New York Reunion Visit

Copyright © 1998-2002, Scott D. Murdock
12 Oct 2002 - Corrected designation of BU-09C.
16 Nov 2002 - Added photos.
23 Feb 2013 - Added additional photos, upgraded existing photos.


I hadn't been to New England in over a decade.  A family reunion sounded like fun. Due to the timing, my wife could not join me on this trip.  Adding a few days to the schedule allowed me to mix research with family.

Thursday, 17 Aug 1995

Flew from Shreveport to Greater Buffalo International (BUF), 42-56, 78-44.  As Buffalo Municipal Airport, this airfield supported AAF Modification Center #5 during W.W.II.  I rented a car and headed to Niagara Falls.   The airport, not the waterfall!

Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG) is used by the ANG, Niagara Falls AGS (RVJV) and AFRES, Niagara Falls IAP (1492, RVKQ). The former BOMARC missile facility, Niagara Falls AF Missile Site (7161), 43-07-04, 78-56-56, has been obliterated.  I noticed a munitions bunker just to the west of the former BOMARC site.
(Munitions storage area)

(Munitions buildings)

(Munitions buildings)

(Munitions storage magazine)

(Buildings)

Next stop was Lockport AFS (1447, NMWM), 43-08-30, 78-50-00.  It is now part apartments, part local fire department, and part abandoned.  A sign advertised an ongoing Corps of Engineers cleanup project.  A large, windowless building shows the characteristic humped roof of an Army Missile Master facility, part of the Nike missile system.  I found the footings from a radar tower.
(General view)

(Facility 126 - Missile Master building)

(Facility 126 -
Missile Master building)
(Facility 126 - Missile Master building)

(Facility 126 - Missile Master building)

(Facility 127 - Sewage Treatment)

(Facility 127 - Sewage Treatment)

(Facility 134)

(Tank field)

Then I had a short drive to Nike site NF-16C, 43-09-32, 78-50-23.  It is home to a business, and the owner welcomed me to look around. Quite a few of the buildings and towers are still in good shape, others are only remnants.

The launch site, NF-16L, 43-09-43, 78-49-08, is pretty well obliterated, and is used by the town highway department.  A sign on the fence announced a Corps of Engineers cleanup project.
(General view)

(Building)

(Drainage feature)

I also found and explored Nike site BU-09C, 43-03-14, 78-43-14, now used for municipal records storage.  Next to one building, underground storage tanks had been removed, recently.
(Building)

(Building)

(Building)

(Building)

(Building)

(Building)

(Building)

(Area of removed storage tank)

(Gate)

(Signage)

(Unidentified feature)

I made it to Sampson AFB, 42-44, 76-55, at sunset -- quite a nice view, looking out over the lake.  I spent the night in Ithaca.

Friday, 18 Aug 1995

I returned to Sampson AFB by daylight; now a state park with a small part held by the Army as a recreation area. Sampson AFB has a great scenic view, overlooking Seneca Lake. I found lots of abandoned buildings out in the far reaches of the former base.  A guard shack is still standing, keeping watch on a former base gate. I approached one odd-looking building, and as I rounded the corner discovered it was the sewage treatment plant. The vegetation was thickly overgrown and the effect quite spooky, the circular tanks filled with green slime and the sound of running water still audible somewhere from all the pipes and manholes. It seemed suitable for the opening scene of some X-Files episode!  A red-and-white water tower is near the former airfield. The airfield was across the highway from the main part of the base.  It was transferred to the Army and is still part of the Seneca Ordnance Depot (VHAV), 42-44-30, 76-52-50, which was gated and seemed to be inactive. 
(General view)

(General view)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)
(Buildings)
(Buildings)
(Buildings)
(Buildings)
(Buildings)
(Buildings)
(Gate house)
(Gate house)
(Gate house)
(Army recreation area)
(Sailor memorial)
(Sailor memorial)
(Historical marker)

From there, I drove to Griffiss AFB (JREZ), 43-13-30, 75-25-00, FAA code RME.  The base was about to close (on 1 Oct 1995), and it was pretty quiet.  I noticed some depot-style warehouses and several hangars, including former alert barns.

Then it was back toward Syracuse, and a stop at Hancock Field (4605, KBHT), 43-07, 76-07, FAA code SYR. It was an interesting place.  There are a few buildings of the old Hancock Field in use by Air Force activities; one of them the large concrete SAGE blockhouse (still in use by either ANG or AFRES). A lot of buildings were abandoned and in disrepair. There is an Air National Guard flying outfit (now flying F-16s) on the airport, physically separate from any of the above facilities.
(Air National Guard area)

(Building)

(Building)

(Firing range access gate)

On the northeast side of the field there is a housing area owned by Griffiss AFB.  I later learned this was Griffiss Family Housing Annex (GRBY), 43-07-30, 76-05-00.  Two months after my visit, it was declared excess and transferred to Hanscom AFB pending disposal.

Saturday, 19 Aug 1995

I spent the day at the Murdock family reunion, catching up with relatives I hadn’t seen in years.

Sunday, 20 Aug 1995

Up before dawn, I headed east into Vermont.  First stop: Burlington MAP (1519, CURZ), 44-28-30, 73-09-00, FAA code BTV.  The airport is still home to an ANG flying unit. 

