Tags Posts tagged with "Cold War"

Cold War

Rocky Point Just One LI Location Dedicated to Protect NYC from Attack

The nuclear missile silo located in the Rocky Point pine barrens was one of 19 such bases meant to protect New York City from missile attack. Many locals living on the North Shore worked at this site over the decades.

By Rich Acritelli, Sean Hamilton, Carolyn Settepani and Madelyn Zarzycki

In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis came extremely close to pushing the superpowers of the United States and Soviet Union into a nuclear war. Closer to home, people went to church to light candles in the hope that a peaceful resolution would be found to prevent war. Little did our local citizens ever know about the history of Long Island, especially that of Rocky Point, in how close the Cold War was to our residents.  Within the sprawling acres of the conservation area that stretches from Miller Place, Rocky Point, Ridge, and Shoreham, was a nuclear missile silo.  

Gary Wladyka, front, and Tony Kuczewski bike through the Rocky Point Mountain Bike Trail. If one follows certain paths they can find the site of the old nuclear missile silo. File photo by Kyle Barr

This was one of 19 missile bases that were built by the U.S. military and government to ensure the protection of New York City. While it is extremely unique to have this piece of history on the North Shore, these weapon sites were also in Oyster Bay, Lloyd Harbor, Lido Beach, and Amityville. Citizens in upstate New York and northern New Jersey had these weapons in their midst which were stationed near major population centers, in the suburbs, near schools, businesses, etc. From 1945 to 1990, hostile tensions were demonstrated by the U.S. and Soviet Union in every corner of the world, and the roots to protect against the prospects of a communist attack were based within the pine barrens of Rocky Point.  

Most people never realized how close they came to being near an operational missile that was designed to fire at a moment’s notice. Later, private homes were built on the missile sites in Oyster Bay and Lloyd Harbor. In Lido Beach, where missiles were a short distance from the Atlantic Ocean, it is now the headquarters of the Long Beach School District bus depot. If you were to hike around Camp Hero in Montauk, there are many reminders of the Cold War including a radar tower and a series of military bunkers. Within our local conservation area, thousands of local mountain bikers a year have surely ridden through these numerous trails, where one is able to see the silo protruding out of the ground.   Situated around this long-removed weapon is a fence that has signs to warn the people not to enter this once classified and dangerous area.

Today, it is possible to go to this location from trails that start at the Rocky Point Route 25A Bypass. Not too far from the Broadway light, there is a straight trail that leads for a half of a mile southward. If you’re mountain biking, running or walking, you will quickly reach an open field. It is easy to observe older military roads, cement, brick gate pillars, and barbed wire fencing. It is also possible to reach this spot by traveling down Rocky Point-Yaphank Road and about three quarters of a mile south of the condominiums, there is an access road that will take you southeastern to an old parking lot. At this spot, there is a noticeable black military road that will precisely lead to one of the 250 Nike Missile sites previously present were in America.

Underground is a bunker complex area that was built some 50 feet long and 60 feet wide. Although these missile bases were organized by the U.S. Army, these bases’ functions were later handed off to the National Guard that had a full-time garrison of soldiers and reservists. In the 1960s, the soldiers that manned these sensitive weapons were paid $85 a week, purchased nearby homes and said little to their families about this vital duty.  If these weapons were to be fired in response to an attack by the Soviet Union, it was estimated that they could fly 1,600 mph, reached altitudes of 70,000 feet and had a conventional warhead and a range of about 25 miles.

As with the advent of new technology, many of these weapons were quickly considered to be obsolete.  Eventually, these military bases that were located on Long Island were closed and only the Amityville and Rocky Point sites remained open during most of the Cold War. The Ajax missile was later replaced by the Hercules that allowed for a range of 90 miles and ten kilotons of explosives (three less than what was used on Hiroshima). From 1959 to 1964, there were 56 of these powerful weapons that were stored in metal sheds in Westhampton Beach that would target any Soviet aircraft that could attack the area.  Today, this is the location of a training firing and vehicle range for the Suffolk County Police and 106th Air National Guard.  

The Rocky Point Natural Resource Management Area includes trails that take one past the location of the old nuclear site.

Many of these weapons were created to attack long range Soviet bombers targeting the highly populated areas of Manhattan. Although they were placed near the North Shore, the base at Rocky Point was completely top secret with two fences (one being electric) and guard dogs. The codes were kept in safes, and at all times there had to be two military officials to concur over the status of the codes and firing. These bases were always the center of heightened military discipline and drills.  

To keep the soldiers sharp to their own attention to detail, many of these men and women had inspections, military scenarios and trips to New Mexico, where they received advanced annual training.  It was stated in earlier stories that the missile battery at Rocky Point excelled with national army awards for preparation and was rated as one of the five top bases for these weapons in America. Not too far from the summer bungalows, baseball fields, Joseph A. Edgar Imtermediate School and the older hamlet of Rocky Point was an unknown reminder of the threats of the Cold War. While the U.S. and Soviet Union competed for domination in Berlin, Cuba, Vietnam and Afghanistan, there were many local military residents that quietly ensured the national security of this country within the trails of the Rocky Point Conservation Area.

This article was a collaboration with students in the Rocky Point High School History Honors Society and its advisor, Rich Acritelli.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn visits the war memorial along Port Jefferson Harbor with local veterans. Photo from Kara Hahn's office

Despite the United States’ long military history, many local memorials created in times of peace have not kept up to the history of modern conflicts. The memorial near Port Jefferson Harbor references up to the Korean War, while other memorials in the Three Village area do not go beyond the Vietnam War.

“Through our local veterans memorials our communities show our love of country and respect to those who gave all. America’s freedom can never be taken for granted — veterans can never be forgotten.”

