“Liberty’s War” Exhibit at American Merchant Marine Museum Spotlights Unsung Heroes of WWII

Scots maritime artist Jim Rae depicts a German aircraft firing on the Murmansk-bound Liberty ship, SS Cornelius Harnett, part of the convoy JW-52 in the Norwegian Sea, Jan. 25, 1943. The painting is included in the “Liberty’s War” exhibit at the American Merchant Museum Museum, Kings Point © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The first stunning realization from the new exhibit at the American Merchant Marine Museum, “Liberty’s War,” is how vital the cargo ships, manned by civilian volunteers, were to winning World War II. The second is how dangerous this was – the convoys of merchant ships under near-constant attack by U-boats, Luftwaffe and kamikaze aircraft. Indeed, more than 9,500 merchant mariners lost their lives manning nearly 3,000 ships during the war. And finally, that the merchant seamen only received $5,000 compensation if they were killed or disabled in the war, and were not eligible for any of the GI Bill benefits the soldiers received. This probably tells the story more than anything else why their heroism is unsung and virtually unknown until a memoir of one engineer, Herman Melton.

The new exhibit, which is on view through February 28, 2019, is based on the life and wartime experiences of Herman Melton, a graduate of USMMA’s class of 1944, as described in his memoir edited by his son, Will Melton, Liberty’s War: An Engineer’s Memoir of the Merchant Marine, 1942-45.. Herman Melton became an engineer, serving from 1942 to 1945 on so-called Liberty ships. His position on the ships – in the engineering room deep in the bowels of the ship– was particularly hazardous because enemy submarines would target the engine rooms as the most vulnerable part of a ship. But the men had to stay in their positions to give the ship a fighting chance for survival.

Will Melton autographs a copy of the memoir of his father, Herman Melton, an engineer on a Liberty ship in World War II, at the opening of the “Liberty’s War” exhibit at the American Merchant Marine Museum, Kings Point © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, the USMMA is the only military academy that flies the Battle Standard, in honor of the 142 of its students who died aboard merchant ships in World War II – tributes to them play in a tiny chapel-like room in the former Barstow mansion where the museum is housed. In all, more than 9,500 merchant mariners lost their lives in World War II.

The USMMA actually came into creation because of World War II – the need to staff the merchant ships was so critical that a four-year training program was compressed into 18 months.

The role of these Liberty ships – there were nearly 3,000 of the cargo ships between 1941 and 1945 – was critical to supply the war effort, to bring fuel and supplies to allies.

“They were an absolutely crucial link in the Allied supply chain that ultimately resulted in victory in 1945,” Joshua Smith, interim director of the American Merchant Marine Museum, writes in the exhibit’s brochure. “Too often that story gets ignored, but in the American Merchant Marine Museum’s latest exhibit, ‘Liberty’s War,’ the story of these valiant little freighters is told through the eyes of a young man from Texas, Herman Melton.”

Herman Melton was 89 years old when his son convinced him to write a memoir. As the exhibit notes reveal:

Melton faced combat in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theatres during World War II, always serving aboard Liberty ships, the slow but enormously useful vessels that carried the supplies that propelled the Allies to victory.  During his time on convoy duty in three oceans, Herman entered combat at sea in some of the fiercest fighting with both the Germans and the Japanese. In the treacherous Murmansk run of 1942-43, Herman sailed as a Cadet-Midshipman as American and British merchant ships delivered urgently needed Lend-Lease supplies to the Soviet Union. Allied convoys faced German U-boats and Luftwaffe torpedo bombers operating at their peak efficiency, out of Norwegian bases.  The result was that many Allied supply ships were lost, and many merchant mariners died while trying to supply the Russians.

“Liberty’s War” exhibit includes photos of some of the men who served on the Liberty ships © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During his January 1943 voyage across the Arctic Sea to north Russia, Herman’s Liberty ship, SS Cornelius Harnett, was attacked by torpedo bombers of Germany’s Coastal Air Group 406 based in Norway.  Herman’s battle station called for him to carry ammunition and reload shell magazines for the U.S. Navy Armed Guard gun crew aboard the Harnett. The gunners helped to shoot down two of the four attacking aircraft, and their commander received the Silver Star from the U.S. Navy for his performance in the action. More than fifty years later, The Russian Embassy in Washington recognized Melton in a 1992 ceremony with a medal from the Russian Government for his service.

