Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Robert J. Kodosky

Cold War

The period of international political and military tension known as the Cold War (1947-91) had military, political, and cultural implications for Greater Philadelphia. The region served as a first line of defense for a conflict that depended more on missiles than forts, and it provided the nation with an arsenal, a shipyard, and a source of manpower. While a direct military confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, the Cold War’s principal adversaries, failed to materialize, the conflict made its mark on the region in other ways, including anti-communist suspicion, civil defense, and the 1967 summit between President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-73) and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin (1904-80) in Glassboro, New Jersey.

The Cold War emerged after World War II when the United States and the Soviet Union—wartime allies against Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy—reverted to their prewar ideological rivalry between U.S. promotion of capitalism and Soviet support for Communist revolutions. As early as 1946, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) described the postwar divide in Europe as an Iron Curtain. In 1961 the East German government constructed the Berlin Wall, physically dividing the city and symbolic of Cold War tension. While the Soviet Union and the United States avoided direct military conflict, each became involved in proxy wars around the world, most notably in Korea (1950-53), Vietnam (1950-75), and Afghanistan (1979-89). Each nation worked to expand its international influence in a conflict carried out through propaganda, espionage, domestic surveillance, soft power (economic and cultural), the space race, and the threat of atomic weaponry. While Cold War tensions eased during the 1970s, a period characterized by détente (thawing), they resumed following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

Into the Postwar World

At the end of World War II, Philadelphia stood as America’s third largest city. Optimism ran high amid military demobilization and the lapsing of wartime rationing and restrictions. A building boom took place, and rows of small houses and garden apartments appeared in the city’s sections of East Germantown, West Oak Lane, and the Northeast. Philadelphia’s colleges and universities grew markedly in enrollment due to the educational opportunities made possible for veterans under the G.I. Bill.

[caption id="attachment_28659" align="alignright" width="338"] Members of the WAVES were among the reductions in force at the Navy Yard following World War II. Here, in a 1942 photograph, Ensign May Herrmann talks to two women about enlisting at the officer procurement office in Philadelphia. (Women of World War II)[/caption]

At the same time, however, apprehension grew over the detrimental impact of the sudden peace on local defense operations and industry. These fears quickly became realized at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where fifty-eight ships were deactivated by the middle of 1946. The Navy Yard laid off thousands of civilian workers and cut naval personnel from 345 officers and 639 WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in 1945 to 82 officers and 172 WAVES in 1949. To assist laid-off workers in finding employment, the Navy Yard established a Reduction-in-Force Unit in its Industrial Relations Division.

Postwar cuts generated constant fear of base and shipyard closure. In 1949, the Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) presidential administration laid off more than four thousand government employees at the Frankford Arsenal, Marine Corps Supply Depot, Naval Home, Quartermaster General Depot, and Signal Corps Stock Control Office, reducing the federal payroll in Philadelphia by $13 million. It further closed the Atlantic City Naval Air Station at Pomona, New Jersey, and announced plans to reduce the authorized number of personnel at the Navy Yard from nine thousand to seven thousand.

In addition to the military cutbacks, the spectre of communism provoked anxiety as political leaders, the media, and others warned of domestic threats. The Communist Party already had a strong presence in the region. Its membership of nearly one hundred thousand individuals by the late 1940s owed to both the economic toll of the Great Depression and the U.S.-Soviet alliance during World War II. During the postwar period, Communists built on existing racial tensions to recruit African Americans. The party’s newspaper, The Daily Worker, regularly reported instances of police brutality and frame-ups directed against African Americans in Philadelphia. Thomas Nabried (1900-65), the party’s city chair (1942-45) and then district chair for eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, worked to organize fellow African Americans in the city and throughout Bucks County. By the 1950s, African Americans came to constitute more than one-sixth of the party’s membership. The party’s strength, however, proved short lived, as it failed to withstand the anti-communist mood of the 1950s and ceased to operate as an effective political force.

Veterans organizations emerged early as forceful proponents of anticommunism. The Catholic War Veterans, for example, organized mass demonstrations in Philadelphia in December 1946 to protest the repression of the Catholic Church in communist Eastern Europe. The Pennsylvania American Legion expressed support for the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the McCarran Act, a 1950 federal law that called for the registration of “subversives.” Veterans groups sponsored patriotic celebrations such as Loyalty Day, designated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) in 1958 and held annually on or near May 1.

Patriotic activities to celebrate the United States, including the role Philadelphia played in its founding, accompanied anticommunist initiatives throughout the Cold War. Religious leaders played an important role. Vito Mazzone (1903-85), pastor of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi at 712 Montrose Street in South Philadelphia, encouraged active patriotism among his parishioners. “Christian patriotism” was the message of evangelist Billy Graham (b. 1918), who attracted a crowd of nearly seven hundred thousand to his Philadelphia crusade in 1961. Philadelphia served as the point of departure for the Freedom Train, which carried an exhibit of the nation’s founding documents around the country between 1947 and 1949. The era’s heightened patriotism also brought increasing numbers of tourists to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, which became the centerpieces of Independence National Historical Park, authorized by Congress in 1948.

