Michael & Elizabeth CAVANAUGH
Here are two interesting photos collected in the 2008 & 2009 seasons. The first was hidden in files in NARA NYC,
but clearly shows the Slocum WACs. They seem to be vocalizing, and as this is June 1944, a month after the introduction of
the Duckworth Chant (see elsewhere on this site), this may be the first photo of the Duckworth Chant.
The second comes from Carlisle Barracks, one of 10 conserved by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United
States (MOLLUS), a post-Civil War group of military men. These photos of De Camp General Hospital are now the oldest photos
known of Davids' Island. (In July 2009 Chris Borstel, working for USACE's subcontractor TetraTech, uncovered 4 more from
the same series, but with better resolution, in NARA II.)
|Slocum WAC detachment Central Park June 1944
|1/Sgt Dot Hood, S/Sgt Woodie Woodard
|Recently discovered photo of Civil War post
|Admin Bldg DeCamp Hospital 1864
In November 2009 this website entered its sixth year.
Though small and cramped it does provide at least minimal web presence. In November 2009 the USACE
working group will roll out a bigger, professional website along with a virtual archive (which once in place will be
sponsored and maintained by New Rochelle and Westchester County). But for now this site, piggy-backed
as it is onto my personal site, will have to suffice. It has served the Fort Slocum Alumni & Friends network
well, though, in that it continues to receive search engine "hits" by those seeking to join us or to learn more about the
Fort and Davids' Island. Through the mysteries of Google, this site will turn up toward the top of page one!
The first thing to say about Davids' Island is, it was ruined quite some time ago.
To see this graphically (as it was ca. 2007 or so) go to Google Earth. By 2008 almost all structures
on the island had been swept away.
For those who don't know, the Army abandoned the post more
than 40 years ago, on 30 November 1965. In the meantime the island became a real estate football; several
acquired possession (including Con Ed and Donald Trump) but no one was able to develop it.
As a result, it became something like an Eastern
Vandalism, and a series of arson fires in the late 1970's and early 1980's (notably
the Great Fire of April 1982) reduced most of the buildings to shells (in the case of brick buildings) or rubble & ashes
(in the case of the wooden ones). And (see the story on the first page of this site) the remnants of all
the buildings are gone as of Fall 2008. All that remains are 3 of the 4 mortar
pits, the Rodman gun, and Battery Practice -- that is, objects exclusively from that short phase when Slocum
was a Coast Artillery post (see elsewhere on this site).
For those who want to see video of the post in its heyday, there are a few. There
are some segments, from 1956-1961, mostly of the Chaplain School but also the north part of the island as it existed then,
available on a composite video called Army Chaplain. It is available in VHS (and
more recently, in DVD) for $29.95 + s&h from www.militaryvideo.com. (No financial interest here, just making the information available to list members.) Be advised however that
the Slocum segments comprise perhaps only 10-12 min. of a 60 min. video. Just last year, Televista released
a DVD (20087) of a 1917 silent film, "Man Without a Country." It was filmed by Thanhouser studios in New Rochelle,
and features, toward the very end, a few minutes of footage shot at Fort Slocum. Unfortunately it is
short and there are not a lot of wide angles, but you will see the hospital (later the Chaplain School), post HQ,
the O club, and the northern quarters on O Row; as well as a shot of troops in their campaign hats, departing from
the passenger dock, allegedly bound for France. (In fact they were actual troops, but they were only taking
the boat as far as Ft Hamilton nearby.) There is also a short videoclip of the soldier show, "Swing
Fever," written just before Pearl Harbor and performed early in 1942. It can be viewed at http://www.archive.org/details/1942-02-04_Soldiers_Stage_Girlie_Show.
Links to Slocum Video Segments
Thanks to alumnus Bill Waterhouse for discovering that there is now a bunch
of Slocum material on YouTube. Bill steadily monitors the media for news relevant
to Slocum & posts on the Ft Slocum Facebook page (q.v.).
