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Rich Acritelli

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.

‘The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.’ — President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1941

Ships and planes burn as the Japanese Imperial Navy launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.

By Rich Acritelli

The above words were parts of the “Day in Infamy” speech that President Franklin Roosevelt presented to Americans directly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor some 79 years ago.  As the United States is currently battling COVID-19, many decades ago, our citizens were fighting for a different type of survival. On that Sunday morning, Americans woke up to one of the most startling pieces of news that ever struck this country. As our people listened to their radios, they quickly realized that our powerful military in Hawaii was devastated by the Empire of Japan. In a matter of moments, a nation that was once hesitant to fight the Axis powers was now immediately engaged in a massive war.

The tropical paradise of Hawaii had its skies marred by the first wave of 183 Japanese Zero fighter planes that aggressively responded to their orders of “Tora, Tora, Tora.” Large numbers of Japanese aircraft took off from their carriers as they were cheered on the decks by the crews.  In one of the largest national security blunders to ever harm the nation, the American intelligence system lost the Japanese fleet which sailed undetected from their home waters and emerged 230 miles off the coast of Oahu. While these waves were detected by radar, no alarm was issued due to the belief that these enemy aircraft were American B-17 Flying Fortresses that were traveling from San Diego. When military leaders in Washington D.C. feared that an attack was imminent, an American alert was finally issued to the senior military officers. Every Sunday morning, General George C. Marshall routinely rode his horse and this report sat at his home for almost two hours before he responded to this possible threat.

Within a short period, the beautiful skies overhead were darkened by the smoke of naval ships, aircraft, army equipment, and fuel dumps that were destroyed by bombs. Japanese planes accurately swarmed over “Battleship Row” to bomb the large American fighting ships. Again, another wave of Japanese organized 54 high level bombers and 78 dive-bombers, all of whom were escorted by 36 fighter planes. To make the strafing missions easier for the Japanese, many of the American military aircraft were situated extremely close together out of fears that Japanese agents would sabotage them. This same placement of planes was utilized by General Douglas R. MacArthur in the Philippines. Like in Hawaii, many of the planes and bombers were crippled on the ground, as the Japanese gained complete air superiority against American air, army and naval forces. The well-coordinated Japanese attack also presented the new fear that if they had landed their army forces in Hawaii, it was possible for them to take these islands.  

During this surprise attack, Secretary of State Cordell Hull spoke with representatives from the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. As he spoke to his counterparts, Hull was informed by his aide’s that Pearl Harbor was being hit at that very moment. It was the task of these diplomats to give Hull a lengthy document of major grievances against the American government. They understood that the time to attack was near, and it was the goal of the Japanese officials to deliver this message to Hull before their planes struck Hawaii, but it took the Japanese Embassy longer to decipher and type this response and the delay caused them to hand Hull this response as their planes were devastating the headquarters of the American navy in the Pacific. For the rest of his life, Hull was bothered that as he was negotiating for peace, the Japanese deceived him through many phony meetings, where they were only interested in pursuing war.  

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter C. Short were the army and naval senior commanders that were responsible for the defense of Pearl Harbor. Short had 40 years of service under his belt, where he served with Marshall and was promoted by him to command the Department of Hawaii. Directly after this attack where Short was caught off guard, he retired from the service. When Kimmel saw the attack unfolding, a stray bullet forced him to fall to the ground. He realized that the Japanese were in the process of destroying the American military presence that he held the responsibility for protecting. With Pearl Harbor virtually defenseless, Kimmel eerily stated about almost being shot, “It would have been merciful had it killed me.” Both men were the scapegoats for “dereliction of duty” and their careers were terminated. Some 60 years later, Congress cleared Short and Kimmel’s names and stated that they were not solely to blame for 2,400 losses on Dec. 7, 1941.

Less than two weeks later, Kimmel was relieved of his command and Admiral Chester W. Nimitz ascended to the position of Commander in Chief. This historic officer was at the helm of many naval successes in the Pacific and he was warmly greeted by his wife who was pleased about his promotion. However, on Dec. 7, there was no joy, the fleet barely survived, and instead of searching for the Japanese carriers that caused this chaotic assault, his men were attempting to rescue their comrades who were trapped in sunken ships in and around Pearl Harbor. Nimitz could only respond to his wife, “all of the vessels are at the bottom.” On the USS Arizona alone, there were twenty-three sets of brothers that were serving together on this ship that were killed by the Japanese.  

The U.S. Navy did not have time or manpower to go after the Japanese naval forces at Pearl Harbor as they were trying to rescue their comrades.

To make matters worse for the U.S., the Japanese attacked the American strongholds in the islands of the Philippines, Wake, and Guam. For years, the Japanese, as a growing military power, resented the deterrence of the United States navy held as they sought control the Pacific and Asia. The Japanese leadership understood that if they did not sink the aircraft carriers and battleships at Pearl Harbor, they were unable to match the military and economic might of the U.S. For a year, the Japanese lived up to their strength as the “Rising Sun” showed no signs of being halted. They controlled a tremendous land and sea empire that stretched north into China. They took two Aleutian Islands from Alaska, reached in opposite directions towards Australia and Burma, and they pushed towards the island of Midway.  

Roosevelt was determined that the U.S. would fight in both the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation before the end of 1942. Immediately, FDR sought vengeance against the sneak attack that nearly destroyed the naval force at Pearl Harbor. While the “Doolittle Raid” did not hurt the Japanese war effort, it managed to show to this warring nation that America was able to quickly strike back. An aircraft carrier strike force sailed within four hundred miles of Japan and launched its bombers to hit their mainland. Fifteen out of the 16 American B-25 bombers crashed landed in China with a minimal casualties. And while this was a minimal raid, it was a psychological blow to the Japanese and it showed resilience to American citizens. For his efforts in leading and carrying out this assault, Dolittle was awarded the Medal of Honor by Roosevelt. 

American boys from the inner cities, the rural areas, and communities like that of the North Shore were quickly trained and deployed for war. Both Americans and British landed in Morocco and Algeria to briefly fight the Vichy French troops and oppose the Germans. In the Pacific, American ground forces landed at Guadalcanal to prevent the Japanese from building an air strip that would attack the shipping lanes to Australia and New Zealand. Since this past March, our country has been severely hurt by the terror of COVID-19, but let the sacrifices and resolve that was shown by the United States during and after Pearl Harbor prove to our current citizens that there are no challenges that this nation is unable to overcome. May we always remember our past, present, and future veterans and those front-line workers today that are engaged within the “health defense” of this nation.

Thank you for members of the Rocky Point History Honors Society for contributing to this story.

