R. C. Goodman Interview

CB: Today is April 5, 2006. This is Carole Barger. Joe Wasson and I are at the home of Dr. R.C. Goodman. We’ll be interviewing him for the World War II history project of the Fort Smith Historical Society. Dr. Goodman, will you give us your name and birth date, your parents, and your place of birth, please?

RCG: Yes, I was born [in] 1920 in Ogden, Arkansas. Ogden is between Texarkana and Ashdown. I went the first eight years of schools at Ogden and the last four years at Ashdown. Went to Ashdown and graduated from Ashdown High School in 1938.

CB: Did you have brothers and sisters?

RCG: Had one sister four years younger than me.

CB: What did you do after you got out of high school?

RCG: After I got out of service?

CB: No, before you went into the service.

RCG: When I got out of high school in 1938, we had a terrible flood on the Red River. Tore up all the levees and they needed what they call an oiler to grease the levee machine and they needed one right then. It was in our last week of high school and my grades were such that I didn’t have to take any final exams and so I applied for the job and I got the job. I missed my picture-taking with my class and everything because I worked at night from 6 in the evening until 6 in the morning, 12 hours for 35 cents an hour.

Anyway I saved my money because I wanted to be in the post office department because I just thought being a rural mail carrier was utopia so I applied for Draughon’s Business College in Little Rock and I went up there a 17-year-old kid and they promised me that they’d get me a job for my room and board and I had saved enough money working on that levee machine to pay my tuition for a two-year business school so I could take the civil service exam and go to the post office department. But the job they gave me required about 6 hours a day, 2 hours of a morning early, 2 hours during the noon, and 2 hours in the evening and it was working in the cafeteria and the room they gave me was the very top room on an old hotel on Main Street in Little Rock and all I had up there was a cot and there was 2 other cots and they were used construction workers. And they didn’t want me studying at night because they were trying to sleep so I’d go down to the lobby of the hotel and do my studying and I got to thinking you know I was only taking about half the courses I should be taking because of the hours I was working and I decided I needed to do something else so I withdrew from Draughon’s Business College in Little Rock and I worked at farm labor until the following February.

It would be February 1939 and I got a job working on a bridge group for the Kansas City Southern Railroad. We were rebuilding some of the work along the riverbanks that had washed out and on the trestles between Ogden and Texarkana and that’s the hardest job I ever had in my life. And I worked for them until August and I made 39 cents an hour and I decided that I wanted to do something different than that. So that’s when I took my money that I had saved and enrolled in Magnolia A And M College in September of 1939. The College is now Southern State in Magnolia and on the second of October of that year I joined the National Guard which pays $1 a drill and they had four drills a month. That $4 paid, believe it or not, paid for my dorm room. Then I got a job as a night watchman working 3 hours and 15 minutes at night and that ended up paying $15 a month and that paid for my meals. I never saw any money but I got a meal ticket every month.

Courtesy of R.C. Goodman

R.C. Goodman, right, and Lt. West practice using a mortar.

But then on December 24, 1940, they mobilized our unit into the regular army and they sent us to Little Rock for basic training and then in June of 1940, they sent us to Tennessee on the Tennessee maneuvers as sort of our advanced training and we were the enemy against three divisions from up north, three infantry divisions—we were the enemy. And we were down there for a month and while we were there they told us we were going to the Philippines when we got back to Little Rock. Well, being just a bunch of old country boys that just cheered us to no end, just to go to the Philippines.

Thank goodness, that was changed and we were sent to Alaska. We went to Alaska in September of 1940. I had my 21st birthday on board ship going to Alaska. It was the 153rd Infantry from Arkansas. We had three battalions. I was in D Company of 1st battalion and I was the machine gun squad leader at that time, a corporal, and they scattered us all over Alaska. They sent the platoon that I was in to Nome, Alaska with a rifle company made up of mostly men from Hope, Arkansas, Prescott and that area. I stayed up there for a year and a half and I came home. Igot home about April 5th or 6th, 1943, and Dorothy and I decided to get married, which we did on April 10th, 1943, and come Monday it will be 63 years.

CB: Wonder if you could go back and tell us a little bit about what you did when you were in Alaska.

RCG: We finished our barracks and played in the snow

CB: The Japanese troops were around, but near Dutch Harbor?

RCG: We were in Nome and Nome sits on the Bavarian Sea and it’s surrounded by the King , kind of a horseshoe, and in the wintertime the only way you can get into Nome was by snow sled or by airplane. In the summertime, you could get in by boat and by air. We had 200 men, an infantry company and a machine gun platoon. We were responsible for about 10 or 12 miles of beach. Well, the first part that we were there we had to finish our barracks. We were the last boat in the Bering Sea because it started freezing over. The engineers went back on the boat except for 4 of them.

The first time that we were there, the first part of our stay there was finishing our barracks and we’d do some training and we dug some foxholes and machine gun placements on all four corners of the airport and then we did some snow training. We had to ski and walk on snowshoes and they’d make us sleep in a foxhole, dug out in the snow. We had it real good the first winter because we had our barracks nice and warm but then along came Dutch Harbor.

CB: When was that?

RCG: Dutch Harbor was bombed in June of 1942. When the Japanese attacked Dutch Harbor, word came over the radio down at the radio tower that the Japanese had attacked Dutch Harbor and they had a troop ship and its escorts headed north. The only place north would be Nome from down there at that time. So they thought they were coming to us. Why they would want Nome, I don’t know what they’d done with it, but anyway they did not show up. But then we had been living on high alert and we did from then forward. We had to move out of our nice barracks which was right on the airport and we had to let the Air Force have it because they started aircraft refueling up there. And we had to move out into the tundra and then we had to build Quonset huts, tin huts, there were 7 or 8 of us to each hut.in that winter of ’42.

