Colleen G. Armstrong of Des Moines, Washington, contributes this account of the death of her brother, Ellensburg High School graduate Second Lieutenant Glenn W. Goodrich, in France in 1944, and how her family and the community of Longnes in Northern France remembered his sacrifice and heroism 60 years later. This story was originally presented to the Rotary Club in Olympia on November 9, 2005. This People's History comes to HistoryLink through the good offices of former Secretary of State Ralph Munro of Olympia.
Glenn W. Goodrich
On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, I was five years old. My youngest brother Glenn William Goodrich was 19. He shocked the family when he announced that he wanted to enlist in the Army Air Corps. He did enlist and on June 3, 1942, received his private pilot's license in Wenatchee.
On June 6, 1942, he took his physical exam in Seattle and was listed as "Not Qualified For Appointment As Aviation Cadet." It seems his teeth were too crooked to hold an oxygen mask. That didn't stop him for long. General Arnold had a new project and needed several thousand volunteers: Gliders.
They were accepting anyone, including the milkman. Gliders were the newest instrument in our defense. If you had pilot experience you were classed in the A. On January 20, 1943, he graduated in class 43-40 in Wickenburg, Arizona, in the Fifth Glider Training Detachment. Gliders didn't do the job as hoped, so Glenn and many other pilots were phased out.
Around this time the Army somehow decided to straighten his teeth and on December 5, 1943, he graduated in the class of 43-K -- Williams Field -- Chandler Arizona -- Army Air Forces Pilot School -- Advanced Two Engine -- P-38, along with many other distinguished young men.
The 474th Fighter Bomber Group was part of the tactical 9th Air force. It was made up of three squadrons -- the 428th, 429th and 430th.
June 14, 1944, he joined his comrades at Warmwell Airfield in England, right where he wanted to be. He would fly with the 429th Fighter Bomb Squadron or the "Retail Gang" as they were known. Their primary task was ground attack, strafing and bombing in support of advancing troops.
On July 18 his fifth mission -- they were attacked by over 50 German fighters. Out numbered 2-1 they destroyed 6 and damaged 11 enemy fighters. Only three P-38s were lost. Lt. Langstad of the 430th had lost his group and joined the 429th in an unusually wild dog fight with the German fighters. He saw Glenn's plane suddenly have trouble with the left engine. At about 1,000 feet altitude his ship caught fire and was witnessed with his ship in control pulling up in a right chandelle trying to gain altitude. He was last seen at 9:35 a.m. over Longnes, France. It would be nearly 60 years before any of his comrades would know what happened to him that day.
The French people of the town of Longnes tried in vain to communicate with my parents. They sent letters with pictures describing the crash and his funeral. Telling my parents how he had diverted his plane to avoid the center of a small village of La Forte on the edge of Longnes -- 40 miles from Paris. They shared their feelings for a hero. For reasons of their own that I will never understand -- my parents did not respond.
On April 11, 1945, the telegram arrived -- Killed In Action. In June 1949 his body was returned to the USA for a final rest.
The last letter from Longnes, France, came to them in December of 1951.
Then all was quiet and my brother became a memory! What happened next still seems like a dream to me, but it is very real.
My grandnephew -- Graham Goodrich -- who was nine at the time and the grandson of my eldest brother, had become interested in the P-38 aircraft. So interested that I think he knew every nut and bolt that held the ships together. One day in the fall of 2000 he shared with me that his Great Uncle had been a P-38 pilot in World War II. I still remember the look on his face when I told him his uncle was my brother. I think at that moment I became someone of importance.
I thought I should go through what little information I had about my brother to share with him. I found I had more than I realized. Armed with his serial number, squadron number, and flight group I went to the Internet to see if I could find any information about his unit or maybe even find some one that had flown with him.
Early in the morning on February 12, 2001, I stumbled onto a website for the 474th designed for people to post questions requesting information. This is what I found posted by a French man Jean Pierre Duriez and dated November 15, 2000.
"I would like to obtain some information and a picture about: Glenn W. Goodrich - KIA in France 18/07/1944 at Longnes (near Nantes) when attacking railroad line from Paris to Cherborg. One local historian of Longnes would like to publish an article in the local paper to remember this pilot."
