The storied bravery and valor of North Country World War II veterans will be retold at SUNY Canton in honor of Veterans Day.
The College will be holding a Veterans’ Living History Ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, in the Richard W. Miller Campus Center’s Kingston Theater. It will be highlighting the recorded accounts of soldiers who served in all branches of the military in many notable battles. The Ceremony is free and open to the public and there will be a reception following the presentation.
“It’s our honor to recognize the brave soldiers who served during the war that permanently changed the world, and influenced our entire culture,” said SUNY Canton Acting President Joseph C. Hoffman. “These men stormed the beaches of Normandy and witnessed the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. They struggled against German occupation in France and beyond. Then, they came home and went about their lives in Northern New York.”
The event was created as a way to celebrate Veterans Day at the College and to spread the word about an ongoing project to collect oral histories from area veterans through the Southworth Library Learning Commons, according to Assistant Librarian Michael Magilligan.
“The project started when I was talking to a co-employee who has an 87-year-old neighbor who dropped out of high school to join the military,” Magilligan said. “I ended up interviewing 33 veterans from around the North Country. I feel as though I’ve captured the true experience of American servicemen during the Second World War.”
Many of the veterans Magilligan interviewed will be attending the event. Selections from their interviews, and photos they shared will be shown in a multi-media presentation assembled by the assistant librarian.
Each of the interviews will be housed on a database at SUNY Canton to provide future generations with a comprehensive understanding of World War II and how it
impacted the home front. The recordings will also submitted to the Library of Congress and the New York State Veterans’ History Museum in Saratoga.
Kenneth D. Kirkey, Massena, who was a radio operator and a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army selected for a secret mission, relayed his experience for the project. Kirkey was the last one out of his plane as it was shot down. “We were sent into Normandy two days before D-Day [June 6, 1944],” Kirkey recounted to Magilligan. “We had carrier pigeons and radios half the size of a table.”
In another account, Charles H. Alexander of Canton, who served in the U.S. Navy relayed his experience ferrying soldiers to and from the beaches of Normandy on Landing Ship, Tank (LST) vessels. “It’s scary at first, the first day or two, the first two or three trips. There’s a lot of combat going on,” he said. “But it kind of moves away. You get used it. You get calloused.”
Arnold Newkofsky, Canton, was a gunner on an LST for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater. Newkofsky said that when he heard the alerts he’d rush to his weapon and point it at the sun, waiting for Japanese planes to descend upon them. “Everyday was D-Day,” he said.
Magilligan has recorded many other accounts portraying many vivid and intensely personal remembrances from numerous fronts and battles, including those by SUNY Canton Alumni Frank J. White, Canton, (class of 1938) and Otis E. Van Horne, Canton (class of 1942). Van Horne also taught in the Electrical Construction program at the College.
About SUNY Canton
SUNY Canton is Northern New York’s premier College for career-driven bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees and certificate programs. The College delivers quality hands-on programs in engineering technology, health, management, and public service to students in the North Country, New York State, and beyond. Faculty members are noted for their professional real-world experience in addition to their academic credentials. SUNY Canton OnLine offers hundreds of flexible and convenient courses as well as eight exclusively online bachelor’s degrees. The College’s 14 athletic teams compete in state-of-the-art facilities as provisional members of the NCAA Division III and the USCAA.