Tags Posts tagged with "Nuclear Bomb"

Nuclear Bomb

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.

Members of the North Country Peace Group organize a Ban the Bomb rally on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A in East Setauket June 17. The group shows support for the current United Nations talks to adopt a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

A local grassroots organization played their part in a worldwide demonstration to support negotiations of the United Nations to adopt a treaty to ban nuclear weapons June 17.

“There are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90 percent are controlled by the United States and Russia, 1,800 of those are on high alert.”

— Susan Perretti

The Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb took place in New York City, though activist groups around the world including in East Setauket, organized simultaneous events to the New York City march to make their voices heard. The North Shore Peace Group put together their own Ban the Bomb rally on the corner of Bennetts Road and Route 25A in East Setauket, where the members stand every Saturday holding signs featuring messages of peace and in opposition of the policies and agenda of President Donald Trump (R). The women-led marches were not exclusive, as people of every gender, political affiliation and background were invited to speak out.

Nearly two-dozen activists were at the intersection holding signs with messages such as “Peace is Patriotism,” “Abolish All Nukes” and “Support U.N. nuclear ban talks.”

Port Jefferson Station resident Rosemary Maffei, who joined the group after last year’s presidential election, explained why the North Country Peace Group decided to participate in the show of support.

“It’s a worldwide event, and we just want to make sure that our little corner of Setauket here is represented on such an important happening in the world with possible nuclear proliferation,” she said.

Bill McNulty of Setauket said the “Ban the Bomb” message fits the mission the North Country Peace Group has been supporting for 15 years.

“Basically the banning-the-bomb effort ties into this idea that the bomb, the nuclear weapon, has been described over the years as being the taproot of violence,” McNulty said. “We’re anti-war. We’re anti-violence. We advocate for nonviolent, peaceful resolutions to our problems.”

A member of the North Country Peace Group holds the photos of soldiers who died in recent wars. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Peace group honors soldiers

By Rita J. Egan

The Women’s March and Rally to Ban the Bomb in East Setauket coincided with the North Country Peace Group’s annual reading of the 41 names of Long Island soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. After the members’ demonstration, they stood in a circle, holding up a photo of each soldier and reading his name as well as some information about them, including family members left behind.

Two members from the North Country Patriots, who stood on the opposite side of Route 25A across from the Peace Group in an opposing rally, came across the street holding a big American flag toward the end of the readings. One said that any memorial honoring soldiers needs flags. After the rally, one of the men, who asked not to be identified, said he tried his best not to interrupt the ceremony but he kept thinking to himself, “They were honoring our soldiers, but there was no American flag.”

Rosemary Maffei, of Port Jefferson Station, said the group feels showing the soldiers photos and reading their names is the group’s way of honoring the men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“We had flags at the ceremony but this is a time to remember and reflect, not flag-waving,” Maffei said.

Port Jefferson’s Myrna Gordon, another active member of the group, echoed McNulty’s sentiments.

“We feel that nuclear war is something that we have to stop,” she said. “And the buildup of armaments, and the buildup for things that might be devastating to the world, is something that we are tuned into very much. So today it’s ‘Ban the Bomb,’ next week it might be something else. We’re not a one-issue group, but we are a peace and justice organization, and we stand firmly in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world.”

Setauket resident Susan Perretti said the statistics the group gathered from a video produced by Reaching Critical Will, a program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, are disturbing. She said nuclear bombs are the only weapons of mass destruction that are not yet outlawed in a comprehensive and universal manner.

“The information we were given is there are 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, and 90 percent are controlled by the United States and Russia, 1,800 of those on high alert,” Perretti said. “And they are 1,000 times more powerful than the ones the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and not to mention the irreversible damage to the planet.”

Lisa Karelis of East Setauket held a sign decorated with three flags that read “We Are All Americans,” and carried a small flag. She said she wanted to show that peace-loving citizens are also patriotic.

“I think it’s very important especially with what’s going on in politics, and the uncertainty of the person who has the finger on the button to particularly see how dangerous it is to have nuclear proliferation,” she said. “It all boils down to humans. After all humans make decisions. Anything that we can do to make it more difficult for something to happen inadvertently, or under the control of one person who may not be thinking clearly or wisely, is very important. And it’s for the benefit of all humanity, that’s why one of our signs has the Earth on it. It’s not an American issue, it’s a human issue.”

In recent months the North Country Peace Group has also organized or participated in several rallies covering various topics including climate change; excessive use of force by police; the political donations of Robert Mercer, billionaire co-owner of the Setauket-based hedge fund Renaissance Technologies; and a sister march to the Women’s March on Washington.

The U.N. talks regarding nuclear weapons are taking place until July 7. The U.S. has taken the position to boycott the discussions along with about 40 other countries, according to Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

by -
0 2767
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.