Ed Day, Rockland County Executive

June 5, 2014
Contact:   Scott Salotto  (845) 638-5645


Officials Display One-Of-A-Kind Chess Set Hand-Carved By German POW's At Camp Shanks

NEW CITY, NY  --  Rockland County Executive Ed Day and Rockland County Veterans Service Agency Director Jerry Donnellan today marked the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion at the Camp Shanks Museum in Orangetown. From 1943 until the end of World War II, Camp Shanks was the largest Army port of embarkation in the United States.  It served as the staging grounds for about 1.3 million troops, including 75 percent of those who took part in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Day and Donnellan today also displayed a hand-carved chess set fashioned by German prisoners of war detained at Camp Shanks during World War II.  The game pieces were crafted by the POW's from everyday materials and debris scavenged around the camp.

"On June 6th, 1944, the brave men and women of the Allied Forces led an epic battle to break the Nazi stranglehold on Western Europe. Now, 70 years later, it remains our duty to remember the sacrifices made by the members of the Greatest Generation, many of whom called Rockland County home," said County Executive Day.

The chess set was a gift from the prisoners to Major Ralph B. Ward, a Camp Shanks administrator.  Ward was well-regarded by many POW's for his integrity and fairness.  As U.S. service members were prohibited from receiving gifts from detainees, the chess set was presented to Ward as the POW's boarded ships bound for Europe after the war ended.  It has never been publicly displayed.

American GI's spent up to 12 days at Camp Shanks before deployment via the Piermont Pier or New York Harbor aboard  troop ships bound for Europe.  The last German left the camp on July 22, 1946 and soon after, the base officially closed.

"We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the brave Americans who stormed the beaches of Normandy, fought and died for our freedom," said Donnellan.  "If it wasn't for their courage and honorable service, the war may have lasted much longer, with many more lives lost."

Said Day, "This chess set should remind us of the acts of kindness and compassion between people, even those who were labeled as sworn enemies."

Shanks comprised 2,040 acres in Orangetown and had its own baseball team, orchestra and newspaper. The Camp Shanks Museum opened in June 1994.