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

Photo from Library of Congress

By Rich Acritelli

The United States is still feeling the friction of the recent presidential election between President Donald J. Trump and President Elect Joseph R. Biden.  Since the founding of this republic, our major presidential leaders and their followers fiercely fought to attain the presidency.  As this is a period of division, unfortunately there have been many examples of resentment that has been seen by our leaders.

Eisenhower and Truman ride together on inauguration day 1953. Photo from Library of Congress

Years ago, the same tactics were used with the Election of 1800 between President John Adams, Vice President Thomas Jefferson, and Aaron Burr.  While Adams and Jefferson were two key Founding Fathers that liked each other personally, they shared different views over the direction of the government.  Although they worked together in the first administration of President George Washington and when Adams became President in 1797 and Jefferson the Vice President, these leaders marked the earliest establishment of the political parties, especially during the election process.

During his presidency, Adams had a difficult time governing this young nation.  Always a respected figure, Adams was not an overly warm leader that was situated between the icons of the Father of the Nation in Washington and the writer of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson.  He desperately held onto the policy of neutrality and enforce the controversial laws of the Alien and Sedition Acts.  His Vice President Jefferson was completely opposed to any actions that limited the civil liberties of Americans.  Allied with James Madison, Jefferson sought the nullification of Adam’s legislation through the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.   Adams was a one term President that left the officer after Jefferson and Burr received more votes in this election.  At this point there were no running mates and Adams was forced out of the White House.  It did not help Adams that powerful members like that of Alexander Hamilton criticized his presidential actions and openly wondered about his mental stability.  Although Hamilton and Jefferson were competitive political opponents, Hamilton believed that Burr was unable to be trusted, and he pushed the election towards his rival in Jefferson.  On the day of the inauguration, Adams refused to attend this transfer of power, and instead, he went home in disgust.

By the early part of the 1820’s, there was a different sense of leadership that was taking root in America after the last of the Revolutionary Era Presidents in James Monroe left office.  By 1824, there was a major political battle that lasted more than four years between the ferocity of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams to complete for the presidency.  These men could not have been any different with Adams being the son of a former President that was very well educated, worldly, and astute within politics and foreign affairs.  He opposed the iron will of Jackson who would be the first President that was born West of the Appalachian Mountains, served as a kid during the Revolutionary War, was a noted Indian fighter, plantation owner, self-educated lawyer, and a major general that secured the historic victory against the British at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.  For most of his life Jackson demonstrated little restraint within his resentment towards the Native-Americans, British, and the aristocratic power of the Northeast and leaders like that of Adams whom he believed were the privileged class of Americans that ruled this nation.

For many people, Adams was a known political figure, and many older leaders, including Jefferson, were worried that Jackson was a threat to the democratic practices of this nation.  They saw him as an erratic leader that partook in pistol duels and a man that was more than willing to carry out his physical threats. The Election of 1824 was led by Jackson, but he did not hold the majority of the popular vote, and this contest was pushed back to Congress to decide who be the next President.  While Jackson expected to gain an imminent victory, Speaker of the House Henry Clay sought to use his influence to make a political bargain with maneuvering the gain a secretary of state position within the next administration.

Clay told Jackson who was ahead in the polls that if he was given this powerful post, he held enough clout to ensure his victory in congress.  Jackson immediately refused this scheme, Clay offered the same deal to Adams who had far fewer votes.  Adams accepted Clay’s proposal, and this propelled him to take over the presidency from James Monroe.  For two elections in 1824 and again in 1828, both Adams and Jackson openly battled each other during this decade.  Like that of Trump and Biden, they were both from opposite backgrounds, and they publicly criticized each other.  As we most recently observed Trump calling Biden “Sleepy Joe” and Biden claiming that Trump was a “Clown,” this personal mudslinging has always been a negative tool for candidates to utilize.  Adams claimed that Jackson’s mother was a prostitute and Jackson stated as a foreign minister that Adams procured young girls to partake in sexual favors for Russian leaders.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was a promising local political figure from the state of Illinois.  He only served one term during the height of the US-Mexico War, where he opposed President James K. Polk’s rationale to go to war. Lincoln demanded proof that “American blood was shed on American soil” at the start of this war between America and Mexico.   After his brief stint as a representative, Lincoln was a savvy lawyer that served several terms in the Illinois Senate.  He gained national prominence in 1858 during his senate campaign against Stephen Douglas, where he became the face of the Republican Party, and a known threat against the institution of slavery in the South.

Lincoln openly suggested that there were far too many compromises over slavery and that it should not expand into the new western territories and states.   In a series of debates within Illinois, Lincoln showcased himself as a Republican leader that clearly expressed his will to oppose this southern form of labor.  Even as Lincoln lost this election, he rose to national prominence and was a dominant Republican to replace President Buchanan who refused to run for a second term in 1860.  There were written stories in the papers that Lincoln was motivated to intermingle the races and that he lacked intelligence through his country folk manner to lead this country.

By gaining a sectional victory that saw him win most of the populated states in the Northeast and Midwest, Lincoln won the presidency, and the South began to secede.  But President Elect Lincoln had no constitutional authority to oppose the divisive actions of the South and this crisis for more than five months were still left within the inept hands of Buchanan.  Always the lawyer, Lincoln must have surely bit his own tongue during his first meeting with Buchanan who did nothing to halt the Confederacy from being created by Jefferson Davis.  Like that of Franklin D. Roosevelt who had to wait to take over the presidency in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression, Lincoln watched southern states leave the country during an extremely perilous time.

When Lincoln finally left Springfield, Illinois in March of 1861, there were already death threats that were made against him, and Pinkerton detectives quickly moved him out of Baltimore under a disguise and into the capital.  During his first term, he had to endure the military failures of generals like that of George B. McClellan that was prodded to fight the Confederates.  He agonized over the severe casualties of Americans that were killed at Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg.  And personally, his own family’s death of his second son Willie from typhoid fever in 1862.

The North grew tired from the massive casualties of the fighting, the financial costs, and the unwillingness of the outnumbered and outgunned southerners to surrender.  Once Lincoln understood that General Ulysses S. Grant would not oppose him as President in 1864, he promoted this combat figure to command the northern armies.  It was a pivotal time for Lincoln who needed to gain major battlefield successes to prove to the northern public that his leadership would eventually defeat the South.  As Confederate General Jubal Early operated outside of Washington D.C., close enough to see the capital dome, and McClellan being nominated to lead the Democratic Party, the months leading to this election were bleak.  Even the South politically and financially opposed the re-election of Lincoln, by secretly sending money to northern Democrats in Congress that maneuvered to defeat the President.  Many of politicians that served in Lincoln’s cabinet were convinced that he was an outgoing figure.  But coupled with the tenacity of Grant, General William T. Sherman, and Philip Sheridan, Lincoln held on in 1864, to regain a second term, and persistently gain the surrender of General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse some six months later.