Military Revitalization and Nuclear Threats

The Cold War suddenly turned hot in June 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea. This followed the Soviet Union’s first explosion of an atomic bomb and the creation of the Communist Peoples Republic of China. The Philadelphia region felt the impact as jobs returned to the Naval Yard. At the height of the American-led United Nations “police action” in Korea at the end of 1951, 14,750 went to work for the Navy in the shipyard. A new Radiological Decontamination Training Facility opened in Building 681 and distributed manuals for ship decontamination in the event of an air burst of atomic bombs.

[caption id="attachment_29178" align="alignright" width="300"]A black and white photograph showing a class room with children crouching under the desks during a Schoolchildren in Philadelphia learned to "duck and cover" in the event of a nuclear strike during the Cold War. Many local schools were also designated as fallout shelters. Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries[/caption]

The fear of nuclear attack remained paramount. In 1952, Pennsylvania’s Civil Air Patrol dropped leaflets in Bucks and Chester Counties that warned of potential bombs. By the 1950s, the Philadelphia District of the Corps of Engineers supervised construction of twelve NIKE/AJAX surface-to-air missile sites averaging twenty-five miles from Center City. Regular Army and Pennsylvania National Guard manned the batteries with command and control functions located at a facility in Pedricktown, Salem County, New Jersey. Missile sites in New Jersey protected the New York area in the north and the Philadelphia area in the south.

[caption id="attachment_28668" align="alignright" width="234"] South Philadelphia High School and Drexel Institute graduate Harry Gold confessed to espionage with the Soviets in 1950. (Federal Bureau of Investigation)[/caption]

As nuclear espionage dominated national news, in May 1950 authorities arrested a South Philadelphia man, Harry Gold (1910-72), on espionage charges. A South Philadelphia High School graduate, Gold had studied chemical engineering at Drexel Institute and by the 1930s had begun to provide the Soviets with documents about industrial solvents and manufacturing processes from the Pennsylvania Sugar Company, the Fishtown refinery where he worked. At that time one of the largest sugar refineries in the world, Pennsylvania Sugar had subsidiaries that produced everything from Quaker brand antifreeze to solvents, lacquers, and rum.

Following his arrest, Gold confessed to acting as a courier to pass information for the Soviets about the Manhattan Project, which produced the atomic bomb, to atomic spy Klaus Fuchs (1911-88). This led to the arrest of David Greenglass (1922-2014), a Manhattan Project machinist whose testimony resulted in the espionage arrest, trial and execution of Greenglass’s sister Ethel Rosenberg (1915-53) and her husband, Julius (1918-53). Gold served fifteen years of the thirty-year sentence he received before his parole from the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in May 1966.  

Reflecting continuing anxiety about Communist activity within the United States, organizers of Pennsylvania Week activities in 1951 chose “Defense” as their theme. Philadelphia’s Civil Defense Council, citing a shipment of purported sabotage manuals allegedly unloaded from a ship at the Philadelphia docks, warned of the need to detect subversive threats. The region’s desire to expose potential communist subversives manifested in the adoption of statewide loyalty oaths in Pennsylvania (1951) and New Jersey (1949). Delaware remained one of only seven states to resist adopting such legislation. Locally, meanwhile, in 1955 the Philadelphia School District dismissed twenty-six teachers for refusing to answer questions about Communist affiliations on the basis of their rights under the Fifth Amendment. In the suburbs, the Bucks County Bar rejected an applicant based on his association with a Marxist fellow student at the Pennsylvania State University. An appeal eventually overturned the decision.

The Cold War elevated the importance of universities to national security. As centers of scientific production, the federal government provided campuses with unprecedented funding. Philadelphia’s campuses benefited from the Section 112 program, a 1959 revision to the Housing Act that responded to the Soviet Union’s launch of its satellite Sputnik two years before. This enabled urban universities in selected cities, including Philadelphia, to undertake massive expansion projects at little or no cost to the universities.

Because of their perceived importance and the federal dollars they received, universities came under the scrutiny of authorities early and often. Barrows Dunham (1905-95), professor of philosophy and department head at Temple University, attracted interest from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) because of his former membership in the Communist Party. Subpoenaed to appear before the U.S. House Un-American Affairs Committee in October 1952, Dunham ultimately sought protection under the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions. Cited for standing in contempt of Congress in May 1954, Dunham secured an acquittal a year later. Temple officials dismissed Dunham and continued to cooperate with the FBI. In July 1981 Temple’s trustees acknowledged Dunham’s dismissal as an error and reinstated him as professor emeritus entitled to a lifetime pension.  

