Arthur F. Gorham

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Arthur F. Gorham
Born (1915-01-11)January 11, 1915
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died July 12, 1943(1943-07-12) (aged 28)
Sicily, Italy
Buried Bellevue, Ohio, United States
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1938–43
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit Infantry Branch
Commands held 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

World War II

Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Purple Heart

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Fulbrook Gorham (January 11, 1915 – July 12, 1943) was a United States Army officer and paratrooper. Gorham was the first commander of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division. He led the unit from its inception until Operation Husky, the July 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily, where he was killed in action.

Early Life and Family[edit]

Gorham was born in Brooklyn, New York to James Allison Gorham, Sr. (September 13, 1890 – February 9, 1972) and Louise Fox Gorham (April 1885 – July 4, 1966).[1] His older brother was James Allison Gorham, Jr. (November 26, 1911 – May 15, 2005). Gorham's parents were second generation Americans and were both of Scottish descent. The Gorhams moved from Brooklyn to Bellevue, Ohio in July 1917. James, Sr. owned a successful dry goods business.

While awaiting transportation from Governors Island in New York to his first assignment after graduating from West Point, Gorham renewed a previous acquaintance with Corrine "Colonel" Bennett (later Clarke) (October 21, 1917 – October 20, 2001). They had met for the first time a few years earlier at an army football game. Bennett was then a senior at the University of Wichita where she was president of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority (then called the Sorosis Sorority), captain of the rifle team and had held titles in both golf and tennis.[2] The two were married on June 21, 1939 in Wichita, Kansas.[3] The couple had one child, Bruce Bennett Gorham Clarke (born January 26, 1943 at Ft. Benning, GA). Clarke followed in his father's footsteps graduating from West Point, serving in an airborne unit, fighting in Vietnam at Khe Sanh and commanding at every level from a platoon to a brigade.[4][5]


Gorham was educated in Bellevue, Ohio first at the Ellis School and he later graduated from Bellevue High School in 1932. During high school, he played in the band for four years, was secretary of the junior and senior classes, earned two varsity letters in football and two more in track and served on the high school newspaper, the Blazer, for four years. He was also a member of the National Honor Society.

After his high school graduation, having not secured a sought-after appointment to West Point, he attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio for a year where he played football winning his "numeral." During this time he pledged the Ohio Alpha Chapter of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.[6] Gorham left Miami when he received the principal Congressional appointment to West Point from Rep. William L. Fiesinger.[7] After taking the West Point substantiating examination in February 1934 he spent time at Stanton Preparatory Academy in Cornwall, New York.

On July 2, 1934 Gorham joined the Class of 1938 at West Point.[8] While at West Point, Gorham was known for pipe smoking, surviving academics and maintaining a famously clean M1 rifle. To his classmates, he was known for his easy-going way and love of jazz. He played football for two years winning two monograms as an end on the Army "B" team[9] and earned a marksmanship medal—one shot short of winning an "expert" badge he refused to wear the award mailing it home to his parents instead.[10][11] During his four years he was an acting corporal, acting sergeant, sergeant, acting company supply officer, and, in his fourth year, wore three chevrons as the lieutenant for Company B. Gorham graduated in the middle of his class and received a commission as an Infantry officer. Gorham's graduation was front page news in his native Bellevue. At the time, he was just the second graduate of Central High School to graduate from a service academy. Admiral John Greenslade was previously the school's sole graduate.[12][13]

Early Career and Leadership Style[edit]

After less than two years with the 30th Infantry in San Francisco, Gorham moved to Fort Benning, Georgia. In November 1941 he graduated from the newly created Airborne School receiving a "Certificate of Proficiency" signed by then Major Robert Sink and, more importantly, a set of silver jump wings.[14] A month later, he completed the School's demolition and sabotage course.[15] 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 1941 he volunteered to organize the first group of paratroopers on skis. So in February 1942 then-Captain Gorham took his B Company, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment 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.[16] During this period Gorham is credited with having made the first parachute jump from over 10,000 feet. As was his leadership style, before Gorham would let anyone else jump he first made a solo jump to test whether it was safe. On that first jump, he was soon followed by LT Robert Ellis, SGT Roy Taylor and SGT W.P. Walsh.[17] 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. Despite much favorable press,[18][19] the project was eventually abandoned and the troopers were spread out to the newly forming parachute units.

In a 1989 article in Assembly, the magazine of the U.S. Military Academy's Association of Graduates, his son Bruce B.G. Clarke described Gorham's leadership style:

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. Brigadier General Walt Winton 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 [permanent change of station] moves to Camp Mackall and then to Fort Bragg, Colonel and Mrs. Gorham threw open their quarters on post to shelter others.

The article goes on to report this observation by General Winton:

Our radio call signs in that era were assigned rather whimsically, probably by the regimental communications officer, and Art's call sign was Hard-nose. 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.[20][21]

Crest of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

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. Gorham, then a major, was assigned as commander of the 1st Battalion.[22] There was no time lost in getting a hard training schedule started.

In Combat Jump: The Young Men Who Led the Assault into Fortress Europe, July 1943 (page 53), Ed Ruggero writes:

Like Gavin, Gorham also spoke quietly. In spite of his youth, he had an almost fatherly demeanor. He shared the hardships and he treated the men with respect from the privates up...he had a genuine concern for their welfare. This didn’t mean the men of the First Battalion were coddled, in fact, it often meant the opposite. Gorham and the other airborne commanders believed the best thing for the men – the thing that came as close as anything could to guaranteeing they would make it home—was hard training.”[23]

Gorham was promoted to lieutenant colonel on December 26, 1942 just shy of his 28th birthday. At the time of his promotion, he was one of the youngest lieutenant colonels in the U.S. Army.[24]

Operation Husky: The Invasion of Sicily[edit]

On the night of July 9, 1943, the Paratroopers of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment loaded aircraft and departed the coast of North Africa for the island of Sicily. The 1st Battalion, under the command of the 28-year-old Gorham spearheaded the first regimental-sized airborne assault. Winds were high as they jumped in the early morning hours of July 10 and the Paratroopers were scattered across and well beyond their drop zones. Assembling in little groups of Paratroopers, the men began to wreak havoc among the German and Italian defenders of Sicily.[25]

In the combat that followed, Gorham positioned himself and the few dozen stragglers he found on the high ground near Comico airfield. On July 11, when approximately ten German tanks and a battalion of infantry began to assault their position, and all of his men were lying as low as possible, Gorham was on his feet, dodging incoming fire and moving around the position, bucking up his outnumbered men. When one of the bazooka teams was killed, Gorham sprang for the weapon, loaded it himself, and went after one of the tanks. He hit the tank’s vulnerable side which set the tank on fire. Gorham then moved from point to point firing at the eye-slit of tanks, shouting encouragement to the men and directing their fire until the counterattack was beaten off. For his actions on July 11, 1943 Gorham was awarded the nation's second highest award for bravery, the Distinguished Service Cross.[26]

The next day, July 12, Gorham and his little group of paratroopers came face to face with another German tank near Niscemi, Sicily. William B. Breuer in Drop Zone Sicily describes the action: Gorham “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 88mm shell at Gorham at point blank range. Gorham, hardnosed to the end, fell over dead." The citation for the Distinguished Service Cross he was awarded for his actions reports: “Lieutenant Colonel Gorham personally manned a rocket launcher and destroyed one tank. While attempting to destroy another with hand grenades and a rifle, Lieutenant Colonel Gorham was killed.”[27] This second description is consistent with the reports relayed to Gorham's family by Chicago Tribune reporter John Hall Thompson in December 1943.[28]

Gorham's death was first reported by Bill Ryder in a March of Time radio broadcast on August 19, 1943. "One of the outstanding examples of heroism was Lt. Col. Arthur Gorham whose unit was attacked by tanks. When one of his bazooka teams was wiped out by an approaching tank, he manned the weapon himself and got the tank single-handed before being killed himself by another tank on their flank."[29][30]

Headstone on LTC Gorham's grave in Bellevue, Ohio (photo by Bruce B.G. Clarke and posted with permission)