And in 1953, as former Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower and outgoing President Harry S. Truman both drove together to the inauguration, these men had little fondness towards each other.  As they were both Mid-western men that came from poor families, these were the only two similarities between these powerful leaders.  While Eisenhower was the leader of the massive military forces against Hitler during World War II, Truman was a captain in the field artillery during World War I.  Eisenhower was educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, Truman never graduated from high school.  Whereas Eisenhower was an outstanding athlete that was well liked, Truman never shied away from expressing controversial views.  Truman ordered the dropping of two atomic bombs to end the war in the Pacific and Eisenhower was opposed to use of this weapon against a beaten enemy.  While it seemed that Eisenhower’s popularity had endless bounds, it was believed that Truman would lose his re-election to Thomas Dewey in 1948.  As Truman won this election, the newspapers did not bother to wait until all of votes for this contest was counted, as they incorrectly printed main titles “Dewey Defeat’s Truman.”

After many years of downplaying any suggestions that he would run for presidency, Eisenhower finally accepted the Republican nomination to oppose Democratic challenger Adlai Stevenson.  Always armed with his trademark grin “Ike” quickly realized that running for office was no easy task.  He openly opposed the last several years of Truman’s leadership that he deemed corrupt and weak against the communists.  But he had to answer questions about his running mate Richard M. Nixon’s own illegitimate use of campaign funds and his lack of support for General George C. Marshall who was vehemently attacked as being weak against communism by Senator Joseph McCarthy.  And while Truman was leaving the office, he refused to be quiet against the presence of Eisenhower.  Truman openly called Eisenhower a Republican “Stooge” who had no original views of his own and was a “Puppet” of this party’s political and business leaders.

Ike still had to deny the rumors that he was unfaithful towards his wife Mamie during World War II with his beautiful Irish driver Kay Summersby.  For a moment, it was believed that Eisenhower was going to bring this military member of his family back to the states after the war and divorce his wife over the extreme objections of Marshall.  When he finally won the presidency and he met with Truman during the transitional period, Eisenhower stated to the President that he could not believe that the media continued to write about his relationship with Summersby. Truman responded that he would be lucky if that was all the media covered about him as a leader of this nation. While Eisenhower led the greatest invasion that the world had ever known at Normandy in 1944, Truman told him that the presidency was not the army, and he wished him good luck in trying to get members of Congress and politicians to support his directives.  It did not take long for Eisenhower to understand the true magnitude of the presidency with dealing with the escalation of the Cold War with the Soviet Union and the fears of Americans over the communist strength of launching Sputnik.  And there were the complexities of integration through the Brown vs. Board of Education Ruling in 1954 and the massive use of civil disobedience that was widely promoted by Martin Luther King during Eisenhower’s two terms.

President John F. Kennedy meets with outgoing president Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1960, there was a noticeable division in the air through the rise of an extremely younger John F. Kennedy towards the presidency and the stepping down of Eisenhoer.  There was also the presence of Nixon, who was the Republican hope of defeating Kennedy.  While he was a two term Vice President, it took some time for Eisenhower to finally endorse his former running mate.  Eisenhower was always seen as a likeable figure that was able to communicate with others through politics, the military, and athletics. He openly wondered how Nixon was able to go through life without having one single friend.

This was an interesting time, as Eisenhower did not believe that Kennedy was prepared for the White House, whom he still considered a “boy” to replace him in office.   But he was not pleased in supporting Nixon to be his Republican replacement.  Eisenhower resented the claims by Kennedy that our country grew weaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War under his tenure.  He believed that Kennedy presented inaccurate estimates that the communists had an increasing “missile gap” against the United States.  This senior President also stated that Kennedy had virtually no experience and that he was politically being protected to enhance an untruthful image.  JFK openly battled against the questions of being too young at forty-three years old, his lack of time in Congress, and the hatred that he faced for being a Catholic.

Like that of Lincoln, Kennedy was able to utilize his considerable speaking talents within the 1960 presidential debates.  Television was a new way of personifying these two key leaders.  Nixon suffered from the flu, refused wear make-up, and the close-ups did not make him look appealing to Americans, as he did not shave and was openly sweating.  JFK was a capable speaker, showed charisma, and masterfully answered the questions that was presented to him.  Although Nixon did not look healthy compared to the tan of Kennedy, many people do not realize that JFK suffered from the severity of Addison’s Disease.   And he also had poor bone structure and the re-occurring back injuries that he sustained from PT-109 during World War II in the Pacific.   It was estimated that 90% of Americans owned televisions in the nation and that seventy million citizens sat down in their homes to watch these candidates verbally spar against each other.

There was an interesting dynamic that is noticed between the personalities of Kennedy, Nixon, and the outgoing Eisenhower.  Both Eisenhower and Nixon came from poor backgrounds, but they had no similarities within their personalities, and in eight years as President and Vice President they were never close.  Kennedy spoke of a newer generation taking the helm from older leaders like that of Eisenhower, but people were drawn to the attributes of both men.  Eisenhower was a trusted figure that led this nation during times of war and peace and while Kennedy was extremely wealthy, both him and his older brother Joseph served with distinction during World War II.  And JFK was envied by both men and women.  Male voters saw a presidential candidate that had a beautiful wife, a young family, and descended from immense wealth.  Female voters ascertained that JFK was one of the most handsome leaders to ever run for the presidency.  And there was Nixon with his minimal personality and outwardly cold demeanor that did not endear him to many Americans.

The victory of Kennedy over Nixon was the passing of a new torch from the trustfulness of Eisenhower to the different ideas of JFK.  On that cold January day in 1961, Kennedy addressed the abilities of the nation, the emergence of a new generation of leaders, and the vision of rapid economic, racial, political, and military changes that were in store for this nation and world during this decade.  But the concerns that Eisenhower presented over the judgment of Kennedy were apparent during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in April of 1961.  After this debacle that embarrassed the leadership of Kennedy to both the American public and to the Soviet Union, Eisenhower met with him.  The pictures of these two leaders at Camp David presented the teacher in Eisenhower speaking with the younger pupil in Kennedy.  And while both men spoke out against each other during the Election of 1960, they cared deeply about this nation during times of crisis.

With Biden creating his cabinet, gaining the approval to see national security reports, and preparing to be the President of the United States, his poor relationship with Trump, is not unusual.  Hopefully, there will be some common ground between these two opposite leaders for the good of America.   And while this upcoming inauguration will surely be different due to the restraints of Covid-19, may this transition of power go smoothly, to ensure the vital national tradition of leadership changes that has been consistent since the days of President George Washington.