Herman again entered a deadly combat zone during the Allies’ invasion of the Philippines in the fall of 1944. Airmen of the combined Japanese army and naval air forces waged a do-or-die battle against American forces. Herman was now the Third Assistant Engineer aboard SS Antoine Saugrain in an Allied convoy steaming from New Guinea carrying specially-trained troops and super-secret anti-aircraft equipment. During an attack by Japanese torpedo bombers, the Saugrain took two direct hits before its Master gave the order to abandon ship off Leyte Island. Although the ship’s rafts and lifeboats could carry only a fraction of the more than 200 crew and soldiers to be rescued, all hands survived thanks to two U.S. Navy frigates dispatched to pick up men in boats and swimming in the water. After two more attacks by Japanese bombers, the Saugrain was sent to the sea bottom.

Helen and Herman Melton were married in the chapel at the US Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit also tells a love story, Herman’s wartime romance with Helen Dunn, his Kansas junior college sweetheart. Before departing for service in General Douglas MacArthur’s war in the South West Pacific, Herman and Helen were married in a saber ceremony in the Academy’s chapel in the old Chrysler mansion.

It is this personalization that makes the exhibit all the more poignant.

Melton’s memoir is being published by U.S. Naval Institute Press in September, to coincide with the museum’s exhibit highlighting Herman’s experiences battling both the Germans and the Japanese.

The American Merchant Marine Museum showcases the vital role that merchant mariners play in war and peace © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The “Liberty’s War” exhibit is illustrated with wonderful photos – personal as well as military – along with period uniforms, souvenirs of Herman’s wartime assignments and documents of his training as one of the first Engineer Cadet-Midshipmen of the USMMA, artifacts, ship models, and maps that let you trace Melton’s own harrowing journey as well as a superb documentary video you can watch in a small alcove.

Scots maritime artist Jim Rae depicts a German aircraft firing on the Murmansk-bound Liberty ship, SS Cornelius Harnett, part of the convoy JW-52 in the Norwegian Sea, Jan. 25, 1943. The painting is included in the “Liberty’s War” exhibit at the American Merchant Museum Museum, Kings Point © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In addition, there are remarkable paintings that were created by Jim Rae, who came to the exhibit opening at Kings Point from his home in Scotland to attend the opening reception, September 8. Rae’s drawings and paintings, which he has been making since he was a boy, are remarkably precise and exacting – he says he can complete one in the time it takes to watch a show over lunch.

Paintings by Scots maritime artist Jim Rae show the drama of the Liberty ships © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rae has spent his life at sea – first as a cabin boy in the British Merchant Navy and later enlisting in the Royal Navy. “It was while serving on various aircraft carriers that I took up painting once again.”

Rae says his subjects “are really quite specialized: not many people want a painting of the ‘Battle of the North Cape’ unless Granddad served in one of the ships taking part. I tend to concentrate on lesser known events, and the ‘little ship’ rather than the battleship and great battles.”

Captain Hugh Stephens, now an adjunct professor at SUNY Maritime, recalled his pwm experience serving on one of the Liberty merchant ships during World War II during the opening of the “Liberty’s War” exhibit © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Barstow Mansion

The setting of the Barstow Mansion, now the American Merchant Marine Museum, on Kings Point, overlooking Long Island Sound, on the campus of the US Merchant Marine Academy © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Merchant Marine Museum is housed in the former Barstow Mansion.

The Gold Coast mansion, harking back to the Gilded Age, is utterly stunning, William Slocum Barstow, the first mayor of Kings Point, made his fortune first, as a partner with Thomas Edison until he set out on his own, in 1901, one of the first electrical engineers. He founded many electric utility companies and was the man responsible for lighting the Brooklyn Bridge. He was very much involved in Great Neck community, even funding the bridge and overpass at the Long island Railroad to cut down on the fatalities when the train crossing was a street level, and he and his wife donated the funds for the Woman’s Club of Great Neck. The Mediterranean Revival-style mansion was Barstow’s main residence The Barstow Mansion was his main residence from 1 915 until the end of his life, in 1942, and then his wife’s until 1953 when it was sold to the Lundy family (of Lundy Restaurant fame). The architectural features – wood paneling, decorative ceilings – are breathtaking.

The American Merchant Marine Museum is located on the grounds of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, 300 Steamboat Road, Kings Point, NY 10024fammm.us. Admission is free, and it is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Friday (closed during USMMA holidays and the month of July).  It is highly recommended that you call (516) 726-6047 or e-mail museum@usmma.edu before visiting.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

A Day in The Gunks: Out of the Gym, Ascending New Heights of Rock Climbing

A Day in The Gunks with High Xposure guide Bobby Ferrari: Laini tackles Pitch 1 of her first multi-pitch climb, Triple Bulges (photo by David Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate)

By David Leiberman & Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

As we discovered, climbing in a gym is very different from climbing a real mountain face. One of the best places in the world to learn how to climb is practically in our own backyard: the Shawgunk Mountains, affectionately nicknamed “The Gunks,” is just six miles from New Paltz and offers some of the best rock climbing in the East.

