Patterson Joins the War Effort in World War II


World War I ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, but some interpreters of history have argued that only the fighting ended, not the War. The roots of the second World War are in the first. The peace treaty was largely written by Great Britain and France, which had entered the war in 1914 and had suffered the greatest losses during the war. The United States entered the war late, and had suffered far fewer losses, and had little influence on the structure of the treaty. President Wilson was an idealist who saw himself as a peacemaker, and pushed for a treaty that would prevent a future war. Wilson drafted his "14 Points" to be included in the treaty. Among other things, the Points defined the political and economic look of post-war Europe. Key to lasting peace was Wilson's Point calling for the establishment of a "League of Nations", which was a forerunner of the modern United Nations. Wilson intended that this world forum would use diplomacy and discussion to solve international issues. President Wilson was successful in his bid to have the 14 Points included in the Treaty of Versailles, although they were altered by Britain and France to further weaken Germany.

The Treaty imposed huge financial reparations on Germany, which eventually defaulted on the payments. Stern restrictions were placed on Germany's military to prevent it from becoming a threat again in the future. While Britain and France were happy with the results of the peace treaty, other victor nations were not. Italy felt it was entitled to more territory, and Japan wanted control of China.

Two World War II posters. The first was a call to conserve rubber, which was needed for the manufacturing of tires for war equipment. The second poster was used in an ordinance factory to urge greater productivity. The illustrations in the poster are quite graphic and were effective in conveying the message of the poster to factory workers.

The world after World War I was filled with poverty caused by the cost of reconstruction. This economic instability helped cause a great global depression in 1929. The democracies that were created under the Versailles Treaty were weak. There was a great feeling of resentment in these countries of the Versailles Treaty, leading to a rise of nationalistic sentiment.

The face of Europe and Asia changed rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s, as the world moved towards war. Benito Mussolini formed a Fascist government in Italy in 1922. In Germany, Adolph Hitler rose to power by exploiting the weakness of its democratic government, known as the Weimar Republic. Japan began to invade China in 1932, starting with Manchuria. Germany and Italy collaborated in providing assistance to right wing rebels fighting in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Francisco Franco created a dictatorship in Spain following the war. From 1936 to 1940 treaties were signed by Germany, Italy, and Japan, who would be known collectively as the Axis Powers.

Germany began its expansion in Europe by annexing Austria in March 1938. Next was the Sudetenland section of Czechoslovakia, which was home to 3.5 million people of German descent. The Sudetenland was given to Germany via the Munich Pact in September, 1938. The pact was the result of talks between Germany's Hitler and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was determined to avoid a new war for Britain. The Munich Pact was violated a mere six months later when Germany seized the rest of Czechoslovakia by force. The Munich Pact remains an example of the ineffectiveness of a policy of appeasement. In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact, freeing Germany to concentrate on its westerly expansion. Poland became it next victim, and in September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany.

America Joins the War

America returned to isolationism after the end of World War I, and had little interest for the events in Europe. Congress did not support President Wilson's 14 points, especially the League of Nations proposal. As a result, Congress refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, and the United States signed a separate peace treaty with Germany. Sentiment in America was in favor of avoiding involvement in another foreign war. The speed of Germany's westward push into Europe caused alarm in the U.S., but even the fall of France in 1940 did not change the isolationist sentiment. However, the need to take precautions was evident, and Congress approved a peacetime military draft and greatly increased the military budget. By 1941 the war was spreading east to the Balkans and south into the African continent.

As in World War I, Americans were sympathetic to Great Britain. Millions of Americans were riveted to a new communications device known as radio, and heard overseas news reports by such broadcast pioneers like Edward R. Murrow of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), who broadcast from London with vivid descriptions of the German bombings of the city. Regular reports were also beamed to the United States by reporters stationed in Berlin and Paris. The war was now being brought directly into America's homes.

Nazi Germany was already a perceived threat in the early 1930s, as shown in this editorial cartoon that appeared in the Putnam County Courier on August 24, 1934. Public sentiment was clearly isolationist, as illustrated in this editorial cartoon that appeared in the Putnam County Courier on April 12, 1935.

