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Canisteo AO-99 - History

Canisteo AO-99 - History


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Canisteo

A river in New York State.

(AO 99 dp. 7,296; 1. 653' b. 45'; dr. 32'4"; B. 18 cpl. 304; a. 1 5", 1 3"; cl. Cimarron)

Canisteo (AO-99) was launched 6 July 1946 by Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., Sparrows Point, Md., under a Maritime Commission contract, sponsored by Mrs. J. N. Chambers; and commissioned 3 December 1945, Lieutenant Commander E. L. Denton, USNR, in command.

Canisteo cleared Norfolk 4 February 1946 for Melville, R.I., where she loaded diesel oil for naval units taking part in the occupation of Germany. Returning from Bremerhaven and Farge, Germany, she carried out training operations in the Caribbean, and then sailed to Iceland and Greenland, returning to New York City 27 May.

The tanker sailed south from Norfolk 27 November 1946 as a unit of Operation "HighJump," the largest Antarctic expedition to that time. Steaming through the Panama Canal to the Antarctic, Canisteo reached Scott and Peter Islands, and through her logistic support, played a critical role in this historic exploratory and scientific project, carrying on the Navy's traditional role in expanding man's frontiers. Canisteo returned to Norfolk 23 April 1947 after calling at Rio de Janeiro and Caribbean ports.

Between 4 June 1947 and 23 October 1948, Canisteo served four tours of duty supporting the Fifth Fleet by carrying oil from Bahrein to the Mediterranean. The winter and spring of 1948-1949 found Canisteo operating on fueling duty from Norfolk to Caribbean ports; Argentia, Newfoundland, and Grondal, Greenland. A pattern of alternating exercises in the Caribbean with overhauls and tours of duty in the Mediterranean in the following years was highlighted by her fueling in support of many fleet exercises. She played a part in augmenting the growing strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through Operation "Mainbrace" (26 August-11 October 1952) and in combined operations with Canadian forces ( 16-20 September 1956). Active with the Fleet. Canisteo continued to operate out of Norfolk through 1960, participating in fleet and NATO exercises.


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Decommissioning and disposal

Canisteo decommissioned 2 October 1989 and was struck from the Naval Vessel Register, 31 August 1992. She was transferred to the Maritime Administration for lay up in the National Defense Reserve Fleet, James River, Fort Eustis, Virginia. Canisteo was sold for scrapping to Able UK, Hartlepool, Teesside, England, and removed from the Reserve Fleet under tow, arriving in the United Kingdom on 13 November 2003.

Canisteo and three other decommissioned US Navy ships, Caloosahatchee,Canopus and Compass Island all arrived at Able UK under the same contract and came to be known as the "Hartlepool Four". Local protests and legal challenges, alleging unacceptable amounts of toxic substances contained on and in the vessels, delayed scrapping until Able UK secured the appropriate waste management licensing in August 2008. [2]

Scrapping of Canisteo finally commenced in March 2010 and was completed by August 2010.


Canisteo AO-99 - History

A river in New York State.

Canisteo (AO-99) was launched 6 July 1945 by Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., Sparrows Point, Md., under a Maritime Commission contract sponsored by Mrs. J. N. Chambers and commissioned 3 December 1945, Lieutenant Commander E. L. Denton, USNR, in command.

Canisteo cleared Norfolk 4 February 1946 for Melville, R.I., where she loaded diesel oil for naval units taking part in the occupation of Germany. Returning from Bremerhaven and Farge, Germany, she carried out training operations in the Caribbe an, and then sailed to Iceland and Greenland, returning to New York City 27 May.

The tanker sailed south from Norfolk 27 November 1946 as a unit of Operation "Highjump," the largest Antarctic expedition to that time. Steaming through the Panama Canal to the Antarctic, Canisteo reached Scott and Peter Islands, and through he r logistic support, played a critical role in this historic exploratory and scientific project, carrying on the Navy's traditional role in expanding man's frontiers. Canisteo returned to Norfolk 23 April 1947 after calling at Rio de Janeiro and Caribbean ports.

Between 4 June 1947 and 23 October 1948, Canisteo served four tours of duty supporting the 6th Fleet by carrying oil from Bahrein to the Mediterranean. The winter and spring of 1948-1949 found Canisteo operating on fueling duty from Norf olk to Caribbean ports Argentia, Newfoundland and Grondal, Greenland. A pattern of alternating exercises in the Caribbean with overhauls and tours of duty in the Mediterranean in the following years was highlighted by her fueling in support of many fle et exercises. She played a part in augmenting the growing strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through Operation "Mainbrace" (26 August-11 October 1952) and in combined operations with Canadian forces (16-20 September 1956). Active with th e Fleet, Canisteo continued to operate out of Norfolk through 1960, participating in fieet and NATO exercises.


The tanker sailed south from Norfolk 27 November 1946 as a unit of Operation Highjump, the largest Antarctic expedition to that time. Steaming through the Panama Canal to the Antarctic, Canisteo reached Scott and Peter Islands and provided critical logistic support for this historic exploratory and scientific project, carrying on the Navy's traditional role in expanding man's frontiers. Canisteo returned to Norfolk 23 April 1947 after calling at Rio de Janeiro and Caribbean ports.

Canisteo´s appearance after her jumboization in the 1960s.

Between 4 June 1947 and 23 October 1948, Canisteo served four tours of duty supporting the U.S. 6th Fleet by carrying oil from Bahrain to the Mediterranean. The winter and spring of 1948–1949 found Canisteo operating on fueling duty from Norfolk, Virginia, to Caribbean ports Argentia, Newfoundland and Grønnedal, Greenland. A pattern of alternating exercises in the Caribbean with overhauls and tours of duty in the Mediterranean in the following years was highlighted by her fueling in support of many fleet exercises.

