When war started in Korea, I was one of the 37 enlisted men to open Sampson Air Base, N.Y. The base had been closed since World War II.
I arrived the 19th of December, 1950. Basic training would not start for two months. A couple of the airmen were standing at the locked gate when I arrived, and we broke the lock and went on base.
We saw high grass and lots of snow and weeds everywhere. We were looking for the three buildings that should have been opened. I had not seen snow in my three years in Texas.
Some time later a couple of officers arrived. I could tell they would rather had been someplace else.
A Captain Satulla came up to me and told me that he was the officer in charge of Printing, Publications and Special Orders Department, and would be my boss. He showed me my office, about the size of a large broom closet with a small desk and one printing press that looked about a hundred years old.
I had arrived at Sampson a month after my 21st birthday and had three years in grade as a corporal with six years of service.
My new boss told me to type up orders on all airmen to promote them to the next highest grade. He also wanted his name on the orders to promote himself to major, and that he would sign the orders. I typed the orders, inked the old press up, put the plate on, turned on the press, and it walked all over the floor.
It took me some time to get the old press settled down. I did such a good job for him in the first six months that I was promoted to staff sergeant.
All enlisted men from the eastern part of the States, including Letcher County, were trained there in the next four years of the Korean War.
I was there all four years. I had sense enough to know that I wanted to leave before the big rush when the base closed. I cut my orders and was one of the first to leave that cold place. I got a good assignment in California at Parks Air Base as non-commissioned offi cer in charge of the base’s printing department.
My family and I loved the warm weather.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfi eld, Calif.