Land Use and Military History in Orangetown
On September 25, 1942, 120 farm families assembled in the room we now use for land use board meetings to learn of a new “land use”—they had to move out so Camp Shanks could be built as a transport hub for hundreds of thousands of WWII soldiers. It later became a POW camp, and finally, “Shanks Village” where returning GIs lived, worked and raised families, helping to create Orangetown’s lovely suburban character just as the advent of the PIP and the TZB made the 1950s real estate boom possible. In honor of the 70th anniversary of Camp Shanks, I invite the public to learn more about our rich military history and visit a few key sites.
To add to the fun, young people who show an interest in Camp Shanks can earn a commemorative “Shanks Patch” just like the one worn by Shanks military transport soldiers. To earn the patch kids must visit a Shanks event or site and give me a short essay answering the question, “What will you tell your friends about Camp Shanks?” A complete list of events and sites is available from the Supervisor’s office in Town Hall (359-5100) or via email (email@example.com).
Last Stop, USA, Embarkation Point at Piermont Pier—A new plaque at the end of Piermont Pier was recently unveiled, commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the creation of Camp Shanks, and the 68th Anniversary of V- E Day, the end of the War in Europe. Over 419,000 military personnel arrived at or left from the pier in the course of the war. Location: Piermont Pier.
Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 2pm—Screening of ‘Till Then: A Journey Through World War Two Love Letters. Local filmmaker Victor Del Regno is the son of a World War II US navy Seabee who discovered the untold truth about his parents from a box of old letters. The award-winning film shows Camp Shanks and other local landmarks of Vic Del Regno’s family life and captures the deep loneliness and hardship many couples experienced during the war. Reception and letter-writing activity to follow in Shanks Museum. Location: Greenbush Auditorium, 20 Greenbush Rd., Orangeburg. Visit www.tillthenjourney.com to see a 2-minute film trailer.
Sunday, Nov. 3, 1–3 PM—The Children of Camp Shanks Village. Join a reunion of adult “children of Shanks Village” and participate in a program highlighting the lives of the thousands of children who called Camp Shanks home during and after World War II. Location: DePew House Museum, 196 Chief Bill Harris Way (Blaisdell Road), Orangeburg. RSVP to the Museum: 398-1302.
Sunday, Nov. 10, 10am—Veterans Day Memorial & Military History Tour at the Walkway of Heroes Park. Join veterans from VFW Post 1516 for a service honoring all of our Veterans followed by a tour of the park led by its founders. Then take a driving tour of Orangetown’s military history sites including Camp Shanks, the Nike Missile base, Camp Bluefields “gun tunnels” and the Shanks Museum. Location: Lester Drive and Independence Avenue in Tappan.
A few months ago, I asked our highway superintendent where we might find pavement to rip up within the Sparkill Creek watershed, because, as we are all coming to realize, “impervious surface” contributes to flooding and water pollution. Amazingly, we found 24,000 square yards of abandoned Camp Shanks parking lot in Tappan and are seeking funding to replace it with a “green infrastructure” project of epic proportions. Yet another way we are rediscovering Camp Shanks and its role in Orange- town’s history and land use!
Andy Stewart is Orangetown Supervisor; reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 359-5100, ext. 2261.