It’s a mixed bag. There are several V-Disc tracks from the
WWII band, the 378th Army Service Forces Band (organized at Slocum before the War, officially constituted in 1942,
and finally hijacked late in 1944 to Ft. Hamilton until it was disbanded in 1946). Being
in the NYC area they did a lot of studio broadcasts & film work (including the soundtrack for the infamous Army VD film -- not sure if this is yet on YouTube). The V-Discs tend to be scratchy but whoever posted these did a pretty good job. There is some amateur video of the ruins from recent years, also a newsreel
clip from 1942 of the opening of a soldier show (apparently performed in the basement of the YMCA; you can see the Slocum band, led by T/Sgt Abe Small, as the
pit orchestra at the bottom of the stage). (The show didn’t take
off; instead, Irving Berlin incorporated some of Slocum’s top talent in
his show, This is the Army) Then
there is the extensive video from the 1956 Chaplain School & 1962 Chaplain & Information School documentaries, featured
on the Army TV series, The Big Picture.
(There are lots of Big Picture
documentary segments available on YouTube, not only of Ft. Slocum; from one
of them I learned for instance that the Army had its own hard-hat divers, trained at Ft. Eustis!) Shameless plug: the M/Sgt leading the chaplains in dismounted
drill in the 1956 film is my own father, Robert P. Cavanaugh, who was Sgt/Maj of the Chaplain School, 1956-60.
I’ve been waiting for something like this; the Ft Slocum Alumni
& Friends has had these clips & soundtracks & more but this website does not have the capacity to host them, as
YouTube does. With any luck there will be more yet to come. So, enjoy!
Ft Slocum on YouTube
· WWII Slocum band
“Caissons/KP parody” plus Alvino Rey, “Army Air Corps” (V-Disc 1943; audio only): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6MjANhQO-c
· Pvt. Leon Gray &
WWII Slocum band “Soldiers of God” (chaplain’s theme) (V-Disc 1944:
audio only): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVeGYKdXzDE
· Chaplain School
· Swing Fever (1942)
cross-dressing soldier show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dxw0YDT7Lzk
· Opportunity to Learn
(1961) concerning Chaplain School & Info School, great shots including ferry & dock:
· Video footage of
walking through ruins of Ft Slocum esp. Trivium (2003) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbPtYH9mrkc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB4TsKoKtKw
· Slide show, blasting
soundtrack, no date, juxtaposing aerials with ground shots of the ruins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lat2x7owoZA&feature=related
· Sad but entertaining
video about visiting the destroyed island in 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRJnV9Xm5og
By Spring 2008 we had managed to locate 5 members of the WWII post band, the 378th Army Service Forces Band.
It was authorized 1 June 1942 from the core of a smaller band that had been on post since Jan. 1941, led by T/Sgt Abraham
Small. Sometime late in 1944 (now under the leadership of WOJG Edward Sadowski) it was hijacked, possibly
by Maj/Gen Homer Groninger of the NY Port of Embarkation, to Ft. Hamilton, and was deactivated at the end of the war.
The band played frequently on post, on live radio (some of the broadcasts being recorded for
playback around the world during the War), in studios in the NYC area, and recorded several V-Discs.
Band members included George Hoffmann, piano and supply sgt., who now lives in Maine;
Ray Crisara, trumpet, emeritus professor of music at U TX; Zoltan "Zip" Zantay, trumpet clarinet & piccolo,
who summers in CT & winters in FL; Alan Grieve, trumpet, who lives in MA; and Paul "Lightnin" Tanner,
trombone, emeritus professor of music at UCLA. Paul (who played with the Glenn Miller band before Miller's
USAAF band) turned 90 last October, and George (who was an orchestra leader before & after the War) turned 90
In summer 2008 a sixth member, Andre Speyer, French horn (he's the kid; only 83) found our website.
In July Zip visited the island to view the demolition in progress.
Together they have contributed photos, memorabilia, and oral history to our collection.
Several bandsmen were interviewed by Rob Jacoby for the USACE oral history project. They continue to
be of tremendous value in trying to understand Fort Slocum in WWII.
