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A U.S. Army plane drops above the Bear Mountain Bridge as anti-aircraft personnel from West Point practice targeting the plane in an anti-aircraft drill conducted in the summer of 1941.

Six months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—Dec. 7, 1941, during which a serviceman from Peekskill died—the United Staes military was conducting anti-air raid drills above the skies of Peekskill, specifically the Bear Mountain Bridge.

RELATED: What was Dec. 7, 1941 like in Peekskill? Click here for a firsthand account from city kid who would grow up to become a hero at Iwo Jima. 

Here is the news account, as written in the June 4, 1941 edition of The Evening Star:

“Twelve 800million candlepower searchlighplayed over nearly a 100-square mile area of this lower Hudson Valley region last night as United States Military Academy cadets and soldiers from Fort Totten, N. Y., demonstrated the technique of spotting night raiders.

Stretched from the northern limits of West Point to the vicinity of Bear Mountain Bridge, each of the powerful 60-inch lights threw skyward a beam visible four miles in any direction. Five units were located in West Point proper, another was placed atop Bear Mountain, and the others situated at vantage points between.

Two army planes dropped overhead as the ground outfits attempted to place the “raiders” in the path of the light beam during the two-hour drill. No guns were employed in the night maneuvers.”

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According to Peekskill Historian Frank Goderre—who provided the information for this article—at Peekskill’s July 4 ceremony at the Depew Park that year, Congressman Hamilton Fish criticized President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for creating “war hysteria.” Six months after those remarks, America was under attack and thrust into the Second World War. 

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