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

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, left, and Franklin D. Roosevelt visit their troops during their respective wars. Photos from respective presidential libraries

By Rich Acritelli

“A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.”

These words were stated by an American icon who guided this nation during one of the most tumultuous periods in our history. It was at this point on Veterans Day, 1864, that Lincoln won re-election against former commanding general of the Union military George B. McClellan.  For many months, Lincoln feared that he would not win a second term and that his military forces would have to gain a decisive victory against the South before he left office in March of 1865. The president agonized over his personal estimation that he would eventually lose to McClellan and that the nation would not be preserved. His eventual victory signaled a continuation of the major task of the Union government to defeat the Confederacy and have the country be united under one flag.  

Lincoln’s armies were led by the skill of General Ulysses S. Grant, who understood the importance of achieving military objectives towards the success of Lincoln being re-elected.  Unlike Robert E. Lee who did not connect the strategy of the Army of Northern Virginia towards leadership directives of Jefferson Davis, Grant directed that his forces had to win battles to persuade northern voters that Lincoln was making enough progress to win the war. Once Grant took over the authority of all Union forces in March of 1864, he directed the bloody fighting in Virginia that resulted in a deadly struggle between these two armies.

At the start of the Overland Campaign in May of 1864, Grant informed Lincoln that there was no going backward against the Confederates. Every effort was put forth to pressure the southern forces that precariously held onto fortifications that guarded Richmond and Petersburg. Although the southerners defeated many of the commanding leaders from the Army of the Potomac, Lincoln had a bulldog in Grant who was not intimidated by the multitude of southern victories that were won by Lee. 

Davis and Lee eagerly sought the political defeat of Lincoln, as they realized that if he gained a second term, this president would vigorously carry out the war until the North achieved victory. These key Confederate leaders worried about the lack of resources and the stretching of their own lines against the numerical strength of the northern soldiers.  And in Georgia, Sherman left behind Atlanta in his “March to the Sea,” where he captured Savannah by Christmas as a gift to Lincoln. With a vengeance, Sherman marched through the Carolina’s to link up with Grant’s army in Virginia. Grant’s unwillingness to bend against the Confederates and the political and military wisdom of Lincoln, signified the beginning of the end for the Confederacy in early November of 1864.

During World War II in Europe and at this moment in time (originally called Armistice Day), Allied armies quickly operated from Normandy to move eastward into the interior of France. That summer was an extremely hazardous moment for the Germans, as they were driven back into Poland on the Eastern Front, in the West, and when Paris was liberated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his coalition of armies. Even as Operation Market Garden was deemed a failure with a waste of resources and men, the Allies waged massive air drops into Belgium, the Netherlands, and near the German border. This pursuit from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea saw German military resistance almost collapse in this part of Europe that was held by the Nazis since the spring of 1940.  

Like that of Lincoln, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a re-election, but this was for his unprecedented fourth term. Many Americans counted on the smile of Roosevelt and his guidance during the harrowing moments of this war. Although Lincoln was a dominant Republican and Roosevelt was one of the most capable Democratic Presidents to hold office, these leaders shared many similarities. With six months left of fighting their respective wars, both men were exhausted from the daily rigors of leadership and they aged beyond their years. They asked their populations to keep sacrificing for the good of the war, grieved over losses, and they were determined to gain a victory that would change both the nation and the world.  

Both men are historic giants, but they were known for being major political figures within their states of Illinois and New York, respectively. They held secondary military positions, as Lincoln was a captain of his militia during the Black Hawk Indian War and Roosevelt was an Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I. To win their respective wars, Lincoln counted on the support of war time Democrats that served in the Union army as generals. When Roosevelt ran for re-election for his third term in 1940, he fully realized that America would eventually fight the Germans and Japanese. FDR asked for the support of noted Republicans Frank Knox as the Secretary of the Navy and Henry L. Stimson to command the War Department. 

These historic families sacrificed like others in this country as Lincoln’s son Robert was a captain within Grant’s headquarters staff. Jimmy Roosevelt, the eldest son of FDR, was decorated for dangerous combat operations against the Japanese, and he ended the war as a colonel. They were well-liked figures that saw Lincoln present colorful stories and Roosevelt always wore a smile on his face during tense moments. While they were busy running the war, both leaders saw the importance of visiting their soldiers. At the end of the Civil War, a tired Lincoln was urged by Grant to spend time with his headquarters and soldiers at City Point, Virginia. Lincoln rode his horse close to the front lines with Grant and enjoyed the company of his officers and soldiers. In North Africa, Roosevelt sat in a jeep with his brilliant smile and openly talked to Eisenhower and General George S. Patton. Even at the cusp of total victory, Lincoln was at the service of Grant in helping him at every turn to defeat the Confederacy and end slavery in this country. Roosevelt was driven to destroy fascism as his armies were poised to enter Germany and General Douglas MacArthur prepared to stage his return to the Philippines.  

When these leaders died, the American government, military, and civilians mourned over their loss. Citizens watched the trains that brought Lincoln to Springfield, Illinois and Roosevelt to Hyde Park, New York for their final burial. Americans from different walk’s life tried to gain a last glimpse of the coffins that were draped within an American flag.  May this nation always thank the men and women that served in the armed forces within every conflict and those historic political leaders that put our people first during exceedingly trying times.  

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

People take pictures and point to names of family members on Rocky Point HS Wall of Honor back in 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Rocky Point High School is looking for graduates of the school district and any employees who have served in the armed forces to be recognized on their Wall of Honor.

The Wall of Honor was created in 2018 to recognize the many people and their families who have served their country. In 2019, the district added 50 names to the wall in a ceremony held in November. There are now over 110 honorees displayed near the front entrance to the high school. Funding for the wall is provided by local sponsors, but all work is done by school district employees and students.

Rocky Point history teacher Rich Acritelli asked interested persons to send a military picture, the year they graduated and, if necessary, the job title they held in the Rocky Point School District by Nov. 11. People can send all information to [email protected]

Major Martin Viera, back row third from left, along with other members of the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing. During 9/11 he was an eighth grade science teacher in New Jersey, and the terrorist attacks pushed him even further to join the service. Photo courtesy of 106th Air Rescue Wing

By Rich Acritelli

Nineteen years ago, this Sept. 11, the U.S. was attacked in lower Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and over the farm fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Long had it been since our people endured such a threat to the national security of America. In a matter of moments, a horrified generation of citizens watched a dangerous threat oppose this country. But, almost immediately, there came an unyielding spirit of patriotism that matched every serious historic event that gripped our people.

