During World War II, radar was just in its infancy. In order to provide defense against sneak air attacks by German or Japanese aircraft, the U.S. Government set up a network of Ground Observers throughout the United States. The Ground Observers were active through the end of World War II and then reactivated for a brief period during the Korean War.
Stanley and Ruth Harris of Queensbury were two early volunteers. The government had observer posts built. The photo below is a picture of an observer post manned by the Harrises that was located on Ridge Road about a quarter mile north of Oneida Corners.
The ground observers had to under go vigorous training. There were a number of manuals and guides that they had to study. The first mandatory manual was the “Handbook for Air Raid Wardens” United States Office Office of Civil Defense. This 60 page booklet demonstrated how to handle such things as magnesium bombs, blackouts, air raids, war gasses, etc.
Part of the training of ground observers included distinguishing the difference between US Military and civilian aircraft and foreign military aircraft. Training included a seminar in Albany where observers listened to airplane engine sounds of both domestic and foreign military aircraft that had been recorded on records.
Another key function of ground observers was to assist in identifying foreign persons disguised as U.S. military personnel. A booklet from the Insignia Mart in New York City called Divisional Insignia Sleeve & Shoulder Patches of the U.S. Armed Forces was used as a guide.
A sample page from this sixteen page booklet showing badges of the individual military corps.
Stanley and Ruth Harris were given special identification cards to identify their special service to any authorities who might question their whereabouts during the war. They were also allocated extra gas rations to supplement their travel to and from the observer post.
Both Ruth and Stanley Harris received various commendation awards for their civilian service as ground observers during World Ward I and the Korean War.
During her time as a ground observer, Ruth Harris wrote a poem about her experience.
Edited by Tom Lynch, Collections Manager
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Source: Eleanor and Albert Oudekerk Collection # 27