Finding the band has more than doubled our WWII alumni, which
also includes Gladys "Woodie" (Woodard) Borkowski, M/Sgt USAF ret'd (one of the original WAACs who came to the post in 1943
and rose to S/Sgt; and who is featured leading the Duckworth Chant on a V-Disc); Ken Rought, CWO ret'd, who came
in 1939 and became QM 1/Sgt before transferring to Brooklyn Army Base in 1943; Joanne (Gebhard) Geer, daughter of post
chaplain Maj. Wesley Emil Gebhard; Pat Skelly, whose father was an officer there early in the war; and Carl
"Zoomie" Wenberg, son nephew and brother of civilian employees. We have also been in touch with the
family of Col. Bernard Lentz, CO during the entire war, and they have been helpful in contributing material particularly related
to the origin and evolution of the Duckworth Chant. (See the feature elsewhere on this site.)
Happy to announce contact with one more WWII alumnus: Ben O. Busbee Jr. Ben was with the Overseas Staging
Area, and went through the Provisional Training Center, 2nd course, from Feb.-April 1944. He was awarded the Silver
Medal as the second leading graduate (of 186 students). Later that year he qualified as rifle Marksman. In the
Fall he was transferred to the Infantry and sent overseas to the 1st Division ("Big Red One"), 26th Regt, 2 BN.
He was in the Ardennes sector for the Battle of the Bulge, crossed the Rhine at Remagen, fought the Waffen SS in the Harz
Mountains, and (transferred at the last minute from 1st Army to Patton's 3rd Army) wound up the war in Czechoslovakia.
He was awarded the Bronze Star for combat action. He also witnessed 2 sessions of the Nuremburg war crimes trials before
separation from the Army.
IN MEMORIAM: Norma Rought died in Oct. 2005. She met her husband Ken while working
for Lt/Col. Walter McCord at Slocum just before WWII; their first home was an apartment on post above McCord's
quarters. A native of New Rochelle, her parents in turn met when her father was stationed at Slocum in WWI. Ken
retired as CWO in 1969. Since at least mid-2007, he has been at work on his Army memoirs,
Brown Shoe Soldier.
In 2007, two family members of the enlisted staff of the Chaplain
School died. Lorraine Cavanaugh, widow of Robert Cavanaugh (School Sgt/Maj 1956-60), died 07/07/07.
Don Sisk, youngest son of Edgar Sisk (School 1/Sgt through several moves, who retired at Slocum in 1958), died 06/12/07.
On 1/10/08, after battling spine cancer for about 6 months, George
Hollenweger, Jr., died. His father George Sr. was with post engineer office 1936-58, and kept the physical plant
going. Last summer George Jr. donated his father's papers to our historical collection, a very valuable resource.
On 2/20/08, 1/Sgt Norman H. Reilly died in Pelham.
Norm was born nearby in Mt. Vernon and had 2 tours of duty at Slocum, one in the early 1950's and the other from the
late '50's to the early '60's, when he became 1/Sgt of the HQ & HQ Co., the Information School. He contributed
a very important collection of photos from both periods to the New Rochelle Public Library.
I am very sorry to announce the sudden death on 11 July 2008 of Capt.
Peter Huchthausen, USN Ret., at his home in Amfreville, France (near Ste-Mere Eglise, just behind Utah Beach). Peter
along with his sisters Christa & Annie lived at Ft Slocum in the mid-1950's, the children of Lt/Col Walther Huchthausen
of the Chaplain School. Just before his retirement, Peter was the US Naval Attache to Moscow, and became an expert
on the Soviet nuclear navy. He was THE most prolific writer ever to have emerged from Davids' Island (see the
Slocum Features page). There was a memorial at Amfreville on 22 July. On behalf of the Ft Slocum Alumni
& Friends I attended. He was buried in Dec. at Arlington.
Now, almost exactly a year later, the death of Tim Kozlowski;
he died 9 July 2009, just 5 days short of his 69th birthday. Tim was one of the earliest members of our FSA&F
network, and contributed some unique photos to our collection. He was at Slocum through July 1965; he played
baseball & basketball for the post teams, and was known as "the Fort Slocum Flash."
On the heels of this news comes that of the death of Donald Nealon, ae.
60, on 1 July 2009. Don, and his siblings Barbara, Michael, Kathy, Gayle, Debbie and Dennis were the children of
Lt/Col Arthur Joseph Nealon, deputy post CO. There is a full obituary at
a shorter one was published in the Boston Globe on 3 July.