The Mohonk Preserve, New York State’s largest private, nonprofit nature preserve with over 8,000 acres, owns this section of the Shawgunk Mountains and charges a $20 day-use fee for climbers (a season pass is available, also). Of the 200,000 visitors that the Preserve welcomes in a year, 80,000 are climbers who have more than 1,000 climbing routes – five linear miles of cliff face – to venture out on, with near access to parking and sanitary facilities.

In the early 1950s, there may have been 50 climbers on a busy day in The Gunks.  By the 1990s, that number grew to 500-800. Today, The Gunks have become a world-class climbing area, offering some of the best climbing in the eastern United States. What is more, The Gunks offer particularly friendly terrain for people (like us) who have never climbed real rock faces before. The vertical cliffs and their overhangs create a wide variety of high-quality climbs of varying levels of difficulty. The distinctive, stark, white cliffs of the Gunks are as tough as they look – with sharp angles testing your skill and with quartz pebbles and deep fissures providing multiple holds.

It’s also an ideal place to climb safety, with some of the best-trained, vertical rescue teams in the northeastern United States. Indeed, guide companies have to be registered with Mohonk Preserve. In collaboration with climbing guides and groups, the Preserve regularly hosts climbing clinics.

And so, for our first climbing venture, we went out with with Bobby Ferrari of High Xposure Adventures ($350 for two for a full day program, 9 am to 4:30 pm). The conditions were ideal: bright sun and cool temperatures for a summer’s day.

High Xposure was founded in 1974, and has been guiding rock and ice climbing trips in the Gunks and Catskills Mountans for more than 40 years. Its accreditation with American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) dates back to 1986, when the accreditation program was established.

High Xposure works with climbers of all abilities and experience – from total beginners, introducing them to outdoor rock climbing, to avid climbers visiting the Gunks from other regions and interested in climbing the Gunks classic routes. The company also organizes group climbing trips – corporate outings, family retreats, adventure groups. “We have extensive experience working with kids – during school breaks, we guide rock climbing outings for summer camps and boy scout groups.

High Xposure offers a wide range of climbing programs – rock climbing techniques, rope management and anchors, multi-pitch, and lead climbing.

It was an ideal program for us to make the transition from climbing in a gym to climbing the real thing.

The list of registered guide companies includes:

Alpine Endeavors  (845) 658-3094, alpineendeavors.com

Alpine Logic (207) 949-1736, alpine-logic.com

Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS)  (800) 310-4504, emsclimb.com

High Xposure Adventures  (800) 777-CLIMB, high-xposure.com

Mountain Skills  (845) 853-5450, mountainskills.biz

Ragged Mountain Guides (203) 228-2311, raggedmountainguides.com

Vertical Gains (845) 926-2502, verticalgains.com

Vitti Mountain Guides (845) 901-3687, vittimtguides.com

Mohonk Preserve is also popular for bouldering, with acres of boulders that offer hundreds of problems – from basic to advanced; climbers come from all over the country to try out the new problems put up almost every day.

This is a year-round destination with ice climbing. The best active time of year, and when the guide companies are most active is from April through November.

Rock Climbing Guidebooks: The Climbers Guide to the Shawangunks: The Trapps (revised 2nd ed. ©2016) by Dick Williams is available for purchase at the Nature Shop  in the Visitor Center for $34.99. Ivan Greene and Marc Russo, Bouldering in the Shawangunks, Jefe Publication

Download Gunks Apps Rock Climbing Guide to Your Mobile Device: Bring a digital guidebook with you on any mobile device. Gunks Apps climbing giudebooks are now available for purchase for Trapps RoutesNears RoutesTrapps Bouldering, and Nears Bouldering

Check out these sources for climbing and bouldering suggestions: www.gunksapps.com

Bobby Ferrari of High Xposure Adventures teaches us how to simul-rappel down Snooky’s Return

Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve is one of the few private, nonprofit (NGO) climbing areas in the United States and is financially supported by members and visitors. It is open to the public 365 days a year. (You can join online now, or you can buy a day pass or membership at a trailhead or at the Visitor Center.)

Here is more helpful info from the Preserve’s website:

Be aware that you climb at your own risk on the Preserve, which isn’t responsible for the condition of the cliffs, climbing protection, climber behavior, or training or supervising climbs. For your safety, read the Preserve’s Climbing Policy.

Help protect the resource. Prevent damage to the cliffs and to the fragile life found here:

         Use only established trails and carriage roads.

         Use the yellow-blazed climber approach trails in the Trapps.

         Avoid damaging lichen and vegetation growing on the cliff and treat the rock gently: tree cutting, rock trundling, hold chopping, and bolting or gluing of holds are prohibited.

