In May 1942, the federal government acquired 2,535 acres of farmland along 4½ miles of shoreline on Seneca Lake.
Farmers and families were given 30 days, and in many cases less, to move. Sampson Naval Training Station was constructed over the next 270 days at a cost of $56 million.
The Navy built a hospital, which at that time was the largest military hospital in the world with 2,500 beds, for our returning wounded during World War II.
In 1950, the Air Force took possession of Sampson as a training base for airmen from the eastern part of the United States, to start training in January 1951.
I was one of the first airmen to open the gates of Sampson on Dec. 19, 1950. The base closed in 1956.
In 1995, a group of Air Force veterans met at Sampson for a memorial service and fostered the idea of a veterans’ cemetery for vets who trained at Sampson, to be located on a 30-acre portion of Sampson State Park.
Later, I found out that 100 acres have been reserved for the cemetery.
In the four years I served at Sampson, I helped many of Letcher County’s young boys get the job or school they wanted. If you are one of those I helped, or was in the flight I escorted to Keesley Fields, Miss., in early 1951, get in touch with me and tell me how things are going for you.
M/Sgt. Ret. Everett B. Vanover, 3007 Ponderosa Court, Fairfield, CA. 94533.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.