Biography of John B. Derden

CCCMan, Company 3435, Camp P-87, Rome, Georgia & Company 5463, Camp F-41, Ruch, Oregon

Warrant Officer, 2nd Armored Division & Instructor, Infantry School / Armored School, USA(Ret.)

     I was in the CCC for two years from 1937 to 1939.  I joined July 12, 1937 for the money and experience, although the pay was little, the experience was wonderful. I got to travel completely across the United States, otherwise I may not have ever done. I joined the CCCs about 60 miles from my home and hitchhiked there due to lack of money. I served a year in Rome, Georgia in Company 3435, Camp P-87 and a year in Ruch, Oregon, in Company 5463, Camp F-41.

     The Georgia Camp was in District "B" of the Fourth Corps, based at Fort MacPherson, Georgia. The Oregon Camp was in the Medford District, based in Medford, Oregon, which was in the Ninth Corps which was run from the Presido of San Francisco, California.

     In case you are wondering what Corps and District means, it was the way the CCC was organized, and at the Corps level it mirrored the military organization in the United States. The War Department, and therefore the CCC, in 1933 was organized into Nine Corps Areas. They were as follows: First Corps Area which included Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut with HQ in Boston, MA; Second Corps Area which included New Jersey, Delaware and New York with HQ at Governor's Island, NY; Third Corps Area which included Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia with HQ in Baltimore, MD; Fourth Corps Area which included North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana with HQ at Fort McPherson, GA; Fifth Corps Area which included Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky with HQ at Columbus, OH; Sixth Corps Area which included Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin with HQ at Chicago, IL; Seventh Corps Area which included Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Missouri with HQ in Omaha, NE; Eighth Corps Area which included Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming (excluding Yellowstone National Park) with HQ at Fort Sam Houston, TX; Ninth Corps Area which included Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, California and Yellow Stone National Park with HQ at the Presido of San Francisco, CA.

   Each Corps Area was further divided into Districts. Each District would cover an area of approximately 200 miles wide by 300 miles long. In some Corps Areas, the districts would be designated A, B, C etc., while in others they were named ie the Medford District, Yellow Stone District etc., while in still others the Districts were simply numbered. Every District had a HQ Staff that consisted of a Commander, Executive Officer, An Adjutant, several Inspectors, Medical Officers and a Supply Company as well as a fleet of trucks (30) that supplied the Companies.

   By the way, there can be found histories of these units, if you find one of the Camp Yearbooks or Annuals or Pictorial Reviews, as they were called. These were sold to the men at the canteen. Every Corps had a history and most every company had a brief history or more like a school yearbook. The District Headquarters history was usually in the front of each Company History.

     The reason the CCC organization was integrated with the Army Corps Area organization is the fact that the CCC Camps were run by Army personnel. When the CCC's first started, the program was staffed with regular army personnel. The first sergeant, supply sergeant, mess sergeant, first aid man, and the officers were all regular army, navy or marine officers. Once the program got going and cadres trained, the regulars returned to posts and stations and the reserve officers and enrollees ran the whole show themselves. From 1933 until about 1940 the army's main effort was to support the Civilian Conservation Corps.

     At Company 3435, Camp P-87-GA, the company commander was Captain Jack E. Martin, the Mess Officer was 2nd Lt. O'Connel, the Mess Steward was Sgt. Rawlins. These were the Army staff. The Using Service, in this case the Forest Service, also had a staff. These were civilians employed by the Forest Service. These were the men who ran the work projects which we would supply the man power for. The Project Superintendent was Mr. Simmons, the Foreman was Paul C. Campbell, the Senior Leader was John A. Bragg and my Barracks Leader was Bill Sills. Another civilian who was on the staff was the Educational Advisor for Company 3435, Mr. Jones, who would help teach us and was under the CCCs directly and worked within the Army command structure.

     The Rome, Georgia camp was located about 8 miles north of Rome, Georgia off U.S. Highway 27 on Texas Valley road. The Camp site was located where Berry College is today and is overgrown by trees of 18" diameter. The fire towers are all gone except the one near Cedar Town, Georgia. Some roads and hiking trails are still in use. Or work at this camp was zero to thirty miles from camp.