[caption id="attachment_28657" align="alignright" width="300"] Activity at the Navy Yard, pictured here in 1968, rebounded during the Vietnam War era. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

The Cold War further revitalized the Philadelphia Naval Yard during the Vietnam War, when the facility entered its most active period of operations and highest level of employment since World War II. Its annual payroll reached nearly $90 million. Activity diminished after Vietnam, but the Naval Base remained vital to national defense throughout the Cold War. Most notably, the Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) presidential administration awarded Philadelphia $500 million to fulfill the first Carrier Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) contract for the 60,000-ton attack carrier Saratoga. Continued SLEP contracts employed thousands of Delaware Valley residents and brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the region over the next twenty years.

The Cold War’s costs included the men and women overseas to serve in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Draftees and volunteers from across the northeastern United States reported to Fort Dix in New Jersey for basic training. Many did not return. The Korean War exacted a human toll of over six hundred dead from Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. Forty-three from Delaware died in Korea while nearly eight hundred from New Jersey lost their lives. The war in Vietnam proved even more costly, as 646 Philadelphians, 122 service people from Delaware, and 1,500 from New Jersey never returned from Vietnam.

These costs rendered the Vietnam War increasingly divisive at home. The conflict shattered the Cold War consensus as supporters and protestors demonstrated on college campuses and sought claim to Philadelphia’s symbols of America’s democracy, including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Following two years of acrimony on its campus, the University of Pennsylvania terminated its chemical and biological warfare contracts with the Pentagon.      

Crossing the Divide

The accelerated globalization that accompanied the Cold War brought issues of national security to doorsteps across the nation. For those in the Philadelphia region, as for others across the United States, this rendered a renewed focus on home and family life that increasingly transpired in the suburbs. At the same time, Philadelphia became more connected to the world. In 1945, the United States Air Force returned Philadelphia Municipal Airport to civil control after using it as an airfield during World War II. It became Philadelphia International Airport later that year when American Overseas Airlines began direct flights to Europe. This coincided with the city proposing that Philadelphia become the permanent home for the newly established United Nations, offering a ten-square-mile site on Belmont Plateau but losing the bid to New York.

While often engulfed in Cold War tensions, Philadelphians also sought ways to alleviate them. In 1958, the Philadelphia Orchestra departed for its first tour of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In 1973, the orchestra embarked on another first, a trip to the Peoples Republic of China that preceded the existence of an American embassy in Beijing. This type of exchange also extended to sport. In July 1959, Philadelphia hosted the first in a series of track meets between American and Soviet athletes at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field. While Soviet athletes largely prevailed over their American counterparts, almost twenty years later the defending Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers scored a convincing 4-1 victory over Moscow’s Central Hockey Club at the Spectrum on January 11, 1976.

[caption id="attachment_28652" align="alignright" width="344"] Kosygin's interpreter, Premier Kosygin, interpreter William Krimer, and President Johnson (left to right) at a luncheon for diplomats inside Hollybush Mansion. (LBJ Presidential Library)[/caption]

The region also offered the site for the 1967 summit meeting between President Johnson and Soviet Premier Kosygin. The two met June 23-24 at Hollybush Mansion, the residence of Glassboro State College (Rowan University) President Thomas E. Robinson (1905-92). The choice of site, with only two day’s notice, derived from a disagreement about whether the meeting should take place in Washington or in New York, where Kosygin was attending an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the recently concluded Six Day War.

Both sides agreed on Glassboro, located exactly at the midpoint between New York and Washington. Johnson considered the site ideal for its relatively rural location, removed from the growing protests on Philadelphia’s campuses against the Vietnam War. The summit failed to produce any agreements, notably on the limitation of anti-ballistic missile systems. Limited headway made by the two leaders on the terms of a nonproliferation treaty failed to result in the issuing of any communique, and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 delayed further serious discussion between American and Soviet officials until 1972. However, the Glassboro meeting’s spontaneity and its spirit of cooperation resonated widely at the time. This helped pave the way for a period of thawed relations between the Cold War adversaries referred to as détente.

Philadelphia continued to serve as an important site for the nation’s expression of patriotism. As the Cold War varied in intensity, the city hosted America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976 and the bicentennial anniversary of the Constitution in 1987. It also rewarded the pursuit of freedom globally, awarding the inaugural Liberty Medal in 1989 to Lech Walesa (b. 1943) of Poland, the leader of Solidarity, the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union.

The Cold War concluded in 1991 with the internal collapse of the Soviet Union. The tensions of the era served to revitalize the military establishment in Greater Philadelphia, injecting the economy with money and jobs. The cost, however, included an anticommunist hysteria that occurred throughout the nation. Thousands of area residents lost their lives in Cold War-era military conflicts. While the region contributed markedly to the nation’s defense, through its missile defense initiative and operations at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, its sacrifices proved more substantial.

Robert J. Kodosky is an Associate Professor of History at West Chester University. He is the author of Psychological Operations American Style: The Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond.


From barns and airfields throughout the Delaware Valley, during the twentieth century innovative individuals and local companies made greater Philadelphia the nation’s cradle of rotary-wing aviation.  They successfully launched autogiros, gyroplanes, and helicopters, and the Boeing Company paired with Bell Helicopters in Buffalo, New York, to produce the world’s first production tilt-rotor aircraft, the V-22 Osprey.  Well into the twenty-first century, the region remained the industry’s incubator for ideas. 

