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Tue, May 06, 2014

Gone West: US Army Air Corps Pilot James Goodson

Had Been Aboard The Ocean Liner Athenia When It Was Sunk By The Germans

One of the United State's top aces from WWII passed away May 1 at the age of 93.

James Goodson was pulled into the conflict by an actual act of war. Having traveled to Europe aboard an ocean liner in 1939 working as a pantry boy, he was returning to the United States aboard the ocean liner Athenia after hearing a warning from then-Ambassador to England Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. that all expatriate Americans should leave as the clouds of war gathered.

The Athenia was sunk by the Germans off the coast of Scotland on September 3, 1939. Goodson was aboard at the time.

The Washington Post reports that Goodson decided then and there to do his "bit to stamp out Nazism." He later became a triple ace in the European Theater with 15 aerial kills to his credit, and destroying another 15 airplanes on the ground during strafing runs.

Roy Heidicker, Air Force Historian, said his exploits during the war earned Goodson the nickname "King of the Strafers."

Goodson had been among the first U.S. volunteers to enlist in Britain's Royal Air Force, having been born in the U.S. but raised in Toronto by his British parents. His "Eagle" squadron was absorbed into the U.S. Army Air Forces 4th Fighter Group in 1942.

He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions as a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot flying bomber escort. He had been shot down and captured while flying a strafing mission over a German airfield in a P-51, and recounted a story that his ability to blow smoke rings while smoking a Cuban cigar prior to being shot saved his life. The smoke led to a conversation with one of his captors about their mutual interest in cigars, and he was sent to a prisoner of war camp rather than being killed on the spot.

Goodson was held in prisoner of war camps for the remainder of the war, and later became an executive with Goodyear. His honors included a Silver Star, multiple Distinguished Flying Cross medals, and a Purple Heart.

His Memoir "Tumult in the Clouds" was published in 1983.

(Image of James Goodson, circa 1942-1945, is courtesy of veterantributes.org)

FMI: www.army.mil/aviation/airforces/

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