by Doris Wolf
Sampson’s military museum pays tribute to the park’s role as a training site for WWII Navy boots and Korean Conflict Air Force airmen.
Sometimes, while browsing through the exhibits of sailor’s ditty bags or Air Force flight simulators, you get to see those magical moments when something tweaks Grandpa’s memory and he begins to tell his grandson about his life in the war. His son, the boy’s father, listens with tears in his eyes, “I never knew.”
One of the hidden treasures in Seneca County, the Sampson Military Museum is open for the season from 9:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 9:00 to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Museum Director Dolores Dinsmore said the museum was begun in 1986, when WWII Navy vets decided to create “a living history to educate the generations.” The museum is located in the former Sampson Naval Training Center brig. Attractive exhibits include a periscope that rises through the roof to scan Seneca Lake. It houses the largest collection of company photos in existence. “The Navy destroyed their photos, so we have them as families fill in the collection,” Dinsmore said. “We also have a limited list of names of men who trained here.”
In 1995, the Sampson Air Force Veterans Association established a museum in one of the side of the brig, which is a hollow square with a courtyard paved in commemorative bricks. The Air Force museum presents an overview of the life here during the six weeks of training. Sampson was opened at the start of the US Air Force which was created in 1950.
In addition to the flight simulator, the Air Force section has uniforms, sand a library of photos.
Tours are available of the museum, including a self-guided tour. Sometimes museum visitors are in for a special treat, when WWII Navy vets or Korean Air Force vets volunteer at the museum to give tours and meet the public. “Tom Kirk, one of the original Air Force training instructors are still here doing tours,” Dinsmore said.
On Aug. 4, the Friends of Sampson State Park will host Salute to the Troops, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will have exhibits of military weapons, dress and lifestyles from the French and Indian War to the present. Additional exhibits will be the Doughnut Dollies of the Red Cross, War Dogs, military vehicles, weapons firing, local historical societies, and a military fitness trail. Entry to the park is $7 per carload.
Following the Salute to the Troops, Seneca County Historian Walt Gable and local historians will present a program on the history of Sampson in the recreational building in honor of the 70th anniversary of Sampson. For more information, contact Doris Wolf at 315 246 7580.