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Interview with Sherwin Goodman [May 7, 2003]

Thomas Swope:

Where were you living in 1941?

Sherwin Goodman:

I was in Charleston, West Virginia. I was still in high school.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh (affirmative response).

Sherwin Goodman:

And on December 7th, I was in the 12th grade and very excited about the whole thing.

Thomas Swope:

Do you have memories of that day, of December 7th?

Sherwin Goodman:

Oh, absolutely. It was my birthday.

Thomas Swope:

Really?

Sherwin Goodman:

Yeah. I was 17 on that day, and we had a birthday party that evening. In the afternoon, I was at a meeting of a fraternal organization in a hall downtown, and they had just thrown me out of the meeting for being disruptive, and I was outside, in the pool room -- it was a recreation hall -- and the announcement came over the radio, and I went running back into the meeting and interrupted them and told them all about it, and of course everybody said the same thing: "Where's Pearl Harbor? What's it all about?" But that was an exiting day. On Monday, when they declared war, we were all out of school, sitting in cars, listening to the radio, and everybody was saying that "Bombers are on their way from Germany. They're going to bomb New York," and there was a big rush to go downtown to the newspaper, to get extras to sell, and of course it was a false alarm.

Thomas Swope:

So what was your personal reaction when you realized that we were attacked and the war had begun for us?

Sherwin Goodman:

Well, as a kid, it's just excitement, not a feeling of foreboding or anything like that. It was just all an exciting period, that's all. Then we finished high school, and I was working evenings on Sundays at the newspaper, stuffing papers, which is what you had to do in those days, when you put the one section into another section into another section, so I worked there every Saturday night; and I can remember walking home at 3 o'clock in the morning, marching and whistling songs -- whistling marches and very exciting. I just said, "I've got to get into the Navy" -- I just had a real feel for it -- and I joined on July 1st of 1942.

Thomas Swope:

So tell me about your training.

Sherwin Goodman:

Went to Norfolk, Virginia, where they had a naval training station which closed shortly after that. Everybody else went to Great Lakes. We were there I think only six weeks -- yeah, that's correct -- six weeks in training and then one week of leave, and then everybody was assigned somewhere. Many of the group that I was with were sent out to the fleet immediately. I had enrolled or I had taken tests to go to school. I wanted to get into the Air Corps, the Navy, and I had talked to the recruiting agent, and he said, "Oh, yes, you join and you make an application, and eventually you'll get in," which is what happened, but -- so I took tests, and I was accepted for aviation machinist's school. Sometime in about September of that year, we were all transferred to Memphis, Tennessee, just outside, called Millington. It was a new -- brand-new air station and a school, and we opened the base there. On the train ride down, we didn't know where we were going, they never told us, guys would throw out letters as we were going through stations, "Send this to my mother so she'll know that I'm all right." But aboard the train, we had the -- what was his name? -- Clyde McCoy Orchestra. Clyde McCoy is the man who wrote -- or, not who wrote, but who made a big hit with "Sugar Blues." You still hear it on the radio stations now. But his whole orchestra had enrolled en masse, and they were on the train with us, and they were playing, and we could go into the car where these guys were playing. It was just like you see in the movies where there's Glenn Miller playing in a train. He became the recreational director of the base, and every Friday night, there would be -- his orchestra would play, and then there would be boxing matches. I don't know what happened to him after that. Anyway -- So we were in Millington for six months, learned to be machinists. And from there, there was -- asked for volunteers to go to gunnery school for torpedo bomber gunners, that be would the TBF Avenger, and later they changed the name to TBM Avenger, because General Motors began making them instead of Grumman, but it was shortly after -- you know, the Battle of Midway was in June of '42, and everybody was very interested in Torpedo 8, which were all destroyed in an attack on the Japanese fleet, and only one man survived, which was Ensign Jack Gay, who died about two years ago. And you can see this on AMC television -- I don't know -- five, six times a year, they play the same thing. It's pretty good, too. Anyway, so we all -- not all -- a lot of us decided to volunteer for that program, and, again, excitement at that age really --

Thomas Swope:

Speaking of that, you were only 17?

Sherwin Goodman:

I was 17 when I went in.

Thomas Swope:

So you had to get parental permission or a signature to go in?

Sherwin Goodman:

Yes. My mother, reluctantly, she let me do it.

Thomas Swope:

Right. She just knew you wanted to do it.

Sherwin Goodman:

Yeah, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

She wasn't crazy about it.

Sherwin Goodman:

Well, you know, everybody was going in anyway. At 18, you were eligible for the draft, and I was already 17 plus six months, so I would have been eligible anyway. And I did want to get in the Navy, not in the Army. We finished -- when we left Memphis, we went to Purcell, Oklahoma, which is where the gunnery school, in the middle of nowhere. I mean, it was -- obviously, for gunnery school, you'd have to be somewhere where nobody could get hurt. And we were there for one month, and we learned to fire 50-caliber machine guns from a turret and from a standing part. They also taught us how to shoot skeet to get you used to reading a target. And then from -- after one month there, they transferred us to a naval air station, Jacksonville, Florida, to actually fly in the Avenger with a pilot who was also new and learn to do landing, touch-and-go landings on a supposed carrier. Also, we learned to fire from the plane onto a towed target just to get you -- what did they call that? -- I can't even remember what -- it was an operating school, but, anyway, so we were there I think in Jacksonville no more than two months. I was also working there as a mechanic. I found out that aviation mechanic was really not my bag. I wasn't very good at it, even though I had learned, but some of the guys had that natural ability, you know. Anyway, I got through, but I wanted to be a gunner anyway. We left there and we were sent to Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, which was what they called a CASU unit -- C-A-S-U -- 23, which meant combat air service unit. Well, as it turns out, what they did, they would put groups together, mechanics and ordnance men and everything, and ship them as a group somewhere to service aircraft. Well, we weren't really -- three of us had gone up together -- we'd been from boot camp all the way through together -- and we decided we didn't really want to be mechanics; we wanted to be gunners; and we had found out that there was a squadron getting ready to ship out on the brand-new USS Independence CVL-22, and we went over and asked if we could go with them, volunteer, and they accepted all three of us. So we went aboard in Ju- -- let's see, it was -- oh, the end of June of 1943, we went aboard the Independence in Philadelphia Navy yard. That was exciting, being aboard a ship for the first time.

