In Honor of the Official Sampson Air Force Base Veterans Association Inc.
------ Portal To Air Power ------
Note: This is a restored webpage from notes I could find. It was written and mostly developed around the 2006 - 2012 era. I have been given permission by one of the SAFBVA members to restore and preserve the history as accurately as possible. Thank you for viewing history. If you would like to add historical information on this page, just email me at - and I will add your request and cite your work.

The History

Sampson Air Force Base was located on the eastern shore of Lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes region of New York, covering an initial area of 2600 acres. The original construction was authorized in May 1942, to serve as a Naval Training Station, (USNTS Sampson, NY) during 1942-1945. being completed in 270 days from the start of construction. It later served as an Air Force Basic Training Center during the Korean War era (1950-1956). It is estimated that 411,000+ Navy personnel and 330,000+ Air Force completed their training at the Sampson installation. Over various time periods, the facility has served many different purposes, including its current designation as Sampson State Park.

Sign on Rte 96A South at Sampson State Park Entrance

Flag poles and view as approaching Museum

The Sampson Air Force Museum and Memorial Naval Museum are currently located in the building which was formerly the old stockade/brig. The displays for both the Navy and Air Force are quite extensive, including two restored military aircraft and a working submarine periscope. Both Museums were funded primarily via contributions and fund-raising activities.

SAFBVA Memorial Museum Sign



In Memory of my father who attended FLT 1926 3660 BMTS (1952)

Group photo of FLT. 1926, 3660 BMTS
My father is three rows up, fourth from the right.

September 1952





Remembering Our Departed Comrades – "of the SAFB Veterans Association and Sampson Air Force Base"

.....and they shall be remembered for their names and for their deeds and for the ways in which they have touched the lives of those who remained behind to honor them…..G.F. Kilthau 1998

September 2003 - The Falcon Memorial Statue in memory of deceased SAFBVets is dedicated.



SAFBVA Historian


This column is intended to refresh our memories regarding the who/what/when/where of the place we lovingly call “Sampson.” It is hoped the following will bring back many fond memories – rather than KP, Guard Mount and frigid winters.

Jerry Hopfengardner

3650th Air Force Indoctrination Wing
(Source: The Sampson AFB Story; 2nd Ed. 2007; J.D. Hopfengardner)

Named After: Rear Admiral William Thomas Sampson, U.S. Navy, Palmyra, NY native. Also name of Sampson Naval Training Center (trained 411,429 "boots" 1942-1945)

Depth of Seneca Lake: 618 ft (claimed to be the deepest lake East of the Mississippi) - flows South to North

Dates of Operation & Number of Basic Trainees: 10 November 1950 - 3 September 1956 - trained approximately 330,000 Basic Airmen

Area of Base: 2,597 acres - approximately 4.5 x 1.7 miles - excluding Air Strip

Base Commanders:

Lt Col Karl L. Springer (8 Dec 50 - 11 Dec 50) (yes, dates are correct.)

Col Frederick W. Ott (11 Dec 50 - 15 Jan 51) (Another brief stint.)

Maj Gen Frank A. Armstrong (15 Jan 51 - 7 May 51) (Ditto!)

Brig/Maj Gen Norris B. Harbold (7 May 51 - 19 Jul 52)

Maj Gen Richard C. Lindsay (19 Jul 52 - 21 Mar 54)

Brig Gen Wycliffe E. Steele (31 Mar 54 - __ May 56)

Col Richard C. Boys (__ May 56 - 3 Sep 56)

Mascot: Sabres (F-86 Sabre jet fighter aircraft)

Drill Halls: E-4, G-4 and H-4; F-3 was Forrest Gymnasium for permant party - dimensions 608' x 120' (including indoor pool, 6 basketball courts and multi-purpose room)

Dining Halls: for training: C-2 (1950-53), D-1, E-2, G-1 and H-2; B-1 was permanent party; P-9 officers; Q-44 hospital - F-4 housed Personnel Services, Seating capacity of C, D, E, G and H: 1,840 per seating.

