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Local WWII articles now searchable at New Hartford Historical Society

Newspaper articles on thousands of Mohawk Valley residents who served during World War II are now easily searchable thanks to the work of one volunteer.

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NEW HARTFORD — Lewis Smith of Washington Mills enlisted in the Air Corps during World War II. He went to flexible gunnery school in Fort Myers, Florida, and was promoted to sergeant upon completion of the course.

He then graduated from aircraft armorers school at Lowery Field in Denver, Colorado, and became a qualified armorer gunner.

Smith’s story and the stories of thousands of others from the greater Mohawk Valley who served during World War II are now easily searchable at the New Hartford Historical Society, thanks to the work of volunteer Carl Saporito.

It all began when Saporito found some old Observer-Dispatch newspaper clips that had been saved by another volunteer. “It was sitting there in the binders,” he said of the treasure trove of old articles. He then scanned them into a database that is available for public use at the historical society.

The O-D published two pages of news on the men and women serving in the military every Sunday from 1942 to 1945. There were often more than 100 stories at a time, covering enlistments, promotions, medals and death notices. Most were 5 to 6 inches in length, and many included photos.

“The O-D carried a lot of stuff,” Saporito said. “They got it from the armed forces.” Saporito said it took him three months to scan everything in the collection. He thinks it will make for a good research tool for the public.

Jeff Madden, president of the New Hartford Historical Society, hopes the database will help bring foot traffic into the historical society. “We’re hoping this will be a lure to get people in,” he said. Madden said it is free to use the database, but there is a charge to print, unless you are a member of the historical society (membership is $12 a year).

Smith, a former volunteer at the historical society, enjoys the database, but noted how he had spent hours looking through the loose clips as well. “It kept me entertained for a long time,” he said.

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