Thomas Swope:

What was life like on an aircraft carrier?

Sherwin Goodman:

Well, at that time, since the squadron was pretty well loaded up with people, they needed us, but they didn't have positions for us, so they assigned us to the ship. So the three of us got jobs on the hangar deck being plane captains, or we -- each one of us had a crew of men working under us to push planes on the hangar deck back and forth and onto the elevator and up and so on, so that was one of our jobs. The other job was flying. So they assigned me to a pilot, Lieutenant J. G. Comajeez (ph) from Shreveport, Louisiana. He was not the number -- we had nine planes, so he was not the number in the first nine pilots. He was number 10 or 12. So we went -- we left Philadelphia, and we went around to the West Coast through the Panama Canal; and during the time, I got my first flight off of a carrier, which was very exciting. Being aboard a carrier, of course, it was close quarters, but it was all exciting. You lived with other guys, you know, bunks three and four high. We had a squadron-ready room where we could relax, if I could get off the hangar deck. I had an officer who ran the hangar deck, Fighting Bob Evans. He was what they called a mustang. He had come up through the ranks and made an officer at the beginning of the war, and he'd been in the Navy already 20 years. He didn't particularly like what we call Airedales, the guys who were assigned to fight. He was an old Navy man, you know. He'd have been perfect in a battleship, maybe. Anyway, he was always on our rear end, and when I was scheduled for a flight, I would say to him, "I have to leave at such and such an hour to make the flight." He'd say, "You get your work done or you don't go anywhere." Well, I would have to disappear and run up and take my flight and then come back, and I was always in trouble with him. The first time I was sent up to the flight deck to go on a -- to take a flight, I got up there early, and all the planes were standing there with their wings folded, and I didn't know exactly what the procedure was, and then I heard them say, "Watch out, the propellers are going to -- you know, time to warm up," and plane captains would go aboard, and they'd warm up the planes, and I'm standing there. When all these planes -- R-9, plus 9 SBB's, plus 24 fighters, F6F's -- all turned up their props at the same time, the wind across that deck was fantastic. I'm standing there at one of -- like, standing by one of the folded wings, and I realize, I'm in trouble here, because if I fall down, then I'm blown into the propeller right behind me. I was just holding onto that wing like this and trying to look nonchalant, like I knew what the hell I was doing, and I was scared pretty bad, and I had on a new pair of sunglasses; and I turned around, and of course the wind took the sunglasses right through one of the other propellers. I never saw them again. Then when they cut the engines and everything calmed down, I just walked nonchalantly away, but I was shaking in my boots. Anyway, I took my first flight. It was very exciting flying off the deck. And landing, landing was exciting. Not like President Bush the other day. I mean, he had somebody landing him on a -- on those canted decks on the new carriers, if you didn't catch a hook, why, you just flew right off and went around again. But on the straight deck carriers that we had in those days, if you landed and you didn't catch a hook, you went into the barrier, which wasn't very dangerous, but at least it didn't do the plane any good. So, anyway, we went down through the Panama Canal and up to San Diego for two days and then up to Mare Island for some minor repairs. We were there for a week at Mare Island in Vallejo, California, and got some liberty there, and we went off to Hawaii. It was a five-day trip. Being at sea, my first experience, was very exciting, and I was always fascinated by the color of the water. When you get out there where it's deep, it's almost purple. We got to Hawaii, and they took us off, and we were detached for a couple weeks to Barbers Point Naval Air Station, and then we were there for a couple of weeks, and we got back aboard ship, and they said, "Oh, there's going to be a big raid coming up." The United States had started their offensive movement. We went out with the USS Essex, which was a CV-9. It was a brand-new ship. They had never been in action, and we hadn't either. In fact, there hadn't been any action since the Battle at Midway, really, which was in -- God, that was the year before. There had been some minor raids along the way, I knew that. So we went all the way out to Marcus Island, which was about a thousand miles from Japan, the two carriers and a whole bunch of cruisers and destroyers. We went to Marcus, and my flight there was only what they call an anti-sub patrol, so we went out, you know, 100, 150 miles, looking for submarines, whereas the other planes went out on the raid, and they bombed Marcus and came back, and we thought we had done so good. I mean, I don't even know how much damage they did, but it made good news, because it was the first raid in months. Came back to Hawaii, went to -- we were in Maui for two or three weeks. What a place. That was absolutely heaven. Not like it is today, it's all commercial. In those days, Maui was just a marvelous, weather-perfect spot, and liberty was good, and you could go to town and get a steak and French fries for a buck. Anyway -- So we were there for two or three weeks, and then we went back aboard ship and went out again and went to Wake Island, and they bombed there again, and I had anti-sub patrol. I didn't get to go on any of the bombing raids. Along the way, we would have scares, you know, submarine scares, and everybody would go to general quarters, very exciting. Back to Hawaii for another two or three weeks, and we went off again, and we stopped in Espirito Santo in the New Hebrides, which was close to Rabaul, which was considered one of the fortresses of Japan. They'd been fortifying it for years. So that was our raid, was to go to Rabaul. We took off, and I've forgotten exactly how many carriers there were. There were three altogether, and I have that in my writing. We got to Rabaul. The first wave went off and hit Rabaul and caught them flat-footed and sank some ships, and they came back all excited, and I was scheduled for the second raid. We got aboard the plane on the hangar deck, because they were busy up there, and you couldn't have all the planes on the deck at one time. So we got aboard, they took us up the elevator, and we started -- the engine was running, and we started up the deck to the catapult. We were in the catapult that day. I was in the turret, and I ride backwards, of course, and I looked up, and I see a whole bunch of planes in the air; and all of a sudden, I see anti-aircraft bursts. I had turned on my turret, and I was going to -- I could see planes coming at us, so I was going to fire. Just then, the pilot shut down the engine, which killed the battery, and I had to crawl out, and we got out to watch what was going on. There were just planes coming from everywhere, and you could see them falling in the water. We had -- our combat air patrol had been out to meet these planes. In the total, we shot down 64 planes that day. It was on Armistice Day 1943. As I was watching a plane coming at us, it was a Japanese torpedo bomber called Kate, and he was coming at us, and it was right over the water. I mean, he was lower than where I was standing, and he kept getting closer and closer, and bombs were bursting all around us, and I said, "This guy is going to get us." I laid down on the deck so I could take the force of the blow if a torpedo hit. And just as he got within less than 100 yards from us, the plane exploded. Everybody was very excited with all the guns going off and noisier than the devil. And we even had a case where I saw the 40-millimeter mount was shooting at a plane, and I could see that it was an Avenger they were shooting at. The pilot who was standing next to me jumped down in the gun bucket, and he started hitting people, and he said, "Stop firing! That's ours! That's ours!" It turned out that it was, and they missed him anyway. Then from Rabaul, we went -- we didn't go back on another raid, because that was pretty good, getting all those planes down. They even sang the song, "After Rabaul was over!" {Singing.