Academic Buildings: K-2, K-3 and K-4 (K-1 existed during Naval Station, but later "Vanished")

Drill Fields: Areas C, D, E, F, G, H - 500 x 1,000 feet

Base Exchanges: Trainees: E-20, G-20 and H-20, Hospital Area; B-19: was permanent party

Newspapers: (Listed in chronological order; Information courtesy of SAFBVA Member Ben Fisher)

You Name It - (prior to 15 Mar 51)

Wing Tips - 26 issues (15 Mar 51 - 14 Sep 51)

Portal Journal - (21 Sep 51 - 25 May 56 (Vol. 6, No. 5))

Chapels: 2 free-standing chapels (A-7 and E-33); Hospital. Throughout SAFB existence Chaplains' Department held totals of 421, 313 religious services for 2,106,065 attendees (Remember the revolving altars and 48 state flags on the walls?)

Air Strip: East side of NY Route 96-A just south of SAFB main gate - opened 13 Nov 53 - 5,000' hard surface runway (still intact with control tower and general service building)

Civilian Airline Service: Mohawk Airline 25 Apr 54 - 30 Jun 56; SAFB Air Strip

Basic Training Flights: ranged in size - 30, 60, 72 (most common) and 80 trainees; ranged in length, # of weeks - 6 ("split training" - SAFB and tech school/OJT), 10 and 12 weeks

SAFBVA Presidents:

Karl Grantier (1994 - 97)

Tom Little (1997) *

Allan Dean (1997 - 98) *

Lynn Brown (1998 - 2001)

Bill Thomas (2001 - 03)

Jim Dockstader (2003 - 05) *

Chip Phillips (2005 - 09) *

Dick Schweitzer (2009 - present)

* = deceased

Arguably the Sharpest Basic Training Squadron: 3691st BMTS - Historian/Author couldn't resist exerting writer's pre-rogative! Reactions welcomed!!

Note: This section was written as it was on the original website in 2017


The Base - Then and Now

View of Sampson AFB, NY (About late 1950 to early 1951)



Historical Photos

Photos Below from Left to Right in each Row


01 - Sampson AFB 1951 aerial view (not including the hospital area)

02 - Workmen repairing spur railroad

03 - Another view of railroad repair

04 - Mess hall wreckage



05 - Shower room damage

06 - Broken plumbing in a latrine

07 - Some of the 47,000 broken windows

08 - Another view of broken windows


09 - At last... A barracks ready to use! Sampson AFB was a real mess back in 1950

10 - First Retreat at Temporary HQ

11 - First Retreat at Permanent HQ

12 - Col. Ott greets Gen. Armstrong



13 - First Wedding at Base Chapel

14 - Interior of Base Auditrium

15 - Field Ranges and Small Refrigerators

16 - Christmas Dinner in the Temporary Mess Hall


17 - Ovens in Mess Hall

18 - "Going After It" with Deep Fryers

19 - Inside a 5,000 seat Mess Hall

20 - 1 of 6 Serving Lines in Big Mess Hall - In 1951, things began to "shape up"



21 - First 3650th BMTG Retreat

22 - First Permanent Party Troop Train

23 - Bus takes Permanent Party to Barracks

24 - Col. Springer and First 2 WAF Permanent Party



25 - Maj. McClosky and First 6 Nurses

26 - How to Make a Bed Demonstration

27 - Nurses at Work

28 - Exterior of One of the Drill Halls



29 - Interior of Lou Gehrig Gymnasium

30 - Some of the Pier on Seneca Lake

31 - Swimming Pool in One of the Drill Halls

(Missing two original pages of photos)



Sampson AFB Memories


Sampson Vets - "Do You Remember The Base"




Highlights of Period 1942-1950


May 14: United States enters W W II, US Navy selects Lake Seneca site as naval training facility. 2,597 acres of farmlands and vineyards were designated for construction of the facility. Construction was completed in 270 days at a cost of approximately $56 million.


February 27: 1500 bed hospital commissioned. This facility served as a medical complex for a variety of organizations for the next twenty years.


September: New York State authorizes two year junior-community colleges. Sampson selected as a ready made facility as one of three sites in addition to Plattsburg and Utica.


July 1: Sampson Naval Training Center decommissioned. More than 411,429 “boots” were trained at this facility.

December: Hospital transferred to the Veterans Administration. Due to low number of patients, it was returned to the Navy.


