Tags Posts tagged with "Military"

Military

By Kyle Barr

There are 1.3 million active military personnel stationed all around the world according to the U.S. Department of Defense, and while Janet Godfrey and her nonprofit Operation Veronica know they can’t reach all of them, they’ve sure tried to.

The Rocky Point-based organization has worked to ship thousands of boxes filled with food, toiletries, utensils and more to thousands of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen stationed overseas since 2005. Even after all this time Godfrey said she is still amazed just how appreciative the men and women in uniform are after receiving their packages.

“More important than the contents of the box is that the soldiers know people they never met got together and intentionally spent their time, money and effort to send this package to them.”

— Janet Godfrey

“More important than the contents of the box is that the soldiers know people they never met got together and intentionally spent their time, money and effort to send this package to them,” Godfrey said.
“We’re told by the people who receive it that it’s like getting a message from the American people.”

Close to 20 women volunteers have met nearly every Friday at St. Anthony’s Church in Rocky Point since the group’s inception, and over its 13-year lifespan, have helped ship over 70,000 items. The boxes have been sent to soldiers in nine different countries as well as several naval ships stationed all over the world.

If volunteers are not busy packing boxes, they are working a sewing machine making neck coolers for the spring months and polar fleece sweaters for winter. Other women are hunkered down creating survival bracelets made from 550 paracord, the same cordage that airborne infantry used making World War II parachutes. Soldiers can find the bracelets useful in the field for making tourniquets or restraints, for storing equipment or to do something as simple as lacing their shoes.

“This kind of thing is very spiritually rewarding,” Rocky Point volunteer Judi Miranda said. “I’ve always done volunteer work, but there is something very special about what we’re doing.”

The boxes the group ships are filled with essentials, but the volunteers often add other items at soldiers’ requests. This could be anything from glue traps to deal with vermin problems to flip-flops to aid in walking around without fear of getting dust in their boots.

“I’ve always done volunteer work, but there is something very special about what we’re doing.”

— Judi Miranda

“Everybody wants to do something to support our troops, but they just don’t know what to do,” Godfrey said. “We’re an outlet in that regard.”

It’s not cheap to send so many boxes overseas. Using a medium-sized flat-rate United States Postal Service box costs $18 to ship. If the group wishes to send a more irregular-sized box it may cost closer to $30 or $40. The volunteers rely on donations from the local community as well as the support from the American Legion Post 1880, the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary at the Leisure Glen Homeowners Association in Ridge, Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 and the Richard and Mary Morrison Foundation based in Port Jefferson.

“We’re relying on every little penny,” said Irene Stellato, a volunteer from Rocky Point.

Even with the amount of time and money that goes into the work, Godfrey said she sees what Operation Veronica is able to do as a good that goes beyond politics. The name for the group comes from the story of
St. Veronica, who in the Bible is said to have used her veil to wipe the face of Jesus as he carried his cross to the mound. 

“She couldn’t take him off the walk, she couldn’t change his fate, but she gave him a momentary relief from physical discomfort, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Godfrey said. “We can’t change their fates, we can’t change their lives, we can’t bring them home as much as we want to, but we can cool them off when they’re hot, we can warm them up when they’re cold, we can give them something to eat when they’re hungry, so we do what we can.”

To learn more about Operation Veronica visit www.operationveronica.org.

This post was updated July 6 to correct the amount of total items Operation Veronica has shipped to service members.

One protestor comforts another during a protest in Smithtown July 27. Photo by Jill Webb.

By Jill Webb

In a show of unity, North Shore residents resoundingly condemned President Donald Trump’s (R) intentions to ban transgender people from the military this past week.

Individuals gathered in front of the U.S. Army Recruitment Center in Smithtown in disapproval of President Trump’s announced ban July 27.

The ban stemmed from a series of tweets President Trump put out July 26, citing his reasoning for the transgender ban being that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Trump’s declaration of the ban on Twitter led the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition to come out to Smithtown to oppose the ban in a peaceful demonstration. The group advertised the demonstration via Facebook as a way for the transgender community and their allies to speak up for transgender service members.

Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of LITAC led the demonstration with a loudspeaker in hand, chanting in solidarity with the transgender community.

The goal of the demonstration, according to Grey-Owens, was to put transgender soldiers in the spotlight.

“To make people aware of the fact that there are Americans that are supporting our transgender troops — that’s important,” she said. “Number two, it’s to make people aware of the fact that the transgender community is constantly under duress, constantly being discriminated against and this is just one more thing.”

The aim of LITAC is to advocate for the transgender community, often through forums, demonstrations, and putting on informational sessions that Grey-Owens refers to as transgender 101s.

The Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, passed in 2003 makes it unlawful for anyone in New York State to be discriminated against in employment, housing, credit, education and public accommodations because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

A protestor shows support for transgender military members. Photo by Jill Webb.

But the law isn’t as clear for transgender individuals. SONDA does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression — but it does apply when a transgender person is discriminated against based upon his or her actual or perceived sexual orientation, according to the New York State Attorney General’s office.

Specific counties and areas, including Nassau and Suffolk County have taken matters into their own hands and passed more specific anti-discrimination legislation for sexual orientation.

Grey-Owens said that LITAC’s objective is to step in at any time the transgender community is being discriminated against.

The executive director, along with many of the other attendees of the demonstration, was aggravated with Trump’s accusations against the expenses of transgender health.

“One of things that they found is the number is so small in comparison to the defense budget, that it is a point zero something of the actual cost,” Grey-Owens said. “The army spends more on Viagra — ten times more on Viagra — then they will on transgender health costs.”

One of the best ways to help the transgender community, according to Grey-Owens, is to unite with them.

“If you take look at the crowd that’s here now, there are way more cisgender people [someone who’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned to at birth] than transgender people here, and that’s made our voice louder,” she said. “People are adopting our cause as their cause. If they’re interested in helping out, this is how you help us: expand our voice.”

One participant, Edna White, said that she was in attendance in support of her transgender family and friends. She stressed the negative effects of the segregation.

“Taking a serious defense of our country — that shouldn’t be separated,” she said. “We’re already separated enough in war as it is, so to do that is really disheartening for me.”

Heather Sacc, another protestor said she found Trump’s sudden tweets against the transgender community very alarming.

“There’s 6,000 trans people in the military that have risked their lives,” she said. “The military didn’t ask for this. It’s just [Trump] woke up in the middle of the night and decided ‘oh that’s what I’m gonna do.”

A protestor shows support for transgender military members. Photo by Jill Webb.

Jay Gurecio attended the demonstration representing the LGBTQ+ visibility coalition, a group she is a co-founder of. Gurecio said she felt betrayed by Trump going back on his claims he would support the LGBTQ+ community during his campaign.

Trump tweeted in June 2016, thanking the LGBT community.

“I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” he said.

Guercio believes he has not kept to his promise.

“For him to go back on something that was implemented a year ago, that trans-people were allowed to serve and were allowed to get their surgery and their hormones covered, it’s just outright wrong,” Gurecio said.

Gurecio thinks the message Long Island should take from the demonstration is there is an LGBT community that will do everything in their power to stand in solidarity with each other.

“We’re peaceful, this isn’t angry, this isn’t something that’s even violent in any which manner,” Gurecio said. “I want people to understand that we just want to live our lives, and that we want the same rights as everyone else.”

The following day protestors continued to berate Trump during a visit he made in Brentwood to the Suffolk County Police Department.

Patricia Rios was holding a sign saying she voted for Trump and regretted her decision.

“Once he comes for the ‘T’ [talking about Transgendered] he’s going to come for the L, the G and the B,” she said. “So we’re here to protest that.”

Dr. David Kilmnick, CEO of LGBT Network, a Long Island LGBT advocacy group said more than just transgender military members rights were ignored this week.

“We found out… Trump was coming here, and timing would have it that he tweeted that he was going to ban transgender folks from serving our country and serving our military,” he said. “That wasn’t the only thing he did to the community this week — which was big enough. His attorney general filed a court brief saying that Title VII doesn’t protect LGBT people from discrimination from the federal government. Having Trump here on Long Island, having Trump as president is an embarrassment, a disgrace. He doesn’t represent the values of our country of equality and justice.”

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released July 28 showed a large portion of the county disagrees with Trump on this position.

According to the poll, 58 percent of adults agreed transgender people should be allowed to serve while 27 percent said they should not.

Currently it’s unclear if Trump’s announcement will lead to real policy change, as the

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said last week the current military policy would not be changed until the White House issued further guidance.