Groups sympathetic to the Nazi cause were visible and active in the United States. While tolerated by authorities, they were watched with suspicion. In March, 1939, Putnam County Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr. spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives against the Nazi Bund, or German-American Bund that was conducting rallies in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Bund speakers criticized and ridiculed President Roosevelt. Fish called the Nazis "just as bad as the Communists". In July, 1941, Fish conducted a survey by mail, asking constituents whether America should enter the war. The results were decisive: 1796 voted against participation in the war, only 193 were for it. In Patterson, the votes were 117 against, and only 10 for.

In early 1941, America's official policy of neutrality was still in effect, but American and British officials were meeting regularly to find ways for the United States to aid Britain. In March 1941, Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act, which provided funding for war materiel that could be given to Britain. The intention was for the U.S. to help the Allied forces without becoming involved itself. Later in the year, U.S. Navy ships were escorting convoy ships traveling to and from Britain, and were given the authority to fire on any hostile forces that threatened the convoys. America's neutrality now existed in name only.

1941 was also the year that U.S./Japanese relations soured. Japanese forces were expanding their control into Southeast Asia. The U.S., along with other countries such as Britain and the Netherlands, imposed export restrictions on Japan and froze Japan's financial assets. Japan delivered several ultimatums to Washington via diplomatic channels, and finally attacked the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Congress declared war on Japan on December 8, and Japan's allies, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. on December 11.

Patterson Joins the War Effort

With war looking more inevitable, Congress passed a new Selective Service Act in September, 1940. The act authorized an unusual peacetime buildup of military manpower. In October of that year 2,171 Putnam County men registered for a draft that carried a one year enlistment. The plan was to create a trained fighting force that could be put into service quickly should America be forced to enter the war. The County draft board consisted of Vincent A. Murray of Cold Spring, Henry H. Wells of Brewster, and Carl I. Kellogg of Mahopac. The first draft was for men over the age of 21 but not yet 30. Patterson men were required to report to the Patterson Union School to register. 131 men from Patterson registered in compliance with the law. One man refused to register, claiming conscientious objector status. The objector was Teddy Jones, an actor appearing in a production at the Starlight, a popular live theater that featured plays and musicals, located on NYS Route 22 between the Patterson village and the Village of Pawling. Jones had reported to the Pawling registration office, only to be turned away when it was learned that he was a Patterson resident. Jones was turned over to Putnam County Sheriff Percy L. Barker, who in turn sent Jones to Putnam County District Attorney Donohoe. Donohoe sent Jones to the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, John. H. Cahill. Later in the week Jones changed his mind and reported to the registration office to sign his registration card, only to be told that the registration had ended and his card could not be accepted without the written instruction of the U.S. Attorney.

A draft registration form from September, 1940. Scrap metal collections like this one were organized by the Defense Councils that were created by the Putnam County Board of Supervisors. This mound of scrap metals accumulated at the collection point on Front Street in the Patterson Hamlet in October, 1942. (The Putnam County Courier) A typical ration book and ration stamps. Having the book did not guarantee that the commodity could actually be purchased. A severe shortage of gasoline in 1943 required the cancellation of existing gasoline rationing coupons and the issuance of new ones with a smaller quota. (The Putnam County Historian)

Other local groups were also mobilizing. The Red Cross organized the Women's Motor Corps which trained women in auto mechanics to eventually replace men who might be called for military service. The Red Cross also raised money and collected clothing to be sent to eastern European countries that were under German attack. Putnam's Red Cross also participated in the "Bundles for Britain" program. This program was created before America entered the war, and its founders intended to educate the American public about the war and the need to stop Germany. Under the program, recuperating British Royal Air Force (RAF) airmen were brought to the U.S. to speak to local groups about the war and their experiences. Also under the program, clothing, toys, and personal care items like soap were collected to be distributed to the British public that was under siege by Germany.

