Camp O'Ryan

Camp O'Ryan

Camp O'Ryan, a convert|375|acre|km2|sing=on former New York United States National Guard training area, also known as the North Java Rifle Range and the Wethersfield Rifle Range, located convert|3|mi|km east of North Java, in the Town of Wethersfield, in the County of Wyoming in New York State.


Camp O'Ryan, which was opened in late 1949 or early 1950, was initially called the Wethersfield training area. It was designed for the New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs by the Army Corps of Engineers ["State of New York Annual Report of the Chief of Staff to the Governor for the Division of Military and Naval Affairs for the Year 1949 ", Karl F. Hausauer, Major General, N.Y.N.G., Chief of Staff to the Governor, 31 December 1949, page 78 ] , and was almost completely built by the end of 1949. The New York National Guard was the primary occupant, but it has also been used by the Naval Militia, the Army Reserves, Air Force and the New York State Police. ["Guardsmen Sharpen Their Aims At Range in Wyoming Hills", Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, NY, July 11, 1950 ] ["A Weekend at Camp O'Ryan", Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, NY, November 10, 1968 ] It was later renamed Camp O'Ryan in honor of Major General John F. O'Ryan at a dedication ceremony on June 7 1952, with General O'Ryan in attendance. Major General Karl F. Hausauer, chief-of-staff to Governor Dewey and commanding general of the NYNG spoke at the occasion. He described the Wethersfield camp at that time as "the home grounds of the present 27th Infantry Division." He then read a letter from Governor Dewey which said in part "I know that your name-given to this New York National Guard camp-will serve to keep those soldierly qualities which you represent forever present in the minds of all the young and patriotic citizen-soldiers who will train here through future years." ["Gen. O'Ryan Honored As Wethersfield Camp Of Guard Is Dedicated", Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, NY, June 7, 1952 ] ["Guard to Dedicate Camp O'Ryan", New York Times, New York, NY, May 28, 1952 ] Also in attendance was the First Battalion of the 174th Infantry Regiment, the 27th Infantry Division Military Police Company, the 27th Infantry Division Band, as well as Brig. Gen. William H. Kelly, vice chief-of-staff to the governor and state adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Hampton A. Anderson, deputy vice chief-of-staff to the governor, Brig. Gen. Gerard W. Kelley, chief-of-staff, headquarters, NYNG, and Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Doud, commander 105th Anti-aircraft Artillery Brigade.

During the Vietnam War, the use of Camp O'Ryan increased as many National Guardsmen trained at the site. A multipage article in the Buffalo Courier-Express, run on Nov. 10, 1968, depicted some of the training done at this camp. This included rifle target practice as well as pistol training.

Training there ceased in 1974, although may have been used by other agencies as late as the mid 1980s.Originally a rifle range, it was later expanded for wider activities over the following years. ["Dedication Planned For Camp O'Ryan", pg. 3, May 28,1952, The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY ] ["800 Guards at Camp for Weapons Tests", Pg. 31, June 30,1968, Buffalo Courier-Express, Buffalo, N.Y. ] The property was owned by Edward N. George Jr. (a.k.a. Ed Don George), wrestler, promoter, and naval commander. He leased it to the Federal Government for 25 years almost immediately after purchasing the property from Charles R. Greenan in 1949. [Records of the Wyoming County Clerk's Office, New York State, Liber 262, page 204, recorded on 2nd day of June 1949] ["Guardsmen Sharpen Their Aims At Range in Wyoming Hills", Buffalo Evening News, Buffalo, NY, July 11, 1950 ] ["National Guard Has Rifle Range in Wethersfield", Wyoming County Times, Warsaw, NY, 1949 ]

Environmental Concerns

Photographs of this site indicate there was an active burial site of approximately 200 by convert|300|ft|m in the mid 1950s through the mid 1960s. What is or was buried there is not known publicly at the present time, however, one can assume it was probably of a classified nature since neither the NYSDEC nor the EPA seem to be aware of this situation. [Personal correspondence with representatives of the NYSDEC and EPA (9-2006 through 11-2006)]

This situation is of great concern in this rural community as all of the drinking water in the area either comes from spring sources or well water.

Additional witnessed alleged burials at this site on another part of this property are also thought to have occurred. In addition to these alleged burial sites, the 1954 aerial photograph shows the remnants of some type of processing facility or motor pool complex of approximately convert|60|ft|m in width and convert|350|ft|m in length.

Besides the alleged burials, thousands of rounds of toxic lead waste are still at the abandoned rifle range as of Spring 2007.

Camp O'Ryan, with its rifle range, has possibly contaminated well and storm runoff water with toxic lead. This runoff water eventually runs into the Great Lakes of Erie and Ontario, the source of drinking water to millions of people. This situation is exacerbated by a rather embarrassing failure to locate the engineering and architectural plans for the camp, which were produced by the Corps of Engineers' District Engineer in 1949. [FOIA Request to the Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, "records pertaining to the former Camp O'Ryan site, previously the Wethersfield Range", 21 February 2007 ] ["State of New York Annual Report of the Chief of Staff to the Governor for the Division of Military and Naval Affairs for the Year 1949 ", Karl F. Hausauer, Major General, N.Y.N.G., Chief of Staff to the Governor, 31 December 1949, page 78 ]


External links

* [ Aerial image from TerraServer-USA - Date: 3/28/1995 - Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey]
* [ Camp O'Ryan - aerial picture from 1950s] .
* [ Camp O'Ryan Cleanup Demanded - Buffalo News - June 20, 2007 ]

A look at the rifle range section of the Camp O'Ryan site, taken some time between 2003 and 2005.
* [ Looking south]
* [ Looking north]

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