} We went to Tarawa to support the landings of the Marines, and -- I don't remember -- I think it was the second Marines, we bombed there for two days, and I got in on about four raids. You couldn't see much, because it turns out the Japanese were all underground, and we were dropping bombs along what was an air strip there and in bunkers, and we didn't see anybody. We thought that there was no problem, that they would walk in. Well, on the 22nd -- the 20th of Nov- -- I've got my dates wrong. We bombed for two days. Oh, yeah, on the 20th of November, they went in, and of course they lost 900-and-some guys, because they got caught in the surf. They couldn't get onto the Atoll -- Atoll, and the Japanese, who had been hiding, came out, and of course it was a massacre. It took them about four days to really -- to secure the island. But that night, it was about 6:30, just before sundown, the general alarm went off, and we all ran out and got up on the deck to see what was going on, and we could see planes coming at us, Japanese Bettys, the Mitsubishi. It was a twin-engine plane. They used them for torpedo bombers too. The cruiser right behind us was the Atlanta, which was an anti-aircraft cruiser. I said, "Boy, when that sky lets go, they're going to knock them all down." I turned and I watched the planes. The next thing, I looked back, the Atlanta was gone. The Atlanta had pulled in on the inside of us. We were on the outside of the whole force. Well, the planes were coming at us, and they were getting closer and closer, and all the guns were firing, and it's quite a sight, especially at sunset, you know, the tracers going out. As they got closer, I said, "These guys are going to strafe us," and I'm standing up here with no protection, so I said, "Let's go back down inside the companionway there," but there was so many guys standing there, all watching the action -- we had nothing to do, because we were -- the air crew didn't have a battle station, so I said, "Where am I going to go in this one?" So I jump- -- there was a gun bucket, a 40-millimeter mount right there, so I got down in the bucket to be behind some steel, and there was a loader who was missing, so I took his place. I broke the first two rows I pulled out. I was holding it wrong, and they all fell out. But, anyway, I got the hang of it. We were passing 40-millimeter ammunition, and the guns were going, and we shot down a plane real close to us, came broadside, and he couldn't have been more than 50, 60 yards off of our starboard beam, and I could see the pilot in it. And you could see our shells going through the plane. They were so close, they were just going right through him, and, eventually, as he was going up the deck, a fire started in the cockpit, and he cartwheeled in and we all cheered. The second the plane came, exactly the same thing: we knocked him down. Just then, I was knocked off my feet, a huge explosion. I fell down, I got up, and just then, water came down on me. I didn't realize what it was. I thought I was in the water. It was that full, that thick. I was, like, swimming. Turns out it was the explosion of a torpedo, and all the water had come down. It hit about no more than 30 yards forward from where I was standing, and it hit underneath a -- we had a 20-millimeter gallery, which, there were five guns on there. It hit underneath it, and of course it just took it right off and took everybody on it. I got out of the gun bucket, and I walked up on the deck, and there were people laying -- wounded laying all over. I thought, boy, this isn't real. And then I saw a corpsman administering to a wounded man. He knew me. He said, "Look, Goodman," he said, "you know first-aid," because I'd talked to him before. He said, "Here, take care of this man." Well, he was ripped open, and I couldn't do it, and I walked away. This guy died quickly. I walked away from it. All the wounded were taken care of. We lost 16 men that night, and we had a whole bunch of them that were wounded, and we were dead in the water, they were talking about submarines. They finally broke out a tow rope. We were going to be towed by a cruiser, and then they got one of the engines going, and we went away listing pretty badly, and then they shifted fuel from one side to the other and we righted ourself. I wasn't about to go sleep below deck that night. I thought maybe we might capsize or something, so I slept on the hangar deck, I slept on the wing of a plane. In the middle of the night, I woke up burning with gasoline on me, on the wing. Anyway, we were two or three days going at slow speed. We went down into the Ellis Islands called Funafuti, and there was a repair vessel there, the USS Vestal, and they tied up alongside of us, and over a period of a week, they cut off all the old metal, patched it up. It was Thanksgiving Day. They served on the hangar deck, because the torpedo had gone through our galley, so we had no kitchen there. Anyway, I don't know how the heck they served all this food. We had turkey. And while I was waiting for my meal, I went down below to look at the damage, and the deck was way up in the air, and there was water everywhere and oil. There was a diver from the Vestal was in the water, and he was working, and he handed me a rope, and he said, "Here, hold this," and he went out through the hole on the side of the ship, and then he wanted me to hand him the rope. When I pulled the rope in, there was a body attached to it, and it was bloated, and it was pretty bad and kind of ruined the meal. So, anyway, they patched us up. And while we were there, every once in a while, we would fly -- some of our planes had been taken off and put ashore on Funafuti, so we were flying every -- maybe once a week, and I went up with my pilot. And Comajeez was known as Cautious Comajeez. He wasn't a real daredevil pilot. He was very, very cautious. They used to say -- when we were flying along in formation, they would say, "Comajeez, pull in tight, pull in tight," and he wouldn't do it. They wanted to tuck the wing right behind the other one, he wouldn't do it. Anyway, that day, he says, "Come on, we're going to take a hop." We went ashore, got in the plane, and we took off. As we went down the runway, at the end of the runway, there were some trees in kind of a bower above it. He went down, and instead of pulling up, he went under those trees, and I said, "This isn't like Comajeez," and he not only flew through the harbor, down 20 feet off the deck -- I've never seen him do this before, and it was exciting -- doing 180 miles an hour and you're 20 feet off and things are going by pretty fast, and he would get to the ship, and he would just pull up and go over the ship and down the other side. Anyway, when we got back, they sent a jeep out to meet us, and he says, "Comajeez, you're wanted." Of course he was grounded. We got back to the States. He had left the squadron at that point. We had a 30-day leave, and we ended up in Watsonville, California. Our squadron got together again, and then -- well, we went to Alameda first. Comajeez was gone. I went flying one day with a brand-new pilot, Squib -- I forgot his first name -- from Chicago. He just joined us, and we went off on our first flight, he and a radioman named Edger (ph). We went up flying, we went up north of San Francisco in a squadron of three, just familiarization hop. Over Clearlake, California, our engine blew a head gasket, and of course we were spewing oil. We looked like we were on fire, the smoke was behind us, and we landed in a field, a plowed field. We went right over a schoolhouse, elementary school, we went right over it, into the field, made a beautiful landing. We got out of the plane quickly. I looked around, and there were hundreds of kids rushing out from the school, and they all wanted souvenirs off the plane. They were going to destroy it. We had to chase them away. So we were there -- we stayed overnight in a farmhouse, and they sent a truck out the next day, put the plane on the truck, and we rode back into Alameda on the trailer. It was kind of exciting. We were big shots.