     The Oregon camp site is now covered in water.  The Forest Service built a large recreational lake, some of which backed over the site. I revisited the old site in 1983 and talked to my old foreman, George Ice. All of the rest of the Foreman and supervisors have passed away. Many of the truck trails, hiking trails, picnic and camping areas are still in use today. Our work was also zero to thirty miles from this camp. The F-41 side camp was turned back to the Rancher that owned it originally. The work at this camp was three to forty miles from camp.

     At Company 5463, Camp F-41-OR the company commander was Captain Charles B. Robinson, the Mess Officer 2nd Lt. Stone, the Project Superintendent was Mr. Barnhardt, and the Foreman were Mr. Walt White, Mr. Rawlins, Mr. Sullavin, Mr. D. Mills and Mr. George Ice. The educational advisor for Company 5463 was Mr. L. C. Algyer.

     A CCC camp was a small village within itself, it consisted of about 25 buildings with its own electrical, water and sewage system. Each camp had an Army Office, Using Service Office, Officer's Quarters, Dispensary, Supply Room, a 200 man Mess Hall, four 50 man barracks, Bath House, Recreation Hall, Canteen, Blacksmith Shop, Truck Shop, Equipment Shop, Truck and Equipment Shed, Tool Room, and Storage or Ware Houses. If a camp was located in a remote area it would install generators and make its own power, this was sometimes done by water if the terrain permitted.

     At the Rome camp we had used normal commercial electric power. But at Ruch we were not close to any power lines. So we used a gasoline powered generator supplied by the Army. An interesting feature of this generator was that it was driven by a surplus world war one tank engine. This engine was a four cylinder flat head engine that had been used in the old six-ton Renault tank. I understand that a lot of camps in remote areas utilized shop made generators.

     Our Gasoline and Oil Supply were handled by an annual contract through Forest Service or Park Service, whoever happened to be the Using Service. The Army usually had only two vehicles per camp and they were the company truck and ambulance. The rest were owned by the using service. Ordering gasoline and oil was my job when I was the mechanic at the side camp in Oregon. The Standard Oil people had the contract in Georgia as well as I remember and the Sinclair people had the contract in Oregon.

     The Canteen sold candy, soft drinks, toilet articles, writing paper, smoking supplies, shoe polish, and stamps. Some camps also would put together camp or district wide annuals or pictorial reviews, but my camps did not have these while I was there. Another item the Canteen sold were CCC trinkets that you could wear on your uniform that wasn't really required. A company called Proctors Products (CCC Jewelry and Other Souvenirs) at P.O. Box 1023, New Haven, Conn. was one of the companies that sold trinkets. Another was the Justin Company. I have a catalog of the Proctor company. They sold pins, rings, tie bars, a pocket knife, a pipe, watches and even silk pillow cases all of which could have the CCC logo on them.

     The Canteen profits went into the Unit Fund. As well as I remember this fund was generated solely from the Canteen sales and the Company Commander or the Junior Officer kept the books. A council of enrollees and leaders would meet with the CO and recommend what and when to spend the money. This money was used solely for the welfare of the enrollees.

     The canteen also issued canteen checks. Each enrollee could draw about $3.00 about the 15th of each month. Each book contained one dollars worth in coupons of 5 or 10 cents each. These could be traded for canteen items and would be taken out of the $5.00 that you drew each month at the camp. Of course the rest of the $30.00 monthly pay went to your home by check and you never saw it. I sent $25 home to my mother every month and she used it as she saw fit for the family. Some of it went to help my sister that was in college at that time.

     The discipline in Camp was excellent. We had inspections by the CO five days a week and monthly inspections by district inspectors. I don't ever remember any special inspectors. The inspections were conducted by the CO and the Junior Officer or 1st Sergeant would take notes. Inspections were tough, if your bunk area was not neat and tidy or shoes not shined you would most likely find yourself on kitchen police or some kind of extra duty, like peeling spuds or cutting grass and wood. Every Camp had monthly inspection by District Inspectors. Each Camp would compete for the highest rating as a result of these inspections and the best camp got a pennant to fly on their flag pole.  

     If you disobeyed an order from anyone in the chain of command, i.e. Assistant Leader, Leader, Local Enlisted Man, you most likely would get a dishonorable discharge and if you ever disobeyed an order from an Officer or a Foreman they would give you a dishonorable discharge in a New York Minute. Same thing if you ever refued to fight a fire, immediate discharge. Also, if you were AWOL for I think seven days you got a dishonorable discharge.

     When I was in the CCC's the only formations we had was for exercise, work call, and flag formations. We had a retreat formation sometimes weekly and sometimes less often. We stood reveille five days a week and about 1 or 2 times per week we had exercises.

