The Air Raid Observation post

At Middle Island during World War II
excerpt from
My Long Island
Mrs. Eleanor Ferguson

Aircraft warning post at top of the hill in Middle Island, west of the Bayles home. Photo from the
collection of Donald Bayles.

World War II crept up on us gradually, as it did for the whole world. Slowly but inexorably, it reached out for us all. In mid-1941, the Army Air Corps (predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) came to Don with a request to organize an aircraft spotting post. The newly formed Ground Observer Corps consisted of a network of spotting posts all along the eastern seaboard, each manned by civilian volunteers who reported every aircraft flying over. Sightings were reported by telephone to a Filter Center where aircraft movements were tracked on a map. The purpose was to provide early warning in case of a possible German suicide strike against our coastal cities.

So Don rallied half a dozen young fellows and decreed that the field across the road from the stand was indeed a spotting post. It was manned for a few hours now and then when the Air Corps planned to send out flights for the sole purpose of being spotted. In 1941 air traffic was not what you could call congested. The boys had to run across the road to our house to phone in their reports on the party line. It was Don who made the first report-a flight of B-10s in the south.

Then came Pearl Harbor and the whole United States went to war. The enlistment centers were mobbed, the young men disappeared, and old men, very young men, and women came forth to take over the home front jobs. And the Ground Observer Corps went on around-the-clock duty. Thanks to those few dry runs, there was an organization to call on, and a few who knew what was expected of them and how to do it. Don was Chief Observer and got it all organized.

It is a matter of great pride to me that I took the first wartime watch of Dudley-92. For a few days, all we had was a post in the ground with a board on top to hold the reporting forms. Then a shelter was thrown up and then a windbreak of brush. Loring called this the Boma. Any good African knows that a boma is a defensive enclosure. Ours was a defense against the north wind.

Everett Pfeiffer Sr. when the spotting station
was just a post in the ground. Photo from the collection of Mrs. Anne Nauman

Finally, a small building contributed by the Highway Department was erected higher on the hill, west of the Bayleses, and we used the phone in the Bayles kitchen. A wood stove appeared. Eventually we had a direct phone line to the Filter Center. In time, Donald Bayles built us a tower that took us some thirty feet up in the air and gave us much better coverage. A twenty-four-hour, seven-day-a-week schedule was worked out and men, women, girls and boys came from Coram and Selden as well as Middle Island to serve their two, or four, or six hours a week. As service-age men disappeared, other people took over.

The first aircraft spotting post in 1942. Photo from the collection of Mrs. Anne Nauman

Don Bayles building the new observation tower. Photo from the collection of Mrs. Anne Nauman

The finished observation post. Photo from the collection of Mrs. Anne Nauman


Coast Guard and A. L.Volunteers Combine In Airplane Spotting

Chain of Army AirDefense Fields Is Proposed for Suffolk County

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