Thomas Swope:

Did Comajeez do that on purpose?

Sherwin Goodman:

\No, that wasn't Comajeez.

Thomas Swope:

I mean, the other one.

Sherwin Goodman:

\Oh.

Thomas Swope:

When he did his stunts.

Sherwin Goodman:

\Oh, yeah, he was on purpose. He'd had a few drinks, too.

Thomas Swope:

Oh.

Sherwin Goodman:

\I'd never seen him drink before. That's why that was the end --

Thomas Swope:

He must have known that he was going to have problems.

Sherwin Goodman:

\I guess so. He didn't like combat, that's for sure.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh. (Laughing)

Sherwin Goodman:

\Oh, yeah, while we -- I forgot an important part. While we were on our way down to Espirito Santo, Comajeez and I and -- what was -- the radioman's name was Soule -- S-O-U-L-E -- from Texas -- we went off on a catapult shot, and in those days, we used a hydraulic catapult. Today they use steam. This hydraulic catapult, halfway down the deck, it failed, and we just went off the end of the deck wobbling. We were only doing -- you know, we needed about -- the catapult gives you about 70, 80 miles an hour, and of course you've got the wind from the carrier going forward into the wind, that's all you needed to take off, but we only ended up with about 40, 45 miles an hour, and we just wobbled and wobbled, right into the water in front of the carrier. I jumped out, and Comajeez jumped out on the port side -- we were both on the port side -- and I immediately unhooked the -- there was a survivor kit in the plane right in front of my turret. I unsnapped that, reached in and pulled out the life raft, but I'd forgotten that on the other end of the life raft was tied a food bag on a rope. Then I saw the radioman jumped out of the -- came out of the water on the right side, and he swam around. Just then, the carrier hit the plane and sheared off the wing. They couldn't move. We were too close to them. The plane -- the ship was going by, we're in the water, I'm holding this bag, and I'm thinking, "Why are you guys standing there, doing nothing?" They were leaning on the rail, watching us. And just then, the plane sank. It only stayed up about a minute. When it sank, the food bag was still inside this access place, and it ripped the life raft out of my hand. Well, we were without a life raft. We all had jackets. Comajeez didn't swim. He didn't know how to swim, and that shocked the heck out of me. The weather was fairly calm. We had big swells but no waves breaking. I had a life jacket on, the old style, Mae West, and you have two bottles of CO2. I popped one of them. The other one wouldn't work. It filled up and immediately went out because at the top, I had not secured the -- there was a rubber tube there, you could blow it, blow air into it, and it was opened, and the CO2 just went out, so I'm without a jacket, and I knew we wouldn't be in the water too long, and I'm swimming. I got rid of my shoes, got rid of my 38-caliber gun, and I don't know if I had anything else to throw away. Everything was going along very well. Comajeez was sputtering, and we were all three right together, and then I looked and I saw a destroyer coming after us. That's what they call a guard destroyer. He was behind the carrier. They didn't see us at first. When they saw somebody pointing at us and they spotted us, as they went by pretty close, of course there was a huge wave from the bow, and the propeller -- well, this wave hit us, and I just went down, and I reached out, and I grabbed, and I grabbed the radioman's foot, which stopped my descent, and then he kicked me loose. When I came up, I couldn't find anybody. I was all alone. I don't know how far I got away from them, and I was in trouble. And I was tired. We'd been in the water about 15 minutes at this point, with all these clothes on, and I'm a pretty fair swimmer, but I was just getting tired, and I was sucking in a lot of salt water. I like to think that I was thinking of home, thinking of mother and all that stuff. I'm pretty sure that's what happened, because I started swimming, and I saw where they were. I came up on top of a wave, and I saw where the other two were, and I swam very well. The guy says to me later on, he said, "You were swimming like you'd just gotten in the water." I got to him, and I said -- I approached him, he said, "Don't grab," and I acknowledged it, so I put one hand on one guy's shoulder and one on the other shoulder. The destroyer had stopped and sent out a motor whaleboat and they picked us up. When they got to me, he reached down and he grabbed me by the rear end, and he lifted me up into the whaleboat, and I was laying right next to the hot exhaust and didn't even notice it. I was that exhausted. And they got everybody aboard. We went back to the destroyer, and it was going like this, and we were going up and down, you know, and when the ladder would come this way, you'd grab ahold of the ladder, and then it would finally lift you up, but I was so weak, I couldn't get aboard of the ship. Again, somebody grabbed me and pulled me in. And then we got down below decks and the medical officer offered, as they do all survivors, a little thing of whiskey. The minute I smelled it, I regurgitated, I got rid of a lot of seawater. We stayed aboard overnight, and the next day, we were transferred back to the carrier. They send over a line between the two and a great big bag, and you get into the bag, and they pull you back and forth, which was kind of an exciting trip, too, because the bag goes up and down, up and down. But before they let us go, they had to pay a ransom, and the carrier sent over 6 gallons of ice cream. One of them spilled in the bottom, so when I got in the bag, it was this deep in vanilla ice cream. I didn't have any shoes on anyway. Then we got back aboard and everything went well. And that pretty much completed that first tour of duty. Then after we had -- after the leave, then we went to Watsonville, California, we took rocket training at Salton City, California. They fitted all these TBM's with eight rockets. You've seen them on TV, of course. We got back aboard the Independence, went out to Hawaii. We detached to Kaneohe Bay, and we continued our training there, torpedoes, learning how to make sure that they worked and everything. Then we went back, we went aboard the USS Cowpens, which was CVL-25. The Independence was turned into a night fighter ship, and they -- all the planes aboard were all F6F fighters, and they were all night people, because we didn't fly at night, off carriers. Very seldom did anybody. If you were caught out after dark, it was a problem getting aboard, because they wouldn't show any lights. So, anyway, that became a night fighter, and that came into real good use later on. So we went aboard the Cowpens. We went out to -- we raided at Palau, and Yap -- no, Yap was canceled because there was no oppositions, but Palau, we were there for two days. And Palau is part of the atoll, and they invaded shortly after that. That was a pretty good invasion. I mean, they lost a lot of people there, too. From Palau, we went to -- oh, the first strike in the Philippines in September of '44, the first day, we hit Mindanao, and that afternoon, we went to Zamboanga. I