Photo of the Week – Researching the CCC Camp Record of John J. Doran

This photograph of John J. Doran (1923-1944) was most likely taken in Montana while he served with the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. It’s a very unusual picture, because it seems to be two separate photos that were developed as one. On the left side, Johnny is shown sitting in the middle with two buddies. Then, in the photo on the right side he is shown standing holding an axe. I love the large shadow he cast on the ground, on what must have been a sunny day. This picture is only 2″ by 3″ and it was in an album with a few other photos of Montana next to it. Johnny looks so carefree and happy-go-lucky with an infectious grin, and that’s how his siblings remembered him.

John Doran was the fourth child of Bernard and Mary Mahoney Doran. He grew up in Harrison, Hudson County, NJ and like his two older brothers, Bernard and James, he enlisted in the CCC during the Depression years. There’s a family story that one or two of the Doran boys had to enlist, or they would be sent to a juvenile care facility for some petty crimes they had committed, but I’m not sure if that is true. In the 1940 Federal Census, John Doran was listed as 17, unmarried, and a laborer in a youth project, assigned to public Emergency Work (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during the week of March 24 – 30, 1940.  Bernard Doran, Sr., was listed as 50 years old, and employed as a bagger in a charcoal company, and he had worked only ten weeks in 1939, per this census record.

Each young man that served in the CCC earned $30 a month, with $25 sent home to the family each month. This public work relief program was started during the Depression years by FDR and ran from 1933-1942. The young men were each issued military khaki and denim uniforms, slept in bunks or tents, and received three square meals a day. Up to 70% of the enrollees were malnourished on entry, and that was indeed true for the Doran brothers. The young men, or “boys” as they were called,  put in 40 hour work weeks doing jobs such as forestry work, building national and state parks, and also service buildings and roadways. Here’s a quote from President Roosevelt about the program he proposed in 1933:

I propose to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth.

In March I posted a picture of Johnny Doran at a CCC Camp in Montana, and after viewing that posting my eldest daughter suggested we take a family trip to Montana. We did a little research and went ahead and booked a vacation for later this summer near Glacier National Park and the Flathead Valley. I’ve recently sent a request for his records to the National Archives in St. Louis and I received a reply on Monday that his records have been found! I sent in the check yesterday for his records, and now I’m doing the waiting game for his actual records.

Before sending in this request, I took a trip to Washington, DC hoping that some of the CCC records were in the National Archives. After going to the Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, and getting a new researcher card (good for one year) I found out most of the CCC records are at the St. Louis National Archives, but some are also at the nearby National Archives at College Park, MD. There is a free shuttle between the two facilities that runs on the hour from 8:00AM to 5:00PM, Monday through Friday only. Since this was a Friday, I was in luck and headed over to College Park. This all took some time and when I checked through security again there, put my belongings in the lockers, and had my own papers stamped to bring into the research library, most of the morning was gone. The National Archives at College Park pulls records at 10am, 11am, 1:30pm, and 2:30pm. They do not pull records on Saturdays, but if you have records pulled on Friday, they will be waiting to view the next day. My records were not pulled until 1:30, but that is only the time they start looking for them after lunch. By the time I had to take the shuttle back to the Washington, DC National Archive building, they still hadn’t arrived back in the microfilm room to view. Live and learn!

Most of the microfilms are camp directories, superintendent camp and project reports, and they include photographs. So if you know the camp name beforehand, that is very helpful. One of the databases I did view at the College Park location was the Civilian Conservation Corps  (CCC) Accident Reports, 1933-1942. These injury and death records are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the enrollee, and there were no Dorans listed. From a large loose-leaf binder, I also copied all of the Montana camps with the abbreviations and where they were located. The discharge papers of the young men are usually filled out with the abbreviations of the camp locations, and if they had an honorable discharge, plus the type of work they preformed at each camp served. For instance under Montana the camp listed as NP-1 is Glacier National Park – Belton, Flathead County. The NP in front stands for National Park. For the rest of the abbreviations, and locations of camps for each state, go to the CCC Camp Legacy website.

Here is another photo of one of the Montana CCC camps that Johnny Doran served at. I’m so curious to find out if this CCC Camp is near to where we are planning to go in Montana. While at the College Park National Archives facility one of the researchers said the most I should hope for is that the St. Louis faculty has his discharge papers. Whatever they located should be sent to me in a few weeks.  Death certificates aren’t needed anymore when you request information, but I did send this information from the American Battle Monuments Commission’s database, World War I Listing; World War II Listing; Korean War Listing, showing that John J. Doran was killed in action while serving in France during World War II.

Name: John J Doran
Inducted From: New Jersey
Rank: Private
Combat Organization: 116th Infantry 29th Division
Death Date: 30 Aug 1944
Monument: Brittany, France
Last Known Status: Buried
U.S. Awards: Purple Heart Medal

6 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – Researching the CCC Camp Record of John J. Doran

    1. Kurt, I’m so glad to hear you liked my posting on the CCC, and also that you enjoy sharing the history of the Greatest Generation with your students! Cheers, Maryann


  1. Thank you for sharing such a great post! The split photo was definitely unique and the article was a good educational piece. I feel I walked away from it, learning something new. Mahalo!


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