Sampson Air Force Museum
Before World War I, the Sampson area was mostly farmland. After the outbreak of the war, there was a need for facilities to train military personnel. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved construction of a Naval Training Station on May 14, 1942. The station was named after Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, who was a hero of the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American War. The Naval base closed in May of 1946 and was converted into the Sampson Air Force Base during the Korean War. The Sampson Air Force Museum preserves the history of the base and includes static displays of historic aircraft, a statue, and exhibits within the former stockade.
Backstory and Context
As a Naval Training Station, approximately 4-5,000 Navy personnel operated and maintained the station. A total of 411,429 Naval Recruits were trained at the station during the three and one-half years of operation. There were 5 stations. Each station unit, to train 5000 recruits, was developed around a parade ground and drill field of 14 acres, adjoined by a drill hall with a two-acre indoor drill area, gymnasium, swimming pool, movable stage and motion picture equipment. There were living and administrative areas included a mess hall to serve meals cafeteria style, twenty-two barracks to house 228 men each, two barracks for Chief Petty Officers, two dispensaries, a ship service building for recreation, an administrative building, rifle range, small arms magazine and a large storehouse. In September of 1945 Sampson was opened as a separation processing center and by the beginning of October three out of the 5 recruiting sections was closed. By the end of October 13,000 men had been discharged. The last discharge was on March 25, 1946. In April 1946 the Center was closed and the Naval Training Station functioned as Sampson College, a state emergency college for veterans of World War II.
During the Korean War (1950-1956), Sampson served as a U.S Air Force basic training center which training could last anywhere from 4 to 13 weeks. Sampson AFB was also home to the largest USAF Hospital holding 1500 beds. The Air Force had built a runway, control tower, fire station, and aircraft parking ramp to convert to the needs of the base. Over a quarter million men and women were stationed at the base in the five and a half year period. 1. The mission of Sampson AFB was to provide formal basic training for all male and female enlisted personnel not having sufficient previous military training; to establish and operate such assembly, processing and separation station as specifically directed; to provide a comprehensive counseling program for Basic Indoctrinate personnel in order that these airmen may be most effectively assigned in accordance with Air Force requirements; and to maintain training programs for accomplishing rehabilitation of garrison prisoners. The first trainees arrived on 1 Feb 1951. The base employed about 700 civilians and had 600 permanent party troops.
Today the airfield is being developed into an emergency services training site for police and fire training. The control tower & fire station are empty. Though a large portion of the former Air Force base today is now abandoned, at least in the 2000s, parts of the facility had been converted to a civil picnic area called Sampson State Park and the United States Navy operated the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) sonar test facility on a part of the facility. Located in the building that was formally the old stockade/brig, is the Sampson Air Force Museum. The displays are quite extensive, including a restored T 33 static display aircraft and a Falcon Memorial statue. The Sampson Air Force Museum is open annually from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.