In December we only had three or four hours of daylight. I have a picture of the sun coming up at 10:40 one morning. There was a little arc over the Bering Sea and setting at 1:40 in the afternoon. The long day in the summertime you could read a newspaper outside 24 hours a day and so being a bunch of old country boys we had to put roofing papers over our windows in the summertime just to sleep because we couldn’t sleep in the daylight.

So that second winter up there, we trained. Again, we did snow skiing, we did maneuvers and camped out and all this stuff and dug foxholes in the snow. But this time I had gone from being a squad leader to a section sergeant where I was in charge of two squads and then to platoon sergeant where I was in charge of all four squads and then I had an opportunity to go to OCS which is Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia. So I left up there in the middle or latter part of March 1943, I arrived in Texarkana, I think, on April 5th or 6th of 1943, me and another boy out of my platoon. All we had was our winter clothes, Army wools. We didn’t have anything else and by the time we got to Fort Benning, Georgia, it was three or four days before we got issued light-weight clothing and we were miserable. But on the way to Fort Benning, Dorothy and I were married on April 10th.

I graduated from Officer Candidate School and they sent me to Macon, Georgia to Camp Wheeler and I trained troops for a year. And then they sent me to Germany, but there’s an interesting thing I need to bring out about Tennessee maneuvers. As I said, our 153rd Infantry was the defensive people. And one night we had spent, my platoon and Dr. Camberlin, one of the other squad leaders, we were both corporals, my squad and his squad had charge of a crossroads down in the mountains of Tennessee and we had been fighting mosquitoes all night and we were tired and sweaty and we heard this terrible noise and we looked down the road at a big cloud of dust. We didn’t know what in the world it was. None of us had ever seen a tank.

The next thing we knew these tanks come into view and leading these tanks was an open vehicle with a guy standing up in it with two pearl-handled pistols twirling them. You know who I’m talking about, don’t ya? Colonel George Patton. Well, as they entered the intersection, we fired our machine guns which were made of blanks. There was an umpire there. He was a major and he stopped the whole column and he said, “Colonel, you’re out of action.” And I’m not going to use the word that Colonel Patton used because they were pretty naughty. That fellow got a good cussing, and the major finally said, “Now, Colonel, now wait a minute.” Patton told him, “You mean to tell me that these two little old, and I won’t use the term he said about our machine guns, these two little old machine guns knocked out my tanks.” He said, “No, sir, I didn’t say that but I’ll tell you this, they would have shot your rear end out of that vehicle. It’s you that I’m ruling out of action.”

So that was the very first in the history of U.S. military of combined infantry and armor. It was the very first. See, they had an armored division with them but that was their first together. That’s what they were experimenting with down there, integrating armor and infantry. This was Patton’s 2nd armor division that had come up from Fort Benning, Georgia, I believe. And headlines of the Chattanooga News the next day were, “Colonel Patton Captured.” And so we thought, man, would we like to see him. I bet his face was red because he was a very proud man.

I have two claims to fame—one is, I captured Colonel Patton ion 1941on Tennessee maneuvers, and the other one is, I took care of Winston Churchill for a day going to Europe.

CB: Tell us about going to Europe.

RCG: Well, actually we spent the year in training troops in Macon, Georgia. I started out as second lieutenant and later I was promoted to a first lieutenant and I was sent to Europe as a replacement officer. They sent me to Fort Mead, Maryland or somewhere and then we went to Camp Shanks, New York on our way and that’s when we boarded the Queen Mary, all 15,000 of us, replacement officers and enlisted men. And they assigned me 200 of them as MPs. I knew nothing about being an MP but anyway we got on at Pier 90. They made us all go below deck. Would not let us look out or anything for security reasons, they said.

Well, we took off from New York and after we got out of the harbor, off the coast of Newfoundland, I believe, we kind of slowed down and this launch came along side of us and our boat never stopped. The launch came alongside and that was Sir Winston Churchill and his whole general staff. They had been to the Ottawa Conference in Canada with Roosevelt and, I think, Stalin.

CB: This was ’43, wasn’t it?

RCG: This was 1944. It was 1943 after I finished OCS and Fort Benning, I was sent to Camp Wheeler, Georgia to train troops. This was in September of 1944. Well, they occupied one whole deck. There was 15,000 of us and they could only feed two meals a day and they had two men assigned to every bunk on the ship. And we as MPs had a terrible job of managing the food lines 24 hours a day, trying to make sure that people didn’t cut into the food line and they got to beating each other over the heads with mess kits and everything. It was a mess. But anyway we made it. We had a destroyer escort for one day out of New York and then we had a cruiser one day and then we had two days with no escort at all. And then the fifth day we had a British aircraft carrier. They ran a zig zag course. The Queen Mary was a fast ship. We went over in five days. It would change course every 8 or 9 minutes, zig zag, and they said the reason it did that it took a submarine about 10 minutes or so to zero in on a ship. A destroyer could only keep up with that speed for one day and a cruiser we had for one day.

And then it was that last day out that I was told to meet the prime minister in the captain’s part of the ship. I was and escort him around to different parts of the ship so he could talk to the troops. And then get them all assembled and he’d tell everybody what a horrible time Britain has had and we need to be on our good behavior, and I thought, “You old coot, I’m fixing to go over there and get shot at, too.” So anyway, it was real interesting.