— Jack Gozdziewski

“You go year in year out to many of these services such as the Memorial Day parade and you think, ‘Why is the last item on the memorials the Vietnam War,’” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “We have lost brave men and women in all the wars since.”

The Veterans Memorial Fund, a campaign created by Hahn and local veteran service groups, is looking to update the memorials located at Stony Brook village, Setauket Village Green, Setauket Veterans Memorial Park and the memorial at the Port Jefferson harborfront to reference the Cold War, the two Gulf Wars and the global War on Terror.

Hahn and several leaders from local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts, as well as the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, have been meeting for several months to design the fundraising campaign and new memorials. The fundraising committee said it requires $30,000 to upgrade all four memorials fully and hopes to have it all built in time for Memorial Day 2019.

“This project is in recognition to all veterans who served in all wars whether it was during the Cold War or boots on the ground,” said Bill Wolf, the commander of the American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432 in Port Jefferson.

The original concept was proposed to Hahn back in May by Jack Gozdziewski, a veteran and member of the American Legion Post 432 and VFW Post 3054. He said that those veterans of America’s most modern wars shouldn’t be left out of the local history.

“Through our local veterans memorials our communities show our love of country and respect to those who gave all,” Gozdziewski said. “America’s freedom can never be taken for granted — veterans can never be forgotten.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn visits the war memorial at Setauket Village Green with local veterans. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

The fund is accepting donations at multiple sponsorship levels. The lowest starts at the $100 Enlistee level. Higher levels such as the $3,500 Defense Superior Service Medal sponsor level will list the sponsor’s name on a sign to be placed close to the monuments. The highest level, the $10,000 Medal of Honor sponsorship, will give the sponsor recognition during the opening ceremonies and allow them to use a digital “seal” in business advertising or in other promotions.

The memorials at Stony Brook village and the Setauket Village Green will receive new bronze plaques referencing these later wars. Meanwhile, the more elaborate memorials such as the one in the Setauket Veterans Memorial Park will require new marble work and other amenities.

Hahn said the fundraising committee is hoping to have the $30,000 in hand by the end of January in order to start planning the renovations, gathering the materials and contracting out to a stonemason. If the fund doesn’t reach its goal by that deadline, the legislator said they will continue to fundraise to make these changes hopefully by Veterans Day 2019.

“Our community is very patriotic,” said Carlton “Hub” Edwards, the commander of American Legion Irving Hart Post 1766 in Setauket. “I am certain the community will step up to help fund this veterans memorial project to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and have yet to be fully acknowledged.”

Donations can be sent via check mailed to: Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776.

Checks may also be dropped off at the American Legion, Wilson Ritch Post 432 located at 1450 Hallock Ave. in Port Jefferson Station or the VFW Post 3054 at 8 Jones St. in East Setauket.

People with questions about the fund can send queries to: [email protected] or call at 631-828-1452.

by -
0 598

The hottest real estate in Japan these days is a bomb shelter, with a starting price from $19,000. When I heard that reported on the radio, I was instantly transported back to my first-grade class where, upon a signal, we covered our heads with our coats and slid under our desks. It was the Cold War: Stalin and the Soviets were the enemy, and we had drills to prepare for an atomic blast. One day, there were moviemakers at the school, before television became popular, and they recorded us taking cover for the newsreel that preceded the feature film in every movie theater. In fact, there were two feature films in those days, usually referred to as A and B movies, but first the viewers were treated to the news of the week. I was in the front row of my class, so I could be clearly seen on the screen crouching beneath my desk. But I never saw myself because my parents usually didn’t go to the movies. Neighbors told us that I was front and center.

Just as the movie seemed unreal to me, so did the Cold War and the atomic bomb from whose blast my raincoat was supposed to protect me. World War II had ended, and I grew up in the subsequent Cold War generation.

I heard people talking about building bomb shelters, but I couldn’t imagine having one since we lived in an apartment in the middle of the city. It did occur to me to wonder where we would find shelter in the event we needed to, and I think I questioned my parents about that once, but they didn’t seem to want to discuss the subject so it never came up again. My schoolmates may have been fearful, but we never talked about the bomb.

Then Stalin died, there was eventually detente with the Soviets, a popular novel appeared by Ian Fleming called “From Russia with Love,” we watched the touring Bolshoi Ballet at the old Metropolitan Opera House, something in my gut unclenched, and no one had atomic bomb drills anymore.

I hate the idea that children in Japan are now growing up under the shadow of a nuclear bomb threat. Those in South Korea are surely afraid and, for that matter, now those in Seattle. In fact, fear seems to be rearing its ugly head in the United States, a country ordinarily known for its optimism and “pursuit of happiness.”

For example, I would not like to be an immigrant here today and certainly not an illegal one. Those in that category must be living in fear day and night. I have no sympathy of course for illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes and are therefore most likely to be deported. But the idea that ICE representatives are patrolling the courthouses, looking for illegals, certainly creates an atmosphere of people being hunted. I would also not like to be an employer whose business depended on the seasonal help of immigrants. Industries like hospitality, restaurants and farming haven’t known if their legal immigrant workers would arrive. Without that extra help, many businesses cannot survive because there are not enough Americans willing to do those low-level jobs. Ditto for those with special needs who require aides at home.

On the other side of the ledger, our economic picture seems rosy. The stock market is setting new records almost every day, as corporations are being rewarded for making profits and the prospect of deregulation encourages investment. The unemployment rate is the lowest in some 20 years. Yet there is a great divide between financial and political happiness. Many of the same people happy with the economy are unhappy with the political picture, bemoaning the chaos in Washington, D.C.

As we have always done, we will soldier on with our domestic problems. We are doing less well reacting to the foreign challenges, fear prompting us to answer threats with threats.

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.