There is some confusion about the actual date of Gorham's death. Army records list his date of death as July 11, 1941. His second Distinguished Service Cross citation lists the date as July 14, 1943. This is the date listed on Gorham's headstone. In Phil Nordyke's Four Stars of Valor, page 425, he explains: "Colonel's Gorham's death is listed in Army records as July 11, 1941. Both Captain Edwin Sayre, in his monograph written in 1947, and Dean McCandless, who was with Gorham when he was killed, state that Gorham was in fact killed during action that took place on July 12, 1943. McCandless states that he found Gorham's CP (command post) on the morning of July 11 and was put on outpost duty by Gorham that evening. He states that the next morning Gorham recalled him and they moved to Hill 41, where Gorham was killed."

For his actions on Sicily, Gorham was awarded two Distinguished Service Crosses.[31][32][33][34] He was one of only five members of the 82nd Airborne during World War II to be twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The other four were General James M. Gavin, General Matthew B. Ridgway, Major General Reuben Henry Tucker III and Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin H. Vandervoort. Gorham was also posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman Badge and a combat star to his jump wings.

In August 1948, Gorham's remains were returned to the United States. He was interred in Bellevue, Ohio in a family plot.[35]

Tributes and memorials[edit]

In a letter to the Gorham family, General Jim Gavin credited Gorham and his Paratroopers with much of Operation Husky's success: "Most of the combat success of the regiment in Sicily was due to Art and the men of his command."[36] In his book, On to Berlin (page 47), General Gavin wrote "Colonel Gorham and his small group of troopers and the lieutenants from the 3rd Battalion, 504th, accomplished all of the missions assigned to the entire regimental combat team. It was a remarkable performance, and I know of nothing like it that occurred at any time later in the war...His death was a great loss to the division."[37]

Dedication of the Arthur F. Gorham Headquarters Building, pictured on the left is COL Bruce B.G. Clarke (LTC Gorham's son) and right is LTC Hugh Bair, commander of 1/505

General Matthew Ridgway, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, probably put this in the best perspective when he wrote to Gorham's widow: "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.”[38]

The tributes to Gorham include:
  • In the Museo Archeologico Regionale di Gela (Regional Archaeological Museum of Gela) a poster exhibit will be unveiled in July 2013 commemorating the 70th anniversary of Operation Husky. Gorham is prominently featured in the exhibit.
  • On May 18, 2013 Gorham was inducted into the Bellevue High School "Halls of Excellence."[39][40]
  • On May 21, 2008 the new headquarters of the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment was named in Gorham's honor. During this ceremony a memorial was also dedicated to the members of the Battalion killed in the Global War on Terrorism.[41][42][43][44]
  • In May 1998, a room in the Battalion’s former dining facility was named in Gorham’s honor.[45]
  • A street at Ft. Bragg is named for Gorham.
  • Gorham's name is included among all those killed in action on a tablet erected at Bellevue's Fallen Heroes Memorial Plaza.
  • There is a memorial marker which bears his name near the 82nd Airborne Museum.[46] The marker was laid in 1948 to commemorate the naming of a street for Gorham.[47]
  • Gorham's name is included among the 39 killed near Ponte Dirillo near Gela in Sicily. The memorial was erected by the citizens of Sicily and is maintained by Senor Ventura. Each year, the local residents in conjunction with Naval personnel from the nearby Naval Computer and Telecommunication Station, Naval Air Station Sigonella hold a ceremony to remember these brave Paratroopers.[48][49][50]
Memorial to Lt. Col Gorham and the 82nd Airborne at Ponte Dirillo.
  • The DeMolay chapter, a Masonic youth leadership organization, in his hometown of Bellevue, Ohio was previously named in Gorham's honor but it is no longer active.
  • The Masonic Lodge in Bellevue was also for a time named in Gorham's honor.
  • Gorham's name is included among all those killed in action on a memorial plaque inside the American Legion Post No. 44 in Bellevue, Ohio.
  • Gorham's name is included in a plaque overlooking Trophy Point at West Point honoring the members of the Class of 1938 who gave their lives for their country. In total, 16 members of the Class of '38 died during World War II (9 KIA, 15 died or executed as POWs).[51]
  • Gorham's name is included on a plaque in Cullum Memorial Hall at West Point. His name was added in a ceremony on October 6, 1949 presided over by West Point Superintendent Major General Bryant Moore and Air Force Chief of Staff General Hoyt Vandenberg.[52]
  • Tim Dyas' book of war poetry, Barbed Words of War, was donated by the poet to the USMA library with the following inscription: "23 Oct 2000 To: Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway, LtGen James M. Gavin, LTC Arthur Gorham (KIA). My leaders from USMA who knew only one way to lead – up front. Tim Dyas"
  • For a time, Gorham's family sponsored a scholarship at Bellevue High School in his name. The first scholarship of $500 was awarded in 1954. ($4009 in 2010 terms)[53][54]
  • Gorham's youngest grandson, James, has Gorham as his middle name. Two of his three great grandsons, Philip and Matthew, are also, in part, named for their grandfather. Great grandson Philip is named for both Gorham and Colonel Philip Cochran.