She played a part in augmenting the growing strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through Operation Mainbrace (26 August-11 October 1952) and in combined operations with Canadian forces (16–20 September 1956). The first shipboard test of the Ships Inertial Navigation System (SINS) was conducted aboard the USS Canisteo (A099) during a 15-day Mediterranean cruise. Ώ] Active with the Fleet, Canisteo continued to operate out of Norfolk through 1960, participating in fleet and NATO exercises.

Between 1966 and 1968 Canisteo, along with her sister ships Ashtabula and Caloosahatchee, underwent "jumboization". A 400-foot midsection, built entirely new from the keel up, was inserted and welded between her original bow and stern. This replaced the old 310-foot midsection and increased the vessel's liquid cargo capacity by over one-third. Her new configuration closely resembled that of a more modern type of ship, the replenishment oiler.

Morale on the ship was poor in the late 1970s. Recruiters for the early all-volunteer US Navy were fairly desperate for inductees, and this showed no where more clearly than in the crew of the Canisteo. In 1979 she returned from a tour of duty in the Mediterranean to Norfolk VA (her home port). So many men went AWOL that she could not return to sea on schedule, the first time that had happened to a US Navy ship since the Revolutionary War. [ citation needed ]

Canisteo recovered from this notoriety in the 1980s by participating in Caribbean operations from January 1982 through January 1983, North Atlantic and NATO operations from January through April 1983, and in law enforcement operations in support of the War on Drugs in the Caribbean, August 1985 through January 1986. At the end of the law enforcement operations, Canisteo participated in wreckage recovery operations off the coast of Florida for the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.


Native Americans Edit

Canisteo existed as a community prior to European settlement, but there are different versions of who the inhabitants were and what the settlement consisted of. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Canisteo was in a remote area, between territories of the Seneca and Delaware Indians, "a sort of No Man's Land". [4] There are references to a "Kanestio castle", but differing accounts of what it was, or even what was meant by "castle". [5] [6] One modern writer calls it "mysterious", noting that "facts about [it] are few and difficult to come by." [4] A well-known version is that of Steuben County historian Harlo Hakes, published in 1896:

"Previous to the advent of the white man this town, and in fact the whole valley of the Canisteo, was the abiding place and favorite hunting and fishing grounds of the American Indians. The region was originally the land of the Senecas, but by sufferance the Delawares were permitted to occupy portions of it. We are told that within the limits of this town was once the Indian village of 'Kanestio,' where also lived a number of deserters from the British army and other renegades from the white settlements. The murder of two Dutch traders by these outlaws brought upon them the vengeance of Sir William Johnson, and the result was the destruction of their settlement." [7] : 73

"The Delaware Indian town which had been dignified by some writers with the name of 'Kanestio Castle'. is said to have contained about sixty hewed log houses, with stone chimneys in each, and to have been the home or seat of operations of a noted 'Delaware King,' known as At-weet-sera." [7] : 313 The destruction of the Indian village took place in 1765. [8]

European settlers Edit

Colonial village of outlaws Edit

According to William Stuart, "The history of Kanestio Castle constitutes the genesis of Steuben County". [9] : 7 It is the first place in what became Steuben County to be mentioned in writing. Just what the word "castle" means is not clear, and precisely where it was is not known either. There is no mention of any castle in the European sense of a large stone building. It may mean nothing more than that it was a permanent, as opposed to transitory, settlement. [9] : 6 The earliest description, from a French colonial historian of about 1690, is that Kanestio consisted of "'several score of houses built of timber, each having four stone chimneys, adjoining a natural meadow of several hundred arpents.' Kanestio Castle!". [9] : 5 Another modern writer reports the same information as "a luxurious castle of logs, 26 feet (7.9 m) long by 24 feet (7.3 m) wide", now with four fireplaces. [10] The stone chimneys are unquestionably a European artifact. The same French historian, describing an expedition south from what is today Kingston, Ontario, says that Kanestio was a community of European outlaws: "“A more worthless lot of renegades and villains, who had no hope of heaven or fear of hell, we never saw.” [9] : 5 They were from diverse backgrounds, and speaking different languages ("polyglot" [9] : 4 ).

There is no further written reference to Kanestio for 72 years. In 1762 two Dutch traders, British subjects, were killed by "a brace of outlaws from the Castle," [9] : 6 described in another source as "the Indians from Kanestio". [11] : 326 Kanestio was then described as "the largest Delaware [Indian] town", but also according to the same source, it was "a village of lawless stragglers". [11] : 319 The English governor Sir William Johnson, in response, sent a party of "Indians" and Brittish troops in 1764, under the command of Andrew Montour. At Kanestio they "burned 60 good houses, a vast amount of corn, agricultural implements and saddles." [11] : 326 The settlement at Kanestio Castle was eliminated.

An Indian village of Kanestio appears in the 1928 novel The Plains of Abraham, by James Curwood.

Early settlers Edit

Settlers began arriving at what would become a new community around 1789. It was one of the first settlements in what is today Steuben County. Immigration and commerce were via what is today Pennsylvania, where the Canisteo River led to there were no direct connections with Albany or New York City. The largest growth came after the Erie Railroad, which did provide a link to New York, arrived in 1851, when many factories opened. The village was incorporated in 1873.

