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Guns and games pass the time

Shirley Welch
Vail, CO Colorado

Throughout those early military days, Frank passed a lot of spare time playing cards.

Now remember that Frank’s great-uncle Sam was a professional gambler by trade. This passion for cards and gambling filtered down through the Doll family. Frank’s parents played cribbage almost every night after dinner, and the children in the house soon learned the nuances of card playing and added bridge, poker, and blackjack to the selections of games they played.

Frank’s father was a wonderful card player and haunted the back rooms of Gypsum’s pool halls where a poker game could be found. Frank’s first experience with poker came at the cow camp where he joined some of the cowboys during fall round-up for a game played with matchsticks.

He got a good lesson in how to lose at poker that first fall and never forgot it. His gambling education continued at college, where he honed his skills with penny ante poker games and dice. He also took up bridge and with his roommate won several tournaments.

So here we have Frank Doll, whose genes were heavily blessed with success at cards, and who had extra time on his hands in the army. At Fort Bragg, Frank met Gordon Crabtree, another officer. A pick-up bridge game was in progress and Gordon needed a partner. Gordon asked if Frank knew how to play.

Frank dryly replied, “Oh, just a bit.”

Over the course of the next couple of years, Frank and Gordon played a lot together and they quickly became excellent bridge partners. During this time at Fort Bragg, Frank was confined to the barracks at night. His day started at 5 a.m. and ended at 8 or 9 o’clock, and then the cards came out and entertained him to the later hours.

Frank was in charge of moving the Field Artillery Battalion, which comprised about 600 men. Headed to Belfast, Ireland, the battalion was transported on a huge ship that was built to hold tanks and not troops and was a ponderous, drafty whale of a ship.

That first night in New York, when Frank was finalizing all the details of getting his battalion loaded, the officers gathered in the officer’s mess and were offered choices of jobs. This particular ship had a five-inch gun mounted on the bow and a 3-inch gun mounted on the stern.

The commanding officer said, “We need an officer on the bow gun and an officer on the stern gun.” He looked at the men with a stern glare. “Who wants these jobs?”

Anything but being inside the tub of a ship sounded good to Frank, so he poked Gordon in the ribs and both men raised their hands.

So it was that Frank’s job on the ship was to man the forward 5-inch gun. Finally, it was time to ship out and the convoy of vessels left for Ireland. Frank’s ship joined others in the biggest convoy that went across the Atlantic Ocean in 1943.

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