Death of a Prolific WWII Pilot

James Goodson, WWII pilot, joined the military very early in the war. He had a desire for travel, and had been on one of the first ships ever attacked by a German U-boat. The incident helped spur him toward the war effort. After witnessing the deaths of many innocent civilians, some of them young children, Goodson decided it was time to fight the good fight. The WWII pilot is now dead, having lived to the age of 93.

The ship on which he was attacked was called the Athenia, and he helped keep the casualties to a minimum. Witnessing this attack in the year of 1939, Goodson saw the dark side of the war long before Americans who were detached from the conflict until the attack at Pearl Harbor. Even before becoming a WWII pilot, Goodson demonstrated bravery aboard the Athenia by wading through bodies to search for survivors. He immediately felt the cause of the Allies. He joined the Royal Air Force of Britain, where he did not take long to establish himself as an ace.

Goodson went on to record at least thirty kills, fifteen against airborne enemies as well as fifteen strafe kills against grounded forces. He began as a member of an Eagle squadron, which was known for consisting of American volunteers. His squad was eventually swallowed by the 4th Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces, where the WWII pilot became much more notable. By the time he was done with his career, he had eradicated over one thousand aircraft in all (not all of them being manned).

He was given a Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts, a medal second only to the Medal of Honor. The Cross was given to him after he managed to keep American bombers safe from a large number of German aircraft. The WWII pilot was actually shot down late in his career and was nearly killed by German captors. In a rare negotiation, Goodson haggled for his life by teaching an enemy soldier how to blow smoke rings with a Cuban cigar, The Washington Post reports.

Upon retirement, the WWII pilot put his memories down in writing with a book entitled Tumult in the Clouds. Living a long and fruitful life with one son and three grandchildren, Goodson lived and died in Massachusetts. After living a daring life in the skies, the WWII pilot succumbed to pneumonia on the first of May. His exploits were so well known that in life, even when imprisoned, he was praised even by the enemy.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE