeeper extraordinary. Commander Peake, who started as an apprentice seaman in 1912, has the job of buying, storing and distributing 8,700 individual items of stock and of overseeing 26 brick storehouses in the railroad yards.
Procurement for the station, for example, involved ordering and receiving 17,920 double-decker bunks, 8,960 locker units, 1,280 barrack recreation tables and 1,343 mess-hall tables. These were basic supplies but there are constantly varying lesser items to be brought aboard, such as fire hose, flags and pins and needles.
Now that the contractors have left, Lieutenant Commander C. J. Scheve, of the Civil Engineer Corps, has the task of directing the completion of construction odds and ends. The most pressing job of the moment is the finishing of $400,000 worth of road work, delayed by the heavy winter and spring mud, and the erecting of two buildings for incoming WAVES, at a total cost of $110,000. Sampson will have 229 enlisted WAVES and 58 WAVE officers as part of the station complement.
Commander Scheve also has the responsibility of keeping ten buses running according to schedule over the five-mile-long station, of supervising the maintenance and operation of 277 other pieces of motor vehicle equipment at Sampson, and of keeping the water supply and sewage systems functioning.
The station uses up to 5,000,000 gallons of water a day, which is pumped from the lake through a pipe 1,250 feet long, then screened, chlorinated and distributed to every building. A 2,000,000-gallon concrete reservoir, part of the system, probably will make a fine wine cave for one of New York's wineries when the war is over.
Fifty Miles of Power Lines
Power at Sampson is obtained from Dresden across the lake. There are fifty miles of electrical power lines servicing the station, Thirty miles of sewage lines lead to a disposal plant on the south part of the area, where the most modern equipment sediments, filters and chlorinates the waste.
In addition to the series of about thirty buildings in each of the five recruit-training units, and one service-school unit for teaching special trades, Sampson has a large, general auditorium, and administration building, two chapels, the above-mentioned storehouses, a laundry, a cold-storage center, a bakery, officers' barracks and officers' mess, five separate residences for senior officers, and the housing unit, used by both civilian workers at the station and officers below the rank of lieutenant commander.
There are also two entire additional units, similar to the six others, one for the so-called ship's company, or permanent staff of second and first-class seamen, petty and chief-petty officers and the other known as O.G.U, - or outgoing unit. In the latter are housed those recruits who, after a week's leave at the end of the training program, return to Sampson to await assignments on ships or transfers to service schools other than those at the station.
The housing unit consists of forty-five buildings, containing 300 one-bedroom, two-bedroom or three-bedroom units. The unit has its own firehouses, maintenance shop and cafeteria. At the head of it is Lieutenant (jg) A. P. Flynn, who is described by his fellow officers as "the man with 300 wives."
Rents vary according to rank from $11 to $35 for unfurnished apartments. Each apartment has a stove for heating, a stove for cooking and a refrigerator. The tenants have begun a victory-garden plot in a corner of the area. With the rows of long one and two-story buildings arranged in blocks overlooking the lake, the whole unit has the appearance of a summer resort colony.
Sampson is named after Rear Admiral William Thomas Sampson, commander of the Atlantic Fleet during the Spanish-American War, who was born in near-by Palmyra, N.Y. 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. The naming is still doing on, but the following are among choices already made:
Units: Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennison, who lost his life on the battleship Arizona at Pearl Harbor; Rear Admiral Daniel Judson Callaghan, former naval aide to the President, who was killed last November on the cruiser San Francisco during the Solomon campaign; the late Rear Admiral George Dewey, Spanish-American War hero; John O. Edwards, killed during the Battle of Coral Sea last May and posthumously honored for achievements as radioman's gunner of a scouting ship; Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, killed on the Arizona, and Captain Cassin Young, killed on the San Francisco.
Roads and walks: Sereant Major William Anthony, born in Albany, who was a marine orderly on the battleship Maine when she was blown up in Havana harbor at the start of the Spanish-American War; the late Rear Admiral Willard H. Brownson, born in Lyons, N. Y., former commandant of the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis; the late Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, born in Lyons, naval inventor; Lieutenant Commander Hallsted Hopping, who was killed during an American bombing attack on the Marshall Islands earlier this year; the late Rear Admiral Alfred T. Mahan, who was born at West Point, N. Y., naval historian and strategist; Rear Admiral John Philip, born in Kinderhook, N. Y., who commanded the battles ship Texas during the Battle of Santiago, Spanish-American War, and the late Rear Admiral Charles D. Sigsbee, who was born in Albany and was commanding officer of the Maine when she blew up.
Religious facilities at Sampson are amply provided. There are twenty-two chaplains - twelve Protestant, nine Catholic and one Jewish. In addition to the small altars in each unit drill hall, which can be used either for Protestant or Catholic services, the station boasts two chapels. One, named after Chaplain Alfred Lee Royce, a Spanish-American War chaplain, is the only one of its kind in the world; its altar has three rotating faces, one for Protestant, one for Catholic and one for Jewish services.