In June, the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, based at Fort Drum in Jefferson County, released a draft programmatic environmental assessment titled “Fort Drum 10th Mountain Combat Aviation Brigade and 10th Sustainment Brigade Mission and Training Activities” that outlined ambitious “air and land-based training activities” to possibly take place across nine counties in Upstate New York, including four (St. Lawrence, Lewis, Oneida, Herkimer) that are partially within the Adirondack Park, and two (Hamilton, Essex) that are entirely within the Adirondack Park Blue Line. (Henceforth the Programmatic Environmental Assessment will be referred to as the “PEA”).
Posts Tagged ‘Fort Drum’
Back in June something occurred with potentially great significance for the Adirondack Park that flew below the proverbial radar. That month, a letter was mailed from the U.S. Army at Ft. Drum to selected agencies notifying them that “Fort Drum is initiating agency coordination for a new proposed action within the existing nine county Local Flying Area surrounding Fort Drum’s Installation Restricted Airspace area.”
That nine county Local Flying Area includes large portions of the Adirondack Park.
Interestingly, the Army’s letter and lengthy environmental assessment document never mentions the existence or the significance of the Adirondack Park, or of the Forest Preserve, or of state constitutional protection under Article 14.
Yet during the last world war (let’s hope it was the last), followers of Hitler and Mussolini populated the North Country. Volumes have been written about the suffering endured in POW camps, but for countries adhering to the Geneva Conventions, there was a clear set of rules to follow. Among them was that prisoners must receive adequate provisions and supplies (food, clothing, living quarters), and if put to work, they must be paid. » Continue Reading.
Two hundred years ago this week, Napoléon Bonaparte was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. With the collapse of his army, Bonaparte abdicated and made his way to the French port of Rochefort where he was met by his oldest brother, Joseph Bonaparte.
At Rochefort Joseph had dinner with Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont (known in America as James LeRay de Chaumont, founder of the Town of LeRay, NY), who had been in Paris promoting his land development scheme in the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
It’s the 1940s, and a world war is raging overseas. The fear of a homeland invasion is constant, and in communities across the nation, air wardens monitor the sky daily for enemy planes. The Adirondack Park seems like a safe haven, but just a few miles from its northwest corner, a military installation is suddenly called to action. A large aircraft has penetrated US air space, and ground damage is reported. Sheriff’s deputies, New York State police, military MPs, and foot troops spring into action.
It’s a great show of force, but it’s not enough. After several unsuccessful encounters with the vessel, reinforcements are needed. Corporal Boyd Montgomery of the 34th Armored Regiment is dispatched, speeding across the countryside in an Army tank. Power lines are downed by the aircraft, but Montgomery continues his pursuit. Two miles into the chase, he employs a bit of ingenuity to bring the craft down. It is now nothing more than a flattened heap.
That’s how it happened in July 1943. It’s all true, but with a few details omitted. The craft that was spotted actually was huge—75 feet long—and it did come from a foreign land—Canada (Kingston, Ontario). The damage was no less real, as a dangling cable tore down power lines between Evans Mills and Philadelphia in Jefferson County. Lawmen from several agencies did pursue the craft, but three times it slipped from their grasp.
The military installation was Pine Camp, later expanded and renamed Fort Drum. And, it was an Army tank that provided the solution, driving atop the 1800-foot-long cable after a two-mile chase, forcing the vessel to the ground until nothing was left but a flattened balloon.
That’s right … a balloon. But this wasn’t just any balloon. A staple of defense systems around the world, this was a Barrage Balloon. If you’ve never heard of them, you’ve probably seen them in photographs but didn’t realize what you were seeing at the time. Though they weren’t ever deployed in the Adirondacks, they did pay the area a few surprise visits during the war.
The primary use of Barrage Balloons was to prevent attacks by low-flying aircraft, and it was in WW II that they became ubiquitous. A heavy cable was used to tether the gas-filled balloons, and when hovering from a few hundred to 4,000 feet high, the effect was often deadly. Any dive-bombing aircraft had to avoid the cable tether, which could easily tear a wing off and cause the plane to crash. Besides negating low-level attacks, the balloons forced other planes to fly higher than intended on bombing runs, thus affecting their accuracy.
Many tethered balloons were flown simultaneously, and the result was multiplied when several additional cables were suspended from each balloon, providing a veritable curtain of protection from strafing aircraft. The Germans countered by equipping their planes with wing-mounted cable-cutting devices, and the British responded with explosive charges attached to many of the tethers, set to detonate on contact.
The balloon idea caught on in a big way in England, and was often used effectively. During one of the two major German onslaughts on London during the war, 278 Flying Bombs were intercepted by the balloons, surely saving many lives.
In summer 1941, British officers warned America that Nazi planes could fly at 20,000 feet and reach the US mainland within 12 hours, with no defense system to greet them. Months before the United States entered WW II, the Navy established two Barrage Balloon squadrons with more than 150 balloons. Intended to protect American fleet bases from air attacks, the balloon strategy was very popular for another reason: cost. Building a large coastal hangar involved an expenditure of $600,000; a more secure underground facility carried a price tag of $3 million; but each balloon cost only $9,500.