[caption id="attachment_25036" align="alignright" width="300"]The Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro in 1961. The Pitcairn PCA-2, shown here in 1961, earned Pitcairn and his team the 1930 Collier Trophy, an annual aviation award administered by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association. (NASA on the Commons)[/caption]

Notions of vertical flight derived initially from ancient China, where children played with bamboo flying toys that achieved lift when released. These Chinese “tops” inspired western scientists, including nineteenth-century French aviation pioneer Alphonse Pénaud (1850-80). Pénaud’s fellow countryman, Viscomte Gustave de Ponton d’Amecourt (1825-88) created the word “helicopter” to describe the model he built in 1863. Although d’Amecourt’s contraption remained grounded, its steam-powered engine too heavy for flight, Pénaud produced a successful model helicopter in 1870. Toy helicopters made by Pénaud sparked interest in flight for the Wright brothers Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948), among others.

Philadelphia emerged as a center for helicopter development because of its key location in the national airmail system developed during World War I.  Army officials concluded that flying the mail would train a reserve of military aviators. They chose the short inaugural route between Washington, D.C., and New York, with a stop in Northeast Philadelphia at an airfield established along the Lincoln Highway in Bustleton. During the war, the military also based the Second Aero Squadron in Philadelphia, investing $250,000 to build a base at Essington, the site previously used by the Philadelphia Aviation School.

A young generation of Philadelphians, largely sons of wealthy industrialists who trained as engineers in the region’s universities, took inspiration from rotary-wing developments in Europe and perceived vertical lift as more efficient and safer than airplanes for delivering mail. In Montgomery County in the 1920s, a team led by Harold F. Pitcairn (1897-60) developed the first rotary-wing aircraft in the United States to receive type certification, an endorsement of a craft’s airworthiness. Pitcairn, youngest son of Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company founder John Pitcairn Jr. (1841-1916), grew up an aviation enthusiast on the family estate Cairnwood in Bryn Athyn, Montgomery County. Soon after attending the Curtiss Flying School in Newport News, Virginia, he launched an airmail delivery service, Pitcairn Aviation in 1925. The following year he purchased a field near Willow Grove in Horsham Township, Montgomery County, and built Pitcairn Field

At his airfield, Pitcairn made the first rotary-wing flight in the United States on December 18, 1928, in an imported Cierva C.8W Autogiro developed by Spanish aeronautical engineer Juan de la Cierva (1895-36). Pitcairn acquired the aircraft as a possible alternative to the poor safety records of the biplanes used for airmail delivery. He then acquired the rights to Cierva’s patents in 1929 and formed the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company of America in Willow Grove. As part of the licensing agreement, Pitcairn used Cierva’s copyrighted variant Autogiro, in contrast to the commonly used “autogyro.”    

The Pitcairn PCA-2, which gained type certification, also earned Pitcairn and his team the 1930 Collier Trophy, an annual aviation award administered by the U.S. National Aeronautic Association. When they traveled to Washington in 1931 to receive the award, a PCA-2 Autogiro piloted by James G. “Jim” Ray (1896-66) became the first rotary-wing craft to land at the White House.    

In Flight

[caption id="attachment_25034" align="alignright" width="300"]Eastern Airlines’ Kellett KD-1 Autogiro is shown here taking off from the roof of the Philadelphia’s Post Office at Thirtieth and Market Streets in 1939. Eastern Airlines’ Kellett KD-1 Autogiro takes off from the roof of the Philadelphia’s Post Office at Thirtieth and Market Streets in 1939. (Smithsonian National Postal Museum)[/caption]

The Philadelphia area continued to ascend in the realm of rotary-wing innovation through the work of Edward Burke Wilford Jr. (1901-83), who acquired U.S. patent rights for a rotary-wing aircraft conceived by German engineers Walter Reiseler (1890-1938) and Walter Kreiser (1898-58) in 1929. Wilford earlier evidenced an interest in invention while working in his family’s dental-equipment firm, where he helped create a motorized dental chair. When his family sold the company, Wilford, a 1922 engineering graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, looked to the skies, taking inspiration from the solo nonstop flight from New York to Paris by Charles Lindbergh (1902-74) in 1927.

Wilford purchased the Twin Brook Farm in Paoli, Pennsylvania, and transformed it into the Philadelphia-Main Line Airport. From there, Wilford’s “WRK” gyroplane, named from the initials of Wilford, Reiseler, and Kreiser, took flight in 1931. It was the first aircraft in the world to successfully use a rigid rotor design with cyclic pitch variation, which enabled the operator to balance lift by altering the pitch of the spinning blades.   

As Wilford relocated his operation to Essington, a much larger field that served as a training center and seaplane base during the First World War, brothers William Wallace (1891-1951) and Rod (1898-1963) Kellett, based in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania., achieved flight in 1934 with their KD-1 Autogiro. William, a 1913 graduate of Princeton University, served with the American Ambulance Field Service before becoming a decorated pilot in the French Air Force during World War I. He entered the aircraft manufacturing business in 1919, served as president of the Aero Club of Pennsylvania (1923-25), and established the Kellett Autogiro Corporation of Philadelphia with his brother in 1929.