We docked in the Firth of Clyde River off of Scotland. At that time the buzz bombs were still being fired from Antwerp into England. The Queen Mary had to dock out in the middle of the River and they unloaded us on barges. I remember we got off of that boat and were on a barge and there was a bow of a ship sitting right beside it that had been sunk by a buzz bomb. But the interesting thing was, I was ready to go after we got there. So Sir Winston and Mrs. Churchill and their staff wheeled down in whatever level the deck was that the barge was going to come on and the barge was waiting. It was raining and he had his overcoat and his top hat and his cigar in his mouth and Mrs. Churchill and I were holding his coat, trying to get him to put on his coat, and he, of course, was politicking and the old barge guy came on board and grabbed him by the arm and said, I’m not going to use the word, but anyway he said, “You get your rear end on this ship out here. I’m leaving.” I thought, “My goodness alive, this guy’s talking to the prime minister.” I found out later that those people didn’t like each other. You know, between Scotland and England, they had a bad history. Anyway, he didn’t care who he was. He said “I’m leaving.” Well, the last time I saw Sir Winston Churchill he still had only one arm in his overcoat because we never got the other one in yet because the old dock captain drug him on board. But it was funny.

CB: Did you talk with him very much?

RCG: I got to talk to him. It all started the night before. The officers were allowed to go to the theatre on the ship and they’d have a show. And this lieutenant and I, he was from Texas, so we kind of buddied up and we went in and we saw this one whole row roped off. At that point in time, we did not know that Sir Winston Churchill was on board that ship. So we saw this whole row lined out and we went in and sat down kind of in the middle on the second row. There was no smoking in there and we waited and the door opened and low and behold who comes out, Sir Winston Churchill and Mrs. Churchill and all the admirals and the general staff people came in. He sat down directly in front of me. She sat down directly in front of the boy from Texas. They turned around, they introduced themselves. So she chatted with us a little while and she said where are ya’ll from. The other looked down and he said, “I’m from Texas.” And I said, “I’m from Arkansas,” and she looked at me and she said, “Where is Arkansas?” Well, we were right next door neighbors to Texas. And then we visited. She was a very gracious lady. How she stuck with him I don’t know but he, he could be an ornery old cuss. It was tough to escort him around. You almost had to sort of lead him. But anyway it was fun.

They took us on a train, down short of London, put us in an old artillery place and mud and pup tents and we flirting around with mud there a few days and then they put on another train and took us through London at night and we ended up in South Hampton, England right at daylight. And we had to walk from the rail yard to the shipyards and I never saw so many bicycles in my life. People going to work on their bicycles. So we sat there on the dock all day because they didn’t want to cross the channel in daylight. They wanted to cross the channel at night, but at that time, they were still offloading troops on the Omaha Beach which is one of the D-Day beaches.

So they offloaded us, took us across at night. I had to crawl down that rope ladder with all my equipment on and that barge floating around out there and if you missed the barge, you’d get caught between the barge and the ship but I made it. And they took us onto the beach and we had to climb from the beach up a steep hill with all our stuff and I thought at the time how in the world did these guys get up there alive and I thought well, you know what, if there was somebody shooting at me, I’d probably move a lot faster than I’m moving right now.

CB: What day was this?

RCG: Golly, I don’t know. I had my 24th , September 23rd, on board the ship going over there so that had to be in late September. We were already across France at that time. Our armies were already through Paris but they took us in what you call a red ball express. It was driven by black drivers and they drove at night with no headlights. And they drove fast. I think I was more scared riding in the truck than I was anywhere else, but anyway they took us somewhere and put us off out in a field and we camped out again for a day or so and then they put us on a train and we went through Paris. We went through Paris at night. It was cold and you heard the World War I guys talk about 40 and 8. Well, that’s what we were in. They put about 40 of us in each one of those cars and we didn’t have mules but we had all of our equipment and if you moved one inch you lost it. That’s how crowded it was. And the cars had holes in them, cracks in the boards. So the train stopped in Paris. An American GI is a very industrious individual. Somebody saw an old beat up coal stove and they put that thing in the door of our car and they rustled a stove pipe and they got some coal and we had a nice fire going. We were just doing great and somehow it changed the direction of the train and it was blowing smoke. Our guys kicked it out the window but it did well for a while.

From there, I went over into Holland to Herlen, Holland.

Courtesy of R.C. Goodman

R.C. and Dorothy Goodman walk through downtown Hot Springs during the war.

CB: How do you spell that?

RCG: H E R L E N. Herlen, Holland. And there I stayed in an old tobacco warehouse. Our units had just liberated Herlen. They were just over into the edge of Germany and there would be an airplane come over every night and we called him Bedcheck Charlie. He’d come over every night and drop a bomb. We never knew where he was going to drop the bomb and the buzz bombs were still firing so we knew that those of us that were together at that point and time knew we’d be assigned to be the 29th division, the 30th , 84th, and 102nd…they were the four divisions in the 9th Army at that time and we were in the 9th Army sector.

So we heard a lot of bad stories about the 29th and 30th. They were on D-Day and so luckily I got assigned to the 102nd and the officer’s place I took was killed in the very first battle. The platoon that he had they’d been all two years together training. He must have been a remarkable officer because those guys were very loyal to him but when I joined my unit we didn’t have enough men left to fill a whole platoon. We just had enough men for two squads. The senior leader of the platoon was one of the section sergeants or corporal squad leader. His name was Deck and they had lost their platoon leader and they’d lost their platoon sergeant, they’d lost both section sergeants and Deck then was a corporal and they’d lost two other corporals. They were down, instead of 36 men, they were down to 17 or 18. That was their first battle, and they really took a lot of casualties. The lieutenant in charge was killed the very first day. That sort of made me feel a little funny.

Well, from there my baptism of fire was at Linnoch, Germany. We were trying to push to the Rohr River so we could head on towards the Rhine and on towards Berlin. As we took Linnoch, we were kind of digging in and getting settled and they were mobilizing a whole bunch of troops. I’ve never seen so many guns and tanks and stuff in my life as was lined up ready to cross the river. This was about the middle of December. And that’s when the Battle of the Bulge started.

Within 24 hours, all those troops were shifted down to the Battle of the Bulge and they left two divisions up there. They left ours, the 102nd, and the 84th. And the 102nd was responsible for 13 miles of that river. That’s a big long area for one division.

CB: Is that the Rhine?

RCG: That’s the Rohr. And had the Germans known that, they could have easily gone through us because our line was real thin. And they had a straight shot into Belgium. So they could have gone really fast but, thank goodness, we were spared that. But we stayed there in that area in a foxhole in the winter of 1944 up until February. It was the coldest winter in history, and snow everywhere. The ground was frozen and we’d have to take a little bit of TNT and blow a hole in the ground. We’d dig our foxholes out of that. We’d go into one of these little villages and get a door and put it on top of that in case of artillery bursts. So they made us dig defensive positions around every one of those little towns in that area because if they attacked it would be just a matter of withdrawal for us. We didn’t have enough troops to stop a major attack.

We were all ready to cross the Rohr River and the Germans blew the dam. It went from a little river about as wide as this house to, I think, it was a quarter of mile wide. In February they decided to go ahead. My platoon was attached to K Company, a rifle company. We were not in the assault group that crossed the river. We were in the reserve, but we crossed it right after daylight on a footbridge and that’s when we had a pretty rough time for a few days after we crossed that river because the Germans had top-notch strength at that point in time. After we crossed the river, secured our positions, and we prepared for some counterattacks.

CB: Where were you when you crossed the river?

We crossed at Rurdorf, just a few hundred yards from Linnoch. We moved over to a village but anyway that’s where we really caught it. We got all kinds of incoming German artillery fire and there was no place to hide. It was just big fields and we were trying to get to another village. So that’s where I lost half of my platoon and the rifle company suffered about the same amount of casualties. We were told the 29th Division was supposed to be on our right. We were the right flank of that section. The 29th and 30th were supposed to be to the right of us. The 29th Division was supposed to have crossed the river down from us and was supposed to swing north towards the city Munchen-Gladbach, which was the first big city that we were going to encounter.

Well, the 29th Division didn’t get across. They didn’t get all their people across and didn’t get their tanks across. We didn’t get our tanks across initially. We didn’t know until later that when we swung north, my platoon was the extreme right flank of the whole 102nd Division and there was nothing between us and the Germans. I had no protection on the flank; I had no protection in the front. I lost half of my platoon that day.

I came home with a guy from the 29th Division. He said when they finally came up later, they knocked out hundreds of artillery pieces that had been shooting at us, not just me but the whole division.. A sketch artist from Yank Magazine was with K Company and my platoon that day. His name was Howard Brodie, and he wrote a book entitled, “Drawing Fire,” which included that day and night.

At that time, we had all three regiments committed, I think, but anyway we went from there on to the Rhine River and we were there for a few days and we stayed in a beautiful city called Krefeld. And then when we got ready to cross, we crossed at Essen. I don’t know if it was up the river or down the river, whatever, but we crossed on a pontoon bridge and we were able to drive our vehicles across. After we crossed we saw this German airplane and we all unloaded real quick and hit the ditches and it came right over us. It didn’t have an engine, and I thought, wait a minute, what in the world is that? It was a jet.

CB: On the Rhine.

RCG: But we were able to escape that but what he did, he knocked out the pontoon bridge right behind us. That’s what he was after. He was after the bridge and he wasn’t interested in us I guess because he didn’t shoot at us. He came right over us. You could almost see his eyeballs. Anyway, we traveled pretty fast after that and ended up on the Elbe River about 50 miles from Berlin. We were up there a few nights and days. We were in foxholes on one side of the river but had to be careful because the Germans were shooting at us from across the river. We were shooting at them, of course. So one night one of my corporals called me said, “You need to come up here and see this.” We weren’t talking about a long distance, just a few yard. So I ran up there. I thought one of my men was hurt or something and he said, “Look at this.”We’d see this flash of a gun and no incoming shell. The Germans had stopped shooting at us and they were shooting at the Russians. We had a 50-yard line seat. We had I don’t know how many hundred thousands of prisoners soon afterwards.

CB: Oh, really? German prisoners.

RCG: German prisoners. There were some Polish prisoners also. Another interesting thing happened. We had orders to cross the Elbe the next day. We had our briefing and attack orders. They had already sent a patrol across the river and I guess it was about 10 or 11 at night they sent word to all the platoon leaders to report back to battalion headquarters, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. We got back and the colonel said, “Well, the war is over for us.” The chief said we were 40 miles into Russian territory and the Russians don’t want us going any further. So we’re going into occupational duty.

And so they started shifting us around in occupation duty headed toward Czechoslovakia and I had a lot of points because you get so many points for each month of service. You got so many points for each medal. You got so many points for overseas and so by that time I had 2 _ years overseas and you get a point and a half for each month that you’re overseas plus all the stateside months of service. I had been awarded the Purple Heart. You got 5 points for a Purple Heart, you got 5 points for this, that, and the other, enough to come home later.

In April we arrived up there on the Elbe River and we were withdrawing. On May 8, they called me and said, “You’re going to Liege, Belgium with a load of displaced people. At this time, we had all these displaced people in Holland, Belgium, and France and we managed to get some of the railroads going. Had one bridge across the Rhine River and they assigned one officer and a noncommissioned officer to each train. I chose a corporal of mine who had been speaking a little bit of their language and we headed out for Liege, Belgium. We had 30 minutes to get ready to go. We had no orders, nothing. We were able to carry weapons and we were able to stuff a couple of rations in our bag and that’s about it.

During the trip, I rode up in the engine a little while. The engineer was a fireman on the Kansas City Southern Railroad from Sallisaw, Oklahoma. He was mad as a hornet because he had just come in from Belgium. They always had big delays across the Rhine. They had one bridge and he was mad because they only had about 4 hours sleep. I stayed up there in the engine with him for a while and I’d ride back in the caboose a lot. Well, this particular day, May 8th, I was back and they had a cot. In fact, they had a brakeman and a fireman on each engine. They had 4 cots for the engineer and fireman, brakeman, and conductor. When they had a chance to sleep, that’s where they’d sleep.

I was just sitting there by a wide open door watching things go by and I stood up for some reason. We had a mirror on the wall. I stood him and combed my hair a little bit because I was in the wind and all of a sudden there was this terrible bang. My head went into the mirror and we had run into the rear of another train. And the other train in front of us was just buckled like this and it was horrible. And it was loaded with French prisoners of war. These guys had survived the war, they survived captivity, and a bunch of them were killed. It happened right across the open field was a little hospital and all I had was a first aid kit and that was it. I think that’s one of the things that propelled me into medicine. I felt so helpless. On our train there weren’t too many that got hurt. But the only brakes they had on those trains were on the engines and these cars had no brakes.

He rounded this curve and that other train was stopped to get water and he didn’t have time to stop. He and the fireman both bailed out of the engine before it hit so they were lucky. I don’t know how long it took to get things straightened out because it was a mess for several hours but we finally went on to Liege, Belgium. Well, there we were with no orders, no way to get back to our unit. I ran into a guy with a military vehicle and I told him what the story was. He said, “Well, they have a place downtown. Let me take you down there. Maybe they could put you up and at least give you a meal or something.” That was a place where they used for R & R, recreation and stuff. In the war, I never saw a canteen-like thing and they had some barracks in a bunk center. And I went in to a first sergeant in there, identified myself, and I told him what had happened. We have no orders. We don’t even know how we are going to get back to our unit. He said, “Tell you what I’ll do. You leave your guns here with me and I’ll let you have three days and three nights here and we’ll feed you in the kitchen.” So I got to spend those three days in Liege, Belgium.

But a few days before that, it was really interesting. At this time things were rather quiet for us and some of us were staying in this beautiful little house with an elderly man and woman. And we did not want to occupy their whole house so they had a couple of beds or so down in the basement. They hated Hitler for the kidnapping of their beautiful daughter to populate the super race.

In Alaska, there was Joey Brown, we had Bob Hope and Francis Lankford came over.

CB: Oh, really?

RCG: We had Joey Brown, also.

CB: Now, this was a USO troop?

RCG: That was when I was in Alaska, the winter of ’42. That’s when we still had our barracks and we had Jerry Colonna, but by the time Jerry Colonna came up there, we were already out on the tundra. Also an interesting thing was Mickey Rooney. This was before we crossed the Rhur River during the Bulge time and we were still in artillery range in Germany and the Germans would shoot at these crossroads and everything. Periodically. We never knew when they were going to shoot. This jeep pulled up and this guy got out with a guitar and a driver. We were all in the cellars We had been pulled out of line. We were back in this small village for rest and relaxation and there were 15 or 20 of us went out there to see who this was in the Jeep. He played a song or two and he said, “Well, where is everybody?” I said, “Mr. Rooney, let me tell you something. The rest of them have got more sense than those of us here. The Germans shoot at that intersection there all the time. We never know when they’re going to shoot.” He got into the jeep and took off fast. Somehow, I don’t know how he got that far out there but he was in artillery range and didn’t know it.

CB: What kind of uniforms did you have in Alaska?

RCG: Well, the parkas were made out of muskrat, long parkas, very expensive. Funny thing was they told us if you lose one of these, it’s going to cost you $118. And, lord of mercy, at that time I was a $54 corporal a month. Boy, that’s going to take a long time to pay for that thing. In Nome that first winter on Saturday night we’d go to town to a Tom Collins bar. Well, some would get to drinking a little bit and they’d hang their coats on the wall. But I tell you this, when they came back out to the base, everybody had a parka. They spent all day Sunday trying to find their size. We had one guy, 6’6” you know, and some little old guy about my height got his and it was dragging the ground and they’d spend all day Sunday trying to find it because they were going to get the right parkas because they didn’t want that $118 charged to them. We had good equipment up there. We were warm. But it got to 50 below 0 one night and they made us sleep in a hole in the snow like a fox hole and sleep in that thing in 50 below 0 weather but we had a sleeping bag that had three layers that they were experimenting with that was supposed to protect you up to 75 degrees below 0.

