Editor’s Note: This story is part of an occasional series that honors the service of local veterans.
Bodies were still floating in the ocean off the coast of Normandy when a steel transport boat carrying 20 U.S. Army soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division hit an iron post June 7, 1944.
German soldiers who survived the D-Day invasion the day before began firing on the incoming troops. “Get off the boat!” the captain yelled.
Pfc. Richard Good took in a deep breath as he leapt over the side with his M1 rifle, five clips of ammo, a rain coat and a canteen of water. The 19-year-old sank to the bottom.
Between each wave, he jumped up, gasping for air before going back under, struggling to make it to shore.
From trees in the distance, German snipers honed in on their targets.
On a beach thousands of miles away on Majuro
Island in the Pacific, Richard’s twin brother Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Good was working as a torpedo plane mechanic, fixing single-engine TBF Avengers and periodically filling in as a gunner on submarine hunting missions with the 4th Marine Air Wing.
His living conditions were primitive: The Shenandoah resident slept in a tent and showered with a huge jug of water. Though the island was secured, servicemen still acted as if it were hostile. The Japanese enemy could pop up at anytime; so no lights at night, no showers during the day.
Back in Europe, Richard broke through the beach defenses and linked up with Patton’s Army outside Carentan.
“When we first ... walked off, Patton told all of us to stay close to the tanks,” Richard said.
As they moved toward the city, U.S. planes began dropping bombs. But the smoke drifted above the approaching forces and, pretty soon, bombs were landing on friendly positions.
“We had four people covered in dirt with arms broken, legs broken,” Richard said.
“That was a hell of mess. It’s something you will never forget; to have someone get blown up in front of you or beside you. The platoon we went up there with had 20 something people and two of us came out. The rest got killed.”
In the Pacific, Robert was transferred to a Curtiss R5C commando transport plane on Tinian Island, where he was promoted to crew chief. The sergeant’s new mission was to transport personnel to wherever they needed to go; even if the runway was just a dirt road.
One such island was Rabaul. At one end of the runway was a mountain, and on the other, the ocean.
The pilot held the breaks as he revved up the engines. Then, he released the brakes. The plane shot off like a bullet toward the water. The pilot pulled all the way back on the controls to get the plane off the ground.
“We were lucky to get the thing up to be honest with you,” Robert said. “[Flying] was spooky. You were so nervous you weren’t worried about the heat or the noise … I didn’t get too much flight time in, thank goodness.”
Unbeknownst to Robert, his brother had been wounded in France. While fighting in the Hedge groves at Mortain, Richard and his battle buddy were hit with shrapnel while guarding the flanks.
“A shell hit the tree over there and came down,” Richard said. “First thing I knew, [my buddy] was lying on his back and he was bleeding and his lungs were coming out. I wrapped him up in a rain coat and carried him to the ambulance. That’s when I realized I got wounded myself on my back and on my arm and on my hip.”
Richard went one way, and, since his wounds were more severe, his buddy went the other.
“I never did know what happened to him,” he said.
Richard spent three weeks in a hospital. That’s where he met a captain from Richmond.
Richard asked him, “don’t you need someone back here to drive?”
“Not yet” the captain replied. “But hang around a little while before you go back up front.”
Two days later, the call for ammunition on the front came down. Both of the captain’s drivers had been injured and couldn’t drive.
“He asked me [if I] could I drive a jeep. I said ‘I can drive any damn thing you got, Captain.’ I drove that jeep for 18,000 miles, most of the time with the top down,” Richard said. “I still got the trip ticket.”
On the way to join the Army in Italy, Richard happened upon one of the most disturbing scenes of his service, one that still haunts the 87-year-old today.
The service unit he was attached to helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp.
“It’s hard to tell you how it was,” Richard said. “When we first got there, some of them, when we opened the gate, they got out and there was a dead horse across the street.”
Some of the prisoners were so hungry, they attacked the dead horse flesh.
The incident was just a precursor to what he saw next.
“We went [into Dachau] … they had a trench about 40 feet wide and maybe 200 feet long filled with dead bodies: naked women, children, men …
“I went into one of the sheds they had that they slept in and they had a box about three foot square and a foot deep, and the only thing in there was teeth they had knocked out of people’s mouths when they shot ’em. I tell you it was terrible. I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
The people who weren’t killed were malnourished to the point they couldn’t walk, Richard said.
“They were lying down or sitting down, they didn’t have the strength to get up,” recalled Richard. “[The Germans] had a bunch of women they marched into the showers, and they said they were going to shower and clean them up. They turned the gas on and killed every damn one of ’em. … You never forget it. I will never forget as long as I live.”
To be continued in next week’s issue …
Contact Timothy Schumacher at (540) 574-6265 or email@example.com.