The U.S. Army Air Corps purchased the Kelletts’ KD-1, and Eastern Airlines used it to deliver mail from Philadelphia’s Thirtieth Street Post Office to the Central New Jersey Airport in Camden. This constituted the first Autogiro used by the United States Postal Service to carry mail.  Another Autogiro produced by the Kellett brothers, the K-3, accompanied Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957) to the Antarctic in 1933 and became the first rotary-wing aircraft to fly there.

[caption id="attachment_25037" align="alignright" width="249"]Sketch of cachet art for Experimental Route 2001, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Camden Airport, New Jersey On July 6, 1939, the postal service began using an Autogiro aircraft to fly mail between the Central Airport at Camden, New Jersey, to the roof of the main Philadelphia post office. (Smithsonian National Postal Museum)[/caption]

Meanwhile, Arthur M. Young (1905-95) experimented with helicopter design in a small aeronautical laboratory on his family’s estate in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Young’s parents, Eliza Coxe (1875-1950) and Philadelphia landscape artist Charles Morris Young (1869-1964), encouraged their son’s intellectual curiosity from an early age. They lent him the use of their barn for twelve years following the conclusion of his studies in mathematics and engineering at Princeton University in 1927. There, Young produced a variety of models, powered by everything from rubber bands to electric motors. 

Focused on the problem of stability, Young devised a stabilizer bar that linked directly to the rotor to enable control of the rotor plane independent of the mast. He demonstrated his invention to the Bell Aircraft Company in Buffalo, New York, on September 3, 1941. The result, Bell Model 30, became the fourth successful helicopter in the world. Christened as Genevieve, Young’s helicopter made its first untethered flight on June 26, 1943. His design became the signature rotor system for Bell helicopters into the 1980s.

New Heights

Helicopter development accelerated in the region and nationally during the late 1930s and early 1940s. At the federal level, as the Second World War stirred in Europe, the Dorsey-Logan Act (1938) provided funding to develop rotary-wing craft for the U.S. War Department. Also in 1938, the Franklin Institute (222 N. Twentieth Street) hosted the First Annual Rotating Wing Aircraft Meeting, sponsored by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences. The initiative led to the formation of the American Helicopter Society (1943), which held its first four annual forums in Philadelphia (1945-48). 

[caption id="attachment_25035" align="alignright" width="321"]A Piasecki HRP-1 Helicopter at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, A Piasecki HRP-1 helicopter takes part in testing at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1948, experimenting with the lifting of artillery equipment for the United States Army. (National Museum of the U.S. Navy)[/caption]

Demand for helicopters increased with U.S. involvement in World War II and the subsequent Cold War. Locally, the Piasecki Helicopter Corporation, founded by Frank N. Piasecki (1919-2008), began producing HRP-1 helicopters in 1946 for the U.S. Navy at its facility in Morton, Pennsylvania. Renamed the Vertol Corporation in 1956, then acquired by Boeing in 1960 and relocated to Ridley Park, the operation produced hundreds of military and commercial CH-46 variants and over one thousand Chinooks. The Piasecki Aircraft Corporation, formed by Piasecki in 1955 and located in Essington, produced the world’s first shaft-driven compound helicopter, the 16H-1 Pathfinder, for the U.S. Army in 1962.   

In 1983, Boeing partnered with Bell to build the V-22 Osprey, a combat aircraft using tiltrotor technology to combine the vertical performance of a helicopter with the speed and range of a fixed-wing aircraft. Such complexity, fabricating an aircraft able to take off, hover and land like a helicopter and then convert into a turboprop plane capable of flying at high speeds and altitudes, required years of development. Production began in 1988, with about one-third of Boeing’s workforce at its plant in Ridley, Pennsylvania, building the fuselage, empennage and all subsystems, digital avionics and fly-by-wire flight control systems. The remainder of the aircraft’s construction, including final assembly, occurred at Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.’s facility in Amarillo, Texas.      

The U.S. Marine Corps finally fielded the Osprey in 2007 with the Air Force joining two years later. This prompted criticism, including a report in Time magazine in 2007, that labeled the Osprey as unsafe and overpriced. By 2016, two hundred Osprey had been deployed at a cost of $72.1 million each. By that same year, testing the aircraft had claimed thirty lives and six more people had died while operating it, including three service personnel and one civilian killed in a crash on April 8, 2010, in Afghanistan. In total, Ospreys deployed to Afghanistan surpassed one hundred thousand flight hours, including the mission that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. 