‘If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.’ 

—Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl

The above quote was from the wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, who lost his life due to this terrorism in what was known as the “plane that fought back.”  Regardless of race, ethnic group, religion or economic class standing, years ago during and after this assault on our soil, all people in this country helped each other during this time of sorrow. People sent goodwill packages to the rescue workers, firemen, and police officers that spent endless days searching for survivors and the remains of citizens from the World Trade Center. Yellow ribbons were wrapped around trees and porches, patriotic bumper stickers were on our cars and trucks and Walmart was unable to keep up with the massive requests to purchase American flags. Through this national hardship originated an immediate willingness to help others, to serve at home and abroad. People looked at the flag with an intense sense of pride.

But in our current times, the political, economic, social, racial and ethnic tensions have divided this outstanding country. Today, on both sides of the political aisle, there is a noticeable resentment that threatens to weaken the foundations of a country that was always an example towards others. Regardless of our citizens’ differences, our people could always count on supporting each other through the darkest of times. To friend and foe alike, American has been a true source of strength and determination since 9/11. For in this country it was not that long ago that people lined the streets to wave to rescue workers and give them a needed boost as they headed towards Ground Zero. There were the sad periods when people, especially those from the North Shore, attended funeral services for those local graduates and citizens that were killed from these attacks. This also marked the point where there has been continued fighting and presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and other parts of the world, where our residents served with distinction to protect the freedoms of this nation against terrorism and its supporters. 

Members of the Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 stand proud. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Local residents widely recalled important memories of when America was united some twenty years ago. Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore fondly recalled the unity that was demonstrated on the North Shore. Weeks after the attacks, there was an outside assembly program at the Rocky Point High School football field. The American flag that was flown at Ground Zero was presented by parachuters jumped over a packed crowd. Years after this event, Cognitore still gets chills from this program that brought these people together to cherish a flag which survived the earliest moments of the War on Terror.  

Miller Place resident Anthony Flammia is a retired 24-year veteran of the New York City Police Department. As a motorcycle patrolman, Flammia spent over 300 hours at Ground Zero where he assisted in the rescue and the recovery efforts. He has tirelessly championed local, state and federal legislation to aid the thousands of rescue workers and citizens that have been severely inflicted or died from the 9/11/01 related illnesses. As a devoted member of the FEAL Good Foundation, Flammia’s mission has been to help many people from this period that saw all people, from all different backgrounds come together. Flammia recalled the devotion that his fellow officers showed to each other at this time and he stated, “It did not matter if your skin color was white, black, orange or purple. We all helped each other, and we bled blue.”

Marty Viera was a 1988 graduate of Rocky Point High School and a former lifeguard at Smith’s Point that currently serves at the New York 106th Air National Guard base at Westhampton. As a combat rescue officer, Viera has spent numerous days away from home in deployments at home and abroad. During 9/11, Viera was an eighth grade science teacher in New Jersey who was in the process of joining the military. Once the nation was hit by terrorism, Viera felt helpless that he was unable to help our people and he quickly pursued a career in the service. Always an upbeat military officer, Viera is proud of his training and combat experiences with his fellow service members who are devoted to live by the creed of this Rescue Wing, “These things we do, that others may live.”

John Fernandez was a talented student athlete that graduated from Rocky Point High School in 1996. “Spanish Lightning” went to the West Point Prep School for one year and moved onto graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 2001. As a young second lieutenant, he was completing training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, when terrorism hit this nation on 9/11. For Fernandez, this was an extremely personal matter for this local officer, as he recalled watching the destruction of the Twin Towers, he immediately ascertained that our country was at war against Al-Qaeda. 

By 2003, Fernandez entered Iraq with some of the first American forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This Shoreham resident is an upbeat father of six children that was severely wounded overseas and has the constant reminders of Second Gulf War. For many years, Fernandez worked for the Wounded Warriors where he had seen incredible acts of comradery between the city rescue workers and veterans. Years after 9/11, Fernandez observed these groups bond together through a special source of unity that was based in service. Fernandez explained that this “shared sacrifice” brought these proud Americans together that fought both on foreign battlefields and amongst the debris of Ground Zero.

In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, a parachuter jumped down to Rocky Point HIgh School football field carrying a flag that was flown at Ground Zero. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Almost two decades ago, Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) vividly remembers the dark moments of terrorism and its aftermath within the city. Recently Toulon recalled, “I was working for the New York City Department of Corrections as a captain assigned to the Firearms & Tactical Unit, and I remember my first thought was to secure and protect the range because the range had many millions of rounds of ammunition and thousands of firearms. As an EMT, I was then sent to respond to the scene like so many other first responders. Everyone who responded and volunteered at the site of the attack was hoping to save lives, and I was sent back to my post at DOCS because it quickly became obvious there were few survivors that day. I was able to contribute several years later in the helping to build a lasting memorial in Nesconset to all the heroes, the first responders, and all those that perished due to the 9/11 related illness. The 9/11 Responders Remembered Park was a labor of love for me and so many others who came together to recognize the sacrifices of all those who responded to Ground Zero.”  

During the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” At the turn of this new century, America on a beautiful, sunny, late summer day was changed forever. It seemed like yesterday that airplanes were re-routed to Canada, national airports grounded all flights, harbors were closed, and there were numerous security inspection checks through bridges and tunnels. But Americans came together in a positive spirit to overcome the unknown, while these current times are complicated, our citizens, including those on the North Shore, do not have to look far to recall the way that all groups of people came together during after 9/11. As in any part of our long history, the citizens of the U.S. has always proven to be a resilient people, able to rise up and defeat all daunting obstacles in its way.

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

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General Montgomery, right, with generals George Patton, left and Omar Bradley (center). Public domain photo

By Rich Acritelli

Between the invasion of France and the fall of Paris in the summer of 1944, the Allies were not prepared for the vicious fighting that ensued directly after the D-Day landings in Normandy, France.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his planners prepared for every type of problem before Operation Overlord, but they were shocked at the brutality of the warfare that awaited their land forces against the well-hidden German military. As more men and materials were dispatched from England to this area that was known as the “Bocage,” Eisenhower and his key subordinate General Omar N. Bradley were dismayed over the extreme losses and puzzled over how to handle this costly opening offensive campaign in France. They did not fully know how to engage an enemy who was difficult to see and was eager to make the Allies pay for their successful landings.

