James O GoodsonMilitary
From book written by Jim Goodson 2007.
This is the basic story of James Goodson's early life and military service as excerpted from his self-published book “Once Upon a Time Until Now” 2007. Excerpting was by Richard Picard, husband of Gwenneth Price, a 1st Cousin of Dorthy Jayne Price, wife of James O Goodson.
Jim was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on the 23rd of September, 1926 and after a time as a ward of the state, was adopted by Byron and Mae Goodson of DeQueen Arkansas. He had a turbulent childhood and at the age of 15 he dropped out of school and left home supporting himself with odd jobs. After changing his date of birth to September 1, 1924, he submitted his paperwork to join the Army at the recruiting station in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Thus, his age showed 18 when he was actually just 15. He was transported to Little Rock, Arkansas for his induction physical and on 9 September 1942 he was sworn into the U.S. Army, assigned to the U.S. Army Air Corps; Serial Number 18165587. He celebrated his 16th birthday privately during basic training at Keesler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi. He scored very well in testing for Radio Mechanic-Operator and was scheduled for that further training when it was announced that there were some openings in Aerial Gunnery. He wanted to fly so he applied, was interviewed, and accepted. He went to the Flexible Gunnery School at Fort Meyers, Florida. When the training finally progressed to actual flying, he found he loved it. Upon graduation on 8 Nov 1942, he was promoted to Buck Sargent. Placed on a train to an unknown destination he wound up at Pocatello Idaho, Army Air Corps Base assigned to the 96 Bomb Group, 339th Bomb Squadron flying the B-17E in the ball turret. Further training began in early Jan 1943 at Pyote, Texas, followed by Wendover, Utah, and Salina, Kansas with frequent visits to the gunnery and bombing ranges at Alamogordo, New Mexico. At Salina his crew received a new B-17F (42-29746) [10 March,1943] which they were particularly proud of as it was built by Boeing and equipped with Pratt & Whitney built engines. Their orders were to fly the plane until it had 40 hours flying time on all the engines to prepare it for deployment to the war zone. It was expected this would be their plane for the duration of their part in the war. They received additional equipment for overseas operations and the trip to war started. They flew with stops at Ft Wayne, Indiana; Syracuse, New York; [8 April 1943] Presque Isle, Maine; Gander, Newfoundland; and Prestwick, Scotland. From there they flew to their new home, Grafton Underwood near Kettering, England. [ arriving 18 April, 1943. In his book he locates Grafton Underwood as being near Sheffield] Here as part of the 339th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group they joined the Eighth Air Force, and entered the European Theater of Operations. For this entire trip they were without their ground crew, and thus, were preforming their own routine maintenance and upon first entering combat, also their own arming and bomb loading. Their first combat mission was to bomb a German airbase at Courtrai Field, France [Probably Kortrijk, Belgium]. Missions: 1943, 13 May, St Omer, France; 14 May, Courtrai Field; 15 May, Emden, Germany; 17 May, Lorient, France; 19 May, Flensberg, Germany; and 21May, Emden. Missions continued and on 27 May, they were moved to the first American Lend Lease Base in England, Andrews Field. [Now known as Great Sailing, near Braintree] On 11 June, 1943, They were told to put all their personal goods on the plane since they would be flying a mission to bomb Wilhelmshaven, Germany and returning to a new base, Snetterton Heath about 20 miles south of Norwich [arriving 12 June 1943]. In early July, [the 12th] after much protesting, they had to trade their beloved airplane for one that was equipped with extra range fuel tanks (42-30394). On a 17 July, high-altitude mission to Hamburg, Germany he had an oxygen system malfunction and his electrically heated boots became disconnected resulting in a period of unconsciousness and frost bitten feet. He was grounded by the flight surgeon, but was unaware of it so continued flying; 25 July, Kiel and 26 July, Hannover, Germany. His fifteenth mission, 28 July 1943, was to Oschersleben, Germany, 80 miles from Berlin, to bomb the Folke-Wulf 190 assembly plant. This was their first experience carrying incendiary bombs. Terrible weather at takeoff resulted in a lot of trouble forming up. Over the North Sea the formation was scattered and they were jumped by several FW-190s taking several 20mm rounds exploding very near the ball turret. They were unable to jettison the bombs and fire engulfed the area of bomb bay and was spreading to the radio room. Slightly wounded and heading for the water Sgt Goodson jettisoned the main entrance door and squatted down with his back against the waist gun ammunition box. Hitting the water he found himself underwater and under the plane. He swam up and joined six other survivors floating in the sea. The tail gunner became separated so soon there were six left from the crew of ten. After seven plus hours they were spotted by a German spotter plane that dropped them two rafts which got them a little bit out of the water. Later a German rescue boat picked them up took them to their airbase on Helgoland, one of the North Frisian Islands to begin their journey as prisoners-of-war. (Jim was not yet 18 years old.)
The prisoner-of-war experience began with a trip to Dulag Luft near Wetzlar, Germany, the interrogation center for fliers. After several days of interrogations and housing in single solitary cells with as many as 10 men, the officers were sent to Stalag Luft III and Jim as the only enlisted to Stalag VIIA at Mooseburg near Munich and about 10 miles from Dachau. His camp issued dog tag gave him a prisoner number of 112932. The camp was crowded and its bunks were two wide, two long, and two high for up to 15 men. In September the American enlisted Air Force non-commissioned officers, a group of 1,500 to 2,000 men, were sent to an undisclosed location. After a three day train trip in box cars with 50 men each they arrived at Slalag XVIIB in Nixendorff [Krems-Gneixendorf] ,Austria, about 50 km west of Vienna. They were the first Americans there, but there would be 4,500 by the end of the war. This is where, as a Staff Sargent, Jim would celebrate his 18th and 19th birthdays. The Americans were isolated at one end of the camp, were allowed to do their own cooking, and received their Red Cross packages which sustained them relatively well. Jim was asked why he did not write extensively about his nearly two years as a POW; he would always say something about the experience was on average very boring and for the most part devoid of interest and more mundane than watching grass grow. In his book, however, he did relate a few vignettes about the ingenuity of the American male in building things out of whatever materials were available. Personally, he was particularly adept at stealing wire from the German electrical systems which was used to make crystal radios. These units allowed the prisoners to keep up very well with the progress of the war and were wonderful for moral. On 8 April 1945 the prisoners were marched out of the camp to begin a trek across Austria that would last the better part of a month. In the town of St. Oswald Jim got sick and was removed to the care of local civilians. At one home the daughter spoke English and told him that her husband was a prisoner-of-war at Ft Chaffee Arkansas, near Ft Smith where he had enlisted. Subsequently he was taken to a German military hospital and given a cursory exam and a shot. He was then added to a group of about 30 Russians and 10 French POWs and was sent to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. While there he witnessed a group of about 100 men and women being marched into the camp. Near the showers they were stripped of their clothes, entered the shower, and did not come out. Their clothes and belongings were trucked away. Finally, Jim with his group was marched out of the camp and along the way he began to see some of the Americans he had been imprisoned with so he was dropped off to join them in a wooded area just across the road from the Inn River. On 3 May, a German command car with an American officer came by to announce they would be liberated the next day and to just stay put. The morning of 4 May, 1945, the American Third Army arrived; the prisoners took the guard's guns and Jim helped march the guards to Burghausen. There he met an American MP who told him to get out of town. He went to an aluminum plant where released prisoners were to assemble and await transportation to start their journey home. They were moved to a nearby fighter base to await C-47s which arrived after a few hours. They were flown to Nancy, France and loaded into trucks for a trip to the nearby base where they were formally designated RAMPs (Returned Allied Military Personnel). The situation was chaotic and the only thing to do was to move them on as early as possible. They were issued uniforms, given back pay for their rank and time as prisoners, and when a train became available, put into boxcars bound for Camp Lucky Strike at La Harve, France. After about 10 days at La Harve and promotion to Technical Sargent, Jim went to the docks and boarded the troopship USS General Butner (AP-113). They departed La Harve [12 June, 1945] and arrived Newport News, Virginia on [20 June]. They boarded a train to Camp Patrick Henry and there spent two days awaiting a train to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. Arriving there he was given 60 days leave which he was able to extend by another 30 days. During this leave time he was unsuccessful in returning to school but was successful in becoming engaged to his future wife Jayne Price who he had known for many years in DeQueen and had corresponded with during captivity. With his leave up, he traveled to Miami Beach Army Base, went through final processing and received his discharge from the Army [effective 15 Oct 1945].
After leaving the Army Jim became a mostly self taught, self-educated certified professional engineer practicing mostly in the state of Texas. He started out on the GI Bill at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville which he entered by testing well as he had no high school diploma. He had learned in Germany that if you wanted to do something you needed to sit down and figure out how you could make do with the materials that were available. It was a huge lesson and he found it extremely valuable throughout his professional career. He proved very capable in figuring out how to do things, but was very poor in passing academic tests. In the fall of 1947 he dropped out of college due to poor grades and an inability to concentrate on specific subjects. Then, married with a wife and young son, he started taking odd jobs in the construction industry as a draftsman while studying the engineering aspects of his assignments. He continued finding new jobs, each requiring more knowledge and offering more experience. He attended night school to increase his math skills and was ultimately able to pass the examination for Registered Professional Engineers. One of very few to successfully accomplish this without having a college engineering degree. Jim had a very successful career as a practicing engineer working in the field around the world for several major manufacturers and building a reputation as a trouble shooter and problem solver. After working and traveling for many years Jim began having heart related physical problems and on 17 August, 2002 the VA deemed him 100% disabled and unemployable; thus, he retired at that time. In 1977 Jim with his wife Jayne, traveled over much of the territory of his imprisonment. He held no animosity to his captors, but both of them were shaken by their visit to the Mauthausen Memorial. In his book Jim states,”...the war was done, the animosities toward people had been set aside and all the hate gone, but with my memories my WWII would never be over.” Jim died 24 Jul 2013 and is buried beside Jayne at the Houston National Cemetery, Houston, Texas.
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Units served with
|Little Rock, Arkansas||23 September 1926|
|Ft Smith, Arkansas||9 September 1942|
Prisoner of War (POW)
|Germany||29 July 1943 - 4 May 1945|
NARA files verified AM w/2 OLCs and PH. He would be eligible upon application for the POW Medal. He earned at least one bronze star on the EAME Campaign Medal.
Rereading of Jim's book.
Recalculation of dates
Self published book by James Goodson
Self published book by James Goodson
Book self-published and written by Jim Goodson.
Self Published Book "Once Upon a Time Until Now" by Jim Goodson, 2002