The Putnam County board of Supervisors acted as the local civil defense authority starting in early 1941. The Board of Supervisors was the governing body of Putnam County before the County Executive / County Legislator form of government was adopted in 1979. The Board, as the name implies, was comprised of all six of Putnam's town supervisors. There were also local defense councils in each of Putnam's towns and villages. Together, these councils urged conservation of materials that might be needed for a war, and collected scrap metals. By the fall of 1941, isolationist sentiment was turning into more of an interventionist sentiment as Americans watched the war spread. Defense Bonds and Stamps were already being sold to raise money for a war that America would need to join. Armistice Day, the forerunner to today's Veterans Day Holiday, was intended to be a remembrance of the casualties of World War I. In 1941, the holiday was more of a patriotic rally of support for America and its inevitable role in the Second World War.

In preparation for America's probable entry into the war, a scrap aluminum drive was launched New York State at the direction of Gov. Lehman. Patterson's collection bin was located on the corner of Frank Lyden's store in the Patterson village. Patterson's collection committee was led by Mrs. Henry Barton, Mrs. Frank Lynch, and Mrs. Arthur Newcomb, wife of Patterson's Supervisor and former County Sheriff.

The speed with which Germany overran Europe using air power led to fears of similar bombing raids in the United States. Volunteer spotters were assigned to watch Putnam County's skies for enemy aircraft. Many of Putnam's higher elevations had spotter posts. The spotter posts shown in the two photos were located in Seminary Hill in Carmel. (The Putnam County Historian) An observation post was located in the Patterson Hamlet just off Main St. (NYS Route 311), just west of the railroad tracks on the old DeBourbon estate. It went into operation just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, and was staffed by resident volunteers from Towners, the Patterson hamlet, and the surrounding area. Other area posts were located at the Carmel Country Club, the Lake Carmel police booth, Troxell's barn at Gilead, Southeast, and Mahopac Falls. Air raid instructions were published in local papers. This list appeared in the Putnam County Courier on December, 18, 1941.

Life in Patterson changed dramatically on December 7, 1941 when news of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor reached the U.S. and the first radio bulletins were aired. Food rationing began in the spring of 1942 and dictated home meal menus, with meat, sugar, dairy products, and canned goods rationed to provide more food supplies for the men serving overseas. Automobile use needed to be curtailed to allow more rubber and gasoline to be available for the war effort. The Red Cross ran blood drives and made bandages for wounded soldiers. War bonds and war stamps were purchased. Prices on many goods were regulated by the Federal government to keep scarce goods from being priced beyond the reach of the average person.

In December, 1941, the Patterson Red Cross chapter was given a fund raising quota of $1,000 for the war effort. Donations for the War Relief Fund were accepted at Max Grand's Drug Store on Front Street, and Walter W. Moberg was the Patterson representative on the Red Cross Campaign Committee. The County goal was $12,500. By March, 1942, only Patterson and Carmel met or exceeded their goals. Patterson collected a total of $1,300. Putnam's four other towns did not meet their fundraising goals.

In January, 1942, a Red Cross "Work Room" was prepared in the upper hall of the Judd Building. H.H. Block & Sons Dept. Store, located a few doors down on Front Street, lent a stove to heat the room. Volunteers were recruited to cut, sew, and knit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mrs. Albert Towner was in charge of the group. On Wednesdays and Fridays, Mrs. Joan Harper was in charge of a group that made surgical dressings. In February, 1942, Patterson's Red Cross Work Room closed because of a shortage of materials, barely 2 weeks after it opened. Blood donors were also needed, and the signup list was maintained in the Patterson Drug Store. The Ladies Auxiliary of the Patterson Fire Department started a campaign to equip Red Cross ambulances. Putnam County organized a force of auxiliary police recruited from area residents. Several Patterson men volunteered for the force. They were trained by a Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy and classes were given in Patterson Town Hall.