CB: Did you stay warm in Alaska?

RCG: Nearly froze the first night I slept in a snow foxhole. I was with Dr. Chamberlain who was my partner here for a while. He was in anesthesia too. You might remember him. He said, “Well, did you take your clothes off?” I said, “How you going to get your clothes off in that sleeping bag?” And he said, “Well, if you took your clothes off and slept naked you would have slept warm because the heat of your body got to all parts of the bag and with your clothes on, every time you moved you had a cold place. So I squirmed around the next night and got my clothes off and slept warm but it was tough trying to get them back on in a sleeping bag when you put your clothes down at the foot. But it was interesting. I had an interesting military career. It covered a lot of different angles. I guess I’m lucky. I had some close calls but I told Dorothy before I left I’m not going to be a hero. I’m coming home. I’m not going to be a coward, but I’m not going to be a hero. I’m not volunteering for anything. I’m not a medal seeker so anyway I wasn’t a coward. I was scared. Everybody was scared.

CB: Everyone was scared.

RCG: Everybody in a foxhole. There was a lot of prayer went on in a foxhole, I’ll tell you for sure. There wasn’t any atheist in a foxhole. I got covered up in one and that’s the reason I got these hearing aids. The shell hit the edge of the foxhole and buried one of my sergeants and me up to our waists and we were using German foxholes at that time. We dug straight foxholes. They dug an angled foxhole and it hit over here. I was just out there in that field checking on my men. I guess this guy saw me from across the river saw me going into the hole and a machine gun out in front of it and one shell landed short of us and one shell landed behind us and in artillery that’s what you try to do—you try to fire a short round and a long round and you split the difference. I told Ogle, I said, “Ogle, he’s got us zeroed in.” And this thing went off, we were covered up with dirt. The machine gun is scattered, broke everywhere. I said, “you don’t move and I don’t move till dark because he’s got us zeroed in and if he sees one of us move he’s going to shoot us again.” We stayed in there covered up to our waists until after dark. We were afraid to move.

CB: I bet.

RCG: My ears have rung ever since. But anyway I had some close calls but I survived.

CB: I’d like to borrow that picture of you in uniform on your honeymoon and scan that.

RCG: This one?

CB: Yeah, that’s really cute.

JW: You want to scan for a minute?

CB: Yeah, I can do that or we can just borrow it and bring it back to him then you won’t have to bring all that stuff in.

RCG: There I’m standing outside of my momma and daddy’s house that they lived in Ogden with daddy’s old dog. This was in Hot Springs and this was our honeymoon.

CB: Well, the other side of that page has some in Alaska, doesn’t it? Turn this page over.

RCG: That’s me and my mother. That’s me as a little boy and my daddy. There’s me on the football team at Magnolia A & M. Let’s see, where I am there. There I am in 1940.

CB: And here you are in Alaska.

RCG: No, in 1940, I was in Magnolia a month after football season was when they mobilized. That’s Joey Brown and me and one of my platoon. And this is me and Dr. Chamberlain and two other guys there. That was how those Eskimos fished. That’s in the Bering Sea. See that little fish that they use to fish sticks? That’s the way they feed their dogs. I asked the lady to let me do that. I don’t know how I caught that fish. Don’t know where she got this label. I don’t know what it is.

CB: Well, why don’t you just slip that page out right there and let me borrow it and I’ll bring it right back to you.

RCG: That will be fine.

CB: That way we won’t have to…

RCG: This page here?

CB: Yeah, so I can get the ones of you in Alaska and the one on your honeymoon. That’s good.

RCG: Now, there’s another one here. That’s me and my daddy and his old dog. When was this? 1945. That’s all of it.

CB: This is good. This will do.

RCG: Definitely those two things back, I’d appreciate it.

CB: And there’s my card. Did you want to give us a little bit of your opinion about what’s happening now.

RCG: What’s happening?

JW: Let’s fire this thing up. I have one question too after she gets done.

CB: I want to know what you think about the way the war is going.

RCG: Now?

CB: Now. What do you think about the situation?

RCG: I think that we didn’t learn a lesson. We learned going across Europe, we didn’t leave military behind us. You can’t leave an enemy behind where there’s weapons and everything and plus the fact we had a military government ready to take over. In fact, while we were in occupation duty for a while, I was called mayor of four towns, four other cities I had to visit every day and sign their passes that they wanted to visit a family here because they were restricted to their towns. But the main thing that I think is wrong. We should have three times as many troops over there as we had so we could have stopped all that looting and stuff. We just didn’t send enough people to begin with plus the fact I had two sons in the Gulf War I. One of them, middle guy over here, in a helicopter he had 12 helicopters. He was a Medi-Vac helicopter pilot. He was with the 1st Armored Calvary outfit out of Germany that was the first troops across the border. He has been adamantly against it. He told me when he came home, “Dad,” he said, “ten years, we’ll be back.” Well, he missed it by two, it was 12. And he has been adamantly against it. He said it’s a mistake to go over there with just 115-120 thousand troops. He said they just don’t understand those people. I think we have to support our troops. I tell you what they’d do is get enough people over there to try to control it. How you going to control these different, these rules out there. They’re on your side one day and somebody else comes along with enough money, they’re the enemy the next and all that kind of stuff. I think we’ve misjudged what we’re getting into. As far as the military part of it is concerned, they did their job. But what the government didn’t do was have a backup bunch of folks in there to keep control of these towns as they went through them. There’s an old saying “You cannot run a war with air power. You’ve got to have troops on the ground.” Well, we would bombard towns and you’d wonder how could anybody be alive? The air power is very important, but you’ve got to have troops on the ground to occupy the territory.

