Tags Posts tagged with "United States"

United States

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We as a country have experienced a tumultuous and polarizing last few weeks and months. The lead up to the first Tuesday in November and the midterm elections set the American electorate ablaze with strong opinions that saw former elected officials receive rudimentary pipe bombs via the mail.

With that as a backdrop, Veterans Day took place this past weekend, with beautiful, solemn remembrances unfolding at war memorials and firehouses, coupled with more raucous and celebratory parades happening across the North Shore and beyond. The events should have served as reminders that despite our differences, our shared values and appreciation for the sacrifices made by so many that allowed this country to flourish are what will be truly lasting in even the tensest of times.

While we were glad to see photos come through our inboxes and across our social media platforms of these events, we were saddened by an incident that occurred at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai relayed to us by Fred Drewes, a founding member of the Heritage Trust, the nonprofit which stewards the park in partnership with the Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County.

Drewes has dedicated much of his own time to beautifying the park and perpetuating a triannual program called the Parade of Flags, which features the flying of  about 100 flags representing American states and other important entities like the military branches lining an area of the park dubbed the Avenue of America. The park features other patriotic imagery including the Court of America, a sitting area with benches, plaques with quotes from presidents and other famous citizens and a rock garden in the shape of the continental United States.

The rock garden contains symbolic rocks, plants and flowers that are native to the corresponding region in which they lay. Blocks featuring the names of all previous 44 U.S. presidents and the years they held office border the garden. President Donald Trump’s block will be added at the conclusion of his tenure, according to Drewes.

Drewes reported to us that during recent weeks someone tore out former President Barack Obama’s block and discarded it in a nearby shrub. We’re not asking anyone to agree with all — or even any — of the former president’s political ideologies or practices, except for one.

“The forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us,” Obama said in 2011 while speaking in Tucson, Arizona, after a gunman shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona).

On Veterans Day especially, but going forward, we’d like to see Americans make a better effort to live by that axiom.

Tom and Tim grew up great friends. Soon after they learned how to spell, they figured out “i” and “o” were the only difference in their names.

They liked their parents, teachers and country. The United States, as they were told, was the greatest country in the world. Their grandparents, as they’d find out on a rainy Sunday when they watched a TV show about a country in Europe that didn’t exist anymore, came from the same place.

“We could be related,” Tim said.

Tom thought Tim would be a much better relative than his Uncle Oswald, who wreaked of cologne and was always trying to give him great advice about his life. Tom wanted to become a baseball player and he wanted to marry a woman some day who could make apple pies because he loved apple pies.

Tim also wanted to become a baseball player, but his mother wanted him to play the trumpet.

Tom also wanted to play an instrument, so he started playing the trumpet, too.

Competition got the better of Tim and Tom. They stopped hanging out because they wanted to practice separately, so they could win the solo in the concert and so Heather, the best trombone player in the band, would notice them.

When the music teacher, Mr. Holden, chose Tom to play the solo, Tim stopped talking to Tom, Heather and Mr. Holden.

Tim’s mother didn’t understand why he was quiet and angry. She read books on how to let go while lending a hand. One day, Tim told her about the solo, so she hired the best music teacher in the area.

Soon enough, Tim was better than Tom on the trumpet. Everyone, including Mr. Holden, could tell, so the teacher gave the solo to Tim.

Tom found out about the new trumpet teacher and he, too, became a student. Tim and Tom filled their block, night and day, with the sound of blaring trumpets.

As the concert approached, Mr. Holden became dismayed at how the two trumpet players were trying to drown each other out. He sent Tom out of a rehearsal, which caused the lower brass and flutes to stop playing because they supported Tom. When Tom returned, however, the bickering continued, so Mr. Holden sent Tim out of the room, at which point the clarinets and percussion stopped playing.

Mr. Holden removed the song with the trumpet solo from the concert. The boys blamed each other and, soon enough, an all-out war on social media broke out between Tim, Tom and the parts of the band that backed each of them.

Mr. Holden threatened to cancel the concert, but the town wouldn’t allow it, especially because the concert was the highlight of the July Fourth celebration.

One day, when Tom was too tired to play the trumpet and he wanted to get away from his annoying uncle, he collapsed on the couch and turned on the TV. He watched a black-and-white film about people coming from the country where his grandparents were born.

When the show ended, Tom got on his bike and rode to Mr. Holden’s house. He rang the bell.

“Mr. Holden, can you please put the original song back in the program? I’d like Tim to play the solo,” Tom said.

Mr. Holden smiled.

“He just asked me if you could play the solo,” Mr. Holden said, opening the door to reveal Tim standing in the kitchen.

When the concert ended, Tim and Tom were sure of one thing: They had to be related.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York was among the strongest opponents of the GOP-backed bill to repeal Obamacare. File photo by Kevin Redding

One U.S. senator is hoping to cut off the flow of fentanyl to the many New York residents struggling with drug addiction.

U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) announced support for a plan that would stop supplies of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin and is not commonly reversed by Narcan, a lifesaving overdose drug, because of how quickly it enters the brain. The drug has come from China, Mexico and other countries into New York City and across the United States. Schumer also publicly decried a just-revealed White House plan to gut the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s budget by 95 percent.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid much stronger than heroin. File photo

“President Trump’s nonsensical proposal is the most destructive contribution he’s made yet to the fight against the opioid and heroin epidemic, and another clear sign he has no intention of keeping the promises he’s made to the American people,” Schumer said in a statement. “While candidate Trump pledged to ‘take care’ of Americans struggling with addiction and spend the money to succeed, his proposal to eliminate funding for programs, such as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Drug-Free Communities — which are instrumental in aiding local enforcement drug trafficking in many communities in New York, at the southern border and elsewhere — would effectively kick Americans seeking treatment to the curb and make our communities less safe.”

In 2017, the office received $388 million, and under the Trump (R) administration’s proposal, the office would receive $24 million in 2018. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, which was authorized in 1988 with bipartisan support, currently directs the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the Drug Free Communities Program, anti-doping activities and the World Anti-Doping Agency. The proposed budget plan would also completely zero out the Drug-Free Communities and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas programs, which provide substantial support to treatment, prevention and enforcement efforts on the ground.

“Senate Democrats will never vote to defund these vital programs, and I know there are many colleagues across the aisle who feel likewise,” he said. “I urge the President and Republicans in Congress to reject this proposal immediately.”

With fentanyl continuing its sprint onto the streets of New York City and Long Island, Schumer also launched a major push for the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act. The senator noted the bill is even more important now, with the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s funding on the chopping block.

“Fentanyl-laced heroin is devastating our communities and law enforcement needs to utilize every tool and technology to stop the flow of this deadly poison,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “The act will help law enforcement prevent fentanyl and other synthetic opioids from entering the country and will be a great asset in our efforts to dismantle the networks of traffickers and dealers who are fueling lethal heroin addictions.”

The Schumer-backed bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), would give U.S. Customs and Border Protection the hi-tech tools and resources needed to improve detection capabilities and increase the seizure of illicit fentanyl shipped to the U.S. from abroad through mail and express consignment carriers. Schumer said he would work with his colleagues to take action on this issue that is destroying families in New York and the rest of the country, and do everything in his power to prevent Trump’s proposal to cut funds.

Fentanyl overdoses are not commonly reversed by Narcan, seen administered on a dummy during a training session. File photo by Elana Glowatz

“These deadly substances are being delivered to our homes, being sold on our streets and destroying our families,” Schumer said. “We know how they get here and where they come from, now we need to give U.S. Customs and Border Protection the resources to stop this flood and help save lives.”

Although pharmaceutical fentanyl can be misused, most of the fentanyl being sold on the street is illicitly manufactured. While distributors in China are the principal source of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture the drug, as well as a source for finished-product illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, Mexico is the primary source for illicit fentanyl smuggled into the United States. Fentanyl suppliers then use methods to mislabel shipments or conceal them inside legitimate goods in order to avoid Customs and Border Protection detection. In 2016, nearly 200 pounds of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were seized, primarily from along the southwest border. This is a 25-fold increase of seizures in 2015.