At a time when Eisenhower looked to push his leaders like that of Bradley and Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery to gain military results against the enemy, progress was slow. The Germans dug in and they halted the advance of the Americans, British, and Canadians. Whereas General George S. Patton was a talented, but controversial leadership figure, he was absent from the Normandy landings.  Through the Slapping and Knutsford Incidents, Patton added to the immense pressures that was placed on Eisenhower. He was not dismissed from the service, but Eisenhower kept this feared tank commander in the dark as how he would be used within the future military campaign in France. It was not until well after D-Day that the Third Army became operational and Patton would be its commander.  He eventually directed this army that pushed the enemy across France and towards the Rhine River.  And through the historic Battle of the Bulge, Patton’s armor would eventually drive back this German surprise attack to the relief of Bastogne and the paratroopers that were surrounded by Hitler’s forces.

Before D-Day, General George C. Marshall, supported Eisenhower’s threat to send Patton home in disgrace, but he also informed this figure that nothing should be done to weaken his hand in fighting the difficult German military machine. Patton was not an easy general to guide and his mouth often put him in trouble, but he was the most talented armored leader that the United States had in its ranks. There were some points during the Normandy Campaign that Eisenhower openly stated that he wished that Patton’s unyielding presence was there to fight this difficult battle, but this was wishful thinking, as allied tanks played no pivotal role during this tenacious battle.  

With the huge amount of resources that Eisenhower had at his disposal in the hedgerows, the Germans extracted some 40,000 casualties against the Allies. Through a maze of vines, bushes, and trees that seemed to be connected, there was no telling if a German was hidden within the foliage of Normandy.  Several weeks after D-Day, Eisenhower and Bradley were frustrated at the lack of progress and the increase in casualties. As the Germans stymied the Allies, the Wehrmacht was unable to reinforce their own lines and they lost the immense leadership skills of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel who was seriously wounded by British fighter planes.

This was a hard time for the Allies as Montgomery was known for moving too cautiously and he lived up to this negative reputation when he failed to take the French city of Caen. Bradley lost his patience and he fired several generals through their inability to overrun the Germans. On July 4, 1944, as American soldiers celebrated Independence Day, an intense artillery barrage of fire hit the well covered Germans.  It was a strenuous campaign that tested Allied officers and soldiers to push the Germans out of their strategic defensive positions. Although the Allies were less than a year from winning the war, there were always strains on the military relationship between the Americans and British. Marshall believed that Montgomery received far too much credit for being an army commander that had to be prodded to move. The Army Chief of Staff wanted stability within the alliance, but not at the demise of American prestige. With our nation providing the bulk of men and materials on the Western Front and taking the recognizable direction against the Germans, Marshall was concerned that Eisenhower favored the British a little too much and he ordered him to leave England and set up his command in Normandy, where he would take over the direction of this intense fight.

At same time when some senior German military figures tried to assassinate Hitler in East Prussia on July 20, 1944, Patton arrived in France. He was told by Bradley that a massive carpet-bombing assault was to target the stubborn German positions and break open their lines to be exploited. It was the expectation that “Operation Cobra” would create a large enough corridor to allow American armored forces to penetrate deeply within the open lands east of Normandy. After 3,400 tons of bombs were dropped, this campaign successfully developed when four American armored divisions pushed through this opening in the lines.  This allowed the Americans operate south westward and take the French port of Cherbourg and to drive in a different direction to liberate the major prize of Paris.  

Once Patton’s tanks were employed, the German Higher Command in France never stood a chance in defeating the sheer pressure from air and land that Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton had at their disposal.  The summer of 1944 was a dangerous year for the Germans, as the immense amount of force that the Americans delivered against Hitler’s beleaguered armies.  And while Eisenhower had a difficult relationship with Patton, keeping him in command paid large dividends towards victory in Western Europe against the Nazi Regime.

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

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Eisenhower, Omar Bradley and George Patton. Public domain photo

By Rich Acritelli

“The question is just how long can you keep this operation on the end of a limb and let it hang there.” 

These were the words of General Dwight D. Eisenhower in the hours before the June 6 D-Day amphibious and air drop landings. While Eisenhower was surrounded in this meeting by noted leaders like General Omar N. Bradley and Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery, the immense strain of making this momentous decision was on the shoulders of this native of Abilene, Kansas. Through the poor weather conditions that almost derailed the landings, Eisenhower was concerned that if this massive forces waited any longer, it was possible that the Germans would have learned of the true landings were to be at Normandy and not Calais, France. Judging the factors that were against his naval, air and land forces, Eisenhower simply stated, “Ok, we’ll go.”

U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Public domain photo

As Eisenhower feared the heavy losses that were expected to penetrate the “Atlantic Wall,” he was confident of the Allied plans to achieve victory against the Germans. While German leader Adolf Hitler made numerous military miscalculations, one of his worst was the full belief that Americans that lived under capitalism and democracy which could not defeat the German soldiers that were indoctrinated within Nazism. Eisenhower was representative of the average soldier from the heartland, small towns and cities of this nation that wanted to fulfill their duty, save the world from tyranny, and return home to their families.  

As a young man, Eisenhower grew up in a poor, rural, and religious family. While he was a talented baseball and football player, the young man did not stand out amongst his peers as being the best.  There was the belief that he had lied about his age to show that he was younger to be originally accepted into the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, but he was turned down by this school. But Eisenhower gained a congressional appointment for an army education and he was ordered by the War Department to head to West Point in June 1911. Due to the two years of work at a creamery, Eisenhower was a bit older and experienced and the hazing that he took as a freshman was not challenging for the 21-year-old during his first semester. This Class of 1915 was one of the most highly promoted groups to graduate from West Point with over sixty officers attaining the rank of general during World War II.

Eisenhower had two main interests that stayed with him for most of his life. He was an avid card player that supplemented his low army pay with winning numerous hands against his fellow officers and like that of Ulysses S. Grant, he was highly addicted to nicotine. There are many parallels between the lives of Eisenhower and Grant, as both officers were from the mid-west, they were not from wealthy families, and as Eisenhower was a strong football player, Grant was one of the finest horseback riders in the army. Both men graduated in the middle of their classes at West Point, though much of this was due to a lack of interest that they demonstrated with some of their studies. The other key attribute was that they were extremely likable men that were easy to approach, they used common sense to make difficult decisions and they were not swayed under highly stressed war time situations.

Athletic promise and some mischievous was seen when Eisenhower played minor league baseball under an assumed name during the summer months when he returned home to Kansas. Eisenhower did not admit to playing professional baseball until he was President some decades later. During his years at the academy, Eisenhower was a talented football player that suffered a career ending knee injury. He was fortunate that the doctor wrote a medical report that stated he was physically able to complete the rigors of his army responsibilities. In September 1944, during the Operation Market Garden air drops into the Netherlands, Eisenhower was unable to leave his plane during a meeting with Montgomery because he still had severe pain from this chronic knee ailment. 