CB: You’re dealing with people.

RCG: You can’t do it with artillery and air power alone. You’ve got to have infantry in there. The National Guard that I was in here is there,this artillery unit that’s over there, is just 1st battalion was just fixing to go over there now. Up north, our local guys in the unit I was in, they had already been over there. Here they got guns that can shoot multiple rockets. They made MPs out of them mostly. There was no use for their artillery. I just feel sorry for these kids.

But if you stop to think about it, the casualties we’ve had in the three years, we had more more in Omaha Beach in one day but just one casualty if it happens to be your son or your daughter is one too many.

CB: It’s too much.

JW: My question is I don’t know, Carole may have had this happen to her when doing audio interviews but this is the first, you’re the first person since I got involved that was in the service when Pearl Harbor occurred.

RCG: Yeah, I was out, we have already been in Nome, Alaska. We got up there first part of September and, of course, Pearl Harbor was December 7. We were, I tell folks, I say, “You know if they’d attacked Nome, Alaska that day, it’s been me and two other guys in my barracks who’d have got it. All the rest of them were in town. I was on guard duty and I couldn’t go. We heard about it on, we had one of these little shortwave things. We could pick up some ballroom in Los Angeles or San Francisco or somewhere down there. On Saturday night we could pick it up, somebody would pick it up on that. I don’t know what time it would have been in Nome when all that happened. I don’t remember the time zone up there. Nome was only about 20 miles from Siberia. In the wintertime, you could walk to Siberia from up there across the ice. The Bering Sea was completely frozen over in the wintertime. The last ships that go up there in the late part of September, we were the last one that they were going to let up there in 1944.

CB: Well, did it cause some kind of panic up there when you heard the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor? Did you expect them to hit you in Alaska?

RCG: Well, we were far away. We didn’t really couldn’t, see, our news was fairly scarce. We didn’t have daily news. We would get a little daily teletype message, teletype message of what was going on. So we really didn’t know the extent of it for several days the best I recall. Sometimes it would be three weeks before we’d get our mail. I’d get a whole stack of letters from Dorothy all at one time. We never knew when the mail plane was going to get up there in the wintertime, because he’d get stuck down in Alaska, just froze in some other town down there and he couldn’t leave. One interesting thing before and after Pearl Harbor and everything after we were trying to help the Russians against the Germans, they ferried an A20 aircraft and a P51. I saw one of those P51s out here at the air show the other day. They ferried them from Fairbanks and they’d stop in Nome and refuel and on over to Siberia. That’s how Russia turned the tide in that war was because we sent a lot of airplanes and they stopped in Nome but the Russians had a detachment across the airport and we never saw them. We just heard they had a lady colonel over there running it and there wasn’t any other women up there but a few Eskimos. Anyway, we heard they had a Russian colonel who was a woman running and handling the refueling and all that stuff. They crashed a few of them because it was wintertime and the snow was kind of hard to tell where the runway was even though the snowplows kept it clean. When I left up there, my hut on the snow was so deep we could just see the ridgeline of our huts. You say well, how’d you’d get the door open. Well, we had a storm port at each end and then we’d tunnel us a hole out through these. You just have to make do with what you got but it was not bad up there at all. I kind of enjoyed my service up there.
JW: Well, could you tell us on the camera about the day you got the shrapnel in your cheek?

RCG: Got what?

JW: Did you tell us the day…

RCG: Well, that was the day we were talking about that Howard Brodie was with us.

JW: Yeah, but you didn’t tell us on the camera about that day.

RCG: Well, yeah, what I was saying, we jumped off, we had an objective, we had three objectives. The first objective was hold the Germans but not the families and they’d have a big courtyard and their animals, their village was two stories. They’d live upstairs and the animals stayed downstairs and then they would go out from there in kind of pods and do their farming. That was our first objective and we didn’t get very far until we started drawing artillery fire. And then we had no place to hide and we’d just been all annihilated if we’d just laid down. We took off as fast as we could and that’s when we got into the mine field. We didn’t know anything about the mine field. We had not been told about a mine field out there and we got in it. We lost some people in it. I lost some people in it and you think you didn’t step lightly. Golly, you’re afraid to take another step you were so scared. There was no cover for us from the artillery and that’s when we finally got to this enclave and got into this shed with the animals in there. As I said, there was a big old hog. I remember he was in there. The Germans was shooting. Well, we got caught in a bad spot. The Germans were shooting at us from one direction. By this time, some of our tanks had got across the river and they were shooting at the village from the other direction. We were drawing fire from our own people and finally they got a hole in the roof and somebody had a flare and we had different colored flares to send up for friendly or what, you know. Somebody got that flare that we shot through the roof after we got a hole big enough knocked out of it and, of course, that took care of our tanks. They quit shooting at us.

JW: Well, let me clear something up. The hog you got under, was he dead or alive?

RCG: He was alive. He was a big old hog.

JW: There was some cattle in there?

RCG: Yes, we’d get under the hogs and cattle. We figured shrapnel would have to go through a whole lot of meat before it got to us. You’d get underneath anything you could when the roof of your building was falling in.

JW: I’m just surprised the hog cooperated.

RCG: What?

JW: I’m just surprised the hog cooperated.