Additional reporting contributed by Kyle Barr and Victoria Espinoza.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, center, will be accepting donations for care packages to be sent to members of the military. Photo from Leg. Anker's office

During December, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) will be hosting a military care package supply collection for Operation Veronica at her district office in Mount Sinai.

Operation Veronica is a not-for-profit veterans organization that collects supplies and sends care packages to the brave men and women who serve in the military overseas.

Volunteers fill boxes with handmade items and other supplies to support active duty military personnel.

Suggested donations include hand warmers, merino wool socks, granola bars, playing cards, Gatorade chews, protein bars, lemonade and iced tea powder, magazines, wet wipes, K-cup pods, powdered coffee creamer, pocket-sized salty snacks, Pepto-Bismol tablets, full-sized body wash and shampoo, and small funnels to fill water bottles.

“I commend Janet Godfrey, the executive director of Operation Veronica, and the many volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure our brave men and women in uniform feel appreciated and supported,” Anker said.

Donations will be accepted at Anker’s office until Dec. 31. The office is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is located at 620 Route 25A, Suite B in Mount Sinai. For more information, call Anker’s office at 631-854-1600.

by -
0 683
Lt. Thomas Verbeeck is a pilot serving with Wing 11 of the U.S. Navy. Photo from the U.S. Navy

A 2007 Shoreham-Wading River graduate is serving in the U.S. Navy at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the largest base in the Southeast Region and third largest in the nation.

Lt. Thomas Verbeeck is a pilot serving with Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11. As a pilot, Verbeeck is responsible for the safe flight of aircraft, navigation and organizing flight plans and missions.

“What I enjoy most about my job is working with proficient and motivated sailors,” Verbeeck said.

Beginning in the 1960s, the P-3C Orion, a land-based, long-range anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft, replaced the P-2V Neptune fleet. After 50 years of faithful service, the P-3C Orion is being phased out, according to Navy officials.

The P-8A is a modified Boeing airframe featuring a fully connected, state-of-the-art open architecture mission system designed for long-range anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

According to Navy officials, Wing 11’s history and reputation remain unparalleled since being commissioned on August 15, 1942. Throughout the decades, Wing 11 has continued to fly combat missions in direct support of the troops on the ground and delivered traditional maritime capabilities, real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“The U.S. Navy sometimes asks the impossible of our people. It is sailors that make the impossible possible,” said Capt. Anthony Corapi, CPRW-11. “Lt. Verbeeck is one example of a selfless servant of our nation. These heroes ask for very little recognition and perform their daily job with pride and professionalism, defending freedom and our way of life around the world.”

Verbeeck is part of a crew that is preparing for deployment in the future.

“This command has a tight-knit family atmosphere,” Verbeeck said. “I enjoy the camaraderie I have among my fellow crew. Serving in the Navy, I’ve learned that patience is a virtue and it’s important to trust those below you as well as above you. Given time, people will surprise you with the results of their hard work.”

— Navy Office of Community Outreach Public Affairs

by -
0 2214
Gen. George C. Marshall photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Gen. George C. Marshall photo in the public domain
Gen. George C. Marshall photo in the public domain

It was 74 years ago that the Japanese attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor, spurring the nation’s entry into World War II. At the helm of the American military on that deadly day was Gen. George C. Marshall, and it was up to this outspoken man to take a military of 175,000 — which was ranked 17th out of all the industrialized powers — and turn the troops into a tremendous force of 10.4 million to defeat Germany and Japan.

From the moment he entered the Army in 1902, Marshall excelled at every task assigned to him. Unlike many of the West Point officers he commanded during World War II, he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. His peers thought Marshall’s quiet and firm manner suited him for vital positions of military responsibility, and he held several different jobs in the Army, served in the Philippines and graduated first from the Army staff college in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

During the United States’ earliest moments in France in World War I, Marshall had a famous encounter with American Expeditionary Forces Commander Gen. John J. Pershing. When, upon finding the Army was not prepared for the burden of warfare on the Western Front, Pershing criticized his officers for not doing enough training, Marshall told Pershing that he did not understand the problems his soldiers faced daily and they were doing the best that could be expected of them. At first, Marshall believed he’d be sent home in disgrace; instead Pershing respected his honesty and clarity and eventually made him a main planner of American war operations against the Germans.

