When war broke out in Korea in June 1950, I was one of the first airmen to volunteer to open one of the bases that the United States needed to train the new recruits that would be coming into the military. There would be 32 enlisted and officers assigned to Sampson Field, Geneva, N.Y.
Most of the airmen that left the Air Training Command for this new base were from the northeast area. I was not one of them, and was somewhat disappointed with Samson and Geneva, N.Y.
I arrived Dec. 19, 1950, a couple of months before basic training would start, and within days and weeks other permanent airmen arrived, all from southern bases, and it was a very cold winter.
It was more like an outdoor camping trip than a military base. The weeds were high, windows were broken out, and doors were missing. Water lines were frozen, and not many of us southern boys knew how to fire a furnace.
Wives and children were left behind, as there was no place to live that we could afford, as the prices in town went up as soon as we arrived. Everyone was in an old World War II barracks near the lake.
I will always remember the cold. I had never experienced cold like it was at Sampson. There were a couple of days it was so cold (-20 degrees) that we could not go outside for formation or get the old Navy bus started to take us to breakfast.
There was no heat in the barracks, they only kept the heat on for a couple of hours every night. If you washed any clothing at night, it was frozen stiff in the morning.
About six months later some of the barracks were converted into apartments for the families to move into, and as I was the only printer on base and key personnel, I sent for my family and was the first to move into one of the barracks.
When the Navy left the base after World War II, it seemed to lock the gate and walk out. It left behind cars, bicycles, and Cushman scooters in the motor pool. A couple of small boats were found tied up on the dock.
We had a grand time pilfering the base until a few officers arrived and put a stop to it.
After the Navy left in 1946, the New York State Police moved on to the base and used everything on base for target practice for a couple of years. They even shot out most of the windows in the old barracks.
The printing department was opened six days a week. We started as a one-man shop, and had over 20 printers when I left four years later when the war was over.
Sampson had the longest winters of any base I’ve ever been assigned to.