100 years ago, Robert Van Patten Sr., the architect of much of Clifton Park’s suburban development, was born. The modern Erie Barge Canal opened for business, the Burnt Hills Fire Department was founded and the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce was incorporated for the first time in Saratoga Springs (the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County didn’t follow until 1967). 1918 was also the year World War I ended, but not before US involvement rose dramatically, on land, at sea, and in the air, as the allies rushed to end the stalemate that had gripped continental Europe for four years.
Earlier that year, a British airman named John Hedley earned the title, “Luckiest Man Alive” by falling out of a diving airplane he was riding in as observer, then climbing back in after grabbing the tail as the pilot pulled up. He died in 1977. Not so lucky was Baron Manfred von Richtofen, the famous “Red Baron” that every Snoopy fan knows so well. In April, 1918, the Red Baron met his demise, not by the actions of Charlie Brown’s childhood friend, but by some smart sharpshooting, most likely by someone on the ground.
World War I ended with an armistice on November 11, and Armistice Day was celebrated for years as the ending of the “War To End All Wars”. When those optimistic forecasts proved untrue, it became Veterans Day. The end of the so-called Great War set in motion political machinations which hastened the onset of a later and far more devastating conflict. An example of that was the great shipbuilding race, that had its roots in the 1916 epic sea battle off Jutland. By 1918 some massive, heavily gunned and very fast ships were on the drawing boards, especially in the USA, Japan and Great Britain. One of these was the USS Saratoga (CC-3), which would have carried 8 16” guns at a speed exceeding 33 knots. Cancelled by a political treaty in the early 1920s while partially constructed, the ship emerged as a far more potent weapon when it was redesigned and completed as an aircraft carrier in 1927. And 75 years ago this week, on November 5, 1943, the Saratoga (now CV-3) led a force which struck a crushing blow to a large Japanese force attempting a powerful strike against US interests in the South Pacific in World War II.
A week later, the US invasion of Tarawa sealed Japan’s fate. The contribution of ships like the Saratoga, conceived during the First World War, provided the margin of victory along with planes in the air, and soldiers on the ground.
-Pete Bardunias, President/CEO, the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County