Good Neighbor Day, DeKalb-Peachtree Airport’s annual open house, takes place this year on June 10. An exciting addition to this year’s event is an exhibit to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Camp Gordon, a World War I encampment that was built on today’s airport property and extended into the surrounding area. Naval Air Station Atlanta was established on this same land during World War II and items from that historic period will also be on display.
Amy Carpenter, Co-Chairman of the PDK Airport Association, has coordinated the Camp Gordon anniversary exhibit, along with Airport Director, Mario Evans. The primary source of history has been James Knettel, who has been collecting postcards, photographs, correspondence and memorabilia of Camp Gordon for eleven years.
James Knettel was given a collection of memorabilia by his stepfather, who inherited the historic items from his friend Chester “Chet” Kelley. Chet Kelley trained at Camp Gordon and served overseas in France during World War I. These items inspired James to research Camp Gordon and to search for other collectibles of the World War I camp.
Letters from a nurse stationed at Camp Gordon will be part of the exhibit. These are one of James’ favorite items because of the personal story they tell. James explains, “In one of these, she is up in the middle of the night writing to friends, unable to sleep as she is so excited to have learned she is being shipped overseas. That must have seemed like a once in a lifetime experience in 1917, even if you were going to a war zone.”
Also on exhibit will be two panoramic photographs taken at Camp Gordon and a photograph of the 82nd Division-326th Infantry. This division included Frank Carter, who received the Distinguished Service Cross and later founded the Atlanta Carter Real Estate Group.
James favorite collectible is a photograph taken at Camp Gordon of 12,500 soldiers in the shape of an American eagle. Several of these photographs were taken at camps during World War I by Arthur Mole and John Thomas. They would position thousands of soldiers and nurses in patriotic images, and capture the images from an eighty-foot tower.
Two display tables will showcase the collections of James Knettel, who has items from Camp Gordon and Naval Air Station Atlanta, as well as items from the Naval Air Station Atlanta collection of Moreno Aguiari.
Moreno began taking flight lessons in 1999 and discovered a FG-1D Corsair had been in use for two years during the time that Naval Air Station Atlanta occupied what is now PDK Airport. His collection includes photos and log books from a pilot who flew that same Corsair during World War II. He also has photos of the base from 1941 up through the time that it relocated to Cobb County and original documents describing operations on the base.
While researching Camp Gordon for the Dunwoody Crier in 2006, I discovered that my grandfather trained there in 1918. As I returned to the subject a few times over the years, others across the country with an ancestor who trained at Camp Gordon have contacted me. My grandfather’s World War I uniform and letters to my grandmother have been passed down through the family. The uniform will be part of the display on Good Neighbor Day.
Good Neighbor Day is Saturday, June 10 from noon until 5 p.m. Parking is available along Dresden Drive and costs $10, with free admission to the event. James Knettel, Moreno Aguiari, and myself will be at the Camp Gordon and Naval Air Station Atlanta exhibit to answer questions. For more information about the events of Good Neighbor Day, visit PDKAIRSHOW.COM.