  1. ^ James Gorham, Sr. registered for the World War I draft as a 27-year-old with two children. Recently uncovered information reveals he also registered for the draft at the outbreak of World War II at the age of 52. By that time, Arthur was a lieutenant stationed at the Presidio.
  2. ^ "Miss Corinne Bennett to Wed Lieut. A.F. Gorham this Summer," Undated and unknown news clipping from the Gorham Family archives.
  3. ^ "Young Socialites Wed at Charming Ceremony: Brilliant Assemblage of Wedding Guests Throng St. James Church at Impressive Military Rites," The Wichita Beacon, June 22, 1939, page 15.
  4. ^ Clarke took the last name of his mother's second husband, Edwin R. Clarke (April 23, 1913 – July 7, 1996).
  5. ^ Colonel Clarke's website can be found at
  6. ^ "Miss Corinne Bennett to Wed Lieut. A.F. Gorham this Summer," Undated and unknown news clipping from the Gorham Family archives.
  7. ^ Letter from Rep. Fiesinger to Arthur F. Gorham dated December 5, 1933. From the Gorham family archives.
  8. ^ Letter from Major General James F. McKinley to Arthur F. Gorham dated May 1, 1934. From the Gorham family archives.
  9. ^ The 1934 edition of "Bugle Notes" describes the standard for the Army Monogram Award as follows: "Members of Corps squads who do not earn the 'A', but who play in half the games of the season receive the monogram.", USMA Bugel Notes, 1934 edition, page 117
  10. ^ Letter from Gorham to his parents dated August 8, 1935. From the Gorham Family archives.
  11. ^ Letter from Gorham to his parents dated May 3, 1936: "Finally received my marksmanship badge. Will send it home. If it were expert I’d wear it but not marksman – lots of men made that." From the Gorham Family archives.
  12. ^ "Bellevue Student to Graduate from West Point on June 14," The Bellevue Gazette, page 1, April 26, 1938.
  13. ^ Bellevue newspapers reported that Gorham and Adm Greenslade shared a birthday, "January 12th." Gorham's birthday was actually January 11th.
  14. ^ Certificate of Proficiency, Issued November 8, 1941 by the Parachute Group Headquarters at Ft. Benning, GA. From the Gorham family archives.
  15. ^ Certificate of Proficiency dated December 20, 1941 and issued by the Parachute Group Headquarters, Ft. Benning, GA. From the Gorham family archives.
  16. ^ See Alan Engen and Gregory Thompson's First Tracks: A Century of Skiing in Utah, page 18.
  17. ^ "Four Paraski Troops Jump" undated story from the Gorham family archives.
  18. ^ Graffis, Herb. "The Sporting Scene: Taking a look at those rugged men who make up the paratroops we acquire new respect for the unballyhooed B-teamers," Esquire, pps 64-55, November 1942. From the Gorham Family archives.
  19. ^ Harold F. Osborne, "Uncle Sam's Para-Ski Troops Are Daring, Tough and Light-Hearted," March 7, 1942.
  20. ^ A copy of the Colonel Clarke's Assembly article can be found online at
  21. ^ In Patrick K. O'Donnell's Beyond Valor, World War II's Rangers and Airborne Reveal the Heart of Combat, page 43, Alfred Ireland describes how he assigned nicknames for the Regiment's officers: "I nicknamed Gorham "Hard Nose" because that's just exactly how I saw him. He was a tough, hard-nosed soldier. He was the kind of guy who would do it all himself."
  22. ^ Nordyke, Phil, Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II, page 25, Zenith Press, 2006
  23. ^,M1[dead link]
  24. ^ "Gorham Promoted to Lieut. Colonel: Bellevuean Commands Paratroop Regiment [sic] at Ft. Benning [sic]" and "Arthur F. Gorham Given High Rank", undated news clippings from Gorham family archives.
  25. ^ Major Ed Sayre's analysis of the Operation, written in 1947 while he was attending the Advanced Infantry Officer's Course, has been scanned and posted at
  26. ^ A copy of Gorham's first DSC citation has been posted at
  27. ^ A copy of Gorham's second DSC citation has been posted at
  28. ^ A copy of Thompson's letter to the Bennett family has been posted at
  29. ^ "Heroism of Col. Arthur Gorham Revealed on U.S. Heroes Day" August 16, 1943, unidentified news clipping from the Gorham family archives.
  30. ^ "Report Heroic Action of Lt. Col. Gorham Cited in Broadcast," The Bellevue Gazette, August 20, 1943
  31. ^ A copy of the War Department's letter to Gorham's mother summarizing his awards has been posted at
  32. ^ "Lt. Col. Gorham Gets Posthumous Award for Heroism: Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart Will Be Given Son," The Bellevue Gazette, October 25, 1943
  33. ^ The first DSC was presented to Gorham's widow and their son Bruce on November 27, 1943 in a ceremony in Wichita, Kansas by Brig Gen Ray G. Harris. Details from the Gorham family archives.
  34. ^ "General Harris Awards Medals Today," The Wichita Eagle, November 27, 1943, page 1.
  35. ^ "Rites Wednesday for City's Highest Ranking War Hero, Lt. Col. Gorham" Bellevue Gazette, page 1, August 2, 1948. From the Gorham family archives.
  36. ^ A copy of General Gavin's letter has been posted at
  37. ^ General James M. Gavin, On to Berlin, 1978, quote appears at page 47 of the paperback edition.
  38. ^ A copy of General Ridgway's letter has been posted at
  39. ^ "BHS Halls of Excellence to add WWII hero," The Bellevue Gazette, page 1, May 11, 2013 (print edition)
  40. ^ Brooks, Becky. "Inductees Share Wisdom with Youth." The Bellevue Gazette, May 17, 2013.
  41. ^ Pictures and details of the event are posted at
  42. ^ The press release issued by the 82nd Airborne Division can be found at
  43. ^ A copy of the invitation can be seen at
  44. ^ Video of the dedication ceremony has been posted at
  45. ^ The Topeka Capital Journal, the hometown paper of Gorham's son, Bruce B.G. Clarke, covered the story here:
  46. ^ A picture of the marker can be seen at
  47. ^ Letter from Major General C.E. Byers, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne, to Gorham's widow dated April 8, 1948. From the Gorham family archives.
  48. ^ A picture of the memorial can be see at
  49. ^ On the 65th anniversary of Operation Husky, LTC Gorham's son, COL Bruce Clarke, addressed a ceremony in Sicily. His remarks are posted at
  50. ^ The news coverage from the Armed Forces Network of the 65th anniversary ceremony has been posted at
  51. ^ See the Marker Historical Database at
  52. ^ From the program for the event sent to the Gorham family. From the Gorham family archives.
  53. ^ "Plan Scholarship in Memory of Bellevue High School Graduate," Sandusky Register-Star-News, May 7, 1954.
  54. ^ "BHS Seniors to Be Welcomed as Alumni Members Sunday," The Bellevue Gazette, May 27, 1954.