For the two years leading to Woodrow Wilson’s declaration of war in 1917 against Germany, Eisenhower served in the infantry and was a football coach at a prep school near his San Antonio army base. During this early period that Eisenhower showcased his coaching knowledge, many of the American soldiers kept a watchful eye on the border after it was attacked by Mexican bandit Pancho Villa. There were also pressing issues that the United States would be pushed into the Great War that raged in Europe. Unlike other older World War II officers, Eisenhower had no combat experience during World War I. He distinguished himself running a tank training center in Camp Colt Pennsylvania that was outside of Gettysburg. For his efforts, Eisenhower was promoted to the rank of colonel, but the fighting ended as he was preparing to ship out. Eisenhower was an extremely capable officer, but he believed for the next twenty years that he would never have the chance to prove his abilities under enemy fire.

After WWI ended, the National Defense Act of 1920 drastically cut back the army promotions that were seen during the war and Eisenhower was demoted to a permanent rank of major. At this time, Eisenhower convoyed across the nation from Maryland to California and he observed the poorly connected roads that led from cities to the rural areas. Later as President this knowledge pushed him to build more infrastructure projects during the 1950’s. Living at Fort Meade, he also met George S. Patton, where both men and their families became good friends. Eisenhower enjoyed listening to war time exploits of Patton and both men had endless discussions on military tactics. 

It has been stated that these officers were not friendly during and after World War II, but this was far from true. These two men were completely different from each other, Patton was extremely wealthy, and he lived a vastly different life than Eisenhower. Patton furnished his house with furniture from France, had sports cars, servants and the best polo horses. Eisenhower had to rely on the poor military pay and he took furniture from the nearest dump that he refurnished. 

There were many other connections that surely aided the professional development of Eisenhower.  During World War I, General Fox Connor was a key planner that pushed American troops into the first battles against the Germans on the Western Front. He was a trusted leader that listened to the early military doctrine that these younger officers sought within the next major war. Eisenhower credited Patton with meeting Connor whom he considered to be a teacher and father figure that cultivated his earliest approach to leadership. Connor was a well-rounded officer that understood the need to work well with allies and to establish the most efficient military organization. These traits were all exhibited by Eisenhower’s command style during World War II and Connor advised his protégé to gain a position that enabled him to work with the brilliance of George C. Marshall. Although both men knew of each other and had brief encounters, they would not have any major connection for some twenty years until the start of World War II in 1939. 

Whereas Eisenhower did not serve in France during World War I, he had the unique opportunity to visit the battle sites with General John J. Pershing. The Battle Monuments Commission was established in 1923 to identify the different places that Americans fought from 1917-1918. While this was at first seen by Eisenhower as a limited position, he was in the presence of Pershing and he was able to show his considerable talents with his writing. Like that of the other senior officers, Pershing was extremely pleased with the ability of Eisenhower to accurately present the American contributions to this war.  Several years later when Pershing wrote his own memoirs, he asked Eisenhower to review the portions of this book that pertained to the battle sites that he commanded. In an interesting twist of fate, Eisenhower would again see these locations as the senior Allied commander during World War II.

In 1926, Eisenhower entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Missouri.  Armed with the knowledge of the terrain around Gettysburg, he was able to decisively speak about the tactics of this Civil War battle that made him shine amongst his fellow students. Graduating first in his class, he was given some help by his friend Patton who provided his notes to Eisenhower from his own time at this school. By the end of the 1920’s, Eisenhower completed the prestigious education through the War College. This school was established to train our future army leaders and Eisenhower was evaluated as being one of the most superior officers within his class. When he graduated his paper on mobilization was sent to the War Department, and some ten years later, his ideas were used during the tumultuous mobilization, training, and planning years of 1939-1941. 

In 1930, General Douglas MacArthur became the youngest Army Chief of Staff to hold this position.  While promotions were slow for Eisenhower, he was widely liked, and he continued to work with the best minds in the army.  As he respected the experience of MacArthur, Eisenhower did not like the the man’s ego and often clashed with some of his rash ideas. In 1932, World War I veterans widely suffered from the Great Depression and they descended on the capital to wage a massive protest. They sought an early payment of bonds that were promised to them for their service during the war. Army veterans organized themselves into groups, lobbied politicians, and slept on the lawn of the Capital Building.  

After there were hostile actions between the police and veterans, Hoover ordered MacArthur to use limited force to push these people out of Washington D.C.  Although MacArthur led many of these men, he was convinced that there were communist radicals intermixed within the protesters ranks and that they had to be driven out of the capital by excessive force. Eisenhower was appalled MacArthur’s action who he believed severely misinterpreted his orders from Hoover. As he later traveled with MacArthur to live in the Philippines to run their military, by 1939, he requested a transfer back to the states. He was burnt out for handling the numerous responsibilities of working for MacArthur and he wanted a fresh start away from this demanding officer. At this time, his son John asked him about entering West Point, Eisenhower stated that the army was good to him, but he would shortly be retiring as a colonel.

With World War II starting in Europe, General George C. Marshall was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the position of Army Chief of Staff. It was known that Marshall kept an eye on promising officers that he was bound to place in key leadership positions. While he barely knew Eisenhower, Marshall was giving a glowing recommendation by General Mark Clark on his effectiveness. At one point, Eisenhower believed that Patton was destined for the highest rank and responsibility. While Marshall respected Patton, Eisenhower was one of the few officers that understood the big military picture, he respected his planning during the 1941 military maneuvers, and his ability to solve complex problems with little help from others.  

From 1941-1944, Eisenhower in quick time went from an untried senior officer in battle, to organizing the greatest coalition ever assembled to defeat Hitler’s forces in Europe. As Eisenhower pondered attacking Normandy in the hours before the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings, his many decades of service, experiences, and relationships helped him make this momentous decision. Always armed with the will to succeed for this nation and the world against this totalitarian power, Eisenhower’s presence some seventy six years ago made the tremendous decision to bring the beginning of the end to Hitler’s terrible rule on the European mainland.

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 Rich Acritelli

Kindness, devotion, hard work, and determination; these are the words to describe the loyalty that the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook has toward its patients. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made their mission immensely difficult, this facility is carrying out its responsibilities to support our local veterans at this nursing home. This staff has adapted to the hardships of this virus, and they are finding different ways of helping many elderly veterans who have served in practically every military branch.