December: New York State with the transfer of 1000 elderly patients took over the hospital and named it the Willard State Hospital Sampson Annex.


July 30: The U.S. Department of Agriculture utilizes various drill halls and warehouses as granaries. More than 110,000 bushels of wheat and 15,000 sacks of beans were stored at Sampson until the Air force took over the base.


New York State appropriates $50,000 for the creation of a state park at Sampson. With the start of the Korean War, the need arose for the opening of an additional military training center. With the Air Force establishing Sampson AFB, the park project was cancelled.



1950 - 1956 Air Force Training Facility


October 15: Lt. Col. Kreeber, USAF, arrives on base to survey inactive naval training center and determines its suitability as an Air Force indoctrination center.

November 14: Air Training Command assumes temporary jurisdiction of the base and designates it as Sampson AFB.

December 10: Rehabilitation of base begins with awarding of contract to Five-Bore-Malan Construction, Company.


January 16: Maj. Gen. Frank A. Armstrong assumes command.

February 1: First trainees arrive.

May 6: Base Hospital in Quinn Area opens.

May 7: Brig. Gen. Norris B. Harbold assumes command.

May 19: Sampson AFB observes its first Armed Forces Day program.

July 1: Thirty-one first classmen from the United States Military Academy at West Point arrive on base for participation in the basic training program.

September 15: Sampsonaires 45-voice male chorus formed.


January 9: Construction of base firing range at Quinn area commences.

June 12: Last of base rehabilitation contracts completed.

July 19: Maj. Gen. Richard C. Lindsay succeeds Maj. Gen. Norris B. Harbold as commander.

August 22: 100,000th trainee, Charles J. Majon of Philadelphia, arrives at Sampson AFB.

October 20: Student leadership program initiated.

October 24: First Air Force Information Hour opens in Knight Building.

November 12: First base swimming pool opens in Ent Drill Hall.


January 28: Airstrip construction is started by C. J. Langenfelder and sons Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland.

February 9: Nine week basic military training course placed in operation.

February 14: Sampson AFB participates in Exercise Cold Spot with 9th and 18th Air Force Units.

June 27: First contingent of newly-commissioned Air Force ROTC graduates arrive for processing.

November 22: An L-20, first plane to use Sampson’s new air-strip, landed with Lt. Gen. Robert W. Harper and Maj. Gen. Richard C Lindsay aboard.

November 1: Formal dedication of new USO headquarters in Geneva.

November 5: Ten week basic military training course implemented.

December 17: Faktor Aeronautical Museum opens.

December 21: Aircraft assigned to Sampson AFB and formerly stationed at Hancock Field, Syracuse, moves here.


January 18: Conduct first commercial airline movement from Sampson Airstrip.

February 1: Basic military training course increased to eleven weeks.

March 1: Chaplain (Lt. Col.) John F. Smeltzer, succeeds Lt. Col. Aubrey C. Halsell as Wing Chaplain.

March 31: Brig. Gen. Wycliffe B. Steele assumes command.

April 25: Mohawk Airlines inaugurates commercial air service.

April 26: First airmail received and dispatched at Sampson airstrip.

May 11: First meeting of the newly organized Non-Commissioned Officer Advisory Committee held.

May 15: Prior Service Military training course No. BT00014 placed in operation. Flights of prior service trainees entered a 15-day training program.

June 2: Sampson’s Trailor Park in Yarborough Area officially opened. T/Sgt. W.E. Melster was the first occupant to move in and occupy a trailer space.

June 29: Student Council system revived and become a part of the basic training program.

July 1: The new industrial accounting system became effective in the Budget and Accounting Division of the Wing Comptroller’s Office.

August 4: Centralized Base Clearance unit opened in Aldrich Area.

September 10: Civilian Service Center located in Building A-23 officially opened in appropriate ceremonies.

October 11: Sampson provided 142 airmen for reassigment to Parks Air Force Base, California . Basic military training program reactivated there.

October 22: Manual telephone system converted to automatic dial.

Decenber 31: Non-commissioned Officer’s housing requirements were improved by the conversion of 18 apartments from one to two bedroom units.


January 6: Student Leadership Program terminated by 3650th Basic Military Training Group.

February 23: Major General Carl A. Brandt arrived at Sampson Air Force Base for initial visit since his appointment as Commander,Technical Training Air Force.

March 24: The 3650th Installations Squadron redesignated the 3650th Installations Group and reassigned from the 3650th Air Base Group to the 3650th Military Training Wing.

April 13: The 3650th Personnel Processing Squadron transferred from the 3650th Military Training Wing to the 3650th Basic Mlitary Training Group.

May 21: Armed Forces Day observed jointly by Sampson Air Force Base and Seneca Ordnance Depot

June 15: Sampson Air Force Base joined surrounding civilian areas in observance of Operations Alert-1955.

July 5: Split-Clothing Issue and Dual Classification and Assignment Interview System were innovations introduced in the basic military training program at this base.

September 9: Input to General Instructor School increased and the school went on a two shift system.

October 10: Last flight of prior service enlistee airmen graduated and Sampson discontinued providing this type of training

November 1: Staff Visitation Program placed in operation.

November 1: Sampson’s Finance Office discontinues financial services to military and civilian personnel assigned to Seneca Ordnance Depot.

November 14: Teaching of Mathematics discontinued in Sampson’s basic Military training program.

December 1: A total of 330 housing units were administered as rental property under the Lanham Act.

December 5: Cross-training program for Tactical and Academic instructors placed in operation.

December 29: Sampson Air Force Base received permission to close down the General Instuctor School.


The following taken from the Geneva Daily Times--1956

5 January: Attend the ‘Keep Sampson’ Rally tonight, Hotel Seneca, 8 p.m.

19 January: Sampson Omitted in Fund Request--by Defense Department.

20 January: Sampson Meeting Tuesday; Senator Taber Pledges ‘Best Efforts’ With Air Secretary

23 January: (Senator) Ives Backs Proposal to Move Mitchel Air Base to Sampson.

24 January: Air Force ‘Far From Decision’ on Sampson.--Senator Ives, Taber Meet on Future of Air Base.

30 January: The $64 Dollar Question---What Will Happen to Sampson?.

15 February: Permanent Party to Pull KP, Guard Duty at Sampson---Not Enough Trainees

28 February: Mohawk Slices Flights in Half in Wake of Cutbacks at Sampson---Five Flights Daily

19 March: 1,200 Bed Hospital at Sampson Down to About 350 Patients--- Due to Trainee Cut Back

12 April: Sampson will Close - Air Force Announces

13 April: Base Awaits Closing Orders

The following plans were received by The Times from an unofficial source:

1. End trainee output this month and provide for the last trainee to leave the base by June 30

2. Evacuate Hospital by 31 July

3. Reduce civilian employment to 387 in July, 312 in August, 258 in September, and 203 in October

4. Reduce permanent party military strenght to 461 Officers and 2,382 Airmen by June 30

5. Transfer Airfield and its facilities to another agency

14 April: Sale of Sampson to Industry Seen Likely

28 April: ‘Operation Closeout’ at Sampson

28 September: Griffiss Air Base to Take Over Responsibilities for Sampson AFB as ‘Caretakers’


* Source: Portal To Air Power The Sampson AFB Story .



Highlights of Period 1956 - 2006


August: New York State Legislature authorizes the Federal Government to transfer Sampson Air Force Base to the State for use as a public park.


Airstrip deeded to the Army to be known as Seneca Army Air Field.


New York State purchases and assumes ownership of all tracts of land at a cost of $500,000. Buildings were dismantled and materials were sold for re-usage throughout the Finger Lakes Region. One of the Drill Halls is now in use at Middlebury College, Vermont . Major roads and identification signs remain today.


Sampson WW- 2 Navy Veterans Association Inc. is established


The State of New York grants usage of the old brig to the Navy Vets for the establishment of a museum.

The Navy Vet’s first annual reunion is held.


September: The Sampson Veterans Association was incorporated.


March: The Association became tenants of the facility.

June: Association members meet with Sampson State Park Manager to evaluate the condition of the stockade for use as a museum.


The Association begins renovation of the stockade for use as a museum.


The Association contributed a plaque to the Memorial Park, U. S. Air Force Museum, Dayton, Ohio to commemorate the Sampson Air Force Base era.


The Air Force Museum approves the loan of a T 33 aircraft to the Association for use as a museum static display.

September: The Falcon Memorial Statue in memory of deceased SAFBVets is dedicated.


November: The State of New York as committed $500.000 in an effort to create a Veterans Cemetery on 100 acres at Sampson State Park.



T-33 on Static Display

Static Display by the Sampson Air Force Base Veterans Association

This is a Brief History of the Sampson Air Force Base Veterans Association's Museum, The Memorial Statue and the T-33 on Static Display. This history includes pictures that tell the story of the effort involved in converting a rundown, decaying stockade into a first class museum depicting the Sampson Air Force Base Era and the story of the development of the Memorial Statue and the refurbishment of a decaying T-33 for static display.

The costs of these efforts are also provided to emphasise to the New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation personnel the monetary contributions of the Association's members to these projects. With the exception of a $10,000 grant from the state, thanks to State Senator Mike Nozzolio, the entire costs of these projects has fallen on the shoulders of Association members.

In addition to the monetary contributions of Association members, thousands of hours of volunteer labor have gone into the efforts. A dollar value has not been attached to these hours due to the difficulty in establishing just how many hours are involved. However, as previously stated, it is in the thousands.

The Beginning

New Jersey Air Force veteran Edward Lincoln singularly collected names and addresses of Sampson Air Force Base veterans for several years. Because poor health restricted his efforts, he forwarded his data to the Sampson area. Extensive publicity and numerous letters led to 37 veterŽans and guests meeting in Waterloo, NY in September 1990 for the first reunion. Subsequent reŽunions were held and after a series of meetings in 1994, a formal organization was structured and incorporation papers were filed with the State of New York on September 14, 1994. Charter enrollŽment was closed September 25, 1994 with 156 members, 47 of who were Life Members.

After the reunion in Ithaca representatives of the group met with Sampson State Park Manager Wally Dreher to walk through the former stockade and view the condition of the south and west wings. The following members consented to provide leadership in renovation of the facility: Lynn Brown, Karl Gantier, and Bruce Lloyd. At an organizational meeting on 24 September 1994 the following busiŽness was addressed: Discussions were held regarding requesting the State Parks Department for use of the west wing of the former stockade as a museum. The Museum Committee was identified: Lynn Brown, Karl Grantier, Tom Little, Bruce Lloyd, Loren Potts, and Dick Scannel. This was the beginning of the museum project.


The T-33 Static Aircraft Display Project

Shortly before our reunion of September 2002 we were notified by the Air Force Museum that we could have a T-33 for static display. The T-33 was located in Dayton, TN. So in October a few us of went to Dayton to see what shape the T-33 was in. It was horrible so we said “thanks but no thanks”.

Then in the spring of 2003 we were informed that there was one in Atwater, Alabama that was in better shape. We looked at some pictures provided by the Atwater people and said, “ok we want it.” We obtained the use of a flat bed 18 wheeler, gathered up some old mattresses and five Association members took off for Atwater.

They arrived there on June 5th 2003 and started to dismantle the T-33. The pictures we were provided did not tell the story. The plane was a mess but we said, we are here, let’s do it. They left for Sampson on June 9th.

Association members at the left inspect the T-33 on the pedestal at Atwater, then they looked underneath
and the truth started to hit home.

Even more corrosion and rot uncovered.

(last updated on website on 05/20/07 - missing four pages)

T 33 Static Display

Tribute to the T 33 restoration team



Sampson Vets Honored by Highway Designation - August 2010


The following is an article published in the Finger Lakes Times dated, August 6, 2010

The new road signs, SAMPSON VETERANS MEMORIAL HIGHWAY were unveiled in front of the Cemetery entrance 3 weeks ago. One sign is located just south of 5 & 20 by the new Lowes and north of the cemetery, and the other is located just north of the four corners in Ovid, NY.


WATERLOO — As a young man, Lewis Kime used to ride his bike past the future site of the Sampson Air Force and Naval Base. He trained there in 1942. And after serving in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II, he returned to Sampson for discharge. Now 87 and still living nearby in Romulus, he’s glad to know that he and the 740,000 other Navy and Air Force personnel who trained at Sampson will get one more nod of recognition. On July 30, Gov. David Paterson signed a long-awaited bill designating the section of Route 96A that runs past the old base as the Sampson Veterans Memorial Highway. Kime, who volunteered at the museum that veterans established at the base until it was turned over to the state several years ago, spoke to the Times last month, after the Legislature passed the bill but before Paterson signed it. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It will mean a lot to the veterans, I think, that served there.” The state Assembly approved the bill in June, and the Senate followed suit in July. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-129 of Canandaigua, and Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-54 of Fayette, both backed it. “The adoption of this important legislation will serve as a lasting tribute to the brave veterans who gave so much for our country,” Nozzolio said in a press release after its passage. “I firmly believe we have no greater obligation than to make sure the sacrifices of our brave veterans are never forgotten, and the Sampson Veterans Memorial Highway will do just that.” The memorial highway begins at Routes 5&20 and 96A in Waterloo and runs south to Route 414 in Ovid. In addition to the museum, that section of road runs past the planned Sampson Veterans Cemetery, other sections of the old base and Sampson State Park.

“Route 96A serves as the principal point of access to each of these community assets,” Nozzolio said. “The Sampson Veterans Memorial Highway will serve to further memorialize the efforts of our country’s service men and women.” Rick Connors, chairman of the Sampson Veterans Cemetery Association, said veterans and their advocates had been eager for the designation to go through, “We’re really happy with it to go along with the cemetery, [and] some of the older veterans I talked to were really pleased that this was going to happen,” he said shortly after the legislation passed. “Most of them are up in their late 80s and early 90s, and I just think to have this happen to them is something they’ve looked [forward] to for years, to be honored.”



Sampsons Veteran's Cemetery



As you drive south on Route 96A from routes 5 and 20 or north from Ovid, NY, you will be driving on Sampson Veterans Memorial Highway. Yes, the state has approved changing Route 96A to Sampson Veterans Memorial Highway in conjunction with the proposed Sampson Memorial Cemetery.

You will come to the old Sampson Hospital entrance, which is going to be turned into a beautiful gateway to the Sampson Memorial Cemetery. There will be a sign and a wall built on each side of the highway leading into the cemetery. The road will be a double lane road with a median in the center. As you approach the cemetery you will come to the original Guard House built by the Navy in 1942 and used by the Air Force from 1950 to 1956. The Guard House will be renovated and used as an information center.

If you go to the right of the information center, you will come to the Memorial Brick Roadway with service flags on both sides of the road. Bricks may be purchased to help defray the cost of the cemetery. The cost to purchase a brick has yet to be determined.

If you go to the left of the information center you will come to the renovated Fire Station, which will be used as a chapel. The six windows in the back of the Fire Station will be replaced with stained glass windows representing the six services to include the Merchant Marines. It is also planned to install office space and rest rooms.

Another building to be renovated is the Hospital Area Brigg. The Brigg is brick and is in fairly good condition, however what it will be used for has yet to be determined.

This is just a small overview of the future if everything goes according to plan. They are aiming to open the cemetery during the middle of 2010.

Some of the costs have been determined and they are: Veterans will be buried for nothing, spouses will cost $900.00 and cremation will cost $400.00. There will be a form to fill out and a copy of your DD-214 must be attached.

To keep up-to-date on the cemetery progress check out their web site at: (note: Website link has been updated since former website)

Mock Groundbreaking Ceremony

New York State Senator Nozzolio and county officials signing the documnets.

Nozzolio Bill to establish Veteran's Cemetary signed into law.

Cemetery to be Established at Former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base

Albany - State Senator Michael Nozzolio (R-Fayette) and State Assemblyman Joseph D. Morelle (D-Irondequoit) have announced that their joint legislation to establish a Veterans’ cemetery at the former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base in Seneca County has been signed into New York State law by Governor Spitzer. The legislation was adopted by the Legislature last month.“This is a great day for all veterans, who are America’s true heroes,” said Senator Nozzolio.



Sampson Memorial Cemetery Brochure (not on original website)



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SAFBVA Website created: June 11, 2020