In this photograph the one lone young man in the cleared woods was most likely John Joseph Doran, and it was taken in Montana. He looks almost lost in the landscape. My family only has a few photos of John Doran, and this is the only one that there is some uncertainty about. I was very excited when his CCC Camp records were located and sent to me. They totaled eighteen pages and listed the camp that John served at as G-127. Looking it up in the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy website showed that it was in Whitehall, Montana. He only enlisted for six months, from 10/15/40 – 3/29/41. When he enlisted he was 5’6″, weighed 113 pounds, and was listed as having black hair and grey eyes. He first went to Sea Girt, NJ for conditioning. His interests were reading comic books and woodworking.
When I first posted in March about John J. Doran’s service at a Montana CCC Camp and his Army records, my family decided to take a trip to Montana in September. We thought if the camp was close enough we would then take a side trip to see what remained of it. We decided to go to Glacier National Park since we had heard so many good things about it. When I received John Doran’s record it turned out that his camp was called G-127 in Whitehall near Butte, and it was four hours away. We decided that was a little too far for a day trip. Our airplane landed at Kalispell, MT amid the beauty of the Flathead valley with mountains of Glacier looking enormous towering nearby to the east. Staying in West Glacier, we could hear the trains rumbling through town, and I wondered if these were the same railroad tracks that took John westward.
The link to the James F. Justin Civilian Conservation Corps Museum gives a very good history about the program created during the Great Depression to create jobs for the youth of America. In 1938 the unemployment rate was about 19% in the USA and jobs were very hard to find for young unschooled men. While in Montana I read that since the unemployment rate was so high in Montana during the Depression that there was some resentment that jobs went to city slickers from the east coast, and not to their own citizens. Some projects went only to Montana youth. Whitehall’s Chamber of Commerce lists the the population today as only 1,184 and most of the residents are employed in farming and ranching fields of work.
When John enrolled he was 17 years old, and he lived at 525 Hamilton Street in Harrison, NJ. He was born in nearby Kearny on 16 March 1923, the 4th child of Bernard and Mary Mahoney Doran. He had left the Harrison Lincoln School at the end of 6th grade in 1937, and had been unemployed for 36 months. It’s possible he did work in some more “illegal” types of endeavors and therefore couldn’t list them. There was talk among the Doran siblings of some of the brother’s working for the local small town mob when they were young, doing things like running the numbers back and forth between customers and the bank run by the mob. His siblings remembered John as the most fun-loving and crazy one of the bunch. He later enlisted in the Army, and fought in Normandy landing on D-Day, and died in battle in Brest, France on 30 August 1944. He was buried at the Brittany American Cemetery in St. James, France. Two of his nephews are named in his honor.
It is quite possible John had learning disabilities. From his CCC assessment tests it was suggested that he take arithmetic and grammar classes, because his test results from 11/1/40 showed a 3rd Grade level of English skills and a Second Grade level of Arithmetic. He did take a Reading class, but dropped it after five hours, and his Math class only lasted two weeks. He also failed First Aid. He had a satisfactory rating doing pick and shovel work at the camp except for one infraction. On Monday, 3 March 1941 he was absent from the camp without leave for one day. He was written up with two friends, Belin and Albano, for being absent from reveille and at work call, and that they didn’t report back to the camp until 4 p.m. They had been allowed to leave on Sunday, but it was expected that they be back at reveille by 6:30 a.m. John’s excuse was, “I went to Butte and couldn’t get back.” He pleaded guilty and forfeited three days cash allowance.
What is very interesting to me is that one of the other photos that I previously posted in July show John Doran with two friends! Now, I wonder could these two young men be his two AWOL buddies? The only other note on John’s records was that he was in the infirmary from1/9/41 – 1/11/41 with influenza. He decided not to re-enlist, and was honorably discharged from 1293 Company at Fort Dix, NJ and furnished with transportation to Harrison, NJ. In the photo below John Doran is in the center on the left, and also shown holding an axe on the right side.