The vets home has created a multi-faceted program that helps people from Riverhead to Massapequa. Leading the way is Jean Brand, the Program Director of the Adult Day Health Care Program, with their efforts based in Stony Brook and in the homes of these older populations who rely on the services.  Even before the coronavirus changed operations, staff members have provided assistance in cooking, bathing and nutritional aid that allows for breakfast and lunch to be served along with taking home a meals for dinner. They also provided rehabilitation for physical and speech therapy programs. As the veterans ages range from the mid 60’s to over 100 years old, the staff’s devotion also allows the older counterparts to take a brief break in handling the rigors of treating their loved ones.  

From the start of the day, the state nursing home provides transportation to bring citizens that served from World War II, Korean and Vietnam to Stony Brook. Due to this current pandemic, the programs are now more home based. Although these were necessary changes, according to Brand, the organization is finding new ways to help these older citizens. Through a home delivery program, several meals a week are organized and distributed to the elderly. Brand and her staff are currently preparing food that is non-perishable and easy to eat. Deliveries also include necessary items that have been difficult to purchase such as toilet paper, masks, wipes, paper towels and soap. They have also sent home word puzzles and and other games to help keep their minds sharp and to pass the time, as many of these veterans that are spending numerous hours in their houses.

With many longterm relationships built up at Stony Brook, the staff misses these familiar faces and their stories of service of defending our nation during many trying times. Many of these men and women are considered family members to the staff. The entire staff, through expertise and professionalism, has for many years attended to the many diverse needs of these men and women. They have implemented telehealth to boost morale and at the same time to safely utilize social distancing initiatives to keep a watchful eye on the health of their patients. Although sending home food is a primary function of this program, many of these telephone calls are keeping the lines of communication open, and range from a simple hello to necessary inquiries about serious ailments.

Brand spoke about a unique program that was created to connect the patriotic stories of national service to the students of today. The Long Island Museum has worked with the vets home through a pen pal project which has younger men and women reach out to veterans to learn about their lives. Even as this has been tough period, this idea has developed relationships between different generations. Young people have seen and heard the examples of service by our senior population. This writing programs has also allowed younger students to identify the various issues that impacted the mobility and health concerns that have widely plagued older populations. 

Not since the days of the 1918 Spanish Flu has our nation had to handle a health crisis of this magnitude.  The numbers of the people that have been impacted are still staggering, but the efforts of places like the Long Island State Veterans Home continue to adapt and overcome many of these medical challenges that still pose a major concern to this country. This homecare program has completely shown the determination of longtime staff members like that of Brand and her fellow workers to help their patients before, during and after this sickness is finally subdued.

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

Port Jefferson EMS team has been on the front lines of the pandemic since its start. The team covers the Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson and Belle Terre communities. Photo from Michael Buckley

By Rich Acritelli

Working over 180 hours over the last two weeks, Paramedic Michael Buckley of Port Jefferson has been extremely busy providing dire medical attention to the North Shore community. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Buckley has been a key member of the Port Jefferson Emergency Medical Services. Around the clock, Buckley has been caring for patients in Belle Terre, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai. Like every American, he is looking forward for this nation to getting back to normal where he can go to the gym, see his friends and family, and go out to a nice dinner.

Michael Buckley in his military uniform with his brother Shawn. Photo from Buckley

Even during the interview, Buckley was called twice for services to bring sick residents to the Mather, St. Charles and Stony Brook University. It has been a trying period for our nation, but citizens like that of Buckley demonstrate their compassion to help other through perhaps the worst viral this nation has endured in recent memory. He is one of 250,000 Emergency Medical Service workers that immediately answers every type of health-related call. This particular ambulatory company is located on Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai and it is one of the nearly 22,000 transport medical organizations that answer an estimated 240 million calls made each year. During every type of weather condition, this ambulance company has tirelessly worked for the betterment of these local hamlets and villages.

This native of Port Jefferson completed his education at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington. He enjoyed playing football, excelling at his grades, and continuing the strong tradition of family members that worked and went to this school.  As a young man, Buckley was an Emergency Medical Technician who worked closely with ambulance crews. After graduating in 2008, Buckley was accepted to St. Johns University in Jamaica, Queens. During his college years, he majored in business management and was accepted into the Officer Candid School for the military at his college.   

After earning his degree in 2012, Buckley enlisted into the U.S. Army in 2013 where he completed his Basic Training and Officer Candid School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was later ordered to Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was later commissioned as a field artillery officer before being transferred to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was assigned to the field artillery for the combat renown 82nd Airborne Division.  With this elite unit, Buckley earned his wings and eventually made thirteen training jumps. Currently, he is a captain at reserve military base in Farmingdale, where he assists the enlistment of former officers through the Army Reserve Career Division.

This extensive military training has prepared Buckley for the rigors of being on the front lines of dealing with COVID-19. Every day, he is covered from head to toe with protective gear, including a N95 face mask and shield, gloves, goggles and a protective gown. As he still handles every type of medical call, Buckley responds to numerous suspected Covid-19 emergencies that bring people to the three major local hospitals. With twenty words or less, the ambulances quickly communicate with emergency rooms to inform them of the severity of the call. While Buckley does not know the name of every medical professional in these sick bays, he is always amazed at their unyielding devotion to help other during this crisis.

Chief Rob Stoessel is an executive director of this ambulance service and he is extremely proud in how hard his crews are working during this crisis. As he believes that there are less cardiac and respiratory calls, the COVID-19 cases are hampering the process of bringing patients to the hospital. With these crews wearing extensive protective clothing and constantly cleaning their vehicles, equipment and themselves after every call, it has been a daily challenge to carry out their tasks. In order to protect these men and women, they can take showers and wear clean clothing before they drive home in their own cars. The Port Jeff EMS has increased its mobile fleet to five ambulances and three emergency service vehicles that are operating during all hours of every day. Stoessel said he wanted to thank his EMTs who were students at Stony Brook University. For a time, many of these student-volunteers were without housing, but they have shown an extreme amount of comradery to support the operations of the ambulance company.  Currently, some of these volunteers are staying at Danford’s Hotel in Port Jefferson.   

Buckley said he believes that the “social distancing” has been working, but people still need to stay home and away from each other. Driving numerous hours through our local towns, Buckley has seen a tremendous growth in the use of face masks and gloves. From his own observations, he sees the importance of listening to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and following the guidelines issued by the Center by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Even as Buckley has been working through this daunting physical and mental schedule, he has been enrolled at the Farmingdale State College. He is using his Montgomery GI Bill to complete the necessary prerequisites to be accepted by a future medical school. With a wealth of military and health background, he is determined to help future citizens in becoming an emergency room doctor. Stoessel said he has been highly impressed by the skills and dedication of Buckley and he believes that this paramedic “represents all that is good with this country.”