After the assault on Pearl Harbor, America employed an extensive balloon defense capability. Attacks were feared by the Germans on the east coast and by the Japanese on the west coast. San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle were among the cities protected in part by Barrage Balloons, along with Norfolk, Pensacola, and New York City in the east. Vital facilities in the Great Lakes were also shielded.
Many North Country men were assigned to Barrage Balloon outfits, and it was anything but a cushy job. Since troops as well as installations needed protection, balloon men were often among the first ashore, as was the case in several beach landings in Italy and North Africa. And, on D-Day, Barrage Balloons dotted the sky above the invasion fleet.
Back home in America, balloons occasionally broke free and floated towards the North Country, causing a bit of excitement. Sometimes rogue balloons escaped capture for extended periods (the Fort Drum balloon was loose for more than a week).
In March 1943, a hulking Barrage Balloon 65 feet long and 30 feet in diameter toured the Central Adirondacks for a time, damaging power lines before snagging in a balsam tree a few miles south of Indian Lake, where a crew of men managed to deflate it.
To raise public awareness of the war effort and relieve anxiety about the occasional balloon escapee, the military dispatched a road crew in an Army jeep with a smaller, 35-foot balloon strapped to the roof. In summer 1944 they visited Troy, New York. The craft was inflated and floated at 300 feet for an entire day while the men fielded questions. It was the same model as those used to defend the city of London and the beaches of Normandy.
Towards the end of the war, German capabilities of long-range attacks drastically reduced the effectiveness of the balloons, and in 1945, Britain ended their Barrage Balloon program, which at one time had upwards of 3,000 in use. The same was done with the US system, which once featured more than 400 balloons at home besides those deployed overseas.
Barrage Balloon on the cover of LIFE magazine.
The training facility on Parris Island, South Carolina (1943).
Barrage Balloons above the Normandy shore (1944).
German plane equipped with a cable-cutting device.
Lawrence Gooley has authored eight books and several articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004 and have recently begun to expand their services and publishing work. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.
The Glens Falls Post Star today is telling us all about Earl Allen, who (according to the photo cutline) “owns more than 200 acres in the Adirondack Park and has fought with the state to keep every bit of it.” Apparently in newspeak when you’re asked to sell your two and one half acre piece of land in the middle of the wilderness area to the state for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers, you are fighting the state to keep your more than 200 acres of land.
It’s no surprise that the Post Star panders to the right wing anti-Adirondack Park types. There used to be a William “Bill” Doolittle (the Will Doolittle of the Post Star or his father? Not that Will Doolittle) who was a one-time publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and former President of the Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce. He moved from New Jersey and then outwardly positioned his paper to support the radical right “natives vs the state” mentality – he even suggested the hands across the mountains emblem for the developer front-group League for Adirondack Citizens’ Rights (now long defunct) and suggested to them that they make connections between their fight to eliminate environmental protection of the Adirondacks to the Patriot cause in the American Revolution.
Three items in the Post Star article bothered us here at the Almanack:
“One Johnsburg town official, who requested his name be withheld for fear of retribution, likened state land to cancer.” Apparently, in Johnsburg you can get elected by lying to your constituents, or at least keeping them from the truth of your views.
” ‘I wouldn’t give the state nothing,’ [Allen] said sharply during an interview earlier this month, his 80-year-old hand balling into a fist on his dining room table. ” Now we can guess that Mr. Allen doesn’t really mean that he “wouldn’t give the state nothing,” what he really means is that if it’s his private preserve, surrounded by state forest, he’s not going to give it up. We assume he doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t serve his country in time of war, or send his children or grandchildren to do the same. We assume that even though the state no doubt gives plenty to him and his town (which has just received nearly a million dollars in tax dollars for development), he certainly can not be drawing Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, sending his kids to public schools, or driving on state or county roads – can he? When he is ready to leave this world he’s not going to ride in a partially state funded Johnsburg ambulance – is he?
Now for the funny part. Here’s a couple of gems:
It seems Mr. Allen is “still bitter about the burning” of Fox Lair, a resort for the rich that was turned into a rich boys summer camp until it was burned to the ground when the state purchased the land in the 1970s. Mr. Allen – It’s our land! We own it! You don’t want to sell yours and we wanted to clear the rich kids camp off ours! Maybe you should apply your property rights to someone besides yourself.
“You can drive anywhere in the state, anywhere in the park and not have any recollection of what was there 100 years ago in some places,” J.R. Risley, the Town Supervisor of Inlet, said. Ohhh… Mr. Risley we support your newfound devotion to historic preservation! That’s why environmentalist want to see wilderness instead of New Jersey-style development!
The problem is that you want to return to a time when the developers (Railroads, Tanning, Mining, and Lumber firms) took advantage of their friends in the State Legislature to clear-cut, cause devastating fires, and horrific depletion of topsoil, dams that flooded farmland and villages alike. The problem is, Mr. Allen and Mr. Risley – you don’t know your history!
So – here we are to give you some details:
Army archaeologists already have identified a major Iroquois village in the middle of the post with dozens of lesser sites scattered around the installation. Rush said nearly 200 significant sites have been located on post. Among them: Near the boat-building site, Rush and her colleagues have marked out a 5,000-year-old Indian village.
100 years indeed.
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