Zoltan "Zip" Zantay died 27 August 2009, ae.
88. He played clarinet for the 378th ASF band at Ft Slocum during WWII. In later life he ran a summer camp, and
recently spent winters in FL & summers in CT. In 2008 he returned to Davids' Island (a shocking
sight in its final stages of demolition), and contributed photos and an interview to our collection. His obituary is
M/Sgt Gladys (Woodard) "Woodie" Borkowski died after
a brief illness on 23 November 2009, ae. 89. Woodie was one of the original WAAC/WACs at Ft Slocum in 1943. Just
two weeks before she was the guest of honor at the rollout of the new USACE website in New Rochelle (see first page of this
site). Then S/Sgt Woodard, she recorded one of the 3 versions of the Duckworth Chant, aka Sound Off, on V-Disc
in 1945 in Raymond Hall on post. After the war she transferred to the new USAF, retiring as M/Sgt in 1963.
On 15 Feb. 2011, Col John J. Christy died ae. 96.
He was the last CO of Ft Slocum. He was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross (second to the Medal
of Honor) in the Battle of the Bulge; also the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman's Badge and the Purple
On 17 June 2011, Anne Renfroe Castagneto, widow of Col Frank
Castagneto who commanded Ft Slocum 1961-1964, died near San Diego. A very gracious Southern lady, the First Lady
of Ft. Slocum.
Ed Vincik, USAF ret, b. 1929, died on 10 January
2012. Ed was stationed at Slocum AFB, where he met his wife Chris; she worked there as a civilian employee, and
did so again for the Army in the 1950's.
I am sorry to report that on 25 January 2012, WO Ken Rought
died about ae. 91. Ken provided much invaluable insight into Fort Slocum just before WWII and during the early days
of the war. He was one of those who enlisted early enough (1939) as to rise rapidly through the NCO ranks as the
Army began to expand. He made QM 1/Sgt at about age 24 (previously, corporals might be in grade for 20 years!)
and then became a Warrant Officer, retiring in 1969.
In January 2012, Edna Duckworth died. She
was the widow of our alumnus Pvt Willie Duckworth, who devised the "Duckworth Chant" at Ft. Slocum in 1944 (see features
On 20 February 2012, George Hoffman died about ae 93.
George enlisted at Ft Slocum on St Patrick's Day 1941, before the War, and was an original member of the Slocum band.
He became supply sgt. Before the war he had his own band; afterwards, he ran George Hoffman Orchestras for many
years before retiring to Maine. Like Ken, George had many stories to tell about life on our post in WWII, and these
will be preserved and live on.
On 6 Feb 2013, Paul Ora Warren Tanner died near his
home in Carlsbad, CA. Paul played trombone -- Miller's own instrument -- on every Glen
Miller record until 1942. Paul served in the 378th ASF Band at Ft Slocum, went on to become Professor at UCLA,
author of a leading jazz textbook. He also invented the electro-theremin, an instrument he played on the Beach Boys'
The basic stuff, which probably every member will want, consists of the 1952 map on this page,
and the aerial photo on the home page. (A note to avoid confusion. Post buildings were renumbered in 1893 by QM
Capt. John Wyer Summerhayes; in 1941, when the Engineers took over from the QM; and then about 1958. We use the
1941 numbers as reflected on this 1952 map, for example throughout this website; currently USACE uses a modification
of the 1958 numbers.)
|1952 Armed Forces Information School map
Friends & alumni, grab your definitive
Slocum map here! (Right click, save as.) Alas the original is a bit fuzzy which makes it hard to read here
and building numbers are a bit hazy if you print out the map but if you read it in Explorer etc. you can zoom in as necessary
and the text will become legible.
Slocum 101: Here's our best, most powerful map, from the Information
School 1952; it is the complete map of the permanent post and represents the island as living ex-residents
will have known it.
Here's how members can help: by now we have a
complete list of building numbers standardized to the 1941 numbering system. (These are the numbers in the 1952 map
here.) Two things remain unclear. First, quarters numbers sometimes do and sometimes do not correspond to building
numbers. Second, the larger buildings are all identified but a few of the smaller structures & temporary
buildings are not.
Where Can I See Ft Slocum Today?