[caption id="attachment_24882" align="alignright" width="320"]An Osprey descends toward a parking-lot landing pad just south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge as part of the support team for a visit to Camden by President Barack Obama on May 18, 2015. An Osprey descends toward a parking-lot landing pad just south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge as part of the support team for a visit to Camden by President Barack Obama on May 18, 2015. (Photograph by Donald D. Groff for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)[/caption]

The rotary-wing aviation industry remained active in the Philadelphia region in the twenty-first century, although in some cases under control of outside firms. In 2005, Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation acquired the Keystone Helicopter Corporation, a firm founded in Malvern in 1953, and expanded its operations at the Chester County Airport near Coatesville. In 2015, AugustaWestland, an arm of the Italy-based Finmeccanica industrial group, announced its intentions to produce its new AW609 tilt-rotor, a civilian aircraft comparable to the military Osprey, at its plant employing nearly six hundred people in Northeast Philadelphia.     

To preserve the history of the pioneers of the modern helicopter industry, the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center opened in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1996. This resulted largely from the efforts of Peter Wright (1917-2000), a highly decorated combat aviator from World War II’s “Flying Tigers” and founder of the Keystone Helicopter Corporation. The museum’s exhibits and programs make evident the Greater Philadelphia area’s central place in the ongoing evolution of rotary-wing flight.

Robert J. Kodosky is an Associate Professor of History at West Chester University. He is the author of Psychological Operations American Style: The Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond.

Veterans and Veterans’ Organizations

Military veterans began organizing in the Philadelphia area during the waning days of the Revolutionary War. As the Continental Army disbanded, its veterans often met at City Tavern and the first general meeting of America’s first veterans’ organization, the General Society of the Cincinnati, occurred there on May 4, 1784. Just as regularly, however, veterans congregated in the streets, engaging in acts that authorities viewed as mutinous. Philadelphia-area veterans emerged from this tumult to become integral to the region’s identity and prominent in the nation’s veteran affairs.                      

In the era of the American Revolution, Americans expected their veterans to follow the ideal of a citizen soldier embodied by the tradition of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (519 BCE-430 BCE), a consul in ancient Rome. When summoned, he set down his plow to command an army against invaders. Sixteen days later, Cincinnatus returned to his fields. He shunned all honors. Among veterans of the American Revolution, however, many who took up arms cared less about glory than they did about collecting their promised pay and bounties. This became evident in the streets of Philadelphia.

On October 4, 1779, more than a year after the British Army ended its 1777-78 occupation of Philadelphia, a large group of militia gathered at Burns Tavern on North Tenth Street. The disdain of the tradesmen who manned the city’s militia shifted from the British to Philadelphia’s merchants, whom they accused of profiteering while avoiding service.

March of Humiliation

The militia forcibly marched four prominent merchants through town in an attempt at public humiliation. It then stormed the house of James Wilson (1742-98), a prominent political ally of the merchants. This attack on “Fort Wilson,” ended by the arrival of the Philadelphia Light Horse, resulted in five dead and seventeen wounded. Authorities soon pardoned the several militia that they arrested to alleviate the heightened class tension in the city that their captivity had produced.

[caption id="attachment_22863" align="alignright" width="300"]Membership Certificate for the Society of CIncinnatti. As the Continental Army disbanded, its veterans often met at City Tavern and the first general meeting of America’s first veterans’ organization, the General Society of the Cincinnati, occurred there on May 4, 1784. The membership certificate for the Society of Cincinnati shown here was created between 1845 and 1848. (Library of Congress)[/caption]

Continental Army veterans shared the financial concerns expressed by the militia. In January 1781, the 2,400 veterans of the Pennsylvania Line, disgruntled about their coerced reenlistment, lack of pay, and poor conditions, mutinied. Authorities responded quickly. Joseph Reed (1741-85), president of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council, met with representatives from the disgruntled Line at its camp in Princeton, New Jersey. He addressed their grievances by granting discharges to those who sought them and by offering more favorable terms to those who chose to reenlist.   

Two years later, their war won against Great Britain, veterans unified once more. Rather than going home as ordered, units from York, Carlisle, Lancaster, and Maryland joined veterans in Philadelphia to demand their promised pay. Congress deemed this a mutiny and relocated to Princeton. The protest collapsed when veterans received word that an army under the command of General Robert Howe (1732-86) was marching toward the city under orders to quell the uprising. This incident ultimately resulted in the constitutional provision granting the U.S. Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the nation’s capital.

While the Continental Army’s soldiers took to Philadelphia’s streets, its officers retired to the city’s back rooms. They created the State Society of the Cincinnati of Pennsylvania on October 4, 1783, at the City Tavern, months before the General Society held its first meeting there. This rendered the Pennsylvania Society as the ninth of fourteen constituent societies to comprise the General Society of Cincinnati, an organization proposed by Major General Henry Knox (1750-1806) at the Continental Army’s encampment at Newburgh, New York, in May 1783. The society’s founding document, the Institution, acknowledged the subordination of the military to civilian rule. It created a fraternal organization for former officers as a vehicle to advocate for a number of issues, including promised pay. 

