ALBANY CONTRIBUTED MUCH TO WAR EFFORTS

Rekha Basu The Knickerbocker News
Section: TRICENTENNIAL,  Page: T50

Date: Sunday, July 6, 1986

From the christening of the first USS Albany during the Spanish- American War to blackouts and air raids during World War II and anti- Vietnam War protests in the 1960s, the last 100 years in New York's capital city have been marked by the direct and indirect effects of war.


At the far end of Townsend Park, located at Northern Boulevard and Central and Washington avenues, there is a bronze statue of a soldier with a gun, poised for battle. Sculpted by the late Albany artist Dave Lithgow, the statue pays tribute to the city's role in the Spanish-American War. The brief war, from 1898 to 1899, claimed its share of Albany lives, although the volunteers who enlisted in the four companies in the First Provisional Regiment of the old 10th Battalion, based at the Washington Avenue Armory, never made it into combat. Instead they went to Hawaii in anticipation of a Spanish attack.


Among those who were killed was Albany Academy graduate Charles Dwight Sigsbee, commander of the USS Maine when it exploded in Havana Harbor in 1898.


Lt. Thomas Wansboro of Albany, an officer in the U.S. 7th Cavalry, was shot in the heart during the battle of El Caney. His body was returned to Albany in 1898 for one of the greatest military funerals in the city's history.


In Albany, production of war goods was stepped up. The Albany Chemical Co. doubled its capacity to produce a gunpowder substance, while the General Chemical Co. was formed in 1899, consolidating production of 12 smaller Albany County firms engaged in war production.


Albany citizens successfully petitioned to have a Brazilian navy cruiser being constructed in a British shipyard named the USS Albany. It was the first Navy vessel launched abroad, although it was completed too late for combat. In 1903 Albanians collected $10,000 for a silver service for the ship.


Several years later, with the outbreak of World War I, Albanians contributed $65 million to the war effort, most of it raised through Liberty Loan Drives for the sale of Liberty Bonds, according to a book called "Albany's Part in the World War." Residents also contributed through collections by thrift stores and such organizations as the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the Knights of Columbus.


When America entered World War I, 10,000 Albany men registered for the draft. Albany's National Guard units were called up in July 1917.


In his book, "Albany: Capital City on the Hudson," John J. McEneny reported 300 Albany men died before the armistice ending the war was reached on Nov. 11, 1918.


Albany Hospital launched a medical unit which served with distinction in England as Base Hospital 33. Ten Albany soldiers received special recognition from the United States and other governments.


Parker Dunn, for whom the Dunn Memorial Bridge between Albany and Rensselaer is named, was killed in 1918 by German machine gun fire as a volunteer running to the front lines to relay information. Dunn was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.


With America's entrance into World War II in December 1941, blackouts, food and commodities shortages, air raid drills and other defense measures became part of life in Albany.


Acting Mayor Herman Hoogkamp - who became the city's chief executive when Erastus Corning 2nd joined the Army - and city department heads instituted an anti-sabotage program to protect the city's residents and industries, as well as the municipal airport and the water supply.


Guards grounded all unauthorized private planes at the Albany County Airport, and tight restrictions were placed at the Port of Albany. The port was taken over by the federal government and used as a storage depot for war supplies and military vehicles, according to Frank Dunham, Jr. a retired port general manager.


After the war, ships at the port were loaded with 8,000 tons of grain from the Midwest and sent daily to war- devastated countries in Europe under the Marshall Plan, Dunham said.


A bomb-proof operating base for the city's defense leaders was established in the basement of Albany police headquarters. City police and firefighters were trained in air raid defense measures and in fighting bomb fires.


The Albany City and County War Councils were formed Aug. 1, 1941, for civilian defense. There was also an Albany office of Civilian War Mobilization.


Albany's first test blackout was conducted Jan. 13, 1942, and lasted 10 minutes. By September, there had been seven in the city.


Albany women became active volunteers in the Women's Division of the First Aid Council. Volunteers also turned out in droves to donate blood. By May 24, 1945, The Knickerbocker News reported that Albany blood donors had given 40,486 pints for the armed forces.


A number of Albany companies manufactured war products. Albany Chemical Co. made ether, chloroform, acetone and other products; Consolidated Car Heating Co. produced joints for merchant and naval vessels; Wheeler Paper Co. had a major contract for toilet paper and paper towels; and A.A. Walter & Co. had a contract to provide 1 million pounds of dry powdered soup a month.


Also, Hall, Hartwell & Co. made hand grenade aprons and Army shirts; Cadby & Sons made cardboard packing for airplane parts; Burdick & Son made trench foot powder containers; and Hatch Knitting Co. made cotton underwear for the Army and Navy.


Albany had many World War II heroes. The city's most decorated soldier was Col. Gerald C. Kelleher, who received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with Five Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart as well as decorations from England, France and the Soviet Union.


Rear Admiral Francis L. Low received the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service as the commanding officer of the USS Wichita in action against Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands between December 1942 and March 1943.


The city also had a conscientious objector named Reynolds G. Dennis, who was jailed in federal prison for 18 months after refusing to be sworn in to the Army. On Oct. 18, 1940, Dennis claimed exemption saying he was a "disciple of the Lemurian Theory of Cosmic Conception," which forbade him from taking part in war. His case was rejected because the sect wasn't recognized.


Although many city residents served in the Korean War between June 1950 and July 1953, daily life in Albany did not see the same disruptions that accompanied World War II.


Robert Mulligan, Jr., associate curator of history for the State Museum, recalled there were some food shortages in the city.


"I can remember my father saying at a Sunday dinner that, 'This is the first time we've had steak in over a year,'" he said. "And we were certainly not poor."


Albany was no stranger to the protests that marked the Vietnam War era. The Capitol and Post Office building on Broadway were rallying spots for demonstrations, organized by such groups as the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Albany chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.


At the same time, efforts were underway to aid war veterans and troops. In 1966, The Times-Union co- sponsored "Operation Pen Pal" and sent 7,400 books to American troops in Vietnam.


In March 1968, Mayor Corning called for volunteers to contact and offer help to returning veterans and, in 1969, he announced the city would not become officially involved in Moratorium Day, which drew 8,000 people at a Capitol rally.


The city also had its share of heroes during the Vietnam War. Among them were: Marine First Lt. John B. Giles, who received the Bronze Star Medal for his valor under hostile fire in action; Maj. Michael J. Dugan, a 29- year- old combat pilot awarded the Silver Star for helping Army Special Forces trapped by the Viet Cong; and Air Force Maj. Joseph J. Foster, a pilot who received seven decorations for risking his life to save Vietnamese civilians.