Not at Davids’ Island.
There has been quite a lot of destruction over the years on Davids’ Island. The Civil War post was thrown up in 1862-63;
by 1884 or so it was finished tumbling down. The last pre-Army building
was wiped away by 1892. Temporary barracks from the 1880’s were demolished
around 1906-08. Artillery emplacements erected in the 1890’s were
wiped away in 1930 and 1943, and the artillery itself removed by WWI. The destruction
of 2005-2008 may have been the most wide-sweeping but it was only the latest.
This last destruction wiped away all physical traces of Ft. Slocum (save
the road system and some sidewalks, bits of the seawall, the 1960’s flagpole, ¾ of the Abbot Quad mortar batteries,
Battery Practice and of course thank goodness our 15” Rodman gun). Some
of the buildings were unique. Most notable among those were the 1880’s
barracks and consolidated mess hall complex (bldgs. 51, 120, 52 & 53) constructed by QM Capt. George Hamilton Cook. (Bldg. numbers refer to the 1952 map, available above.)
Some buildings however were cookie-cutter versions of standard Army designs;
and some of their clones or at least analogues can be seen still standing
today. (And indeed, see below, there are even a few analogues to the unique Cook
buildings.) The following list is not exhaustive, but does indicate various locations
in the U.S. and abroad where individual
analogues can be found. The best concentrations in the US seem to be at opposite ends of the continent, in WA & FL.
5/6, duplex officers’ quarters, may have clones at Ft Totten (nearby in Queens)
22, company-grade officers quarters, has a clone at Ft.
Worden, WA (on the Olympic peninsula) (and it is possible to spend
a night in former officers quarters, including the apartments in this building)
151, the hospital and later Chaplain School, has an almost identical twin at Vancouver Barracks, WA (just across the Columbia from Portland, OR)
119, the guardhouse, has a clone from the very same year, 1896, at Madison Barracks, NY (upstate, at Sacket’s Harbor
on the eastern shore of Lake Erie)
52 (one of Cook’s barracks, 1887) has a close analogue (1892-93) at Ft Totten in bldgs 107 & 108; the design may have been influenced directly by Cook
- The same
barracks pattern of our Quadrivium, bldgs. 54-47, may be seen in wood at Vancouver Barracks, WA; and in brick, at Ft. Worden, WA
of the Trivium barracks, bldgs. 58-60, are still in use at Ft.
Lewis, WA (near Tacoma)
huge formidable 12” breech-loading mortars (see feature, elsewhere on this site) were removed from our Abbot Quad pits
early in the 20th century; and, like most other examples, were melted
for scrap. However examples exist at Ft DeSoto,
FL (near Tampa) and also in the Philippines
(notably Battery Way, on Corregidor).
guns, though usually the more common 10” models (or the 10”, retrofitted with 8” rifled sleeves) can be
found in some surprising places; though usually, like ours, on display but not
as they would have been in actual battery, on carriages. Of the 15”
Rodmans, about 323 were manufactured and only about 25 survive. Our 15”
is not mounted on a carriage, but to see what one looks like in battery, there are examples at Ft. McHenry MD, Ft. Knox ME,
Ft. Foote near DC, and Ft. Barrancas FL.
- The 5”
and 6” shielded pedestal-mounted direct-fire guns were removed after WWI (and their batteries demolished entirely around
1930 to make way for bldg. 58) but you can see what they looked like in battery at Ft Casey, WA (on the Olympic Peninsula,
near Ft Worden) and at Ft DeSoto, FL.
fields at Ft Madison & Ft Worden, both lined with O Rows (though very different buildings) and both bordering the water,
will bring back memories. Governors’ Island
and Ft Totten also have good O Rows, though not directly comparable to ours
the Staten Island ferry, or even the ferry to Governors’ Island, will also bring back
Military Salaries: 1958 &
While we were on Ft Slocum, how well
did we live (just in purely financial terms)? Have Slocum brats managed to improve
our lots in life? By way of getting at an answer, recently I looked at military
salaries then and now. If you want to answer the question for yourself, you can
compare your own earnings with those of your father.
In the table below, I took the maximum
1958 salaries for each rank (the Max 1958 column) then matched them with current salaries for same rank & duration of
service (2010 equiv to 1958 column). Then I tried 2 separate methods of adjusting
1958 salaries to 2010 equivalents (CPI & GDP columns, in the middle of the table).
You’ll notice that in all cases the CPI method yields higher numbers. Finally,
I took ratios of (CPI) adjusted 1958 values to the current 2010 salaries for all ranks.
(These turn out to range from .54 to .73.)
||Comparative Salaries 1958-2010|
||1958 adj to CPI
||1958 adj to GDP deflator
||2010 Equiv to 1958
||ratio 1958 CPI to 2010|
source for adjustments: www.measuringworth.com
|1958 figures: Islander 14 May 1958 p 3|
|2010 figures: www.militaryfactory.com|
Army families get lots of subsidies: food at the commissary, clothing at the PX, beer at the clubs, health care at the
dispensary, and a housing allowance. The other side of the coin, of course, is that actual take-home pay was low. In recent decades lower-ranking enlisted personnel have so
joined the ranks of the many “working poor” in American society that they have found it necessary to apply for
food stamps. “A survey conducted in
1999, showed that about 6,300 military families were on
food stamps,” it was reported at http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/moneymatters/a/foodstamps.htm. “That was a dramatic drop from the 12,000 who received aid in 1995,” the report continues, “and represents less than 1 percent of the 1.4 million
men and women in uniform.” The most striking aspect is not that it is less than 1% but that it can happen at all to men
and women who are asked to put their lives on the line. During the Viet
Nam war, there used to be a joke among the opposition: What if schools were funded
but the Air Force had to hold bake sales to buy bombs? During the Iraq war, this
was no longer a joke, as parents of deployed soldiers had to subsidize them through personal purchase of things like air conditioners
and even body armor which the Defense Department proved unwilling to provide.
Still, in the all-volunteer Army
it appears that pay has improved over that of the Cold War. Soldiers then
took home between ½ and ¾ (which is what the .54-.73 represents) of what their counterparts do now. For example, in 1958 a full bird colonel (O6) -- the top-ranking officer on Ft. Slocum at that time -- made $11,820 per annum. Adjusted by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), that would amount to $71,236 in 2010 dollars. But in 2010, an O6 with comparable service in fact would take home $120,564. The top-ranked NCO (E9) took home about half of that: $5,280 in 1958. That would be $39,168
adjusted via CPI to 2010 dollars; but the actual 2010 take-home of an active-duty
E9 with comparable service is $63,012.
And that’s a conservative estimate; had I used the GDP figures instead, the disparity would appear greater still.
So at Ft. Slocum, we really needed
the commissary + PX + beer call + dispensary + flounder blackfish etc.!
Now, whether this percentage really
translates into more disposable income at home might be questioned. In 1958,
the Class B-1 landline telephone to our quarters cost $4 a month ($1.35 for an extension phone); we might be lusting after
the NBC peacock in living color, maybe; the only computer on post was a big mainframe
in the NIKE IFC. Now we have all sorts of consumer electronics, laptops
Blackberries iPods 3D HD cable etc., to gobble up spare income. Red Goose shoes
got nothing on $100 Nikes that kids demand. And so on.
I have yet to factor in housing allowances
and compare them to current housing markets. But this is a start, and as
a start, you may find it interesting and eye-opening.
Odds & Ends
Here's a little incentive: if you can identify your quarters (especially by matching
your quarters numbers with a building number from the map) I may be able to supply you with either or both of the QM
building sheets (with a photo, though not well reproduced) and a floor plan.
Anyway, anyone can have copies of these if you have any other favorite buildings. (We have some from the barracks,
the guard house -- whose favorite building was THAT? but we do have some MP members -- Post HQ,
the PX, the Information School. We also have a good collection from Officers' Row.) These come courtesy of our
allies in CDSG. The set is incomplete; the Chaplain School is notably missing, but we now have the water tower
plus buildings built after 1930 (what I call "the Trivium," i.e., Barrett Hall & the other 2 barracks used by
the Information School, bldgs. 58-60; and most of the NCO quarters) and for once have a pretty complete identification
of the buildings on the 1952 map. Just ask.