The General Society defined broad parameters for its constituent societies, located in each of thirteen states and in France, America’s wartime ally against England. The vast size of the new nation dictated to the General Society’s framers that constituent societies required a good deal of autonomy to manage their own affairs. Eighty-five members of the Pennsylvania Society signed the Parchment Roll, Pennsylvania’s draft of the General Society’s Institution, during a meeting at the City Tavern on October 13, 1783. The Pennsylvania’s Society’s original members, eventually totaling 268, elected Continental Army Major General Arthur St. Clair (1737-18) as their first president and Major General “Mad” Anthony Wayne (1745-96) as his vice president. 

Besides presiding over the General Society’s first meeting at the City Tavern, George Washington (1732-99) served as its president general from 1783 until 1799, when Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) assumed the office. Sixteen members of the Constitutional Convention belonged to the Cincinnati and eleven more became honorary members. The Cincinnati based its state headquarters at the Hill Physick Keith House (321 S. Fourth Street) following the mansion’s restoration in the 1960s. 

The Shadow of Cincinnatus

[caption id="attachment_22862" align="alignright" width="300"]VFW Commander Robert Hassler reading the charter of the Camp 13 chapter of the United Spanish War Veterans to its three remaining members. Three New Jersey veterans of the Spanish-American War (1898), Sherman Ziegler, John Probosco, and Wesley Seayrs (foreground) were honored at a dinner held at the Corporal Joseph C. Toulson Post, VFW, in 1955. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

Philadelphia remained central to the societies that veterans formed following the nation’s nineteenth-century conflicts as they sought to preserve the camaraderie experienced in wartime. In a meeting in Congress Hall on January 9, 1854, more than 1,500 War of 1812 veterans created the Society of the War of 1812, a fraternal group for former officers. Attendees elected War of 1812 veteran Joel Barlow Sutherland (1792-61), a former congressman and a founder of Jefferson Medical College, as the group’s first president. 

The Aztec Club, formed for officers who served in the Mexican-American War, also congregated in Philadelphia. The city’s Robert Patterson (1792-81), an influential mill owner and an original club member, presided over the organization from 1867 to 1881. Members met annually at Patterson’s mansion at Thirteenth and Locust Streets (later the site for a new building to house the Historical Society of Pennsylvania). 

Philadelphia also became the site for the first national home for veterans. In 1826 the U.S. Navy acquired 20.7 acres at Grays Ferry Avenue from prominent Philadelphia Quaker Timothy Abbott (1767-1845) and appointed Philadelphia architect William Strickland (1788-54) as superintendent to build a permanent facility for disabled sailors. The U.S. Naval Asylum (renamed as the U.S. Naval Home in 1889) housed retired sailors until replaced by a new facility in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1976. 

Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), veterans in Philadelphia held a mass meeting at Independence Hall to pledge renewed allegiance to the Union. This resulted in the creation of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, or the Loyal Legion.  Philadelphian George Cadwalader (1806-79), a major general in the Union army, served as the legion’s first commander-in-chief. 

Fraternal Gives Way to Activist

As with previous veterans’ organization, the legion welcomed only officers. It deviated, however, by moving toward advocacy on behalf of the general welfare of the Union, its soldiers, and their widows. In this way, the Loyal Legion bridged the earlier veterans’ organizations, which remained exclusive and fraternal, with groups that later proved more inclusive and activist. Its members proved especially concerned with preserving the war’s history by gathering its artifacts.

[caption id="attachment_22861" align="alignright" width="300"]Leaders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) walk through two lines of the Audubon All-Girl Drum and Bugle Corps at a ceremony at City Hall in Philadelphia in 1954. Leaders of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) walk through two lines of the Audubon All-Girl Drum and Bugle Corps at a ceremony at City Hall in Philadelphia in 1954. This ceremony was conducted as part of the VFW’s national convention, held that year in Philadelphia. (Special Collections Research Center, Temple University Libraries)[/caption]

The Grand Army of the Republic formed in Decatur, Illinois, a year after the Loyal Legion’s creation, to advocate on behalf of all Civil War veterans. This established a model for American veterans of ensuing wars who formed the Veterans of Foreign Wars (1914), the American Legion (1919), Vietnam Veterans of America (1978), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (2004). It also built on the tradition of activism exhibited by veterans of earlier wars from the Philadelphia area.

Each new generation of veterans established a presence in the Philadelphia area and set out to serve their communities. For example, the Bridesburg-Lawton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2 (4638 Richmond Street), whose members first mustered on July 24, 1902, continued to be active in community service for more than a century. The post’s original leader, Robert S. Hansbury (1863-22), organized the American Veterans of Philippine and China Wars, a forerunner to both the regional American Veterans of Foreign Services and the national Veterans of Foreign Wars created by a national encampment of veterans in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1914. Members of the Bridesburg-Lawton post contributed to the inaugural Philadelphia Veterans Parade (2015) by sending its motorcycle “Riders Group,” the oldest in Philadelphia.

