Editor's note: This is the final article in a series about a 328-mile canoe expedition from Plattsburgh to NYC conducted in September of 1988 with Joe Hackett and members of the 46th Talavera, British Armed Forces.
A year after our expedition, Sgt. Joe Strachan of the 46th Talavera, Royal Artillery, returned to the United States with his family in August of 1989. At the time, he was on leave from a new posting, where he was on loan from the British Armed Forces training the Royal Guard for the Sultan of Oman.
Sgt. Strachan and the family stayed with us in Lake Placid for a few days. He told about a near miss that occurred the previous year during our canoe trip to New York City.
As he explained, upon the group's return to their base in Germany, the entire group was extensively debriefed by British Intelligence officers.
Despite several days of extensive and lengthy interviews, the soldiers were not informed of the purpose until everyone had been thoroughly processed.
The reason for the interviews was to ascertain if anyone in the group had any idea of the plot. It seems that there was to be an attempted hit on the group. It was scheduled to happen during a Key to the City ceremony with Albany's Mayor Whalen at Corning Preserve on the Hudson in Albany.
Fortunately, the attempt was foiled due to foul weather that had delayed our arrival. The event was canceled unexpectedly and no reason was provided. This was because we did not have access to a phone along the Champlain Canal and I couldn't get in touch with the proper authorities to inform them that we would not be able to attend as scheduled.
Sgt. Strachan explained that a copy of our complete itinerary, which had been provided to Short Bros. in Belfast, fell into the wrong hands. British Intelligence uncovered the plot when word was received in Ireland that the attempt failed because there was no one to hit. It was ironic that the group spent the evening following the proposed strike swigging ale in an Irish pub in Albany. It was located within walking distance of the location of the proposed ceremony.
If the perpetrators had actually accomplished their mission, it would have constituted the first act of foreign terrorism to be committed on US soil since the 1950's.
Before he departed, I promised Sgt. Strachan that someday, I would paddle the last few miles to the Statue of Liberty and plant the British flag. It would put the trip to rest, it would be complete. After all the work they put in, it would finally be finished.
I assured him I would send photos that he could distribute to all the others. Years would pass before I ever had the opportunity to paddle the Hudson again.
Then, in the year 2000, Jim Tucker called from Paul Smiths College for advice on route plans for a proposed trip from the Adirondacks to the Statue of Liberty. He was to lead a journey from the college's campus on the shores of Lower St. Regis Lake to NYC.
I worked with him to chart out a course with the promise that I would later join them in Jersey City for the final paddle to the statue.
On a brilliant, sunny morning, I launched a canoe with members of the Paul Smiths College Enviro-Trek, along the Jersey shore and paddled on a smooth, flat Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty.
Regrettably, at the time, Liberty Island was closed to the public due to an event scheduled to celebrate the Tall Ships in New York Harbor. Although we landed the canoes on the rocks along the island's shores, we were quickly ordered to depart by the Liberty Island Park Police.
Regardless of the rude welcome, I managed to get photos of my canoe with the British flag, while the Statue of Liberty loomed in the background. I later sent them off to Sgt. Strachan, who distributed them to all the men. For several months later, cards and letters came in the mail from the guys. Everyone expressed their thanks and appreciation.
Lt. Robinson sent along a Regimental tie and a 46th Talavera plaque.
"The mission was finally accomplished," he wrote. "Now, how about that ski trip to the North Pole?"
I fired off a letter immediately, "Dear Lt. Robinson," it read, "The ski trip will have to wait. I'm still recovering from sea-legs. I will likely be too wobbly to ski for several years to come!"
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@ adelphia.net