Although it may seem improbable that Patterson would ever be bombed in time of war, the procedures in this news clipping make it clear that the danger did indeed exist when this article appeared in the Putnam County Courier on December 10, 1942. Residents were required to complete a Consumer Declaration to receive a ration book. This form was for Ration Book 2, which regulated processed foods and coffee. The form was published in The Putnam County Courier on February 18, 1943.

In Putnam Lake, the Putnam Lake School Defense Club was formed in January, 1942. In its first two months, the club purchased 366 War Stamps and one $25 War Bond. All money was collected by the club's treasurer, and the stamps and bonds were purchased at the Patterson Post Office.

In February, 1942, Dr. Frank C. Genovese, vice chairman of the Civilian Defense Medical Corp. in Patterson, issued a call for men to join the Medical Corps and receive first aid training. Courses were to be taught in the Patterson Union School. In May, 1942, Dr. Genovese listed the needs for a proposed first aid casualty station to be established in the Parish House on Main Street, should the need arise. Cots, blankets, pans and cups, hot water bottles, soap, kerosene lamps, towels, and safety razors were among the items included on his list. Amateur talent shows were used to raise funds for the war effort. Area residents supplied the talent for these popular local events. In June, 1942, two such minstrel shows were held on the stage of Patterson Town Hall (the building formerly known as Jacob Stahl Hall) to raise funds for the creation of casualty stations in Patterson. Talent included the McGrath sisters, the Randazzo sisters, a military drill by the Messengers of the Putnam Lake War Council and musical numbers performed by local school children. Dancing followed the scheduled performances. $740 was raised for the casualty station campaign through the shows and other fund raising efforts, and was enough to equip two stations in Putnam Lake and one at the Parish House in the Hamlet. Minstrel shows also helped support USO and Navy Relief Fund campaigns. Fundraising dances and parties were also held in Putnam Lake.

The urgent need for doctors to serve in the military led to the fear that Putnam could face a doctor shortage. Putnam County had a population of approximately 18,000 in 1942, and that population could easily double in the summer months when vacationers arrived in the lake communities. The County had 15 practicing doctors at the time, and at least half were eligible for the draft. Patterson's Dr. Genovese was among those who could face a call to military service. If the County faced a shortage of doctors, the plan was to ask the remaining doctors to move to central locations around the County to be closer to where they may be needed.

Patterson's success was highlighted on a program broadcast over Newburgh's WGNY AM on August 25, 1942, as reported in the Putnam County Courier on August 20, 1942.

Food and other commodities were rationed by the use of ration books that contained ration stamps or coupons. The stamps would permit the purchase of rationed food items in quantities that were strictly controlled by the Federal government. Each family member, including children, was assigned a ration book. Families typically would pool their ration stamps to plan their meals. Other scarce items like gasoline, tires, fuel oil, and shoes were covered by special ration stamps and coupons. Any Putnam family owning more than 5 automobile tires was required to surrender the additional tires to the war effort. Ration books became as valuable as cash: they could not be replaced if they were lost. Sugar rationing began in May, 1942. 15,728 cards were issued in the County in the first 4 days of the program. 691 were distributed in the Patterson hamlet, 293 in Putnam Lake, and 220 in Towners. Gasoline cards were also distributed the same month, and 5,045 were distributed Countywide in the first three days. 233 were in the Patterson hamlet, 116 in Putnam Lake, and 60 in Towners.

Collections of scrap materials continued in 1942. 6,911 pounds of rubber were collected through area gas stations. A rubber salvage drive added another 1,470 pounds of rubber. The Town of Patterson contributed an old fire hose. 2,330 pounds of scrap iron were also collected, with collection points set up at The Elms Restaurant on NYS Route 22, Coomb's Store in Towners, and Patterson Town Hall. Larger items or larger quantities were collected by the Patterson Highway Department.