Grand Army Museum

The John Ruan House (4278 Griscom Street), once the home to Philadelphia’s Grand Army of the Republic Post #2, became the Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library. Post #2 had constituted one of the largest and most influential Grand Army of the Republic posts in the United States. Its members worked to display the many books, artifacts, and memorabilia they collected to educate the public about the war.  To ensure the continued maintenance and accessibility of the collection, in 1926 Post #2 members created a corporation, Philadelphia Camp Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, to carry on their work.           

Such engagement was longstanding and widespread. In 1926, the American Legion hosted its first baseball World Series in Philadelphia.  This type of civic engagement enabled the legion’s employment committee to lobby successfully for a pledge from the Pennsylvania Railroad to hire a percentage of men over the age of forty during the Great Depression.

Such efforts derived, however, from posts that often remained segregated by race. Initially, policy dictated this. Unable to join Post #2 of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1867 Philadelphia’s African American veterans of the Civil War chartered Charles Sumner #103. Although the military desegregated in 1953, local veterans’ posts continued to reflect the region’s residential segregation patterns. For example, in 1954, an influx of many Puerto Rican World War II and Korean War veterans  in Philadelphia resulted in the creation of Latin American Legion Post #840 of the American Legion.

In the suburbs, the Veterans of Foreign Wars granted separate black and white posts to Coatesville and Kennett Square. In West Chester, veterans created two American Legion posts within three months of one another in 1919. The Bernhhard F. Schegel  Post 134 began with fifteen members, all white, while fifteen African American veterans created Nathan Holmes Post 362. Still, the two posts worked closely with one another. They jointly orchestrated activities and parades, occupied seats on the county’s veteran council, and sent delegations to the funerals of each other’s members. Their members also joined the same local Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

Soldiering On

[caption id="attachment_22859" align="alignright" width="300"]Members of the Air Force presenting the Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission with a plaque. The Philadelphia Veterans Advisory Commission, established in 1957, worked to alert veterans to benefits they were entitled to and help with their distribution. In this 1961 photograph, representatives of the commission are receiving a plaque from the United States Air Force to recognize their work. (PhillyHistory.org)[/caption]

The activist spirit promoted by veterans organizations became embraced by individuals such as Philadelphian John Alferi (1881-1974), a World War I veteran and member of the James J. Cochran Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 251. On December 14, 1931, Alferi led a “Veterans’ Bonus Brigade” of fifty veterans on a four-day protest march from Philadelphia to the nation’s capital to call for early payment of bonuses promised by Congress. Although this march attracted little public attention, it inspired an army of veterans who came to call Alferi “Mr. Bonus Army.” The 1931 action inspired the better-known “Bonus Army” march on Washington by thousands of veterans during the summer of 1932.  

The region’s activist veterans also included Smedley D. Butler (1881-40), a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, the most decorated marine in American history at the time of his death. Butler, twice awarded the Medal of Honor, wrote an exposé of war profiteering entitled War is a Racket (1935). Butler supported veterans’ lobbying and visited the Bonus Army while it encamped in Washington to encourage its marchers. He toured the country in 1933 to recruit members for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Years later, over Labor Day weekend in 1970, veterans staged another protest march when 150 members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War walked from Morristown, New Jersey, to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and on to Valley Forge, drawing on the area’s Revolutionary-era symbolism. Aided by the Philadelphia Guerrilla Theater Company, the group dramatized its allegations of the American military’s misconduct in Vietnam, analogous to many acts allegedly perpetuated by the Red Coats in colonial America. At Valley Forge the veterans, joined by over a thousand protesters, conducted a peace rally that featured antiwar speeches delivered by veterans, political leaders, and celebrities.

While the Vietnam War divided the country, Greater Philadelphia’s veterans groups projected unity in lobbying to honor veterans in the naming of the city’s new sports arena completed in 1971. Veterans Stadium served as the home field for Philadelphia’s professional baseball and football teams, the Phillies and the Eagles, until its demolition in 2004. 

The unity of Philadelphia area veterans also led to the creation of the Philadelphia Veterans House (4108 Baltimore Avenue) in 1994. Initially a facility to provide short-term housing and meals for veterans commuting for treatment at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia Veterans House began to provide shelter to homeless veterans in January 2012. Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter (b. 1957) cited this initiative as essential to his announcement in December 2015 that Philadelphia had effectively ended homelessness among the city’s veterans.

The activist spirit persisted. This was exemplified by the mural Communion Between a Rock and a Hard Place, dedicated in 2012 at 4129 Woodland Avenue near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A product of the Philadelphia-based Warrior Writers organization and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, it depicted parallel worlds of Baghdad and Philadelphia: the spheres of soldier and citizen. Philadelphia area veterans worked to bridge these realms from the beginning. They created organizations that became central to serving local communities. Moreover, they effectively raised their voices to address issues of concern to veterans, regionally and nationally. Often they provided models of re-integration for their nation’s other veterans to follow. The history of greater Philadelphia’s veterans, characterized by organization and activism, offered a model for the nation.

Robert J. Kodosky is an associate professor of history at West Chester University. He is the author of Psychological Operations American Style: The Joint United States Public Affairs Office, Vietnam and Beyond.

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