The village of Canisteo was originally called Bennettsville. [12] : 8 The original Canisteo, today a hamlet called Canisteo Center or Carson, was southeast of the present village, along the river. When the Erie Railroad was built in 1850, there was not room for a depot between the tracks and the Canisteo River, so the depot was built upriver, at the south of the tracks, on the west side of Depot Street. A "fairly large settlement", which disappeared in the twentieth century, grew up near the depot, on the north side of the river and tracks. [13] Depot Street (renamed Railroad Street while the trolley ran down it) was built to connect the depot to the Canisteo House hotel. A large community, with businesses and shops, and other hotels, sprang up. [12] : 8

The railroad era Edit

Railroad Street – Greenwood Street was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the principal street of Canisteo. On an 1873 map, Main Street (neither East nor West) stretched from Railroad/Greenwood Street to what was later called Ordway Lane, where the street ended. In the other direction, one traveled north from Railroad/Greenwood Street along Hornellsville Street. [14]

Until 1851, when the Erie Railroad began operations, traffic was via the Canisteo River. The Erie ended that traffic, although an undated picture, which must be post-Erie since it includes a bicycle, shows a horse-drawn "stage" making two trips a day to Hornell. [13] Aside from that the Erie was the sole route until 1892, when the Hornellsville & Canisteo Railway (a trolley line) linked Canisteo with Hornell the trolley passed by the Erie station, linking it via Depot Street with the center of Canisteo, over half a mile away. By road, the main connection was the Canisteo River Road, today (2019) Steuben County route 29 between Canisteo and Hornell, route 119 between Canisteo and Cameron. The new hard-surface road between Hornell and Canisteo that later became New York Route 36 was built in 1912. (That road was destroyed by Hurricane Agnes in 1972 the current four-lane route is higher up.) With the growth of automobiles this replaced the railroad, Depot St. declined in importance, and Hornellsville Street was turned into West Main Street and the former Main St. into East Main St. All Erie service to Canisteo ended in the 1940s there were still freight trains, but none stopped in Canisteo.

A map with business notices from 1873 reveals that Canisteo had three physicians, one dentist, four attorneys, one tailor, one stable, a cooper, a foundry, three groceries and a meat market, and small manufacturers of shoes and boots, bee hives, a flour mill, a cheese factory, a rake factory, and some others. On Railroad Street (later Depot Street) was the Canisteo Steam Power Company, which manufactured steam engines and employed 10–12 workers. [14] Perhaps it is because of it that Canisteo had a "Times Steam Print", [15] the "Times" presumably a reference to the Canisteo Times, whose office was on Railroad Street.

A picture from 1880 reveals that on the west side of Greenwood St. there was a bookstore run by Allison B. Laine. [16] A J. H. Stewart owned, at 23 Main St. (later East Main St.) a store selling pianos, organs, and sheet music. [17]

In 1888 Canisteo was described as prosperous. "While the factories over the country are reducing the hours of labor her industries are wide-awake, and have more than enough to keep them running full time." [18]

In the late 19th century Canisteo was a temperance community. This was seen as progressive. [19] : 101

In 1890 Canisteo had a professional baseball team. [19] : 12

In 1891 the Farmer's Co-Operative Insurance Company was organized in Canisteo, and grew to be "one of the most successful fire insurance companies in the state". [20] The same clipping reveals that in 1925 there was a potato club in Canisteo, with a membership of 32 boys and the support of the Erie Railroad and "the state school of agriculture at Alfred".

In 1892, 20 arc lights were installed for street illumination. [21]

A business directory of 1893 reports that: Canisteo "has a bank, weekly newspaper, four churches, well-equipped fire department, three hotels, and a first-class academy. Very few villages of its size have the industries equal to this place. The principal ones are the manufacturing of doors, sash and blinds, boots and shoes, leather, fence wire, incandescent lamps, hubs and spokes, washing machines, etc." [22]

In 1898 Canisteo got gas from Hornell for heating, [23] after an earlier experiment in generating it in Canisteo. [24] [25]

20th century Edit

Canisteo got telephone service about 1902. [26] It got dial service about 1950 the original building, on Fifth St., is still (2015) in use. Numbers were four digits, beginning with 2- or 4-, and the only pay phone in town, in the school, with 8-. However, it was an isolated island until the commercial center of Hornell got dial service in 1963. To call Hornell, one dialed 3- for a Hornell operator. This is probably a reason why Hornell's exchange, 324, begins with a 3-. The only other dialable location was the hamlet of Cameron, whose exchange was accessed by dialing 5-, perhaps reflected in Cameron's exchange (607) 695-.

Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan spoke in Canisteo in 1924. [27]

To create parking for downtown merchants, in the 1950s The Green, Canisteo's central park, between East Main, Greenwood, South Main, and Maple Streets, was sacrificed. It had had an old-fashioned, huge drinking fountain older photos show a small bandstand.

A number of small manufacturing establishments existed along Depot Street in the nineteenth century there were 10 factories in Canisteo in 1873. [28] These included the Voorhis planing mill, a site later taken over by the Canisteo Sash & Door Company in 1885. These were located at the site of the present Canisteo trailer park (which replaced a waste materials company that occupied the site after the factory's closure). The Henry Carter and Son foundry, founded in 1873, renamed the Canisteo Steam Power Company, manufactured steam engines and many other metal products. In 1890, it employed 10 men. [12] : 18

The Tucker button factory was also located on Depot Street. In 1908 the factory was occupied by the Thomas Spring & Gear Company, which manufactured shock absorbers for Ford cars, using an invention patented by Charles L. Thomas of Canisteo. [12] : 19

Other manufacturers included the Canisteo Silk Mill, on Russell St., which in the 1920s had 200 employees and was the only such factory in the country. [13] There was also a small sawmill, on Third St. and Scott's Dairy, a milk processor, located on Depot St. near the rail line. Scott's had a small ice cream shop on the north side of West Main St.

For more information on and pictures of Canisteo's industries, and the fires which destroyed several of them, see Virginia Dickey's "The Canisteo of the 1890s". [13]

Between 1894 and 1935, the offices, repair shop, and depot of the New York & Pennsylvania Railroad were located in Canisteo, where, until 1917, when passenger service was discontinued, there was also a staffed station, on the east side of the central park. On the west side of the central park was a stop of the Hornell Traction Company.

The Canisteo Theater, which closed in the 1950s, was a brick building on the west side of Greenwood St., demolished around 2000.

The only significant industry in Canisteo today is the Welles Bros. sign factory, which began operations in 1955 from a leased building, now (2015) abandoned, on Fifth Street in 1967 it moved to its present (2015) building at 92 Depot St.

