The Montauk Air Force Station operated from 1951 to 1981. Previously, the property had been used as a World War II coastal defense station disguised as a coastal fishing village. Subsequently, most was absorbed into Camp Hero State Park or used by the town for affordable housing.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Ed Crasky had served as private first class with a company of the Army’s 113th Infantry during World War II. His company lodged at Miankoma Hall in Amagansett, where they patrolled the beaches watching for Germans approaching by sea. While in Amagansett, Ed met Josephine Stella. The couple married in 1942 and stayed on in the area.
For 35 years, Ed worked as a boiler fireman at the Montauk Air Force Station, which was established during the Cold War as an early warning facility for potential missile strikes by Russia. An enormous high-power radar tower added in 1960 and later abandoned is said to be the last of its kind standing today, albeit in a state of increasing decay.
In addition to radar equipment and perhaps100 officers and support staff, the Air Force Station had a barracks, mess hall, recreation hall and gymnasium, an officers club, a commissary where items like stamps and toiletries could be purchased, and a number of other structures and buildings.
“Barbed wire surrounded the 773rd. … Two soldiers with rifles at the entrance let you in,” Dan Rattiner recalled in an article in 2023, many decades after delivering prescriptions from his father’s pharmacy to the Air Force’s eastern outpost. “Also there, off limits, were several bomb-proof concrete buildings that comprised the command control office. Inside, watching green screen radar monitors, the technicians kept a close eye on the skies.”
The Montauk Library’s set of Ed Crasky Montauk Air Force Station Photographs consists of 37 photographs taken at the Air Force base in 1980, the year before the government closed it down. In the 1980s, part of the land was deeded to New York State, with 30 acres designated to East Hampton Town to use for moderate-income housing. In 1984, the National Parks Service transferred the remaining 278 acres to the state, which opened Camp Hero State Park in 2002.
Ed Crasky died in 1996, and in 2014 his wife, Josephine, brought his photos to the Montauk Library, where they were scanned before being returned. Last week East Hampton Town officials helped celebrate Josephine’s 100th birthday by issuing an official proclamation.
Happy birthday, Josephine!