In 2015, 753 people died of an opioid overdose and, as of April, that number was projected to hit 1,075 for 2016. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says fentanyl is driving overdose death increases in New York City and is increasingly present in deaths from drug overdoses. There were 303 opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County in 2016, including 171 related to fentanyl. In Nassau County, there were 190 opioid-related deaths in 2016, including 62 related to fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is now killing more Long Islanders than even heroin is, and we know it’s only a matter of time before the next deadly synthetic opioid hits the streets,” said Jeffrey Reynolds, president and chief executive officer of the Family and Children’s Association, a not-for-profit agency that helps protect and strengthen vulnerable children, seniors, families and communities on Long Island. “As substance abuse prevention specialists and addiction treatment professionals work to reduce the demand for drugs, the act will help reduce the supply of synthetic opioids flooding across our borders, into our homes, schools and communities. This legislation is critical as we continue to battle an unrelenting opioid and heroin crisis.”

Sen. Schumer was among the most forceful opponents of Trump’s decision. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Victoria Espinoza

President Donald Trump (R) presented his blueprint for the 2017-18 federal budget and if passed by Congress as it stands, it spells out cuts to programs on which North Shore residents depend.

The draft includes more than $54 billion in cuts to federal programs and departments, with the biggest cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. State, Labor and Agriculture departments.

State officials on both sides of the aisle were quick to condemn cuts to the U.S. Department of Energy, to the tune of $1.7 billion or 5.6 percent less than last year’s funding, that could impact Brookhaven National Laboratory. BNL was established by the DOE in 1947 and has housed the work of seven Nobel Prize winners. The lab hosts public tours and special programs, as well as school science fairs and robotic competitions, also scientific lectures for community residents.

Trump’s budget blueprint intends to cut $900 million in funding to the DOE’s Office of Science, under which BNL receives its funding among other national labs.

U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held a press conference on the front steps of the Brookhaven lab in Upton March 17, calling the proposed cuts a blow to the community since the lab supplies jobs for as many as 3,000 Long Islanders.

Schumer said in recent years BNL has received an annual $537.3 million in federal funds from the Office of Science budget, about $5 million in federal funds from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and about $3 million from the Nuclear Energy Office.

A volunteer delivers a meal to a senior in the Meals on Wheels program. File photo

“This major Department of Energy budget cut is a cut to our future, a cut to our knowledge, a cut to our research and a cut to good-paying Long Island jobs,” he said. “Brookhaven National Lab is home to some of the world’s brightest minds and most cutting-edge innovations, which both advance human knowledge and spur our economy. … These kinds of cuts not only hurt us today but they hurt the future jobs and the companies of tomorrow who would otherwise plant their roots on Long Island.”

Schumer was not the only member of Congress from the area to speak out about the president’s cuts. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has voiced his concerns while also assuring constituents there are many parts of Trump’s budget that are beneficial to the United States.

“I strongly oppose the proposed cuts to Brookhaven National Lab, SUNY Stony Brook and other sources of scientific research in the 1st Congressional District,” he said in a statement. “Throughout the years, we have seen some of the world’s greatest science research conducted at these facilities.”

Zeldin made sure to reiterate Trump’s blueprint is a draft with nothing set in stone.

“Regardless of who is in the White House, the Constitution puts government funding strictly under Congress to initiate through the appropriations process,” he said. “The president’s budget request is just that — a request. It has no force of law or legislation.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget could also see a $6.2 billion or 13.2 percent reduction, which means grants for certain local programs could be ended including the popular Meals on Wheels program that has branches in Three Village and Smithtown. Meals on Wheels is a national program providing meals to senior citizens who cannot leave their homes to shop on their own. Chapters in different states rely on funding from the Community Development Block Grant program through the H.U.D. In Trump’s budget blueprint he proposes eliminating the program, cutting $3 billion to community service organizations such as Meals on Wheels, among others.