Spotters used charts like this to help recognize enemy aircraft. (The Putnam County Historian) Heavy curtains were required over any window that was in a room that was lighted. (The Putnam County Historian) In November 28, 1942, the air raid wardens of Putnam Lake hosted a fundraising dance to raise funds for uniforms and equipment for the wardens. The event was held in the Putnam Plaza restaurant. (The Putnam County Courier)
In the first photo, volunteer Civil Defense Warden Theodore Kehoe, a farmer, makes the rounds of his post in Putnam Lake. (The Carmel Historical Society) In the second photo, Warden Robert Barto of Putnam Lake is seen at the Merrick Farm demonstrating a stirrup pump for fighting incendiary devices. (Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services) In the third photo, Putnam Lake's emergency medical group conducts a drill at their casualty station in the Knight Club. (Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services) These photos were taken by freelance photographer Ralph Crane, who would later become a photojournalist for Life Magazine and the New York Times.

The Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as the use of air power by Germany in its swift invasion of Europe, led to fears of air raids in the United States. Volunteers were organized to search the skies of Putnam County for enemy aircraft. Eight spotter sites were quickly created on the higher peaks of the County and were manned 24 hours per day. The spotters were required to report any air activity, seen or heard, to the army base at Mitchell Field on Long Island. All buildings and homes in Putnam were ordered to place heavy blackout curtains over all windows in a room that was lighted after sundown. Such a blackout would make it difficult for enemy pilots to find targets on the ground. It is unlikely that rural Putnam County would ever have been in danger of an air raid, but it is conceivable that enemy planes might have chosen a flight path over Putnam to reach New York City or other strategic sites.

Blackout drills were conducted by air to verify compliance with the policy and to judge its effectiveness. Air raid drills were also conducted with the local police and fire departments, assisted by local volunteer groups including the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, local nurses, the War Council - the new name for the Defense Council, air wardens, and even volunteer "victims" who were treated by the medical volunteers. Putnam County conducted several tests of the County's preparedness for an air raid attack. One such test took place in March, 1942, in which Patterson, Brewster, Carmel, and Mahopac were "bombed" in a simultaneous air attack. Representatives of the County Defense Council and the Red Cross observed the test. Actions of all emergency aid groups were observed, including the Civilian Defense Corps consisting of the auxiliary police, air raid wardens, firemen, and Red Cross crews including ambulances, doctors and nurses, first aid crews, and motor corps. In April, 1942, an air raid warden class was given in Putnam Lake. The class, given at the Putnam Lake Schoolhouse in the Barnum Corners section of Putnam Lake, had 41 attendees. An American Red Cross Standard First Aid Class was taught in the home of Mrs. Thomas Sharkey on Veterans Road.

Patterson conducted an air raid drill in July 1942. A Sunday afternoon was chosen, and it lasted for an hour from 1 PM until 2 PM. Patterson's air raid wardens manned their posts, and the town's auxiliary police force stopped traffic. All activity returned to normal after the all-clear signal was sounded at 2 PM. By the fall of 1942, women were being recruited to act as daytime air raid wardens as more area men were drafted into military service. Former Towners resident Jim Cunningham recalls that Mary (Coombs) Imhoff, (Jim Cunningham's aunt by marriage), owner of the Towners General Store, was a Civil Defense/Air Raid Warden. She kept a hand cranked siren on one of the store's porch posts. A full scale attack simulation took place in front of the store, with medical personnel and volunteers acting as casualties. Mr. Cunningham's mother, Mary M. Cunningham, was one of the "wounded", with simulated head and arm wounds on a stretcher.

Once the fear of bombing had subsided, the eight spotter sites were consolidated into one on Seminary Hill in Carmel. In 1943 the threat of an air raid was considered remote, and spotter activity was terminated.

New inductees pose on the steps of the Putnam County Courthouse. (The Putnam County Historian) This ad appeared for the Putnam County War Fund appeared in The Putnam County Courier on July 22, 1943. Patterson merchants participating in the drive include: Max Grand's Drug Store, Coomb's Store, The James Irish Stores, Murphy's Harvest Moon Restaurant, Christensen Hardware, Peragrine's Putnam Plaza Restaurant, Knight Club, Diehl's Restaurant, Carroll's Lodge and Barn, Lackman's General Store, Newman General Store, Scalere's Restaurant, and Barto Paint Store.