         Minimize chalk use and brush off heavily chalked holds.

         Leave only rock-colored slings at rappel stations.

Parking is extremely limited on weekends and holidays. During peak seasons, parking lots fill early. Ease traffic congestion by carpooling or coming at off-peak times.

Dogs must be attended and leashed at all times. To avoid having your dog disturb others, don’t leave your dog tied-up at the base of a climb. If you leave your dog unattended, it will be removed by an animal control officer.

Keep the trails at the base clear so others can pass by.

Camping is available at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground on Rte. 299. For more information, click here (mohonkpreserve.org/camping).

For other hotel and lodging information, see the Area Guide (mohonkpreserve.org/area-guide).

Becoming a member helps keep the cliffs open to climbers and provides ongoing support for the preserve’s climbing management program – recognized as a model by the UIAA  (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation).

You can also:

  • Volunteer for trail maintenance and other projects that ensure climber access.
  • Become involved with the Gunks Climbers’ Coalition – a local climbing advocacy group.
  • Donate to the Thom Scheuer Memorial Fund for Land Stewardship, which helps build and maintain climber facilities, including trailheads, parking areas, and sanitary facilities. To contribute, contact the Development Department at (845) 255-0919 ext. 1240.

For more information visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/climb, 845-255-0919.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Photos Show Intensity of Action Underway at 2017 US Open Tennis Championships

Gael Monfils of France, seeded 18, defeats Jeremy Chardy of France 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some 87 matches were contested on Wednesday, August 30, to complete Round 1 after a largely rained out Tuesday. Fans were treated to an amazing array of tennis champions.

Here are highlights in photos:

Gael Monfils of France, seeded 18, in action against Jeremy Chardy of France during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Gael Monfils of France, seeded 18, in action against Jeremy Chardy of France during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jeremy Chardy of France tries to stave off fellow countryman Gael Monfils, seeded 16, in Round One match during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia, seeded 8, in action against left-hander Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic, triumphs after losing the first set and going to a tie-break in the third, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, at the 2017 US Open © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic in action against 8-seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia at 2017 US Open © 2017 Karen Rubin/ news-photos-features.com
Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia serves to Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic, at the 2017 US Open © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
David Goffin of Belgium, seeded 9 in action against Julien Benneteau of France, beating him in Round 1 in four sets, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Julien Benneteau tries to stave off 9-seed David Goffin of Belgium at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, seeded 10, brought a precision game to defeat Petra Martic of Croatia in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 in first-round play at the 2017 US Open Tennis championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Petra Martic of Croatia in first-round action against 10-seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland at the 2017 US Open Tennis championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lucas Pouille of France, seeded 16, prevails over Jared Donaldson of the USA after five sets (7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4) in Round 2 action against during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
One of the most exciting contests of the day, Jared Donaldson of USA brought 16-seeded Lucas Pouille of France to a five-setter in Round 2 of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lucas Pouille of France, seeded 16, prevails over Jared Donaldson of the USA after five sets in Round 2 action against during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jared Donaldson who came back from two sets down to win the next two sets, was ultimately broken at 5-4 in the 5th set against 16-seed Lucas Pouille of France in Round 2 of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Shuai Zhang of China, seeded 27, defeated Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-7, 6-3, 6-0 to move to the second round of the 2017 US Open Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
After winning the first set in a tie-breaker, Sabine Lisicki of Germany lost her first-round match to 27-seed Shuai Zhang of China at the 2017 US Open Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Shuai Zhang of China, seeded 27, in action against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the 2017 US Open Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded 5, easily dispatched Florian Mayer of Germany, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to move on to the third round at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Florian Mayer of Germany was no match for Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded 5, at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, seeded 7, easily dispatches Vaclav Safranek of Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2, on the Grandstand courts at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Vaclav Safranek of Czech Republic in action against 7-seed Grigor Dimotrov of Bulgaria Round One match during the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Shelby Rogers of Charleston SC, defeated fellow American Kayla Day of Santa Barbara, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to advance to her second round at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Kayla Day of Santa Barbara in action against fellow American Shelby Rogers of Charleston SC at the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Icing on the cake: watching tennis great Venus Williams, seeded 9 in the US Open, warming up before her night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium against Oceane Dodin of France, who she went on to defeat in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4 to move on to the third round of the 2017 US Open Tennis Championships © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Venus Williams, who won the US Open Singles title in 2000 and 2001 and Doubles title in 1999 and 2009, has played in 18 US Opens. She holds 49 career singles titles and 22 career doubles titles © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See also:

32 Qualifiers Win Their Spot in 2017 US Open Tennis Championships

Festive Atmosphere as US Open Tennis Championship Opens Gates to All for Qualifying Matches

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures