By the Fall of 1917, soldiers were getting settled into their new life at Camp Gordon, a World War I encampment located where DeKalb-Peachtree Airport is today. They had left their families and friends and come to live and train at this camp, which just a few months earlier didn’t exist.
There were reportedly 8000 workers on the job in the last days of construction. Construction was believed to be complete, but just two weeks later, the federal government authorized $250,000 for construction of additional buildings to accommodate more soldiers. This was after $11 million had already been spent on construction of the camp. It was the largest construction project to date in the area around Atlanta.
One of the immediate needs at Camp Gordon was for additional cooks. One hundred thirty-five had already been hired, but in September an advertisement for 50 additional cooks offered $90 per month and free room and board at the camp.
Also in September, plans were announced for a Remount Station, described as near Johnson Ferry Road and north of Peachtree Road on one hundred and fifty acres. The Remount Station would include ten paddocks. Housing for personnel, an administration building, training area for blacksmiths, two mess halls, a guard house, and storage building were part of the plan. Five to six hundred men were expected to work in this part of Camp Gordon, and veterinarians to care for the horses would live on site.
The daily routine of the Camp Gordon recruit included rifle training, drills, trench digging, and long marches throughout the surrounding area. The first men came from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Later, they would travel from all over the country.
J. G. Zavochan was sent to Camp Gordon from Pittston, Pa., and was quoted in October of 1917, saying he liked it “pretty well” at Camp Gordon. However, he also said, “I would like it a good deal better if the nights were not so cold.” Jimmy Burns, who was transferred from Camp Devens in Massachusetts said, “I was also cold in this southern southland of yours the night I got here.” Atlanta must have had a cold October that year.
A special weekly section called “Camp Gordon News” began to run in the Atlanta newspaper. The October 27th issue described several sporting events including boxing matches, basketball games, and baseball games. That Saturday the camp declared a half holiday to allow the recruits to participate and watch a football game between Camp Gordon and Camp Hancock of Augusta, Georgia. The game took place at Georgia Tech’s Grant Field. Camp Gordon prevailed, winning 26-0. More football games were ahead, including Camp Gordon versus Georgia Tech in 1918. Georgia Tech won that one.
Other sources cited include:
The Atlanta Constitution, Sept. 4, 1917; Sep.5, 1917; Oct. 27, 1917; Atlanta’s Camp Gordon by James Knettel.