     We seldom marched to the mess hall at that point and time. A more military type training was initiated after I left the Corps. We were required to wear our dress uniforms to the evening meal.

     The food was generally well prepared, good and plentiful. As well as I can recall we were fed by an allowance of .52 per day per man, later increased to about .80 cents a day, then we ate like Kings. We ate out of our mess kits every meal until they had enough money in the unit fund to buy regular dishes and flat ware. Food was served family style. When possible we were fed hot meals on the job. Only when we were working in remote areas did we eat cold sandwiches.

     My Companies did Forest Conservation Work. This involved building truck trails, fire breaks, fire towers, bridges, lakes, fighting fires, building camp grounds, improving fish and game habitat, building telephone lines, picnic shelters and planting trees. I myself set out trees, laid rock, painted camp buildings, sloped banks of roads and ditches, sawed logs with a two man cross cut saw, ran a jack hammer, shot dynamite, operated a bulldozer, drive a truck and was the mechanic at a side camp.

     There were alot of vehicles at a CCC Camp that enrollees could learn to operate or repair. Each Company generally had one truck and one ambulance, however if they were located in a very remote area they might have two trucks. The Company Vehicles were always painted olive drab or OD and were marked as follows US CCC on each side of the hood with the registration number across the rear tail gate i.e. 411737 which happens to be the number of an army truck that I drove.

     Using Service vehicles were assigned in the quantity to fit the type of work the company was involved in , i.e. enough stake trucks to carry the men out to the work projects and enough dump trucks to support the projects. The Using service vehicles were always painted green and marked on the side, US Department of Agriculture with Forest Service or Soil Conservation Service centered under that as appropriate to the Using Service for the Camp. The markings on were on the side of the doors and would have a license as described above.

     Bulldozers, road graders, compressors, tractors and cranes were marked with a license plate with the CCC logo on it and a number. The Bulldozers etc. were painted either green or yellow.

     The Army vehicles were generally used only for Army purposes, while the Using Service vehicles were used some times for Army purposes like taking the boys to town or going on recreation trips and they also hauled chow to the field. Getting lunch in the field allowed us to get spend a full day in the field, rather than having to drive back to camp for lunch and then back to the job site.

     We would normally work eight hours per day five days per week. However, I was always in a Forest Service camp and fire prevention took priority over anything else. When we were on fire detail we could not leave the barracks at night or on weekends. On Saturdays you also might have to work around the company area, helping to maintain the area, equipment and buildings and if you drove a truck or operated a bull dozer or other equipment you had to wash and service your truck or equipment so it would be ready for the next week.

     Otherwise you were free to go where ever you pleased in the evenings and on weekends. Still sometimes men would go AWOL in the CCCs, to go home for more than a day or for whatever reason. I never went AWOL and few enrollees of the companies I was in did.

     The camp would send a recreation truck into the nearest town on week ends. Going to town was not much fun when you only had 5.00 all month to spend. When you only make five dollars per month and most of that went for laundry, tooth paste, shaving items, soft drinks and a candy bar now and then, when you were in town all you could do was "look" but not "touch". Still you could go wherever you wanted so long as you were present for roll call Monday morning.

     Around camp we panned for gold, swam, hiked, and went to town and on recreation trips on weekends. We shot pool in the rec hall, all types of games. The boys also played poker, black jack, and the usual card games. There was very little gambling due to the lack of money. Some of our men sang and played guitars. About all of the camps had guys that played music of some kind. Most camps had country music bands and many camps had a piano in their recreation halls. The guys that had musical instruments could turn them into the supply room for safe keeping as well as any other item that they wanted to keep in a safe place. Mail call was every evening except Sunday. I was fortunate when I drove a truck  as I also got to drive the Company baseball team to several other camps on the west coast.

     Beyond discipline, work and recreation was Education.  Each camp had an Education Advisor. He was a civilian and certified to teach by the State. He answered to the District Educational Advisor and so on up to the National Educational Advisor in Washington. Dr. Howard W. Oxley was the National Educational Advisor.

     The Educational Advisor arranged for classes we could take. You could take classes and finish high school and it was possible to take college courses if your camp was near a town of any size. But the problem was transportation. In camp we could also take typing, art, surveying, auto mechanics and drafting. No courses out side the company were offered when I was in, but late on about the last year of the program you could take radio repair, diesel mechanics, baking and cooking, bee keeping, air craft maintenance, telephone lineman and they set up a special course to train merchant seaman.

