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What you need to know for 07/27/2017

Focus on History: WWII stories from Amsterdam

Focus on History: WWII stories from Amsterdam

Victor DeGolyer had a fitting name for someone born Nov. 12, 1918, a day of celebration because of t

Victor DeGolyer had a fitting name for someone born Nov. 12, 1918, a day of celebration because of the end of World War I the previous day.

Cynthia DeGolyer of Johnstown said her father grew up on in Amsterdam’s East End. He was the sixth of seven children born to Jacob and Jenny DeGolyer. Both parents worked in the mills. Jenny was an immigrant from Scotland. Their neighbors on DeGraff Street included the Spagnolas, Unchers, Harrigs and Mrs. Annie Lench. Mr. Brindle, the policeman, was Lench’s upstairs tenant.

DeGolyer wrote, “As a teenager, Dad worked for the John E. Larrabee hardware store and served in the Naval Reserve. He spent several years as a [carpet] weaver at Mohawk Mills before the beginning of World War II.”

When the military draft was instituted in late 1940, numbers were assigned and then announced on the radio. Victor DeGolyer and his friends gathered at the SOCONY gas station at East Main Street and Vrooman Avenue to hear the numbers called.

DeGolyer wrote of her father, “He could scarcely believe his ears when less than a minute into the broadcast, his number was announced.”

DeGolyer, then living on Forbes Street, was first on a list of 15 men who were inducted into the U.S. Army from Amsterdam on Nov. 27, 1940.

Amsterdam attorney Robert Going, who is writing a book on Amsterdam and World War II, said, “Technically, all but one of the first ‘draftees’ were volunteers, used to fill the draft quota. The only real draftee was John Armstrong.” The men were told they would serve for one year, but most actually served until the war’s end

Going said volunteer Bob Conover was put in charge of the group when they left Amsterdam until they reached their base, with local boxer Cliff Gaskins as his enforcer.

Pvt. DeGolyer served with the 2nd Battalion of the 114th Infantry. He was the personal radio man to Col. Norman Schwarzkopf, the father of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, American commander of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Until 1944, DeGolyer’s unit provided coastal defense on America’s West Coast. They then went to war in France, Germany and Austria and were involved in major battles with the German army. DeGolyer was wounded during one engagement, saved by the radio that was strapped to his back from more serious injury.

Today at 93, Victor DeGolyer lives in Johnstown, enjoys telling stories about old Amsterdam and shows family members how to tie a weaver’s knot.

Special delivery

James V. Hogg from Amsterdam was serving on an American Navy ship somewhere in the Pacific Ocean when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

As his niece Karen terHaar of North Carolina tells the story, “In the months after Pearl Harbor, many ships in the area were ordered to maintain radio silence. The families of all crew members did not know if their fathers, sons or brothers were dead or alive.”

Hogg’s parents, Frank and Mildred Hogg, were living on Grant Avenue in Amsterdam, as was terHaar’s mother, then named Shirley Hogg.

TerHaar wrote, “The following April, about four months after Pearl Harbor, Mom was sitting on the front porch when she heard the postman’s voice. She looked up and saw him running down the sidewalk. He was waving a letter and yelling, ‘Jimmy’s alive! Jimmy’s alive!’ That, my friends, is what you call Amsterdam special delivery.”

James Hogg was a childhood friend of actor Kirk Douglas. A 1946 newspaper clipping reports that he had become a lieutenant commander in the Navy and married a woman from Australia. TerHaar said her uncle later lived in California and died a few years ago.

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