Although the Three Village Meals on Wheels is not in jeopardy, as all of its funding comes from community donations, Susan Hovani, president of the Three Village branch, said it would be a shame for other communities to lose funding — like Smithtown Meals on Wheels, which relies on federal funding to operate.

“This major … budget cut is a cut to our future, a cut to our knowledge, a cut to our research and a cut to good-paying Long Island jobs.” — Chuck Schumer

“These programs are very necessary,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s sad to see [federal funding] could be cut, and I think it would be much better to cut from other places.”

Another heap of programs on the chopping block are those funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s budget. Compared to last year’s budget, the department’s funding would decrease by $9 billion, or 13 percent.

Trump’s blueprint proposes completely eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports before and after-school programs as well as summer programs.

“The Trump administration’s call for zero funding for the 21st CCLC after-school initiative is a betrayal of the millions of students and parents who depend on after-school and summer-learning programs,” Afterschool Alliance Executive Director Jodi Grant said in a statement.

Afterschool Alliance is one of the after-school initiatives from the 21st CCLC that is responsible for many New York students after-school hours.

“It is painfully shortsighted and makes a mockery of the president’s promise to make our country safer and to support inner cities and rural communities alike,” she added.

Grant said after-school programs enable many parents to work and cutting these programs could jeopardize their ability to hold a job, as well as create a safe space for kids when they have nowhere else to go or no other positive activities to turn to.

The president said the budget proposal is meant to advance the safety and security of the American people.

“Our aim is to meet the simple, but crucial demands of our citizens — a government that puts the needs of its own people first,” he said in the blueprint. “When we do that, we will set free the dreams of every American, and we will begin a new chapter of American greatness.”

Trump said the proposed cuts are crucial to streamlining government spending and operations.

“These cuts are sensible and rational,” he said. “Every agency and department will be driven to achieve greater efficiency and to eliminate wasteful spending in carrying out their honorable service to the American people.”

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Those of us along the North Shore and particularly in Setauket, who routinely live with tales of the local spies, might be especially interested in the life of Doris Sharrar Bohrer. One of the few female spies for the Allies during World War II, she died earlier this month at the age of 93 and was not publicly recognized for her extraordinary work until this century.

A Class of 1940 graduate of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, she applied to take the civil service exam and was for whatever reason assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner to the CIA. There, after typing for a year, she was sent to photo reconnaissance school, where she learned to interpret aerial maps and photographs. Few women in the OSS rose beyond the typing pool. A posting in Egypt followed, where she would make 3-D balsa-wood relief maps from the aerial photos that helped prepare the Allied troops for the invasions of Sicily and then of the rest of Italy. Soon she was moved to Bari on Italy’s Adriatic coast, advising where to drop and to pick up OSS agents from behind enemy lines.

In examining aerial photos, she was able to see closed cattle cars with passengers heading east, and her group located the Nazi concentration camps. However, she told The Washington Post in 2011, “we were too late” in finding the concentration camps. “We kept wondering where the trains were going.”

During the war, she packed a Browning pistol in a shoulder holster but was denied the right to carry a hand grenade as a female Yugoslav partisan co-worker could do. In fact, some of her male counterparts were condescending and even outright hostile to women intelligence agents, calling them “the girls.” These included her superior officer who denied her the grenade. So she had an engineer friend fashion a dummy grenade that she carried into the mess hall where some of the other agents were having lunch. When her superior officer reached across to grab it away, she picked it up and smashed it against the table.

The boys scattered “out the windows,” she told Ann Curry of NBC News many years later. “They just disappeared. And I sat there and ate my salad.”

After the war, Bohrer was assigned to Germany, where she spied on the Soviet Union. She interviewed German scientists who had been detained by the Soviets in order to find out for the CIA as much as possible about the state of Soviet science. This was during the lengthy Cold War.

Bohrer retired from the CIA in 1979 as deputy chief of counterintelligence, training U.S. officers on tactics of foreign espionage operatives. In effect, she spied on the spies. She married Charles Bohrer after World War II and after retirement became a residential real-estate sales agent in the 1980s and ’90s in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia. She also bred and raised poodles, some of which won ribbons and prizes. Her husband retired as director of the CIA medical office.

In 2013 two high-ranking CIA women directors thanked Bohrer and Betty McIntosh, another CIA operative, at the Langley, Virginia, headquarters for their service.

Bohrer’s work had remained secret until The Washington Post discovered in 2011 that she and McIntosh, the author of two books, lived at the same retirement home in northern Virginia; McIntosh had carried out propaganda work in China. Both women had not known each other during the war but had become good friends. Bohrer, whose husband died in 2007 after they were married 61 years, is survived by her son and his two grandchildren. McIntosh died in 2015 at age 100.

Bohrer had wanted to learn to fly to defend the U.S. after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. She never did take up aviation but found looking at aerial photographs “an interesting way to look at the world. It was almost as good as flying,” she told The Washington Post. Like the Setauket spies, Bohrer and McIntosh went unheralded for many years but their stories are now told to the world at large.

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One hundred years ago this week, The New York Times has reported, the worst terrorist attack on the United States until 9/11 occurred in New York Harbor. Black Tom Island, supposedly named after an early African-American resident and owned by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, lay next to Liberty Island and was the site of three-quarters of the American-made ammunitions readied for shipment to Allied forces in World War I. Stored in warehouses, in railroad cars and on barges on the small island, the munitions were targeted with small fires shortly after midnight on July 30, 1916, and the first explosion had the force of about a 5.5 earthquake on the Richter scale. It blew out windows of buildings in lower Manhattan and Jersey City, damaged the skirt and torch of the Statue of Liberty, shattered the stained glass windows in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and windows in Times Square, shook and possibly damaged the Brooklyn Bridge, threw people out of their beds and was heard as far away as Philadelphia and Maryland.

On that fateful night, some 2 million pounds of small arms and artillery ammunition were on the island, along with 100,000 pounds of TNT on Johnson Barge No. 17. Initially small fires broke out along the mile-long pier, and while some of the guards fled, fearing explosions, others attempted to fight the fires and called the Jersey City Fire Department for help. The first and largest explosion, at 2:08 a.m, produced a rain of bullets and fragments, followed by mists of ash that made fighting the fires impossible; and the smaller fires burned for hours, causing explosions throughout the night.

While hundreds were hurt, surprisingly only a few people were killed, including a policeman in Jersey City, the railroad chief of police, the barge captain and an infant thrown from its crib a mile away. Two guards were quickly arrested for having triggered the disaster by lighting smudge pots on the pier to keep away the ever-present mosquitoes until it was realized that the pots were too far from the fires to have been the cause. Further investigation, which continued for years, identified the culprits as German agents who were trying to stop the shipments.

Until early 1915, the neutral United States was able to supply any nation with arms, but after the blockade of Germany by the British Royal Navy, only the Allied forces could purchase arms. Imperial Germany sent secret agents to the U.S. to obstruct production and delivery, and some of them caused havoc and civilian panic in the ensuing years. An effective weapon was the “cigar bomb” that was silently attached to the hulls of departing American munitions ships and only exploded after the vessels were well out to sea. Many ships, with their cargo and crew, were lost that way.

President Woodrow Wilson was desperately trying to cling to neutrality before the coming, tightly contested election against Charles Evans Hughes, chief justice of the Supreme Court and former New York governor. Wilson, as the president who had kept the nation out of war, initially refused to recognize the explosions as the work of the Germans. But after the election indisputable evidence forced his hand, and by early 1917 he prepared the country for war against Germany.

After the war, the railroad sought payment for damages under the U.S.-German Peace Treaty (1921) signed in Berlin and, at last in 1953, an agreement was reached for $50 million to be paid to the railroad. Dozens of railroad cars, six piers and 13 warehouses had simply disappeared into a huge crater filled with water and debris after the first explosion. For practical purposes the island, with its causeway to the mainland, had disappeared. Final payment was not made until 1979. In today’s currency, damages are estimated at $500 million.

Landfill projects through the years time have enabled what little was left to be incorporated into Liberty State Park. A single plaque there tells the tale of the largest terrorist attack until our time.

Community members gathered to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack on the United States. During memorial events across Suffolk County, ceremonial shots were fired, victims’ names read aloud and flowers laid down.

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Harry S. Truman was president during a critical time in the United States. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

He came from humble beginnings to make one of the most critical but grave decisions in United States history.

Born on May 8, 1884, to a poor Missouri farming family, Harry S. Truman’s roots were far removed from those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. While he was a capable student, his poor eyesight prevented an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He never attended college, and was expected to help with the family business. But to get away from the boredom of agriculture, he enlisted in the National Guard and, though he would have been exempted from Selective Service, re-enlisted at age 33, when President Woodrow Wilson declared war in April 1917.

At once, Truman’s superiors and peers voted that he become an officer, and the future president was proud to take on the role. His soldiers saw him as an organized and bright leader who took care of his men. After training in Oklahoma, Truman and his artillery battery traveled to New York City, where the Missouri soldiers were some of the first Americans to be transported on the USS George Washington, a confiscated German passenger ship that was used to transport a portion of the 2.5 million Americans who fought on the Western Front. While in New York, Truman was not overly impressed with Manhattan and, in fact, liked Paris better when he visited that city after the World War I armistice.

Once in France, Truman learned how to fire the French 75-mm field gun, the best artillery weapon produced during the conflict. He was promoted to captain and the head of an artillery battery, and proved to be an honest man, speaking objectively to superior officers about the needs of his men. Near the front, Truman trained with Gen. John J. Pershing and led his battery in the 1918 Muesse-Argonne offensive. He was one of the 600,000 soldiers used to punch a hole into the tired lines of the German military. It is possible Truman’s guns fired some of the final shots before the Central Powers surrendered on Nov. 11, 1918.

The interwar years were spotted with success and failure for Truman. Once the war concluded, Truman desperately wanted to marry his Missouri sweetheart, Bess Wallace, and for a brief time he was a partner in a thriving clothing store with a veteran from his unit. While he had good sense, the business closed and Truman refused to file for bankruptcy protection. Some 20 years later, right before he became president, he finally paid off those debts.

Did you know?

President Truman was a talented piano player. According to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, as a child he woke up at 5 a.m. to practice for two hours, and music was one of his passions throughout his lifetime.

Truman got his political start as a county judge, with help from Kansas City Democratic political boss Thomas J. Pendergast. While he probably favored Pendergast on municipal building projects in return, he was seen as a clean politician and later won a spot in the U.S. Senate. Truman was a key advocate of Roosevelt’s New Deal as well as measures to supply American allies with military necessities early during World War II. He used a common-sense approach to leadership, stemming from his time as a farmer, a captain in the Army and a businessman, and it was an approach small-town Americans understood.

As Roosevelt ran for his fourth and final term, he picked an originally reluctant Truman as his vice president. But shortly after the victory, Roosevelt’s health declined. After four months in office, Truman was commander-in-chief. Americans, saddened over the trusted Roosevelt’s death and in the midst of war, knew little about the make-up of Truman. During World War I, he was a junior officer under future Gens. George C. Marshall, George S. Patton and Douglas R. MacArthur, but he was now their boss. And the stakes were higher — the Manhattan Project gave the U.S. the atomic bomb. Truman had a tough call to make.

It was 70 years ago this month that Truman authorized the military to drop the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a strategy to end the war, save American lives and demonstrate the nation’s immense power to the Soviets. About his controversial decision, the plainspoken Truman said he could not have looked into the eyes of American mothers who lost a son in combat knowing that he could have defeated the Japanese earlier but chose not to.

The presidency was a difficult chore to handle, but Truman never wavered from his responsibilities. Though he faced criticism during the postwar recession and the earliest moments of the Cold War, he was the underdog figure with a bullish sense of honesty that helped win World War II and set a precedent for American dealings with the Soviet Union for decades to come.

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.

Northport Historical Society’s latest exhibit gets personal

Eight of Northport’s Civil War veterans, from left, Roy Ackerly, Gus Gerard, Charlie Smith, Bill Mulfort, unidentified man, unidentified man, A.G. Tillotson and Barney Fox.

By Rita J. Egan

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, and to commemorate the sesquicentennial, the Northport Historical Society is hosting the exhibit Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men. Visitors to the historical society’s museum can follow the lives of 12 Northport men from when they mustered in until the war ended for them.

The historical society joins other organizations in the township of Huntington hosting Civil War events. Both historical society Director Heather Johnson and Terry Reid, consultant to the collections and member of the exhibit’s committee, said when town representatives first approached the organization about hosting an exhibit they were a bit hesitant. They admitted they weren’t confident if they could pull together a full exhibit since they weren’t aware of many Civil War artifacts in their collection. However, Reid said once the committee started culling through items, they found muster rolls with very detailed information about young men from Northport who fought in the war.

The consultant said the muster rolls not only include information about what battles the young men fought in but also if they were injured, their eye color and hair color, names of their parents and occupations. With the discovery of the muster rolls, Reid said the exhibit became a possibility as the committee began writing the stories of each man.

“I thought that here are these men we can focus on, telling their specific stories. So we did it as more of a storybook as opposed to here’s a bullet,” Reid said.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan

The committee, which in addition to Reid includes Candy Hamilton, Christine Doll-Wagner, Rhoda Wright and Darcy Little, then set out to find the artifacts to complement the stories. An email was sent out to members of the historical society asking if anyone owned memorabilia. Chris Cierski and Ben Meyburg, Civil War enthusiasts, stepped forward to lend some of the pieces from their collections, including a uniform Meyburg has used in reenactments.

Reid said once the society had artifacts to illustrate the men’s stories the exhibit really came together. Visitors to the museum will not only find photos and letters but also equipment the soldiers would have received such as canteens, belt buckles and guns.

Once the artifacts were in place, knowing that the men belonged to the 48th and 127th infantries, the consultant said the committee members were able to create maps for each cabinet to show the troops’ movements.

“One of our main goals in this whole exhibit was to get people to really stop and think what these men, these boys, did at their young age of 18, 19. They all enlisted and ran off to war immediately to help the cause. Unfortunately it didn’t end well for most of them,” Reid said.   

The consultant said there are arrows on the floor to help visitors view the cases in order so that they can follow each soldiers’ journey in chronological order, and at the end, find out their fate.

“It was a very bloody, awful war, and the things they went through. . . . So, my heart was just breaking when I would read what happened to each one of them. I got emotionally attached to these boys. It was heartbreaking really to imagine what they must have gone through,” Reid said.

The exhibit also touches on the contributions the survivors made to Northport after their discharges such as Alfred C. Tillotson who owned a dry goods store on Main Street in the village.

The subject of whether a soldier will return from war is one that Johnson said she believes still strongly resonates with people.

“The idea of coming home, or unfortunately not coming home, it’s been going on since war began and continues to go on, unfortunately. I think because of that though it’s a universal theme. It’s something that  we can all relate to even if you haven’t anyone really close to you or in your family who has fought in a war, you probably know someone who has or at least feel for those who are currently fighting,” Johnson said.

The director said visitors will find many interesting items on display including a metal heel plate with a shamrock cutout that Irish soldiers would use on their boots. Johnson said when she saw it she was touched by the fact that despite the horrors they faced, the soldiers still enjoyed some whimsy.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson

Johnson said visitors will also find letters from Francis Sammis to a friend in Northport. The solider wrote about his memories of the girls in Northport and the get-togethers the young people would have.

“He’s still a young man. He may be a soldier and he may be fighting in a horrible, horrible war, but he’s still thinking about those good times. Similar to what a young man might do today,” the director said.   

Both Johnson and Reid hope visitors will take the time out to experience each of the soldiers’ stories and that it will have the same impact on guests as it did on them. Johnson said while everyone at the historical society learned a lot, she said she noticed the biggest impact on Reid.

“Terry in particular became very connected to those soldiers. She had read enough about them and it took on a different meaning for her,” Johnson said.

Reid said she found herself feeling protective in a motherly way of the young men as the committee discovered more about each of them.

“I hope that other people will come away the same way, will have the same sort of change as well. How could you not after you see these men’s faces,” she said.

Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men will be on view at the Northport Historical Society, 215 Main Street, until the end of the year. For more information, visit www.northporthistorical.org or call 631-757-9859.

The barracks of the 124th Illinois Infantry in Vicksburg, Miss. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Independence Day commemorates the birth of our nation as well as a day when the Union Army notched a huge victory during the Civil War. It was a July 4 more than 150 years ago that saw some of the most serious fighting ever to take place on U.S. soil.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted desperately to end the Civil War and preserve the Union. By mid-1863, the only way to accomplish that goal was to destroy the southern will to fight. Lincoln’s most important leader was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1861 was a shop clerk in his family’s store in Illinois. Nobody, including Grant, could have foreseen his quick rise from obscurity to one of the best fighting figures the nation ever produced.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant poses in Virginia in 1864. Photo in the public domain
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant poses in Virginia in 1864. Photo in the public domain

During the war, Lincoln grew increasingly bitter toward the officers tasked with attacking the South. He detested Gen. George B. McClellan and later fired him for his unwillingness to crush the rebellion in Northern Virginia. For two years, the Army of the Potomac became a revolving door for other officers who failed to defeat Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Lincoln had a limited military background, serving as a captain during the Black Hawk War between the U.S. and Native Americans three decades earlier, but took his job as commander-in-chief seriously. One of his most important decisions was keeping Grant as the head of the Army of the Tennessee after the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and in the face of rumors that Grant was an alcoholic and unable to carry out his duties.

Grant’s rise to commanding general began during the Battle of Vicksburg.

Vicksburg was known as the “Gibraltar of the Confederacy” and the “citadel” on the Mississippi River. Early in the Civil War, Grant understood taking that location would divide the Confederacy, open the river to Union naval and commerce shipping and prevent resources from reaching Lee in Northern Virginia. Grant was determined to destroy it.

In April 1863, he saw he would only gain a victory by moving his army south and attacking Vicksburg on the same side of the Mississippi held by the enemy. This was a risky decision — one that could win or lose the war in the West. The campaign involved Grant cutting off his own supply and communication lines, with he and his men living off the land using the lessons he learned while fighting in the Mexican-American War. If he and his fellow soldiers could survive in the deserts and heat of Mexico, the Civil War fighters could do the same with the hearty agriculture, cattle and poultry resources in Mississippi.

On April 16, with his wife and youngest son Frederick next to him, Grant ordered a naval flotilla of gunboats and barges to make the perilous journey south. The Confederacy opened up its vast armaments but failed to destroy the ships, and Grant turned his gamble into a string of victories that led to the demise of Vicksburg.

Through July 4, Lincoln watched in amazement as the general decisively drove against the enemy. When one politician suggested the operation was a failure and that Grant was again drinking too much, Lincoln retorted that Grant was engaged in some of the most serious and successful fighting the world had ever known.

It was a cunning campaign to operate within the Confederacy. Southern Gens. Joseph E. Johnston and John C. Pemberton both commanded larger forces but under the attack of Grant’s Union Army were unable to combine their forces in battle. In Washington, D.C., Lincoln watched Grant take Jackson, Miss., the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, thereby cutting off the supply, communication and transportation links that supported Vicksburg.

In late May 1863, Grant began a 48-day siege that trapped Pemberton, a native of Pennsylvania, and his forces on the Mississippi River. By July 4, Pemberton’s men were starving and had lost their morale; they surrendered. On our nation’s birthday, Grant took 31,000 Confederate soldiers as prisoners of war, and seized 172 cannons and 60,000 rifles.

Church bells rang out in northern cities to celebrate the Army of the Tennessee’s efforts to finally take Vicksburg in one of the most vital campaigns of the war, on the road to reuniting America.

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.