Photo of the Week – Camp Gordon, GA, 1943

This photo shows James F. Doran, from Harrison, NJ, at age 23, looking young and handsome while in basic training for the Army in 1943. He was in the 4th  “Ivy” Division, at that time called the 4th Motorized Division. On the back is written:  Camp Gordon, Co. I, 12th Inf., August, Ga. After training in Georgia, the men went to Fort Dix, NJ, and then were shipped overseas to England for further maneuvers in preparation for what became D-Day during World War II. This is one of two identical pictures, and while this one is a bit worn, the other is wrinkled and creased from being carried around by a loved one.

While at Camp Gordon, Jimmy completed Ranger School.  A natural leader, he enjoyed the camaraderie of army life and living in barracks with new buddies, while enjoying endless games of poker and craps – dice games. Good behavior at camp earned day or weekend passes to the nearby town, where Jimmy enjoyed playing the piano at the local taverns and pubs. He told the story of walking into one local drinking hole, only to have someone punch him right in the face. After spitting out a mouthful of teeth, Jimmy asked the guy what in the world he did to offend him. The man apologized and said he thought he was someone else that he had a beef with. That earned Jimmy a new set of false teeth, free of charge, from Uncle Sam. Here is his certificate from Ranger School.

Camp Gordon is now called Fort Gordon and is located southwest of Augusta, Georgia in Richmond County, and it currently trains more military personnel than any other training center of the U.S. Army. Our family has a series of photographs from Jimmy’s days at the fort. This one below was from the rifle range at Camp Gordon, but I haven’t been able to ID which face is Jimmy’s in the crowd of young men. I’m sure quite a few of these brave men never returned from overseas, and are instead buried at military cemeteries in Europe. Jimmy was seriously wounded a few days after landing on D-Day at Utah Beach, while under intense fire from the Germans in the flooded Bocage meadows and hedgerows of Normandy. He was treated at a field hospital, and then shipped back to England, to the 53rd General Hospital Merebrook, near Malvern, to recover and recuperate. There he was pinned with his Purple Heart. He then served as a military policeman in France for the duration of the war. Afterwards, Jimmy would never put on a uniform, or own a gun, again for the rest of his life. Like many war-time veterans he found it hard to talk about his experiences.

4th Division, 12th Regiment, Company I – Rifle Range at Camp Gordon, Augusta, Georgia – 1943

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