Then I sought out the nearby Ethan Allen AFB, 44-30-00, 73-09-22.  Ethan Allen AFB (1520) was a support base for the flying operation at Burlington IAP.  Most of this former base is now the National Guard's Camp Johnson, and parts of it are apartments, a university, and other housing.
(Industrial building)

(Vintage building and current signage)

Heading further North, I found St Albans AFS (1454, WAQR), 44-46-54, 73-03-54.  This site is shown as "Radome" on Aeronautical Charts and the large white "golf ball" is quite visible from the Interstate.   The FAA still uses a radar on the top-most part of the site.  Below that is the admin part of the base; barracks, dining hall, base exchange, and bowling alley.  All abandoned, empty, and falling apart. And just below that is a small family housing area with nine units. The noise from the FAA site was impressive, a loud buzzing hum. I don't know if it was the radar itself or generators or whatever, but it was very loud near the radome and still noticeable down the hill by the barracks.
(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Housing)

(Housing)

(Signs)

(Signs)

(Signs)

Driving north then west took me back into New York to Plattsburgh MAP (PLB), 44-41, 73-31.  It is still in use as an airport.

Then I went to Plattsburgh AFB (THWA), 44-40, 73-28, FAA code PBG.  This base was soon to close (on 1 Oct 1995), and was a ghost town. A state highway splits the "old" and "new" bases, and only the new side was guarded. I was told only a couple hundred people were left, and I literally had the roads to myself as I explored. Sadly, some building signs were missing an occasional letter.  The empty flight line looked downright eerie from the highway, the fence still dotted with "no stopping allowed" signs. The golf course is already civilian-operated.  The control tower overlooked an empty aircraft ramp.  The scenery ranged from old barracks to the futuristic SAC "molehole" alert facility.  The base theater had a farewell greeting from the AAFES staff.
(B-47 bomber shelters)

(B-47 bomber shelters)

(Gate)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Buildings)

(Historical marker)

(Historical marker)

(Historical marker)

(Historical marker)

Monday, 21 Aug 1995

I started the day with photos of Plattsburgh AFB, then I headed south.   I stopped at the Saratoga County Airport (5B2), formerly Ballston Spa Airport, and asked an old hand if he remembered the Air Force radar site in the area.

Yes he did, and gave me directions to Saratoga AFS (1429, UYEM), 43-00-45, 73-41-00. It is owned by a construction company and is mainly used for storage, with various communication antennas in place on the old towers. As I drove up the access road ("Radar Road," no less) I noticed the same extra-thick power cable as I remembered from St Albans.  The guard shack had a large No Trespassing sign, so I figured a photo from the road was all I would get. But it was a good day. A man drove up and got out of his car, checking the mailbox at the gate. I asked him if he worked there, which he did. I gave him the short version of my story. He welcomed me to enter, look around all I wanted, and take pictures!  I noticed several dormitories, administrative buildings, and a windowless blockhouse-type building.   Some tower remnants still stood.  A couple of the towers were fairly intact, minus antenna. I climbed the winding staircase to the main level, then climbed the ladder to the upper level of the largest tower.  From there I had a good view of the neighboring tower. One building showed a faded bicentennial logo -- a popular project in 1976.  USAF orders designate this as Saratoga AFS, but other sources sometimes call it Saratoga Springs AFS.  The family housing area, Saratoga Family Housing Annex (UYEN), 43-00-42, 73-41-01, sits just south of the radar station.
(General view)

(General view)

(Gate)

(Radar tower)

(Radar tower)

From here I drove into Massachusetts to Westover AFB (4571, YTPM) 42-12, 72-32, FAA code CEF.  It is now called Westover Air Reserve Base.  It is a neatly-manicured base; one end is civilian but most is still AFRES. The old alert facility is now the airport terminal building.  I noticed some nice hangars, and alert barns.
(Gate)

(SAC "molehole" alert facility)

(SAC "molehole" alert facility)

(Communications building)

(SAC maintenance docks)

(SAC maintenance docks)

From there I headed into Connecticut to Bradley International Airport (5592, CEKT), 41-56-00, 72-40-40, FAA code BDL.  Bradley Field was a First Air Force fighter base during W.W.II, and since then has been used by the Air Force Reserves, then the Air National Guard.  The Guard is still based there today, and there is a nice museum on the far side of the airfield.  I took a quick look around the airport at dusk, and found the closest motel to the rental car place.  

I put 1,405 miles on the rental car in 4 days of driving, and saw about twenty sites.  Good thing I had the unlimited mileage rate!

Tuesday, 22 Aug 1995

I flew from Bradley Field to La Guardia IAP (LGA), 40-46-30, 73-52-45. La Guardia Field was a First Air Force sub base during W.W.II.

My next flight was from La Guardia to Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL), Georgia, 33-39, 84-25.   During W.W.II, Atlanta Municipal Airport was home to several Army Air Forces activities.  At least one official source called it Atlanta AAB.

Third flight of the day was Atlanta to Monroe Regional (MLU), Louisiana, 32-30-54, 92-02-30, Louisiana. Selman Field was a navigator-training base in W.W.II.  From Monroe I made the day's final flight, to Shreveport Regional (SHV), 32-26-47, 93-49-32.

A whirlwind tour, and a blast. Gee, when (and where) is the next family reunion?


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