was with a new pilot, as I said from before. At Watsonville, I had picked up this Lieutenant J.G. -- Lieutenant Senior Grade, Leo Neacher (ph), who was an old football player from the University of Southern Cal. He was married to Miss California at that time. He was a rowdy individual. He liked to get in fights, a good drinker. He didn't drink aboard ship, that I know of. Anyway, when we went to Zamboanga, we got caught in a lot of anti-aircraft, and we came back, we had a whole bunch of holes in the plane and the tail, but we weren't hurt. Although one of them went up through my turret and out the wind screen. It took off the -- there's a wind screen there. Where my gun goes up and down, there's a screen, a slide that comes with it to keep the air out, but it went right through there, and I grabbed it like this and cut my hand from the wind screen, not from any action or anything. Not bad, just a knick. It cut through my gloves. Then we bombed a couple other places in Cebu in the Philippines. Then we went up north to Formosa, which is now Taiwan. We bombed there. And we went to Okinawa, the big island. It was called Okinawa -- and I can't -- I don't know -- it had a funny Japanese name I couldn't remember. Anyway, it was Okinawa. We bombed there. While we were there, we got into a couple of night fights. We were bombed from -- airplanes were attacking us, and they torpedoed the USS Canberra, a cruiser. The next night, again in the action, they torpedoed the USS Houston, and we -- we stayed with them. They sent out tugs, pulled them -- to pull them out, and we were providing protection. We did that for a week, and we were attacked almost every night. In fact, one of the ships -- I don't remember whether it was the Houston or the Canberra -- was torpedoed again. We flew over it, and, my goodness, it looked to me like the whole fan tail was loose. The torpedo had hit there, and it was just moving. I don't know what the heck was keeping them afloat. So, while we were doing that, the rest of the fleet, which was divided into four carrier groups -- we were 38.1. And -.2 -.3 -.4 had gone south. When we finished our escort, we went in to refuel at Ellis -- Ulithi -- Ulithi Harbor. They were already out. Then the battle off Leyte Gulf began again when Halsey was there, and the troops had landed, and the Japanese fleet came out in three different columns, then Halsey went north and all that stuff, so we broke off refueling and went rushing back. The night of the 25th -- the battle started on the 24th. On the night of the 25th, we were headed there, and they wanted us -- they loaded us up with torpedoes, and they were going to let us go off sometime at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Well, hell, we would never get back before dark, there was no way. Not only that, they didn't even know if we'd get back, because we were a couple hundred miles away from the Philippines. And at the last moment, they scrubbed the mission, which was great. The next morning, they woke me up about 4 o'clock, and we went down, and for the first time, they served us breakfast. They served steak and eggs. They didn't really expect us to come back or something. Normally, we just ate the regular food. So we were the only group down there eating at that time of morning. We took off, and it was still dark when we took off. It's always exciting taking off in the dark. You can line up with the other planes because you can see their exhaust. We went looking for the Japanese fleet, and we'd been out roughly three hours. There were five of us TBM's from our ship, and there was some SBB's from another ship and some fighter planes. Not a big force. I don't know why we didn't put up more. We'd been out a long time, and we couldn't find anybody. We were flying over islands and islands, and all of a sudden, we heard "Tally ho." One of the night fighters from the Independence had been out all night, and he spotted them up near Samar on the western side of the Philippines, and he told us where they were. Well, we got there in 15 minutes. As I said in my writings there, we came up out of the clouds, we were at about 8- or 9,000 feet, and it was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, and I looked down, and I see this fleet, just like you see in the movies, a whole bunch of ships, and we said, "My goodness, what have we got here? There's a battleship, and there's a bunch of cruisers, and there's destroyers, and there's something -- wait a minute, there's something wrong here. The sizes don't match. There seems to be too many classes of ships." Turns out that one of the ships was the Armada. The Armada was a 60,000-ton Japanese battleship, and it dwarfed everybody else, so it kind of made the identification tough to do. So we circled, got in position to do our attack, and we went down, started down, and -- oh, they were firing at us from a long distance, using, looked like magnesium, because they would explode in the air, and it would come out in great big, bowing -- looked like fireworks. They couldn't hit us, it was too far. The distance was too far, the accuracy wasn't that good. So we went into our torpedo run. At the same time, the fighter planes began strafing. At the same time, the dive bombers took off, so we had a coordinated attack. We were going to go after the Armada, and as we went down to the deck, a cruiser got in front of us, between us. I guess he was the -- he was the flank, trying to protect the Armada. The five of us went down in a coordinated attack, and we got down close. I'm turning around in my turret so -- I could turn my turret around so I could look forward, and all I could see was guns flashing. So I put my turret back so I could look behind me. All I could see, there were tracers going by. It looked like we were in a tunnel with stuff going by us. We got down to the radioman said -- I forgot how high we were. I think the pilot said later they were somewhere around 500 feet. And we got to 1,000 yards. When he called that, then he released the torpedo. We had radar aboard, that's how we could tell the distance. As soon as he dropped the torpedo, he made a wide bank to the right and exposed his belly to the ship, of course. When he came out of the bank, I had a good shot at the ship. I could see the guys aboard, and I fired my guns. I shot darned near all the ammunition I had at the ship. We started out away from the ship. Now I could see them still firing at us, because the stuff was hitting the water right directly behind us. They were walking it along, and I kept saying, "Break right," and he would -- and then he would -- they were -- I'm trying to think of the word -- oh, they would make an adjustment, and then I'd say, "Break left," and he would go left. They kept following us, until finally we got out of range. And just then, I saw a torpedo hit, and I yelled, "We hit him," and then, bang, bang, and two more. So we got three torpedoes out of the five hit the ship. Turned out it was the cruiser Noshiro, which had participated in the Pearl Harbor bombing two years earlier. And we didn't stay around to watch what happened. He was dead in the water. But we had planes in the air who stayed around to see what was going on, and