My husband found me later that morning still crying buckets of tears. It seems a friend of Monsieur Duriez -- a Monsieur Georges Bailleui, a retired engineer, had gone to visit a former associate living in Longnes. He noticed on a monument in the center of the town square the name of an American pilot. The monument was erected to honor those locals who had died in World War II. He wanted to know more so he went to the mayor Madame Francois Bettinger who brought down the town history records for him to read.
Not having a computer of his own he had turned to his friend Monsieur Duriez to help him. The two men had developed a hobby around finding downed plane sites and connecting the families or the pilots with the sites.
That day I shared the news with my nephew, Kent Goodrich, the father of the young man who had started this. After many more emails, Kent and his family flew to Paris and drove to Longnes. They were warmly greeted by the Mayor, Monsieur Bailleui, Monsieur Michel Lacoq, and Monsieur Roger Petit, the former mayor who was 15 at the time working in a field and actually witnessed the crash. When he returned he said "you have to go there and if you will go this summer I will take you." I could not say no.
So in August of 2002 I made the trip of a life time and went to the sight of my brothers crash 58 years earlier.
The town is over 1,000 years old. The church where they held his funeral even older. Against the wishes of the Germans, the French people risked themselves to go out at night and bring Glenn's body in for his funeral. They took me to their cemetery where they had buried him and mounded his grave with white daisies. When I noticed that in such a small and full cemetery his grave site was still empty, they explained that it would always remain so because he was a hero and the ground was hallowed.
We went to the crash site -- and walked up a road to about the center of a field. Monsieur Petit told me he saw the plane on fire at about 1,000 feet aimed at the small village of La Forte. The pilot stayed with the plane safely past the village turned it on its side and bailed out. By this time he was too close to the ground and the impact killed him. The plane was half buried in the ground. The barley in the field was high so his body was not found for three days. The Germans guarded the site while the plane burned. When they finally discovered his body they stripped it of all they wanted and left -- instructing the French people to leave it there. The dog tags were found separate so the French were able to identify the pilot as being Glenn W. Goodrich.
At the entrance to the road marking the crash site was a stone cross set between two trees. When I asked who put it there I was told no one knew, it was older than the village.
We continued correspondence with our new friends. They were very serious about maintaining my brother's memory. On July 18, 2004 -- the 60 anniversary of the crash at 9:35 a.m. (on the day at the hour of his death) the people of Longnes held a service in my bother's memory. Because of health I was not able to attend, but Kent and his family went to represent Glenn's family and participate in the church service. The church service was attended by about 150 people including a representative of the French government, the mayors of several surrounding villages, and about a dozen French veterans' groups all carrying flags. Many more people joined the group after the service to dedicate his memory with flowers at the monument in the square. As the "Star Spangled Banner" and "La Marseillaise" played, the mayor placed a bouquet of white daisies under his name, same as the flowers the villagers had laid on his grave 60 years before.
It was a cloudy day and the mayor was concerned it might rain for the dedication outside however, just as the ceremony began the clouds opened over head and there was a cross made with the high atmosphere contrails of two airplanes.
Before Kent left Longnes, Monsieur Lacoq told him he had a gift to give to Glenn's family. His father and his cousin had managed to salvage one of the .50 caliber guns from the wreckage of Glenn's plane. With the help of a retired customs agent Monsieur Duriez and Gorgeous Bailleui's son, who happened to work for United Parcel Service, the gun was shipped to us. We have since loaned it to the P-38 museum at March Field in Riverside, California.
In closing I'd like to read you a portion from Monsieur Lacoq's letter telling us that the gun had been picked up for shipping,
"I am glad to give it to you as a token of friendship and to show the respect we have for Glenn's action against naziism and for France. Let me tell you that my father and cousin would have been happy to give to the USA and the Goodrich family. When you get it as a relic that has come through the years, it will be the achievement of a - duty a duty of memory."
May we all remember and honor our veterans as well as the French people of Longnes and LaForte that have honored my brother.