Westhampton Free Library Honors Hometown Hero Creighton Berry

On Aug. 24, the Westhampton Free Library paid tribute to World War II Veteran Creighton Berry (third from right). He is pictured with (from left) Jeanette W. Smith, Congressman Lee Zeldin’s Congressional Aide Cleveland Johnson, III, Westhampton Free Library trustees Mitchell Schecter and Mary Anne Yutes, Claire Berry, Library Director Danielle Waskiewicz and VFW Post 5350 Commander William Hughes. Photo: Courtesy Michael Azzato

The Westhampton Free Library paid tribute to Creighton Berry, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, at a ceremony on August 24 as part of its Hometown Heroes initiative.

During the ceremony, held at the Westhampton VFW Hall and attended by fellow veterans, library representatives and public officials, Berry was presented with a proclamation and an American flag that was flown over the library in his honor.

“The library is honored to have paid tribute to Mr. Berry as part our veteran recognition program. Mr. Berry is more than deserving of this recognition and we are grateful for the sacrifices that he has made,” said Library Director Danielle Waskiewicz.

Berry was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943 where he was first assigned to a combat engineer company at Fort Dix before a base commander had him transferred based on the color of his skin. He was sent to an African-American Army Air Corps Signal Corps battalion at Langley Field in Virginia.

While in Virginia, the base commander learned of Berry’s artistic talent and commissioned him to paint a mural illustrating the Signal Corps company’s activities on the battle field. His mural earned him a title of Special Services specialist. As part of the title, Berry worked with his fellow enlistees on morale and the well-being and entertainment of the troops. During this time, he also trained GI ground personnel to recognize enemy aircraft and differentiate them from Allied plans and performed public relations work.

Berry was transferred briefly to a base at Selfridge Field, outside of Detroit and then sent to an Army Air Base in Walterboro in South Carolina. While there, he was reassigned to First Air Force where he worked with one of the most successful flying squadrons in American military history. As part of his job, as a Special Services noncom, he was to follow up on soldiers when they went home on furlough and assist them in their future plans. He also witnessed firsthand the racial tensions of the south in 1945.

Following the war, Berry followed his dreams of becoming an artist. He worked his way into Manhattan’s advertising industry, serving in many roles, including as an executive art director for the former Gimbel’s department store for many years.

He is a nationally recognized artist and his work includes mixed media collages, watercolor, acrylic and oil paintings. He continues to create artwork in his studio in Quogue. He is also a longtime volunteer in the Presbyterian church.

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