they confirmed that it sank. And we got back to the ship, we'd been out five hours and about 15 minutes, which is a long time for a TB M. We landed aboard, and the pilot swears that we ran out of gas as we taxied up. I don't remember whether he did or not, I just heard the engine quit, and I got out and I was so glad to touch the ground, I was so happy to get back. And that was when we won the award, the DFC for that one. After that, we had a bombing raid when MacArthur's troops got in trouble, and the Japanese were landing reinforcements on the west side of the island of Leyte, and our troops were bogged down in mud. And the Tacloban Air Base, which the Army was using, was filled with mud. They couldn't get a plane in the air. So we came in, and we attacked the destroyers and the transport vessels in the -- I forgot the name of the harbor; it was on the west side of Leyte -- Ormoc Bay. It just came to me. We dropped bombs, and I don't know if we -- I don't remember if we got any hits or not, but we sure disrupted them, and we got hit pretty good with anti-aircraft fire that day. I mean, one of them went off very close. I mean, you could hear that whomp, and the plane shuddered. Let's see, after that, I can't remember any more raids, but -- oh, yeah. Manila. We bombed Manila, and that was something. There were ships in Manila which we were able to hit. We bombed anti-aircraft positions near the University of Manila. We were over Manila about four or five times. One day, one of the raids, we went down and we hit a -- there was a ship in the harbor, not a big one, and we were firing at it, we had no bombs left. And then another plane, one of our TBM's, went down on it. And I was watching. As he went down and he got right over the ship, it exploded and took him out. I'd found out later -- I knew who the guys were, which, one of their relatives contacted me a few years ago, and I gave them some information. That day, we lost about three planes out of our nine, and my best friend was in one of them. And I was -- I was really upset. I cried about him. And found out, after I got back to the States, he had been saved. Of the three planes that were shot down, there were nine guys, six of them were picked up by Philippine rebels, or whatever they were, in boats and taken into the jungle. They kept them there for a few days, until a motor torpedo boat came into the harbor and picked them up and took them back out to the fleet. So, anyway, my buddy was saved, and I got together with him two or three times after that. About that time, I got orders to come back to the States to go into flight training, because I had made my application a couple years before that and taken the test. I had even changed my rating from aviation machinist to aviation ordnance, because I was much better with guns than I was with engines. END OF PART ONE, BEGIN PART TWO OF CD. I came back and renewed my acquaintance with my high school sweetheart. She was living in Cleveland, so I came to Cleveland to visit her. Then I went to Miami to visit my mother and went back to the West Coast, and I was assigned to preflight school -- or, first of all, to a -- what do they call -- a refresher unit in Northwestern State College Louisiana, in Natchitoches, Louisiana. We were there, and I ended up in what they call the 8-week course. You have 8, 16 and 24 weeks, and I scored high enough to be in the 8-week course. And we got a full semester's credit in physics and -- I forgot. There were four courses. Anyway, I got enough credits that I used later on, when I went to college. And we were in school five days a week full-time. And then, of course, we had our athletic training and all that other stuff. I convinced my girlfriend to come down to visit me, and I proposed, and we were married there in Natchitoches. The sailors threw a party for us, and we had a good party. They were all sailors and a couple girlfriends and Shirley and I. Oh, and there were two women in Natchitoches that were Jewish. They knew we were Jewish, because they saw the license application. They came to the wedding and played piano and sang. They took us to their home a couple days later. Her father had been a Confederate colonel, and they had stuff on the wall, you know, from the old Civil War, his uniform and everything, and they served us very graciously. We sat down at a table, and there were about six forks and about six spoons and knives. We didn't know what the heck to do with them, you know, so we'd follow the lead, watch what they do and work from the outside in, take a watermelon rind. It was a great meal, and we kept in contact with them for a while. We finished up the eight weeks there, she went home. We finally told our parents we had gotten married. I was then 20 years and three months and she was 19 and two months. And then I was transferred to Athens, Georgia, a Georgia preflight school, and we were there for six months. She came and joined us there. We had this -- all the courses you need to become a pilot: you know, the navigation and the ordnance and the -- God, theory of flight -- I can't even remember all the things. I do remember all the athletics, though, because that was tough, two and a half hours a day. When we came out, we were in great shape. From there, we went to Memphis, back to Memphis, Tennessee, to Millington, the air station, and I began to learn to fly, did my primary flight school and got to -- I was having a little trouble with landing, so I wasn't -- oh, the war had ended while we were in Athens, by the way, so when we got to Millington, it was already October, and we were there October and November. Shirley was working across the road at what they called the discharge area, because they were -- guys would be sent there to be discharged from the service, so she was working there. We would live at home in Memphis. Now, I had to get back to the base by -- I don't know -- 6 o'clock in the morning, something like that, so there were four or five guys who all had their wives there, and we had a car pool. I'd have to get up about 4:30 in the morning, and then we'd go to the Toddle House and have breakfast. I don't know if you ever saw a Toddle House. It was a fast-food place, you sat at a counter, and they were big in the South. And we would all meet there and have breakfast and then go back to the base. She and the girls would follow in another car two or three hours later. They didn't have to be there. And I'd get up at 4:30 in the morning, and I'd be sitting on the edge of the bed, and this is a terrible time to get up. We hadn't gone to bed until 11 or so, and she'd pat me on the back and said, "You know, if you were a civilian, you wouldn't have to do this," and worked on me. I wasn't doing that good on landing, and I finally decided to ask for discharge, and I'd already had enough points and everything. So we were discharged on December 3rd, 1945, and we loaded up our car -- we had bought an old car there -- and came back to Charleston and then on to Washington, where we worked for a few months and then came back to Cleveland, and that was the end of my career. So I was in from July 1st of '42 to December 3rd of '45, and still married to the same girl. It's been 58 years.