  • The Canisteo Reporter was being published in 1873, according to a map of that date. [14] Editor and proprietor was J. D. Adams.
  • The Canisteo Citizen was published from 1874 to 1875. Editor and proprietor was J. S. van Alstin. The Kanestio Historical Society has a copy of Volume 1, No. 2, dated March 11, 1874. [29]
  • The Canisteo Times, "an independent family journal, devoted to home interests", was published from 1875 to 1889. Editor and publisher was A. H. Bunnell. Another source says: "The Times was established in 1876 by S. H. Jennings and in April, 1886, was sold to F. B. Smith, who conducted it with ability and success." [7] : 223 From 1889 to 1892 it was the Canisteo Weekly Times, "devoted to the interests of Canisteo first, last and all the time", and was edited and published by Frank B. Smith and Frank A. Fay. "In April, 1892, Mr. Frank A. Fay become the editor and publisher and made it the Prohibition organ of Steuben County. It attained a wide circulation and exerted a powerful influence in promulgating temperance and good order. On account of poor health, in January, 1900, he disposed of his interest in the Times to J. C. Latham, who is now its editor and proprietor. It is now published in the interest of the Republican party has twelve pages, and is issued weekly." [7] : 223–224 The Canisteo Times continued to be published until 1957, from an office and small plant on the west side of Depot Street. Descendants of J.C. Latham were the publishers.
  • In 1892 Fay resumed publication of the Canisteo Times, which was acquired by J. Claude Latham and became the weekly Times-Republican from 1900–1908.
  • "The Canisteo Tidings, at its inception in 1890, was published at Troupsburg, Steuben County, as The Farmers' Weekly, by Elmer E. Reynolds. The plant and paper were removed to Canisteo in 1894. It was last published by James N. Osincup and Clarence C. Potter, but it did not retain its patronage in the locality where it was established, and is not now [1896] in circulation." [7] : 223
  • The weekly Canisteo Chronicle "was born in 1900, to Leon Hough, a grandson of Edwin Hough, the famous old printer, founder and long-time editor and publisher of the Hornellsville Tribune, the pioneer newspaper of the upper Painted Post country. The newspaper germ appears to be alive, active and at work in this family. Part of the material, presses and equipment of the formerly vigorous and extensively circulated Herald, of Hornell, is used in the Chronicle office." [7] : 224 End date is unknown.

The Canisteo Express (Addison, 1850), [30] the Canisteo Valley Journal (Hornellsville, 1858–1862), and the Canisteo Valley Times (Hornellsville, 1867–?) were not published within the current (2020) Town of Canisteo.

In the Village of Canisteo are located the Canisteo-Greenwood Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. (See Town of Canisteo.)

The former Erie Railroad began operations in 1851. [28] The line passed to the east of Canisteo, and passenger service was provided, though ending in the 1940s the depot stood vacant for decades before being demolished. From 1892 to 1926 the Hornellsville and Canisteo Railway linked Hornell via the Erie depot in Canisteo with the center of Canisteo. [31] It was replaced by bus service, although there have been gaps when no public transportation was available. From 1896 to 1936, the New York & Pennsylvania Railroad (not to be confused with the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railway) started at the depot and ran south toward Rexville.

Around 1900, the Erie Railroad had 10 passenger trains each day, the New York & Pennsylvania had 3, and the trolley had 20. [12] : 12 In 1891 the New York, Lake Erie and Western Railroad had 3 eastbound and 4 westbound trains per day. [32] In 1892, Canisteo was the terminus of the route to Olean of the Central New York and Western Railway, which bought the assets of the bankrupt Lackawanna and Southwestern Railway Company. [33]

The village of Canisteo was severely impacted by the flood of July 1935, until that time the greatest since modern settlement began. Using federal funding, two levees were constructed, one beginning on the northwest of the village, ending on the southeast, protecting it from the Canisteo River. The other was built to the east of the village, protecting it from Bennett's Creek and Purdy Creek. Bennett's Creek, which formerly ran through the village, about where Bennett St. is now (2019), was rerouted this added the land with Elm Street, which street does not exist on early maps. [14] The current bridges of Route 36 over Bennett's Creek and Route 248 over Purdy Creek were also constructed as part of this project, as was the village's sewer system. [34] The only flooding in the village since this construction was a result of Hurricane Agnes, in 1972, at which time the Canisteo River reached its highest recorded height.

The village is home of the "world famous living sign" which was once featured in a Ripley's "Believe it or Not!" book. The sign spells out the name of the village in Scots Pine trees and has been around for more than fifty years. It is viewable from Greenwood Street near the elementary school. The sign, which has almost a perfect North/South axis, is still used by the armed services to orient true north when flying over it. The Canisteo Living Sign was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. [35]

A US Navy fleet oil frigate (AO-99) once held the name USS Canisteo. It was utilized until the 1990s and even served time as part of the Cuban blockade during the missile crisis of the 1960s. The ship's official motto was "If freedom were easy we wouldn't be here". See USS Canisteo (AO-99) .

In the 1890s, a steamer named Canisteo operated on the Great Lakes. [36] [37]

The Canisteo Peninsula is an ice-covered peninsula in Antarctica.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 1.0 square miles (2.5 km 2 ). None of the area is covered with water.

The village is located at the junction of New York State Route 36 and New York State Route 248. County Route 28 joins New York State Route 36 south of the village and County Route 119 passes the north side of Canisteo.

The Canisteo River, flowing southeasterly, passes the north side of the village, where it is joined by Bennetts Creek.

Historical population
Census Pop.
1860300
18801,907
18902,071 8.6%
19002,077 0.3%
19102,259 8.8%
19202,201 −2.6%
19302,548 15.8%
19402,550 0.1%
19502,625 2.9%
19602,731 4.0%
19702,772 1.5%
19802,679 −3.4%
19902,421 −9.6%
20002,336 −3.5%
20102,270 −2.8%
2019 (est.)2,135 [2] −5.9%
U.S. Decennial Census [39]

As of the census [40] of 2000, there were 2,336 people, 948 households, and 626 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,415.1 people per square mile (929.8/km 2 ). There were 1,024 housing units at an average density of 1,058.7 per square mile (407.6/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the village was 98.16% White, 0.21% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.26% from other races, and 0.68% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.16% of the population.

There were 948 households, out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.2% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 29.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the village, the population was spread out, with 26.6% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 24.8% from 25 to 44, 25.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.9 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $32,269, and the median income for a family was $42,560. Males had a median income of $31,129 versus $22,857 for females. The per capita income for the village was $14,818. About 7.8% of families and 10.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.9% of those under age 18 and 3.1% of those age 65 or over.

The following city has been identified as a sister city of Canisteo by Sister Cities International: [41]


More: The crying need for a bigger U.S. Military

COMMENTARY BY

Chairman of the National Leadership Council at the Reagan Institute

Jim Talent is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

In 1979, the captain of the USS Canisteo refused to certify his ship as seaworthy, because, in his opinion, his men had not been adequately trained. It was the first time in 15 years that a U.S. Navy captain had refused to take his ship to sea. His courage, coupled with a blistering report about lack of military readiness authored by former defense secretary Melvin Laird, and followed in 1980 by the Desert One fiasco in Iran, made graphically clear that years of underfunding had left America's military "hollow." Like a freshly painted house with no plumbing or wiring inside, the military looked functional but in reality, it was too poorly trained and equipped to be reliable.

At the time, America's resolution was already in question because of Vietnam and the weakness of foreign policy during the Carter years. It was no accident that by the end of President Carter's term the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and the new regime in Iran had seized the American embassy in Tehran. America's enemies were reacting to her weakness like rats in a room where the lights had gone dim: They had come out of their holes and begun to probe, scouting for opportunities to advance their ambitions and threaten U.S. security.

President Reagan had no formal experience in foreign policy and no training in military affairs. But he understood the basic equation of world leadership: force plus resolve equals power. Despite the large budget deficits, President Reagan secured two immediate double-digit increases in the defense budget, followed by substantial increases for several years thereafter.

The effect was electric. Military morale skyrocketed. Training improved, and the Pentagon was able to recapitalize its "platforms" -- the military term for ships, planes, and vehicles -- with equipment that used the latest technology and was therefore less vulnerable and more lethal. The geriatric leaders of the USSR, who a few years before had dreamed of building a blue-water navy that could challenge the U.S., now realized that they were in a competition they could not possibly win: The "correlation of forces" was moving decisively in the direction of freedom. Throughout the rest of the 1980s, the reality of growing American power, coupled with Reagan's eloquence and conviction, forced the Soviets increasingly into a corner. Finally they threw in the towel. Only a few years later, America's newly empowered military paid another dividend: It provided the overwhelming force behind Operation Desert Storm. The strategic buildup Reagan initiated made possible the end of the Cold War, and the peace and prosperity that America enjoyed throughout the 1990s, and up until 9/11.

America is now reaching a decision point similar to the one Reagan faced in 1981, and it is important to understand clearly what is at stake. America is the defender of freedom in the world and therefore always a prime target for those who hate freedom. The progress of the international order toward peace and democracy depends on American power and while the basket of Western foreign policy contains many tools, what underpins them all is a U.S. military that the world knows is capable of defeating threats swiftly and effectively.

Judged by this standard, the situation facing the U.S. military is grave. America's armed forces are, in one respect, better off than in 1981. The volunteer force is a proven, mature, and successful model America is protected by the finest servicemen and women in history. But because of decisions over the last 15 years -- driven more by budgetary than by military considerations -- the Army is too small, the Navy and Marine Corps may well be too small, and much of the equipment in all the services is too old and increasingly unreliable. Without a substantial increase in procurement spending, beginning now and sustained over the next five to ten years -- an increase measured not in billions but in tens of billions of dollars per year above current estimates -- the U.S. will be unable to modernize its forces to the degree necessary to preserve its security with the necessary margin of safety.

President Bush, to his credit, has submitted a budget for FY 2008 that begins to recognize the true requirements of American security. If the president has his way, defense spending will increase by more than 10 percent over last year. That is a hugely important first step, but it is not enough. Congress should give the president his request for defense this year -- but both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue also need to adopt a rule that the core defense budget should never sink below 4 percent of the nation's GDP. The War on Terror will eventually end, but the need for American strength will not there is no conceivable international scenario for the next generation that does not justify at least such a modest ongoing investment in the nation's security. As Reagan liked to say, "Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because America was too strong."

THE NECESSARY UPKEEP
The world today is, on balance, at least as dangerous as it was at the end of the Cold War. The U.S. is no longer in danger of a massive nuclear attack, nor is a major land war in Europe likely, but the threats we face are no less serious. America is engaged in a war against terrorism that will last for years. The danger of a rogue missile attack is greater than ever. China is emerging as a peer competitor much faster than most of us expected, and Russia's brief experiment with democracy is failing.

The "operational tempo" of American conventional forces -- the number, intensity, and duration of their deployments -- has increased since the end of the Cold War. Yet the forces were almost twice as big in 1992 as they are today. The active-duty Army was cut from 18 divisions during Desert Storm to ten by 1994 -- its size today. The Navy, which counted 568 ships in the late 1980s, struggles today to sustain a fleet of only 276. And the number of tactical air wings in the Air Force was reduced from 37 at the time of Desert Storm to 20 by the mid-1990s.

Modernization budgets also were cut substantially during the Clinton years, and procurement budgets were cut much further than the cuts in force size and structure warranted. In essence, the Clinton administration took a "procurement holiday" where the military was concerned. The contrast in the average annual procurement of major equipment in two periods -- 1975 to 1990 and 1991 to 2000 -- is startling. For example, the Pentagon purchased an average of 78 scout and attack helicopters each year from 1975 to 1990, and only seven each year from 1991 to 2000. An average of 238 Air Force fighters and five tanker aircraft were procured each year from 1975 to 1990, as against only 28 and one per year, respectively, from 1991 to 2000.

These dramatic reductions had profound implications. When older platforms are not replaced, readiness levels drop, and the cost of maintaining inventory climbs rapidly. By the end of the Carter years, the force had gone "hollow" by the end of the Clinton years, it had begun to "rust," badly. The George W. Bush administration has increased procurement budgets, but nowhere near enough to make up for the 1990s. The average age of Air Force aircraft in 1973 was just nine years. Today, the average aircraft is 24 years old and aircraft-modernization funding has dropped by nearly 20 percent over the last 22 years.

The current force is too small and too old relative to the requirements of the official national military strategy. That strategy calls for a military capable of defending the homeland, sustaining four peacekeeping engagements, and fighting two large-scale regional conflicts at approximately the same time. The services today probably cannot execute even this strategy within an acceptable margin of risk. Certainly they will be unable to do so in the future unless the Army and probably the Marine Corps are made bigger and unless all the services have the money to recapitalize their major platforms with modern equipment.

For years, the Joint Chiefs have been under pressure from political authorities to reduce the budget below what they really need. So they have delayed new programs, reduced the number of new ships or planes they say they need, kicked crucial procurement decisions down the road, robbed Peter to pay Paul, and otherwise tried to avoid confronting the approaching crisis.

But the crisis is upon them, and us, now. The military is entering a crucial phase of recapitalization. Beginning with the next budget, and intensifying over the next five to ten years, the services are scheduled to field the new platforms that will anchor American security for the next generation. No one can say that this spending is not needed or that it can be delayed any further. The Army must modernize and replace almost its entire capital stock of fighting vehicles. The Navy must buy new DDG-1000 destroyers, ramp up procurement of Virginia-class submarines, and buy large numbers of littoral combat ships and the next-generation cruiser. The Air Force must buy its new superiority fighter, the F-22, as well as Joint Strike Fighters or equivalent aircraft. In addition, the Air Force must fund its strategic-airlift requirement, design and build a new tanker, and develop an interdiction bomber to replace the B-52, an aircraft almost 50 years old.

The current procurement budget for all three services is $81.3 billion. Simple budgetary mathematics shows that the services cannot possibly meet their crucial requirements without an average budget over the next five to ten years that is at least $30 billion higher per year.

The situation facing the Navy is representative of the dilemma facing all the services. Currently the Navy has 276 ships. Its shipbuilding plan calls for 326 ships by 2020, eventually reaching a fleet that averages 313 ships. The plan actually calls for a reduction in aircraft carriers, attack submarines, and major surface combatants, but makes up for this with modern destroyers, more capable submarines, pre-positioning ships that will allow us to build and defend "sea bases," and the whole new class of multi-mission modular vessels called littoral combat ships. There is no margin whatsoever in this plan it is the minimum necessary for American security.

The chief of naval operations, the admiral who represents the Navy on the Joint Chiefs, has estimated that the plan will require an annual shipbuilding budget that averages $13.4 billion, almost $5 billion more than was spent on shipbuilding last year. His plan calls for that figure to increase to $17.5 billion by 2012. Most naval experts believe these figures are far too conservative. But it will be utterly impossible, at current levels of defense spending, for the Navy to reach and sustain even the $13.4 billion figure the money simply is not there. Beginning no later than 2009, there will be a growing shortfall in the shipbuilding accounts, in addition to an annual shortfall of $1 to $2 billion per year in Navy aviation procurement.

The bottom line is that the Navy needs at least an $8 billion procurement increase per year above current estimates. The Marine Corps needs about $3 billion more per year. It is not necessary to go into great detail with regard to the budgetary picture for the Air Force and Army the pain has been spread fairly evenly across the services, and all face roughly the same shortfalls. That equals a procurement deficit over the next ten years of at least $30 billion per year. Most independent experts believe the number is even higher. For example, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the shortfall, including expected increases in personnel costs, will be a minimum of $52 billion per year.

Add to this the fact that the active-duty Army is clearly too small. Even in an age of transformation and non-linear battlefields, America will always need the capacity to put boots on the ground. Particularly in the post-9/11 era, the U.S. needs the ability to carry on sustained, large-scale peacekeeping or low-intensity combat missions, without having to send the same units on three or four tours over the life of a mission. A nation of America's size and strength should not have to tie up essentially its whole active-duty Army, much of its Marine Corps, and many of its reserves in order to sustain 130,000 troops in the kind of low-intensity combat we are experiencing in Iraq.

In 1992, just after Desert Storm, the Pentagon stated a requirement of twelve active-duty Army divisions, before the increases in operational tempo of the 1990s and before the War on Terror. The Army should surely have at least twelve divisions today. To their credit, President Bush and defense secretary Robert Gates have proposed such an increase. It costs at least $2 billion to stand up and sustain an addition to the army of division strength, which means we need to invest about $4 billion per year or more in increased Army force structure, in addition to the $30 billion more in new procurement funding.

So to sustain our military at the level necessary to protect our security, we must increase procurement, personnel, and support spending by at least $34 billion above the FY 2007 budget. It may be possible to fund a small fraction of this increase from reforms in the rest of the defense budget. Congress typically adds $3 or $4 billion worth of earmarked appropriations every year. Some of those earmarks are actually warranted, but a dedicated effort to reduce those that aren't could produce $1 or $2 billion in savings per year. The cost of new programs has certainly spiraled -- there are still $400 hammers floating around in the defense industry -- and the right kind of procurement reform might reduce them somewhat.

The unstable and inadequate defense budgetary climate is itself a major reason program costs have increased. The Defense Department regularly projects what it intends to buy in the out years of its defense plan, but then institutes last-minute cuts, changes, and delays that allow it to meet annual budget targets but increase program costs in the long run. The Navy, for example, originally planned to buy a total of 32 DDG-1000s -- the Navy's next-generation multi-mission destroyer. A few years later, Navy officials said the military requirements had dropped to only eight to twelve destroyers, and the most recent Navy plan now calls for a total of only seven. It is no coincidence that over the same period, due to the loss of economies of scale, the cost per destroyer has increased.

Those who understand the free market will not be surprised that the years of uncertainty and low defense budgets caused capital and companies to merge or leave the defense business. That means fewer competitors, more sole-source contracts, less research, and therefore higher costs.

The reality is that there is no huge pot of money currently in the defense budget from which the necessary increase can be funded. It cannot come from reducing the number of service personnel because the military is already too small. Precisely because of budget pressures in the past, the service chiefs have already reduced force structure to dangerous levels. That is why the Navy is "cross-decking" sailors -- helicoptering them from a ship returning home to one that is steaming out to sea -- in order to man all its vessels. Nor can the money come from reducing the compensation we pay our servicemen and women. Apart from the fact that Congress would and should never reduce compensation in the middle of a war, the services must hire and retain high-quality people. The more modern the military becomes, the more skills it demands, and skilled people cost money. There is no such thing as a "grunt" in today's military. The truth is that spending on personnel benefits is much more likely to increase than decrease. Total spending on defense health care, for example, increased from $17.5 billion in 2000 to $37 billion in 2006.

WE CAN DO IT
The good news is that robust and consistent funding of the military is fully within America's capability. Currently the U.S. spends only 3.8 percent of its GDP on the core defense budget, including the non-Department of Defense expenditures for national security. That is far lower than during the Cold War, and almost a full percentage point less than was spent even during the Carter years. America's economy is so powerful that even after years of underfunding military procurement, the U.S. could still recapitalize and sustain its military strength by enacting the $34 billion increase I mentioned earlier, and maintaining defense spending at no less than 4 percent of GDP thereafter.

This program -- called the "4% for Freedom Solution" by the Heritage Foundation -- would send the clearest possible message to America's friends and enemies that, whatever happens in Iraq, America will remain a force to be reckoned with. For some purposes, defense policy is foreign policy. Imagine the impact on China and North Korea, for example, of realizing that the U.S., by using only a small fraction of its economic resources, can guarantee an increased and highly capable naval presence in the Western Pacific for years to come.

The 4% for Freedom Solution would also have a positive impact on our long-term fiscal position. First, it would focus debate about the deficit squarely where it belongs: on the entitlement programs. Even a glance at the government's budget shows that growth in entitlement programs, not in defense or other discretionary spending, poses the real long-term threat to solvency. If Congress reforms entitlement spending, there will be more than enough money for defense if Congress fails to get entitlements under control, then funding defense on the cheap will not save the country from bankruptcy.

Second, assuring sufficient funding for defense would promote more efficient use of defense dollars. Capital would flow back into the defense industrial base, and the service chiefs could attempt what in Washington has heretofore been unthinkable: long-term planning. They could budget in a way that reduces costs over the life of new systems, instead of fighting each other for money every year, or maneuvering each budget cycle just to keep vital programs alive. President Bush's proposed double-digit increase is welcome news but large swings in defense funding always cost the taxpayer more than solid, consistent funding over time.

Finally, American power is an important stabilizing force in the world by reassuring the financial markets about American strength, the 4% for Freedom Solution would help reduce risk within the international economy and promote economic growth at home and abroad. Even a small positive impact on the economy would more than pay for the additional investment in military capability. How much would it be worth economically, for example, to reduce the risk that China invades Taiwan, or Kim Jong Il is tempted to use his nuclear capability? The peace and prosperity of the 1990s, remember, were due at least in part to the Reagan defense buildup of the 1980s. The Reagan precedent is also the answer to those who are concerned about the short-term impact of the 4% for Freedom Solution on the deficit. It is true that military strength has its price, but as Jimmy Carter found out, there is a price to be paid for weakness, too.

President Bush's recent defense-budget submission is the best news for American security in 15 years. The Democratic leaders should fully fund it, and the administration deserves credit for proposing it. But it would not have been necessary if the Clinton administration had not cut defense spending in the 1990s, or if the first George W. Bush administration had more robustly funded the needs that were clearly apparent even in 2001. By adopting the "4% for Freedom Solution," our leaders can show that for once they have learned the lessons of the past. There never will be a war that ends all wars history has shown that, even in years where threats do not seem immediate, the dangers remain -- and only the reality and perception of American power can deter them from breaking out.


Canisteo AO-99 - History

A river in New York State.

(AO 99 dp. 7,296 1. 653' b. 45' dr. 32'4" B. 18 cpl. 304 a. 1 5", 1 3" cl. Cimarron)

Canisteo (AO-99) was launched 6 July 1946 by Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc., Sparrows Point, Md., under a Maritime Commission contract, sponsored by Mrs. J. N. Chambers and commissioned 3 December 1945, Lieutenant Commander E. L. Denton, USNR, in command.

Canisteo cleared Norfolk 4 February 1946 for Melville, R.I., where she loaded diesel oil for naval units taking part in the occupation of Germany. Returning from Bremerhaven and Farge, Germany, she carried out training operations in the Caribbean, and then sailed to Iceland and Greenland, returning to New York City 27 May.

The tanker sailed south from Norfolk 27 November 1946 as a unit of Operation "HighJump," the largest Antarctic expedition to that time. Steaming through the Panama Canal to the Antarctic, Canisteo reached Scott and Peter Islands, and through her logistic support, played a critical role in this historic exploratory and scientific project, carrying on the Navy's traditional role in expanding man's frontiers. Canisteo returned to Norfolk 23 April 1947 after calling at Rio de Janeiro and Caribbean ports.

Between 4 June 1947 and 23 October 1948, Canisteo served four tours of duty supporting the Fifth Fleet by carrying oil from Bahrein to the Mediterranean. The winter and spring of 1948-1949 found Canisteo operating on fueling duty from Norfolk to Caribbean ports Argentia, Newfoundland, and Grondal, Greenland. A pattern of alternating exercises in the Caribbean with overhauls and tours of duty in the Mediterranean in the following years was highlighted by her fueling in support of many fleet exercises. She played a part in augmenting the growing strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization through Operation "Mainbrace" (26 August-11 October 1952) and in combined operations with Canadian forces ( 16-20 September 1956). Active with the Fleet. Canisteo continued to operate out of Norfolk through 1960, participating in fleet and NATO exercises.

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - Navy Battle "E" Ribbon - American Campaign Medal - Europe-Africa-Middle East Campaign Medal
Second Row - World War II Victory Medal - Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Europe clasp) - National Defense Service Medal
Third Row - Antarctic Service Medal - Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (1-Cuba, 1-Dominican Republic) - Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation (2)


Cosmic Observation

Last year, I did a post on World War I for Veterans Day as it had been 100 years, exactly, since the end of that war. I also covered how other countries memorialize and/or celebrate and, ended the post with two poems. I’ve written in a previous post about my almost Army brat status and referred to my significant other in this post.

Hargrave Military Academy Circa 1958

Ken’s first foray into the ‘military’ was the Hargave Military Academy in Virginia. His mother sent him there for summer school to assist with grades after a poor eighth grade year. He stayed for his ninth grade year and did very well. Unfortunately, it was extremely expensive and he returned to regular high school for tenth grade.

At the end of his junior year, he’d had enough of regular high school and made it clear to his mother that he wanted to go into the Navy. The military was all he was interested in. So, at the tender age of 17, his mother signed him into service. He went into the reserves for two years and began to train as a Corpsman. His sea duties were aboard the USS Robinson (DD-562), a Fletcher Class destroyer, the second ship in the Navy to be named after Captain Isaiah Robinson (Continental Navy). The “Robbie” received eight battle stars for World War II service and appeared in the movie Away All Boats.

The Robbie
Circa 1953 Circa 1961

After two years of training, he went active duty…and the Navy lost its mind. Orders to report to his new ship in hand, he was sent to Charleston, SC, to be assigned to the USS Canisteo (AO-99), a Cimarron Class fleet oiler, named for the Canisteo River in New York and the only ship to bear that name. It’s crew received nine medals.

Unfortunately, upon his arrival, there was no ship to board. The Charleston Naval Base had no record of it being there and, in the meantime, he was sent to the transit barracks. While waiting, he volunteered to be a lifeguard for a week. The remaining time was spent waiting at the barracks. After three weeks, the Navy adjusted his orders and sent him to Norfolk Naval Base, the home port of the Canisteo. Upon arrival, no ship. He was, again, assigned to the transit barracks…until they could find the ship. After a four-day wait, the Navy adjusted his orders a second time and he was sent to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. The shipyard had no record of the Canisteo being there so, he was sent…a-gain…to the transit barracks. His ship was finally found at the Todd Shipyards in Red Hook Brooklyn, a civilian shipyard. With his orders in hand (now, a rather large portfolio of paperwork), stamped by the Navy (adjusted a third time), he headed to his ship. He reported to the Officer of the Deck and was told that he had been reported AWOL. The OOD examined the orders, informed him that his Corpsman striker slot had been filled due to his (unintended) absence and, just like that, he was transformed into part of the deck force, wiping out two years of training. He became a Bosun’s Mate striker. *facepalm*

The Canisteo
Circa 1961 Circa 1962
While on board the Canisteo, he participated in the Cuban Blockade

He left active service in 1964 and rolled into the IRR, waiting for the end of his contract to expire. On March 8, 1965, Marines landed near Da Nang, marking the beginning of the ground war in Vietnam. Ken was working a full time job and was watching what was going on. By the summer of 1966, he decided that he was going to go back to the Navy, interested in the River Patrol (and PBRs) and went to see a prior service recruiter. The recruiter told him that the Navy would not give him his rank back. Ken left his office and was stopped by a Marine recruiter in the hallway. He told him to go back in and ask about the Seabees. He did so and the Navy prior service recruiter changed his tune. Off he went to Camp Endicott in Rhode Island for training. He was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and sent to Gulfport, Home of the Seabees.

He arrived in Vietnam in July of 1967. His base was Camp Haskins on Red Beach in Da Nang. The Marines were on Monkey Mountain across the bay and at Da Nang Air Base in the opposite direction, across the highway. At the beginning of the Tet Offensive, the bombing of the Air Base in January of 1968 nearly knocked Ken out of a guard tower. He was designated a builder and did his share of such but, spent most of his time running patrols with the Marines.

Gulfport, MS
Ken on the left.
The puppy had been rescued from a house fire.
Circa 1967 Camp Haskins
Notice the guy waving in the background.


On November 3, 1967, a fellow Seabee had an accident with a saw while cutting some wood. A sawhorse shifted and the man injured himself, accidentally. The blade cut an artery in his thigh and Ken’s Corpsman training kicked in. He, literally, stuck his hand into the guy’s thigh to clamp the artery with his thumb and forefinger. When the rescue helicopter arrived, the coagulated blood on Ken’s arm prevented him from being able to remove his hand from the guy’s thigh. Ken got a free ride in the helicopter to the hospital with his charge. A life was saved (the actual details are pretty gruesome).

A life saved…

And, this concludes my long-ass tribute to my Fleet Navy/Vietnam Seabee veteran. If you have a veteran in your life…hug them.

[Addendum: When I moved in with Ken some years ago, I was looking at his DD-214. He swore he only had one and I saw from the data that he had two. We sent off for his records and, sure enough, there were two. I discovered that, when he went to the prior service recruiter, the guy didn’t bother to check to see if Ken was still on contract. He was and, had he checked, Ken could have returned to the Navy, with rank intact, and left for Vietnam as part of the Brown Water Navy…and most likely died. The life span of PBR guys was fairly short.]


Watch the video: USS CANISTEO AO-99 tribute (May 2022).