Years later, in the late 1930s, Marshall showed his leadership again when he sat in on a meeting with then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and influential members of both his cabinet and the military. When Roosevelt outlined a plan of adding planes to the Army Air Forces but virtually no other resources to the Army, all of the leaders remained quiet or supported the president. Marshall, on the other hand, angered Roosevelt by vehemently disagreeing with him. But a year later, Marshall, who was a junior to many other officers, was promoted to Army chief of staff.

‘We must have the very best leadership we can possibly give these men and we’ve stopped at nothing to produce that leadership.’
— Gen. George C. Marshall, World War II Army Chief of Staff

Knowing war was a young man’s game, Marshall reassigned, fired or retired older officers who he knew were not able to fight a modern war. One of his most important choices was making one lieutenant colonel, Dwight D. Eisenhower, into an important member of his staff. While he never directly served with this officer, he was constantly informed that Eisenhower was one of the most well-rounded leaders in the military. He saw Eisenhower as a capable officer only interested in completing his duty. Marshall also elevated Gen. Omar N. Bradley to command the ground forces in Europe from D-Day to Germany’s surrender in 1945. It was Marshall’s manner not to dwell on the personal characteristics of his key leaders. This was the case with the erratic but brilliant combat fighter Gen. George S. Patton. Marshall stood by Patton throughout some of his troubles due to the strong belief that Patton would continually earn battlefield victories against the enemy.

From the time he became Army chief of staff, Marshall was determined to prepare his nation for the rigors of war. He drafted, trained, equipped and oversaw the total war efforts of the United States to defeat fascism, conducting all of those efforts in a professional manner, not seeking any credit for his massive contributions in the defense of his country. Marshall should be credited, however, with establishing a new army, command structure and strategy to conduct military operations against Germany and Japan. In a short period of time, he helped the United States attain a victory in an important war.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

by -
0 526
The Setauket High School senior class dedicated the 1946 yearbook to the eight Setauket men who died in World War II. They are, from top to bottom and left to right, Cpl. Douglas Hunter, Sgt. Francis Hawkins, Cpl. William Weston, Lt. Anthony Matusky, Fireman First Class Clifford Darling, and Machinist Mate Orlando Lyons. Henry Eichacker and Edward Pfeiffer are not pictured. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Anthony Matusky received his wings at Pensacola, Fla., in 1941. His sister, Mary Matwell, remembered that Anthony had said that he trained off Greenland in the unit with Joseph Kennedy. At the time of his death, Anthony was stationed on the Trinidad Naval Base as a pilot in a naval patrol squadron engaged in patrolling for enemy submarines, which were taking a heavy toll of shipping in the Caribbean.

“The Navy Department has notified Mrs. John Matusky, of Setauket, that her son, Lieut. Anthony R. Matusky, U.S.N.R., reported missing in action last August [1943], has been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, highest aviation honor, in recognition of the following service: ‘For heroism and extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as a pilot attached to a Patrol Squadron during a coordinated attack on an enemy submarine in the Caribbean Sea . . . His cool courage and superb airmanship in the face of danger contributed decisively to the eventual destruction of the enemy submarine and the capture of her crew.”
— New York Journal American, 1944

As reported in the November 1945 issue of The Reader’s Digest by Pulitzer Prize winning writer Ira Wolfert, in an article titled “The Silent, Invisible War Under the Sea,” the German submarines were an effective tool in destroying the supply arm of the Allied efforts, sinking 1,161 merchant vessels in 1942. Their subs basically owned the Atlantic until an effective strategy was developed using aircraft and radar to find submarines recharging their batteries on the surface and the ideal attack procedures to cripple and sink them.

On the night of Aug. 5, 1943, a patrol plane out of Trinidad Naval Base spotted a sub and made an attack as the sub crash-dived. The Mariner aircraft then kept the sub in radar contact all night but it did not surface again. As detailed by Wolfert, “At dawn [the patrol plane] running low on gas was replaced by Lieut. A.R. Matuski. For seven and a half tedious hours, Matuski plied back and forth and around a square of ocean, figuring how he would maneuver if he were a sub skipper who had been down so and so many hours in such and such currents and this and that kind of sea, and making his gambit accordingly.

“Matuski was a boy who knew his business. At 1321 hours (1:21 p.m.) Trinidad Naval Base got a sub contact report from him, giving longitude and latitude, adding ‘I am going in to attack.’
‘1330’ he radioed, ‘sub damaged, bow out of water, making only about two knots.
‘1335: sub bow sank.
‘1337: no casualties to plane or personnel.
‘1348: Damaged. Damaged. I am on fire.’”

The Setauket High School senior class dedicated the 1946 yearbook to the eight Setauket men who died in World War II. They are, from top to bottom and left to right, Cpl. Douglas Hunter, Sgt. Francis Hawkins, Cpl. William Weston, Lt. Anthony Matusky, Fireman First Class Clifford Darling, and Machinist Mate Orlando Lyons. Henry Eichacker and Edward Pfeiffer are not pictured. Photo from Beverly Tyler
The Setauket High School senior class dedicated the 1946 yearbook to the eight Setauket men who died in World War II. They are, from top to bottom and left to right, Cpl. Douglas Hunter, Sgt. Francis Hawkins, Cpl. William Weston, Lt. Anthony Matusky, Fireman First Class Clifford Darling, and Machinist Mate Orlando Lyons. Henry Eichacker and Edward Pfeiffer are not pictured. Photo from Beverly Tyler

There were no other transmissions from Lt. Matusky’s aircraft and no trace of the pilot or crew of 10 was ever found. Trinidad sent another aircraft to keep up the pressure on the sub and as detailed by Wolfert, “[The next naval patrol bomber] reached the position given by Matuski and 20 minutes later picked up the enemy pip on his radar. When he got in visual range, he could see that Matuski had done his last work well. The sub’s stern was down, its bow up, and it was lumbering across the sea.”

Together with an additional naval aircraft, a blimp and finally an army bomber the sub was sunk. Navy destroyers picked up 40 sub survivors the next morning.      

Anthony was killed during the war but his four brothers returned home, all five honored. Anthony’s name is engraved on the monuments on the Setauket Village Green and the East Setauket Memorial Park along with the other seven men from Setauket who died in WWII.

Two men from the local area gave their lives in WWI, Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden. A massive boulder and south-facing bronze tablet were erected on the Setauket Village Green in their memory. The boulder was brought from Strong’s Neck and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William DeLeftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capital in Albany.

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after WWII.  It reads, “1941-1945 In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer, (and) William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.” On the memorial in East Setauket is also listed the local serviceman Chris F. Brunn who died in Vietnam.

We have a lot to be thankful for during this time of Thanksgiving. We have a very special community here in the hamlets of Setauket and Stony Brook and the villages of Old Field and Poquott. Let us never forget the sacrifice made by these men, by those service men and women from our community who were injured physically and/or mentally, and by all the men and women who served in war and in peacetime to keep us safe and free.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

by -
0 770
Sept. 1, 1919 — Celebration, Parade & Memorial Service on Labor Day. The soldiers who posed for a picture on the Setauket Village Green included: Ernest West, second from right, front row; George West, second from right, fourth row; Harvey West is third from left, third row. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Yesterday, Nov. 11, was Veterans Day, a day to honor all the men and women who served our country. However, Veterans Day began to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I (The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 — the Armistice with Germany). President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

In 1954, Armistice Day was amended to honor all veteran and the name was changed to Veterans Day.

On Sept. 1, 1919, a celebration, parade and memorial services were conducted at the new East Setauket Memorial and then, at the conclusion of the parade, on the Setauket Village Green.

Muriel Hawkins of East Setauket, 18 years old at the parade, remembered how her uncle Ernest West, who was a ship’s carpenter in the Navy, made seven trips across the Atlantic and back during the war. Ernest was one of four brothers who served during the war. The other three, George, Harvey and Percy, were in the Army. All four were the sons of Setauket blacksmith Samuel West and all four returned.

Two who did not return were memorialized at a ceremony on the Village Green at the end of the parade as reported by the Port Jefferson Times.

“With the service men in uniform standing stiffly at attention and the civilians with bared heads, the entire assemblage united in singing ‘America’… The Rev. T.J. Elms then dedicated a rock to the memory of the Setauket boys who died in the war — Raymond Wishart and Harry Golden… Mrs. Wishart received a medal for her son and Mr. Golden for his boy.”

The massive boulder and south-facing bronze tablet were erected on the Setauket Village Green in their memory. The boulder was brought from Strong’s Neck and the plaque was designed by the well-known artist William DeLeftwich Dodge who painted the murals on New York history that are in the state capital in Albany.

Private Raymond Wishart, son of Postmaster and Mrs. Andrew Wishart, was born Sept. 10, 1893, and he died in France on Aug. 23, 1918. His remains were returned to this country and were buried in the Caroline Church of Brookhaven graveyard on a Sunday in July of 1921.

Harry Golden is remembered by his nephew Sam Golden.

“He was a Sergeant in charge of the mules,” Sam recalled. “His unit was attacked and he was killed. He was 28 years old when he died and he’s buried there in France.”

On the opposite side of the rock is a plaque that was placed there after World War II. It reads, “1941-1945 – In memory of Clifford J. Darling, Henry P. Eichacker, Francis S. Hawkins, David Douglas Hunter, Orlando B. Lyons, Anthony R. Matusky, Edward A. Pfeiffer, (and) William E. Weston of the United States Armed Forces who gave their lives in World War II.”

To be continued.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

Bridge-of-Spies-w

‘We have parts of the plane and we also have the pilot, who is quite alive and kicking. The pilot is in Moscow and so are parts of the plane.’  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, 1960

By Rich Acritelli

It was a great time to be alive within American society during the 1950s and 1960s. Our nation defeated the fascist powers of Germany and Japan and was the strongest country to emerge from the fighting of World War II. These decades saw the growth of Levittown, Mickey Mantle hitting home runs, massive goods and services being consumed by our citizens and “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Honeymooners” on television.

While this nation enjoyed these positive times, the United States was engulfed in the Cold War. These concerns are depicted through Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks’ production of “Bridge of Spies.” Once again these two Hollywood icons have created a unique film that will not only be well perceived in movie theaters but will be used by future high school and college teachers to describe the impact of this epic conflict.

Directed by Spielberg, this movie does a masterful job of showing how our government functioned during those tumultuous years at home and abroad. Hanks portrays James B. Donovan, a New York insurance lawyer who was part of the prosecuting team that convicted the top Nazis at Nuremberg in 1945. He was also approached in 1957 by the government to provide a capable defense for Soviet spy Rudolph Abel, played by Mark Rylance, who was arrested with American military intelligence.

While he was apprehensive at first to take this case, he understood that even enemies of the state were entitled to due process. Through this part of “Bridge of Spies” Spielberg depicted how Donovan was able to see both sides of the Cold War through the Soviet perspective. This aspect becomes dominant within the film when Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane was shot down over communist territory in 1960. The creators of this movie supremely showed the paranoia that our Central Intelligence Agency held in training its pilots for the dangerous and secret operations that it conducted.   

Powers, played by Austin Stowell, understood the gravity of the Cold War and accepted the risks inherent in taking high-altitude pictures of enemy troop movements and weaponry. When Powers was shot down, it presented a dilemma for our leadership, which did not want our pilot to be executed for espionage.

During and after his defense of Rudolph Abel, Donovan stressed the need for our government not to execute this spy and to treat him with some decency. Although these were humanitarian views, Donovan continued to counsel the government about the need to show fairness out of the fear that eventually one of our own spies would be caught by the enemy. Well, the movie shows how his assessment comes to fruition.   

Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA, played by Peter McRobbie, pushed Donovan to travel to East Berlin to engineer an exchange of the Russian spy for Powers’ release from captivity. From a historical point of view, Spielberg produced the hysteria of the earliest moments when the communists erected the Berlin Wall. “Bridge of Spies” teaches the viewer how the communists tried to isolate the eastern part of Berlin from the western world, the chaos between these powers and the pressure that was placed on Powers to break under imprisonment.

Donovan was tasked with not only getting Powers back but also an American student who was caught behind the wall. With common sense, intelligence and poise, Donovan understood that this incident could have triggered a massive war between these two political and military foes.

The all-star cast also includes Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Billy Magnussen, Michael Gaston, Domenick Lombardozzi and Eve Hewson.

Once again the combination of Spielberg and Hanks has made a film that will be respected by moviegoers that never get tired of watching this type of American history. It is possible that these two men could be one of the best teams to ever make movies of this magnitude. “Bridge of Spies” is a historic thriller that will continually show you how difficult the Cold War was to wage for our government and the serious national threats that were always present against our citizens during and after this time period.