Thomas Swope:

When your overseas tour ended, you got back to the States, what, in early 1945?

Sherwin Goodman:

I got back -- let me think. The first time, we got back in January of -- got back just before New Year's Day of -- that would be '44.

Thomas Swope:

Uh-huh (affirmative response).

Sherwin Goodman:

And we went back out, and I came back for flight training, I got back in December --

Thomas Swope:

December of '44?

Sherwin Goodman:

-- December of '44. Yeah, that's correct, because I had -- January 1st, New Year's Day, I had that in Miami with my mother. So, actually, I was pretty fortunate. I was only away from the States, at the most, about 10 or 11 months at any one time. Now, the ship -- my goodness, the ship went out -- the Cowpens, when it left from its shakedown cruise in September of '43, it went out -- at one time, it had some damages when it ran into another ship, and it went back to Pearl Harbor for repairs and then went back -- no, they came back to Mare Island for repairs and went back out -- they didn't get back until January of '46. They were the first carrier into Tokyo Bay at the surrender, and then they were part of what they called the Magic Carpet fleet, bringing guys back. Those guys were out a long time. I've talked to some of them, and they were away from home three years running. We were fortunate being in an air group. We just got back periodically because they felt that air groups needed more rest than a ship's crew.

Thomas Swope:

Were these carriers slightly smaller than the other carriers?

Sherwin Goodman:

\Yeah, they were built on a cruiser hull --

Thomas Swope:

Okay.

Sherwin Goodman:

\-- when the Navy realized that they needed carriers and we'd already lost four carriers -- the Lexington, the Yorktown, the Hornet, the Wasp -- they were short. All they had left was the Enterprise and the Ranger, and so they turned everything into building carriers. Well, the Essex class were already on the way, and there was the Cleveland class of cruisers coming up, and they converted nine of them to carriers, so we were fast carriers, but we were only 650 feet long. Our flight deck was just barely 600. The flight deck on the Essex was almost 900, and they were much wider than we were. We were narrow. Today, they got -- what did they say? -- three football fields long with a canted deck, and they can be firing planes off on the bow and planes be landing on the stern. We never had that. Because we had a lot of accidents, because when a plane came in and hit the barrier and fouled the deck, as they called it, or chewed up the deck and they had to repair it quickly, they couldn't land any more planes. Now, if there were no other carriers around and these guys ran out of gas, they were in trouble. They would end up in the drink. And, of course, I've seen them crash into the end of the flight deck, and I watched a guy land once with no tail hook. Boy, that was a mess. He went right up through the barriers, and they put a couple of cranes in front of -- behind the barriers to take the shock. He went through the barrier, through the cranes and tore out about four other airplanes, because he landed pretty hot. And I can remember taking planes aboard that had been shot up pretty badly and pulled the wounded out of. Anyway -- But we were smaller. And then we were fast. We could do 30 knots. That, for a big ship -- we weighed 25,000 tons, where the Essex weighed 30,000 tons, a little more than 30,000, but we could keep up with them with no trouble. We only carried -- after they took off the dive bombers, they converted all these ships to nine torpedo bombers and 24 fighters. That's the most they could carry. And we were VT -- V meaning aviation, T meaning torpedo -- VT-22. Our ship was 22. Every group that went aboard the ship for the first time had the same number, and then we moved around. They transferred from one to another as the rest periods were required.

Thomas Swope:

Other than that incident where it almost happened, did you lose any buddies over there?

