News: Vermont veteran remembers World War II
Story by Staff Sgt. Sarah Mattison
WILLIAMSTOWN, Vt. - Glen Goodall was only 24 years old when he sailed into the Pacific as a Vermont National Guardsman aboard the USS President Coolidge in 1942. He served as a supply sergeant with the 172nd Infantry Regiment, 43rd Division, otherwise known as the “Redwings.”
On Oct. 6, 1942, Goodall’s division set sail from Fort Ord, Calif., aboard the USS Coolidge. The soldiers ate two meals a day, while keeping track of their barracks bags and rifles. After about 10 days, they ended up in New Caledonia and parked in the harbor for a few more days.
“Our first sights of combat we saw from our ship,” Goodall recalled. “We saw another ship moored with a big hole straight through it and I thought, well that’s not good.”
The USS Coolidge set out again, arriving three days later at the New Hebrides Islands in the south Pacific on Oct. 26, 1942.
“We pulled into the harbor and were just about to land when all of a sudden, Errummp! Then Errummp! We had hit our own mines, two of them,” Goodall said.
There were 5,000 men aboard when it hit the mines. An announcement was broadcast to everyone that they were going to abandon ship. The men were told to leave their baggage and rifles on their bunks; that they would return the following day to get them.
“We went over the ship on rope ladders. The funny thing, when we were at Fort Ord, they put everyone through a two-day course on using rope ladders. This doesn’t sound like much, except you have to climb down it a certain way, otherwise it won’t balance and it’s a mess. Well, because of that little training that we got there, we knew how to go over the side of the ship,” Goodall said.
“There were some boats there, but a lot of people swam to shore. I remember we were close to shore. I was in a boat and when I climbed out into the water, it was up to my knees and oil was everywhere. Maybe 30 minutes to an hour later, the ship just keeled over and disappeared.”
Goodall and the rest of the division were stranded on the island for a few months waiting for another U.S. ship to bring them supplies.
“We didn’t have a toothbrush. We didn’t have a tent. We didn’t have anything,” Goodall recalled. “People on the island gave us what tents they could and we lived that way for several months. My job was to get supplies wherever I could get them, thank God for the Seabees and all the other people on the island.”
“So the training continued,” Goodall said, “because in the Army you either train to fight or you fight.”
Once supplies arrived, they traveled onto Guadalcanal, where the 172nd was originally supposed to relieve the Marines before the Coolidge sank.
In May 1943, they were given orders to invade the New Georgia group of islands. On June 30, the 172nd landed on Rendova, helping to capture it in only three days. Then they began island hopping: fighting first on Munda and then on to Arundel. Finally, after one of the bloodiest battles of the New Georgia Campaign, the Japanese were forced to evacuate the island and the U.S. forces took control.
After the New Georgia battles, the 172nd was awarded a resting period and was sent to New Zealand. There, they continued to train and perform maneuvers, but were also given time to relax and visit the sights. Goodall on the other hand, came down with malaria and ended up spending some time in the hospital.
In July 1943, the 172nd left New Zealand and headed to New Guinea to help maintain control of an airfield that had been occupied by U.S. troops since April. At the end of December, they were given orders to head to the Philippines. As part of the Luzon Campaign, fighting ensued for 175 days in the Philippines, with one of the toughest battles being the capture of Ipo Dam.
“We landed and our primary goal was to capture and take Ipo Dam because it was a major water supply for the Philippines,” stated Goodall. “We had a lot of combat there; we lost 1,000 men and a lot of people were hurt.”
“Then we (U.S.) dropped the atomic bombs. They came out with new orders, and we were sent into Japan as occupational forces,” Goodall said.
Goodall’s stay in Japan was a short one. Only there a few weeks, he was notified that he had enough points and was headed home.
On Oct. 6, 1945, three years to the day they set sail, the 172nd arrived back at Fort Ord, Calif.
“When we got in, everybody was running for a phone. They had these huge rooms loaded with phone booths and you’d go in and place your call,” Goodall said.
Goodall went in and tried to call his wife, Esther. The operator told him that the lines were all busy, but that if he would sit and wait, he would call Goodall back when the lines cleared. Goodall sat all through the night, waiting to talk to his wife.
“We finally got to talk to each other for the first time in three years,” Goodall said with a little chuckle and a smile.
While overseas, Goodall was able to write to Esther almost every day. At first, the mail service was not very good, but it eventually got to where it was only taking five to six days to receive letters. Ed Henry, the local postmaster in Montpelier, Vt., would call and let Esther know when a letter had come in from her husband. He would personally deliver the mail to her on his way home, even on Sundays.
Goodall traveled from Fort Ord, Calif., to Fort Devens, Mass., where he was out-processed and discharged from service. He went home to Montpelier, Vt., where he and his wife bought a home and raised their two children.
This past June, Goodall’s son-in-law, Skip Lightsey, took him to Washington, D.C. There, Goodall had the opportunity to visit the World War II Memorial and meet up with long-time, family friend, Sen. Patrick Leahy.
“Glen Goodall has long been a friend of our family, and it was a special treat and a great honor to welcome him and his son-in-law, Skip, to the capitol for Glen’s first visit. Glen’s visit buoyed everyone who met him that day. It was a day I’ll never forget. We all are so proud of, and grateful for, what he and the Greatest Generation have done for our country. The departing tribute to Glen that was organized by the city of Montpelier as he began his trip to Washington was also so fitting and memorable,” said Leahy.
Glen Goodall and his wife, Esther, currently reside in Williamstown, Vt. They were married on Dec. 25, 1941, and are getting ready to celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary.