Donnelly history at Joint Base dates back to 1918

By Allison Murawski | NAWCAD Lakehurst Public Affairs | Aug. 27, 2019


Tom Donnelly, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst Support Equipment (SE) department director, always thought his family’s service at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) started with his career in the Navy’s lead engineering support activity for SE and Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment.

Much to his surprise, Donnelly and his wife Kathleen P. Donnelly, NAWCAD Lakehurst executive director, found World War I era photographs when cleaning out his parents’ home and quickly learned Tom was not the first Donnelly at JB MDL. His great uncle, Arthur Aloysius Donnelly, was stationed at Camp Dix from 1918 – 1919.

“I was thrilled as I always thought I was the first Donnelly with ties to the Joint Base,” Donnelly said. “The picture hung in my parents’ basement and I must have walked past it a thousand times never realizing the Donnelly history at JB MDL started more than 100 years ago. How cool is that?!”

Camp Dix opened in 1917 and served as a training camp for the Army’s 78th Division from Aug. 1917 – May 1918. Arthur Donnelly was a private at Camp Dix and served from Feb. 1918 to May 1919.

The Donnellys donated memorabilia from Arthur Donnelly’s Army service to the Fort Dix Military Heritage Hall museum run by U.S. Army Support Activity Fort Dix, Aug. 5. Items included Donnelly’s dog tags, helmet, gas mask, mess kit, tin, photographs and his official portrait. Fort Dix Military Heritage Hall representative Frank DeVenuta accepted the donations on behalf of the museum.

The museum features displays from the revolutionary war to the present. DeVenuta said the Donnellys’ donation is on display in their Camp Dix exhibit.

Donnelly also found his great uncle’s jacket and shirt, post cards from France and Germany, German medals, his discharge papers and a signed letter from President John F. Kennedy honoring Arthur Donnelly for his service when he passed, which the Donnelly’s plan to donate to the museum as well.

“I have always been a believer that history should be preserved and shared. I couldn't think of a better place for my great uncle Arthur's memorabilia than to donate it to the Fort Dix museum where its history will be preserved and shared with more people than any other place,” Donnelly said.

The Fort Dix Military Heritage Hall is open to DOD personnel and the public by appointment only. Interested visitors should call 609-562-5149.