Lt Col Arthur Fulbrook Gorham (below right) died 14 July 1943 leading his men during the battle for Biazza Ridge in Sicily, Italy. He was 28 years old and the recipient of 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. (CLICK HERE to read DSC orders.)|
"ART LIVED A SOLDIER'S LIFE and died a soldier's death-a true West Pointer asks nothing more. Many regard the statement 'He died a hero's death' as rather trite, applying to any soldier, and of little help in that it does not bring a hero back, in your case, the facts are very evident-he died in actual combat leading his men against a bitter enemy. (Jerry Higgins, in a letter to my mother in July 1943.)
The above extract is one of the first things I ever read about my father, Arthur Fulbrook Gorham. I never knew him personally, as I was six months old when he was killed in Sicily. I have periodically collected anecdotes, articles, and other information about him. What follows is some of what I have been able to piece together about my father.
Arthur Fulbrook Gorham was born 11 January 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. Several years later the Gorhams moved to Bellevue, Ohio, where Art attended Central High School. After graduation, he had not acquired the sought-after appointment to West Point, so he attended Stanton Preparatory Academy in Cornwall, NY and Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Finally, in 1934, Art joined the Class of 1938 at West Point. While at West Point, Art was known for pipe smoking and surviving academics. He did play football for two years. One of his roommates at West Point, Donald R. Matheson, remembers that "Art one day effectively disrupted a complicated equestrian formation by departing from the back of his steed. With his foot caught in the stirrup, he was dragged dangerously until the instructor, in his wisdom, brought the formation to a halt. Surprisingly, neither horse nor rider was injured, merely subdued but philosophical. In his easy-going way, Art enjoyed, somewhat more than his roommates did; periodic attempts at coaxing music from a trumpet, his greatest aspiration being to duplicate the recorded intricacies of 'Carnival of Venice.' Certain techniques persisted in avoiding his mastery. He was a devotee to jazz, and we were graciously entertained by his recordings, although a stern line was drawn by Gordon Clarkson, who banned all music before breakfast." In the end, he was graduated in the middle of his class and commissioned as an Infantry officer.
While awaiting transportation from Governors Island to the 30th Infantry at the Presidio at San Francisco, California, he renewed a previous acquaintance that lead to a 21 June 1939 marriage in Wichita, Kansas to Corrine Elizabeth Bennett. After less than two years, Lieutenant and Mrs. Gorham moved to Fort Benning. It was at this point in his short career that he began to stand out. As one of the early airborne qualified officers, he gained more rank and responsibility as the United States began to form parachute regiments and later airborne divisions.
In February 1942 Captain Gorham took his B Company, 504th Parachute Infantry, to Alta, Utah, where the United States was testing the concept of dropping paratroopers into the Alps behind the Germans and having them ski down to attack and harass their lines of communication. The troopers trained hard, but falling on skis was different than falling when landing in a parachute jump. There were many legs and ankles injured. Eventually the project was abandoned as the troopers were spread out to the newly forming parachute units.In researching the paraskiers I found Art Gorham described as "soft spoken." Elsewhere he is described as "Hard-nose" Gorham because of his strictness and insistence on discipline within his battalion. BG Walt Winton (Ret) has written: "he exemplified the good commander, demonstrating leadership, concern, initiative, and intelligence. One example of his leadership was his joining then Colonel Gavin and a few others in experimental free fall jumps. The normal static line jump was quite exciting enough for most. Art had an abiding concern for his subordinates. When the regiment made PCS moves to Camp Mackall and then to Fort Bragg, Colonel and Mrs. Gorham threw open their quarters on post to shelter others. Our radio call signs in that era were assigned rather whimsically, probably by the regimental communications officer, and Art's call sign was 'Hardnose. Some of Art's subordinates do not believe that the emphasis on the call sign does justice to a great leader and a fine gentlemen." It can be said that Art Gorham was a leader of men.
In the summer of 1942 the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was activated in the tarpaper shack Frying Pan area of Fort Benning, overlooking Lawson Army Airfield. Art Gorham commanded the 1st Battalion! There was no time lost in getting a hard training schedule started. According to his headquarters company commander of the time, BG Winton (Ret), Art sweated with the rest of the battalion. The regiment subsequently moved across the Chatahoochee River to the Alabama Parachute Training Area, where the beat went on.
In the action around Gela, Sicily 11-14 July 1943, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fulbrook Gorham was to earn two DSC's and the Purple Heart while leading the parts of his 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry, that he could rally after they had been scattered over a large part of southeastern Sicily. Jim Gavin was to say later, "Most of the combat success of the regiment in Sicily was due to Art and the men of his command." This leadership is typified by William C. Breuer's description of his death in Drop Zone Sicily: "LTC Arthur Gorham, the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry, grabbed a rocket launcher and edged his way within range of a menacing Tiger Tank which had continued to roll forward. Gorham, out in the open and in full view of enemy tankers, kneeled to take aim at the tank. Gunners in the Tiger spotted the parachute leader and fired an 88 shell at Gorham at point blank range. Gorham, hardnosed to the end, fell over dead."
General Ridgway probably put this in the best perspective when he wrote, "The action which resulted in his death was typical of his inspiring leadership, for it was he that personally instilled the spirit of the attack at a time that those around him were thinking only of defense, and in person led the attack, which succeeded. His indomitable spirit acknowledged no odds."
This then is the father that I am proud to have come to know.
Lt Colonel Gorham is interred at Bellevue Cemetery, Bellevue. Ohio.