‘Bridge of Spies,’ is now playing in local theaters. Rated PG-13.

by -
0 549
Members of the American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 stand at attenion in front of their headquarters on Port Jefferson’s East Main Street in the mid-20th century. The post is now based on Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Port Jefferson area residents have a history of serving their country, from the Civil War to more recent conflicts. The community also has a history of honoring veterans and military personnel.

The crew of the N-5 poses aboard the submarine. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive
The crew of the N-5 poses aboard the submarine. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village historical archive

Veterans Day has been celebrated since Nov. 11, 1919, when it was known as Armistice Day and marked the anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I.

It was expanded to honor all American war veterans in 1954, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Although the fighting in World War I was overseas, there was an impact close to home. Port Jefferson saw action through sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s coastal defense submarine N-5, also known as the SS-57. According to the village’s historical archive, that submarine conducted engine trials nearby and later patrolled the Long Island Sound, keeping watch for German U-boats.

Other Navy ships from the Atlantic Fleet passed through during that time as well, including the battleships USS New York and USS Louisiana, both of which maneuvered on the Long Island Sound and anchored just outside Port Jefferson.

by -
0 702
President Dwight D. Eisenhower makes Veterans Day an official holiday. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Veterans Day is a time to remember all of our past, present and future members of the Armed Forces, but it was only about 60 years ago that President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially created the holiday we know today. Much happened on Nov. 11 even before it became a date of remembrance — there were significant losses and gains for our militaries during this month throughout history.

In the fall of 1776, Gen. George Washington was reeling from one loss after another that sent his army retreating from Long Island, Manhattan and across New Jersey toward Pennsylvania. It was a dark moment in the Revolutionary War for Washington to lose ground to the British, though he ultimately led the colonies to victory.

President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain
President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain

During the Civil War, in November 1863, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was summoned to Chattanooga, Tenn., to prevent a total collapse of Union forces against the Confederacy. As Grant headed into the beleaguered city, he saw northern forces terribly hurt from the nearby Battle of Chickamauga. President Abraham Lincoln sent 20,000 soldiers from the Army of the Potomac to aid the defensive and later offensive efforts of Grant to defeat the South in that region, and while the Confederates had been on the verge of gaining a huge victory, Grant opened up the “Cracker Line” to Chattanooga, with additional men, supplies and horses to deter the enemy. Grant’s calm and cool presence helped secure a much-needed victory for a thankful Lincoln, who saw the battle as one of the greatest tests of survival for the Union.

Eisenhower had his own recollections of this date through his experience leading the Allied Forces during World War II. As a new commanding general, he planned the mid-November 1942 allied landings of Operation Torch against the Germans and the Vichy French in North Africa. From Morocco to Algeria, untested American military troops drove to destroy the war machine of Germany. The chainsmoking Eisenhower eagerly waited in Gibraltar for news that his men had achieved all of their objectives against the enemy. Two years later, in the fall of 1944, Eisenhower looked eastward as his forces operated on a broad front against the Nazis in France. By that time, his armies were nearing the German frontier with the belief that their bitter enemy was about to surrender. Little did he know that Hitler was planning a final December offensive, which would later be called the Battle of the Bulge, to drive a wedge against the Allies on the Western Front.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush led the American efforts to destroy the strength of Saddam Hussein. That dictator had invaded Kuwait and was poised to attack Saudi Arabia, but the U.S. aimed to protect the Saudis through Desert Shield. Two weeks after Veterans Day, Bush was eating Thanksgiving dinner in the desert with the American military forces that eventually led the fighting into Iraq and Kuwait to defeat Hussein’s Republican Guard army.

Over the last 15 years, the United States has been in a constant state of warfare against aggressor and terrorist forces. From the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, American service members from across the country have tirelessly fought against an enemy bent on hurting our way of life. Currently, this mission has expanded over the skies of Northern Iraq and Syria to limit the growing expansion and influence of ISIS.

Americans should not neglect the “Forgotten War” veterans of the Korean conflict who bitterly fought against the communists during that Cold War battle, nor the Vietnam War veterans who honorably served for a decade in that Southeast Asian country.

May we always remember and honor our veterans from every American conflict, on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.

Social

9,204FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,118FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe