Thursday, August 5, 2004
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Harold E. Raugh, Jr. served for 20 years in the Army. Among his many duty assignments was a three-year stint as a member of the West Point history department. Although he holds a Ph.D. in History from UCLA, this was the only time Raugh spent in the classroom. Later in his military career, he served for a short time as a command historian during the redeployment phase of Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
But Raugh’s early military history also includes two tours of duty as an infantryman stationed at Fort Ord, and he has combined his military experience and historian’s meticulous attention to detail in a new book released in Arcadia Publishing’s series, Images of America: Fort Ord. (Raugh is also putting out a volume on the Presidio of Monterey this month.)
Fort Ord traces the Fort’s history through black-and-white pictures from its 1917 incarnation as Camp Gigling, into becoming Camp Ord in 1933, then finally, Fort Ord in 1940.
Pictures from the base’s early days show an Army blimp in 1932 hovering over the Parker Flats area of what was then the Gigling Reservation. Horse-drawn artillery pieces, soldiers training on Browning machine guns, and tent compounds are some of the other pre-World War II photos in the book’s early chapters.
By 1943, Fort Ord was taking on the familiar appearance of the base that trained thousands of soldiers for over fifty years. The construction of the Fort Ord Soldiers’ Club (Stilwell Hall) which was recently demolished, coast side firing ranges, and Fritzsche Airfield are pictured, as are former base commandeers and some of the Hollywood stars who visited the base in the early 1940s.
Raugh had plenty of experience in researching the book. He explains that as a command historian, his job was to collect material and documentation, plus conduct interviews which were then forwarded to the Army Center of Military History in Washington, DC.
“We collect this information before it can disappear, so that historians in the future can use it as a primary resource when they do research,” he says.
In 2002, after his retirement and move to Marina, Raugh became the Command Historian at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and Presidio of Monterey.
Since he served at Fort Ord with the 7th Infantry Division, Raugh felt a close connection to the closed base.
“Watching Fort Ord being leveled to the ground has been quite distressing,” he says. “It is a tremendous loss, so when I got this new job, I saw an opportunity to help preserve the history and heritage of the base.”
Putting together photos he found in the DLI archives with his own collection, Raugh assembled a pictorial history of Fort Ord from 1917 to 1994.
As the book review editor of Journal of America’s Military Past, Raugh was familiar with Arcadia’s Images of America series.
“Since I realized there was a publisher interested in this type of book, I contacted Arcadia, and within days they approved my proposal,” he said.
By August of last year, Raugh was writing photo captions and laying out the 127 pages of vintage historical photos that would become Fort Ord. He handcarried the finished book to the publisher’s San Francisco office in early November.
Assembling, editing, and writing the introduction and detailed captions for Fort Ord was purely a labor of love, since Raugh is donating the profits from the book to fund scholarships for CSU Monterey Bay students.
“I did this entire project during non-duty hours to make sure there would be no conflict of interest with my official duties,” he says.
Sifting through about 1,000 photographs and postcards, Raugh selected 183 to go into the book. Already into its second printing, Raugh believes the book’s success has been mainly because it has “struck a cord among two demographic groups.”
“The first group is primarily people who are in their late fifties and early sixties who went through basic training at Fort Ord during the Vietnam era,” he says. “At the time, they thought ‘it sucked so bad’ going through that training, but now they look back with nostalgia.”
The second group of readers who warmed up to the book are the remaining World War II vets.
“There were times in 1943 and ‘44 when there were over 50,000 soldiers at Fort Ord,” Raugh says. “That’s a lot of people going through the base. Their remaining number is rapidly dwindling, but the book conjures up memories for these men also.”