America's factories were urged to increase productivity to meet the demand for war materiel. As in World War I, women became an increasingly important part of the labor force as men were drafted into military service. Many Patterson residents worked in defense plants in nearby Connecticut and Westchester County. There was only one defense-related plant in Putnam County, the Sonotone Battery Plant in the Village of Cold Spring. Patterson's farming community, like the rest of Putnam County, was the chief defense-related industry. Dairy farming had largely replaced general agriculture, and the farming community's chief contribution to the war effort was eggs. The entire County contributed 359,000 eggs in just one year, despite acute labor shortages.

The Red Cross ran blood drives and promoted the sale of War Bonds. It also provided each departing soldier with a bag of personal items that included cigarettes, gum, playing cards, paper, and a pencil. In April, 1942, A Navy Relief Fund Committee was appointed to raise funds for the families of Navy personnel. Walter Moberg was named Patterson's chairman. Patterson was given a campaign goal of $350. By June, 1942, Patterson once again exceeded its goal. $369 was raised; the campaign goal was $350.

Throughout the war years, the Federal government warned all citizens not to discuss any defense related issues that could be overheard and reported by an enemy spy. Our local defense workers had to refrain from discussing their work and production quotas, even to family members who might inadvertently pass the information to the enemy in an unguarded conversation. Family members were warned not to discuss anything they knew about family members serving in the military, since even the smallest details may give clues about troop strength and deployment strategies. Even Putnam County had spies within its midst. In May, 1942, surprise raids were made in several locations around the County, chiefly in New York City reservoir locations and the area of Philipstown along the Hudson River opposite the West Point Military Academy. The raids netted three German and two Italian spies. It was reported that 27 guns and a store of ammunition was also found. The enemy agents were sent to Ellis Island.

Sgt. Ronald Grey became the first World War II fatality from Patterson. The Patterson American Legion Post was named for him. Those lucky to return to Patterson for a furlough were given "victory parties" at the Patterson Town Hall.

The Aftermath of the War

The war in Europe ended in May, 1945 with the surrender of Germany. The war in the Pacific ended in August, 1945, with the surrender of Japan, which came after it had been struck by two atomic bombs. The Second World War was much costlier than the First, both in dollars and in lives lost. Military costs and the cost to rebuild are estimated at $1300 billion globally, and $330 billion in the United States. Globally, 22 million lives were lost, and another 34 million wounded, and the total dead and wounded Americans numbered over 1 million. Several million people became homeless refugees.

Returning veterans created a demand for new homes. Patterson and the surrounding area saw new home construction. This ad appeared in the Putnam County Courier on July 25, 1946. The War Memorial on NYS Rt. 311 at Maple Ave. To commemorate the Second World War, a plaque listing the names of Patterson's WWII participants was added. The Memorial was originally dedicated to Patterson's World War I participants. The Putnam Lake War Memorial at the intersection of Haviland and Fairfield Drives, as seen in the 1950s. The Memorial was originally created to commemorate the Putnam Lake participants of World War II. Korean War and Vietnam War memorials were added later.

The victors redrew world maps. The dominant world powers became the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union created Communist satellite nations in territories it occupied at the end of the war, which would lead to the so-called "Cold War" that began in the 1950s. Britain and France were financially ruined and declined as world powers as they were forced to give up their empires. The creation of atomic weapons did lead to some peaceful adaptations of nuclear technology, chiefly in electricity production and in medicine, but also created a climate of fear once other nations discovered how to build their own nuclear bombs. One of the positive outcomes of the war was the creation of the United Nations, which has provided a forum for the diplomatic solution of global problems, organized military forces for peacekeeping, and created other programs intended to stem poverty and disease. Unlike its predecessor, the League of Nations, the United Nations has had more influence and effectiveness. The isolationist climate of the post World War I years did not exist after World War II, and Congress did not block U.S. participation in the United Nations. Rather than retreating from the world, the U.S. saw a destiny in being a major political, economic, and military force in the world.