RCG: Well, he didn’t have much choice. There was more than me in there with him. There wasn’t much room. There wasn’t much room for him to maneuver, but I don’t know how he did it but there was cattle. And I’m sure they saved a lot of our lives, too, because they were blasting and the way those roofs were made out of slate type stuff. It wasn’t shingles like these and boy that stuff would rattle down on you just like rocks. The Germans was getting us one way and our own tanks the other. It was a bad situation.

Courtesy of R.C. Goodman

An unidentified soldier, left, and R.C. Goodman, right, visit with actor Joe E. Lewis during their World War II service in the U.S. Army.

CB: And that’s when you got the shrapnel in your cheek?

RCG: Just before we got there.

CB: Outside?

RCG: It wasn’t bad. It was just a little puncture wound and a piece of metal stuck in my jawbone and a corpsman brought it out and put a little Sulphur in it and

Courtesy of R.C. Goodman

Barracks in Nome, Alaska where Goodman was stationed early in the war.

Courtesy of R.C. Goodman

R.C. Goodman sits atop a captured German Panzer tank while serving in the European theater of World War II.

then…but when Brodie describes in his article about the lieutenant with the bloody face, that was me and so I got that article. It was in Yank magazine. Dorothy sent me a copy of it but she didn’t know her husband was the lieutenant who had the bloody face. I got home and I said that was me. Anyway, they wrote it when they were with K Company and I was with K Company. We were on the extreme right flank. The American soldier is an interesting individual. He talks about a PFC in the article. The battle, you know, two or three weeks, maybe 8 weeks prior to that when we were moving up to the Ruel River or somewhere along in there, the Germans counterattacked with their panzer tanks and they were sitting off and firing directly into our foxholes and this is prior to the first clash. The German, in order to see, he can only depress his muzzle so far and he has a blind spot. If you can get around him, he can’t shoot you and the commander of that tank made the mistake of not latching his hatch and this kid ran out there and it was nighttime, in the dark, climbed upon that thing, opened the hatch, threw a white phosphorus grenade down in there, closed the lid and sat on it until it went off. No telling how many people he saved.

Well, we knew about this and he had gotten the Silver Star. So I thought I saw him and I thought well I think I’m going to stay close to him. The next thing I knew he was pop, pop, pop. I said “What are you shooting at?” He said “There’s a German over there.” And I said I didn’t see anybody and the next thing we know up goes some hands and the Germans surrendered. About that time, the artillery comes in. He was something else and I believe he was a Mexican boy from Texas because…

JW: He had some good eyes.

RCG: He just kind of smelled them out, but he kept them penned down until we got close enough to capture them. Right after that when they saw the Germans, you know, they’d shoot at their own people, they’d start surrendering and I think they were trying to shoot as many as their own as us. But they were, the interesting thing about the German artillery, they went by coordinates on the map. They would fire at a coordinate. They didn’t have observe fire like we did. But we had an observer. Some of them had little air planes that direct artillery fire. We had a forward observer and we happened to go through that particular coordinate that that group of 88s was zeroed in on because there was a guy to the left that I came home with, a fellow with a regiment on the left. He said you know you guys could have gone around that artillery barrage because they could see it over there and they were right on us and we didn’t have time to go around it. We were already in the middle of it. Well, the German prisoners told us that we don’t fear you. All we fear is your artillery. But the infantry, we don’t fear you. We fear your artillery. It’s vicious and I know because our artillery got on us and the first guy they hit on the first barrage they got our radio operator and our forward observer and they were shooting. They missed the target and we were on the receiving end and I’m telling you I can understand what the Germans felt. That was vicious. We’d like to have never, never got that stopped. Anyway, I don’t know how we did it. It’s been so long ago. All I know I could sympathize with that German when he said we don’t fear you, we fear your artillery. German 88 is the best artillery weapon that’s ever been produced and why NATO didn’t adopt that weapon, it’s beyond me. They could shoot antiaircraft, they could shoot like a howitzer over a hill, they could fire it like a rifle, and it was one vicious weapon. And NATO adopted some other weapon. Why they didn’t adopt the German 88 is beyond me. I wouldn’t want to be looking down the barrel of an 88.

JW: If you were president you think having been in a war and seen the death and destruction and whole cities knocked down you think that would probably make you try everything before you resorted to war again?

RCG: Yes, but you know the old saying is if our presidents and prime ministers and everything would have to fight the war, we’d never have a war. Have you noticed over there right now we’re having 45- and 48-year-old guys fighting that war? Also, 18-, 19-, 20-year-old old kids. This war we’ve got all these guys that in the Guard and the Reserve and mobilize them and sent over there. It’s a different story, but to see that country, Germany, right now and to see it like it was in 1945, you don’t even recognize it. We went throughout there in July 2005 and I saw very modern cities. When you get closer over to the eastern side towards Berlin, you can see a lot of buildings still with shell marks around them. But the west that the British and the Americans and the French had, those people are all rebuilding modern buildings and everything and those towns were just flattened. I went through France to a little town of St. Lo in 1988. I went through there two or three months into the war and there was one thing standing...that was a smokestack in that whole city. Back in the 70s or 80s I guess we had two sons that were in the military and they were stationed in Germany for a while and Dorothy and I visited them. We went on a tour down to the beaches and went through St. Lo. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a sign on entering a beautiful, modern city. The last time I saw it in 1945 there wasn’t anything but a smokestack standing and that was it. It’s beautiful country, but it’s sure destructive. Why do we want to destroy things like that? I could never understand it.

CB: Well, I think we’ve just had enough of your time.

Edited by Carole Barger
Fort Smith Historical Society
May 23, 2007