     After my two years of enlistment were up I left the CCCs, this being in 1939. We came home to Fort McPherson by troop train. Troop Trains were organized on a need basis and were staffed by enrollees and commanded by an officer on duty with the CCCs. Sometimes the train would consist of a whole company and at others it would be made up of a few men from several companies. I went and returned from Oregon as a casual with about 15 men each from several companies here in the Fourth Corps Area. The train was equipped with nice Pullman sleepers and had an army type mess car and baggage car attached.

     It took five days and six nights to make the trip from Medford Oregon to Ft. McPherson, Georgia. We were routed by way of Chicago and came over a lot of land grant rail road, meaning rail roads on rights of way given to the rail road companies by the government in return for little or no cost to the government to move any government freight over those rights of way.

     I joined the Army on September 1, 1939 and served for over 26 years and retired as a CW-4 Warrant Officer. My field of work was automotive maintenance (trucks, tanks and engineer vehicles). During WWII I served three years over seas with the Second Armored Division. I landed in Africa on "D-Day" and also on Sicily on "D-Day" and in France on D+3, 9th of June, 1944. After the war I served on the Faculty and Staff of the Infantry School for six and a half years teaching tanks and other automotive subjects. I also served two years as an instructor at the Armored School. My troop duty consisted of assignments in Tank, Artillery and Aviation Engineer Units.

     After I retired I accepted a job on the teaching staff of Dekalb Technical College at Clarkson, Georgia where I was Chairman of the Advanced Auto-Diesel Department and taught other automotive subjects for thirteen years and retired. After my retirement I became interested in the CCCs and talked to the Manager of Vogel State Park and he offered me a building for a Museum and encouraged me to start my Museum. I have a motor home so the wife and I travel around the country looking for items for the Museum and spend a lot of time camping and working at the Museum. I also help out at the Vogel State Park CCC Museum in North Georgia.  

       I would recommend a CCC type program for today's youth. However as undisciplined as many of them are, it would be hard for them.

     The photos below are of me at my Companies in the CCC and also of the Museum. My Handbook, and a CCC Organizational Chart are also provided for your review. Also I wrote a poem about the CCCs called What We Did For A Dollar a Day which you might enjoy.

----- John B. Derden

         CCC Enrollee, 1937-39


Company 5463, Side Camp Crew, Enrollee John Derden, Enrollees Derden and Lucy, Enrollees Derden and Tipton, Enrollee John Derden and his 1935 Chevrolet Stake Body Truck, Side Camp Crew and Mascot,John B. Derden, CCCMan, Company 5463, Camp F-41, Ruch, Oregon

What We Did For A Dollar a Day, a poem by John B. Derden

Typical CCC Camp Organizational Chart by John B. Derden

Catalog, Proctors Products. CCC Jewelry and Other Souvenirs, Page One - Cover, Page Two - Rings Tie Clips, Insignia, Page Three - Pipe, Pillows, Pocket Knife, Bracelets, Watches

Vogel State Park CCC Museum, Cot of the CCC, CCC Mannequin, Mess table and kit, Survey Tripod and More CCC Tools, Tools of the CCC, More CCC Tools, John B. Derden, CCCMan, Company 3435, Camp P-87, Rome, Georgia & Company 5463, Camp F-41, Ruch, Oregon

Handbook for the CCC Enrollee (Partial), Page Four and Five Image (includes this text Introduction to the CCC's ),  Page Six and Seven Image (includes this text What It Is All About), Page Eight and Nine Image (includes this text How It Is Operated, and Where Enrollees Come From), Page Ten and Eleven Image (includes this text What the Army Does, and  CCC Company and Camp Designations, Nomenclature), Page Twelve and Thirteen Image (includes this text Technical Services, and CCC Company and Camp Designations, Nomenclature),  Page Forty Four and Forty Five Image (includes this text Going and Coming Back and About a Second "Hitch"),  Page Eighty Eight and Eighty Nine Image (includes this text  Oath of Enrollment ),  Page Ninety and Ninety One ImagePage Ninety Two and Ninety Three Image  Page Ninety Five and Rear Inside Cover Image From the CCC Enrollees Handbook circa 1940, Belonging to  and supplied to the Justin Museum By John B. Derden



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