Midway through her speech at the Benson House in Wading River, Suffolk County Historical Society director Kathy Curran became overwhelmed with emotion.
She stopped reading her prepared statements, and looked at the four elderly World War II veterans sitting in the front row, one of whom stormed the beaches at Normandy 70 years ago.
“I’m just so moved,” she said. “To be in the presence of these heroes … it’s just so important that this be recognized, that your service be honored.”
Ms. Curran, along with local politicians, Federal Bureau of Investigations agents and historians spoke Saturday morning at the commemoration of the Wading River building’s role as a secret FBI counter-intelligence base and praised the efforts of those in the house and Long Island’s veterans.
From 1942 to 1945, the FBI used the house to send radio communications to spymasters in Japan and Nazi Germany, tricking them with a mix of the harmless truth and outright lies.
Their efforts, in part, shaped the war.
In April 1942, the house — which the Germans believed was one of their spies — received a message that indicated the Nazis were interested in researching an atomic bomb. That information, in part, led President Franklin Roosevelt to accelerate the United State’s own development of the weapon, said Ellen Glasser, president of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI.
The house also fed falsified info to German military leadership about the D-Day invasion in 1944, helping to mislead the German forces into sending their forces to the wrong beaches.
For more on the Wading River spyhouse, its role during the war, and an interview with the daughter of one of the FBI agents who worked in the house, check out this week’s Riverhead News-Review.