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According to Glen Edward Avery, Barr thought St. John's had grown too large and feared that its land was about to be seized by the U.S. Navy for its own academy. The first such threat had been made in 1940; St. John's was saved only by the direct intervention of President Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. A 1946 newspaper story says that "the college's Damocles sword again threatened to drop in 1944, by which time St. John's had lost its two greatest friends in the government." The college's board of trustees was unable to get a definite answer from Congress, then in control of Federal land-taking, on whether St. John's land would be taken, and Barr wanted to secure "a home free of the endless menace of eviction."