Sherwin Goodman:

Which one?

Thomas Swope:

When you talked about almost losing that buddy, but --

Sherwin Goodman:

Oh, oh, oh, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

-- did you lose any pals?

Sherwin Goodman:

Yeah, pals I made friends with in the squadron. I remember calling the mother of one of them, telling her how sorry I was and what I knew about him. Yeah, there were a bunch of guys that we lost. I've got all of their names, and I still contact some of the guys in the squadron periodically, especially the pilot. He says, when he's gone, he wants to be buried in Arlington. The radioman and myself said, "You do that and we'll be there." But he seems to be getting along, even though he's in a wheelchair. He lives out near Santa Fe, New Mexico. We got together with him four years ago in Charleston, South Carolina. They had a -- aboard the USS Yorktown. The second Yorktown has been retired there. It's in the harbor. It's a national museum, a great museum for carriers. I mean, everything, all the information on all the carriers is there. So they decided to honor air crewmen, because pilots were always honored, their names were listed and everything. As Admiral Ramage said, he says, the guys who flew with him, he said, "They did it like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Not only did they do it in high heels, they did it backwards." You know, everything we did was -- I mean, I always saw where we had been, not where we were going. So they honored us, Clark and I and Meetree (ph) were all together. We were the only air crew total, three people that were still alive that could be honored. And they do it every year at Veterans Day, and so there's a plaque on the wall down there, showing our name.

Thomas Swope:

Did you have any problems with having to deal with any Kamikazes when you were over there in the Philippines?

Sherwin Goodman:

Kamikazes had just started. We had been warned about them, and we saw some of them. Now, I couldn't tell if the guy was actually trying to hit the ship or was he already hit and came down on the ship, because I saw enough of them that come down. But the Kamikazes really got big in '45 at Okinawa. That's where we lost so many -- we lost 3,000 men in that Kamikaze -- went on day by day, 4- or 500 planes at a time would come down. I didn't have to see that. But I saw enough night action and the shells going off. I remember standing on a deck one night when we had two lines of ships going this way, and the planes were coming at us, and you couldn't see them all in the dark, and there's firing going on and tracers and big shells, small smells. It was very noisy and very exciting, and I saw a plane going up between the two lines of ships. Well, everybody is firing at him. Now, as he got closer, the shells are starting to go -- firing at each other, because if they missed the plane, it would come across the -- we got behind the island structure, and I could hear the shrapnel falling. Yeah, but I don't think -- I never saw any other ships get hit with torpedoes. Some of them got hit with bombs, of course, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

When you think about that experience overseas, does one particularly vivid memory come to mind?

Sherwin Goodman:

I get flashbacks periodically of the time I was in the water. That was -- that was a traumatic experience. I actually used to have dreams about it, a good deal, of drowning, yeah. But outside of that, no. The rest of it, we get together and we talk about it. It's exciting times. "You remember when we did this?" "Oh, yeah." Yeah, and it was a good experience. I mean, I'm glad I went through it. Wouldn't want to have to do it again. Know too much now. You'd be crazy. You'd be afraid of doing something. And I see these guys in the Army in this last action just finished, I'm admiring them for what they did, what a strike force. Wars are entirely different. You know where everybody is. You have GPS. We would go out for hours and not know where anybody was. When you'd go out on an anti-sub patrol with radio silence and you went out, you flew out 100 miles this way and you knew the ship was going this way and it was going to turn and go this way at such and such a speed, if the pilot was good at navigation, he'd get you back. Because we had a leg, we'd go out one way and turn 90 degrees and go this way and 90 degrees this way and try to find the ship. It was always a welcome sight to see it. That ocean is so big, and the ship looks so small from the air, yeah.

Thomas Swope:

How about mail call, did you get much mail onboard?

Sherwin Goodman:

Yeah. When we would refuel, the oiler would frequently send over mail first. And of course when we stopped at Ellis Island or Funafuti or Mog Mog, Ulithi, and we would get mail, would get seven or eight letters at one time. When we were in Ulithi Harbor, we had a day of liberty. There were no natives. They had moved the natives off the island. All these ships that were in the harbor, at some times, there were maybe 50 to 100 ships, they would send over part of their crew to go ashore. What they would do, they'd give each man two cans of beer, Rupert's beer, from out of New York, cold. Then the pilots gave us -- this one time I remember, he gave us a fifth of whiskey to take with us. The officers had whiskey aboard. We weren't allowed to have beer or anything aboard. The pilot gave us this whiskey, and we went ashore and drank our beer and drank a little whiskey and got roaring drunk. Hundreds and hundreds of guys were either playing baseball or swimming or laying on the beach. I can remember, I got so soused, I was laying in the road, and a jeep came along -- a little road in the jungle, just a track -- and he stopped and he moved me out of the way. That was the only time I ever did that. Then when we got back to go back to the ship, these LCVP's, or landing craft, would come in to pick people up and take them back to the ship, and there was a dispatcher there, and he would say, "Ship leaving for the USS Essex," "Ship leaving for the Cowpens," "Leaving for the Houston." It was like a train station. The landing craft would come in, and a bunch of guys would jump on or be carried on, and they'd take them back out to the ship. That was something. That's the only time I ever did that liberty in that island. But there were some decent times. And when you weren't in action, then you were just cruising along, and the weather was nice, the deep blue sea, or at night, we'd go up and lay on the flight deck, go up on the bow and sit on the edge of it and just watch the waves and watch the fluorescence in the water. There were many pleasant times aboard. And the food was always good. Never had a problem with food. We had the same menu almost every week. Every Saturday morning, we had beans. It was one of my favorites. I enjoyed the whole thing, the whole experience was good.

Thomas Swope:

Anything else?

Sherwin Goodman:

No. I think I've covered just -- that was a lot of my life. Yeah, and I've all written it down. Maybe you can find some more in there. I think I've covered it all, though.

Thomas Swope:

Very good.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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