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Biography of James Wesley "Airdale" Goodwin
Airdale was the oldest of three sons born to Wesley Hiram and Ruby Ione (Sims) Goodwin of Ennis. Wesley was a switchman in the yard at Ennis for the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. The T&NO was the largest railroad in Texas, and a major employer in Ennis. Airdale was born on Friday, January 4, 1924. His birth name was James Wesley Goodwin. To his friends, he was known as Airdale because his wiry hair resembled the coat of an Airedale Terrier. The first “e” was dropped, and he was good-natured enough for the nickname to stick.
On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Airdale was a senior at Ennis High School. He was an outstanding athlete at Ennis High lettering in football and track. He was a two-year letterman at end in football, and on November 14 played his last high school football game. On that day Ennis defeated the heavily favored Waco Tigers in Waco at Tiger Stadium. Airdale was one of the stars of the game that would be remembered in Ennis for decades. He graduated high school in May of 1942.
Airdale enrolled at Texas A&M College in the fall of 1942, but dropped out of school, and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve in Dallas, Texas on December 1, 1942 with his buddies, Dooney Pierce and Joe Crow, for the duration of the national emergency. The three classmates, teammates and best friends were immediately ordered to active duty, and on the evening of the day of their enlistment, with other recruits, boarded a Pullman Company car on the Texas & Pacific Railroad. The train pulled away from the T&PR Terminal at 1600 Throckmorton Street in Fort Worth at 9:00 p.m. It eased away from the station heading westward toward San Diego, California and basic training.
Airdale, Dooney and Joe arrived at Recruit Depot at Marine Corps Base in San Diego, California on December 3. They were assigned to the 1136th Platoon, 1st Recruit Battalion for basic training.
They completed basic training on January 23, 1943, and volunteered for Marine Paratroopers. They were assigned to Company A, Parachute Training School at Camp Gillespie in San Diego. The school consisted of six grueling weeks of training and six jumps from an aircraft. They graduated on March 8, and were awarded paratrooper’s wings—silver wings with an open parachute in the center, appointed Privates First Class in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and received an additional $50 per month jump pay.
On March 11 Airdale, Dooney and Joe were assigned to Parachute Replacement Company, School Battalion at Camp Elliott in San Diego. This assignment was for transfer to Camp Lejeune in New River, North Carolina for additional training, but Joe was hospitalized in San Diego with a severe case of poison oak. And on March 24, when Airdale and Dooney boarded a train to New River, Joe’s orders were cancelled, and he remained in a navy hospital in San Diego. Airdale and Dooney arrived at New River on March 30, and both were assigned to Company A, Parachute Battalion, Training Center at Camp Lejeune.
On June 15 Airdale and Dooney were aboard a train headed back to the West Coast to Camp Joseph H. Pendleton in Oceanside, California.
At Camp Pendleton on July 1 Airdale and Dooney were assigned to different companies. Airdale was assigned to Company A in 4th Parachute Battalion, and Dooney to Company C. The battalion continued to train at Camp Pendleton.
On Armistice Day, November 11, 1943, at U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington D.C., an order was dated activating the 5th Marine Division. The order was sent to the Fleet Marine Force at San Diego, California and Camp Lejeune at New River in North Carolina.
In November of 1943, the U.S. Marine Corps had four full divisions, and approximately 400,000 men. The 1st Marine Division was in advanced staging areas in Goodenough Island, part of an island group near the southeastern coast of New Guinea, and New Guinea preparing for the Cape Gloucester campaign. The 2nd Marine Division was on its way to Tarawa, in the Gilbert Islands, and the 3rd Marine Division was in combat on Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands. The 4th Marine Division, which had been formally activated on August 14, 1943, was in the final months of training at Camp Joseph H. Pendleton at Oceanside, California. The 4th Division would be the first U.S. Marine division to be shipped directly into combat. After completing training at Camp Pendleton, the 4th would ship out on January 13, 1944 for the Marshall Islands and the Roi-Namur assault.
On December 1, 1943 Headquarters Battalion of the 5th Marine Division began operating, officially, at Camp Pendleton, and in ten days, the 26th and 27th Marine infantry regiments and the13th Marine artillery unit were organized.
On January 19, 1944 Airdale was transferred from the 4th Parachute Battalion to the 5th Marine Division. He was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines. His company commander was Captain Robert Hugo Dunlap.
The official activation date for 5th Marine Division was January 21, 1944. And for many weeks, men and materials had streamed into Camp Pendleton down the winding spur of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and by trucks and buses rolling over Highway 101 from San Diego.
The troops assigned to 5th Division were from boot camps at Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego, California. And like Airdale, many were from training centers at Camp Lejeune in New River, North Carolina, Camp Elliott in San Diego, California and Camp Pendleton. They came from Marine Corps Schools at Quantico, Virginia, ship detachments of the fleet and many were combat veterans arriving on transports from the southwestern Pacific.
Major General Keller E. Rockey was the Commanding General of 5th Marine Division. He arrived to take command on February 4 from his former post in Washington D.C. as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
On February 8 training schedules were posted, and the 28th Marine infantry regiment and division service troops were organized. Orders were issued to complete activation, and begin training at once. Most of the 1st Marine Parachute Regiment, which had been order back to the states from Bougainville for conversion into division troops, was assigned to the 28th Marines. Near the end of 1943 Marine Raiders had been dissolved, and on February 29, 1944 Marine Paratroopers suffered the same fate. And their numbers were being retrained as division troops.
The training schedule for 5th Marine Division was written to occur in ascending order. First, the individual Marine was trained in the use of the tools of war that he would use in combat. Once mastered, training progressed to fire units, the assault tactics used in squads and platoons and companies. It quickly became obvious to infantrymen that they would have the front line jobs in combat, but the powerful support they would receive was not evident until the battalion and regimental phases of training. And at this point, when commanders began integrating supporting weapons into unit maneuvers, the heretofore-lonely Marine infantrymen was dumbstruck by the awesome display of power that would support him.
Morale was high, and a very important ingredient in building cohesive units, so weekend liberty was often, and usually in Los Angeles and Hollywood. Marine buses were available to take troops to town, and bring them back to Pendleton on Sunday night.
Amphibious training was the advance phase of training for 5th Division. It began on dry land learning to get oneself and equipment over the side of a transport down a cargo net into a waiting LCVP, and ended on land when the Division’s nine landing teams—the nine infantry battalions and supporting elements—were ready to practice amphibious assaults as units at sea.
The first regimental combat team to go to sea was Airdale’s 26th Marines, commanded by Colonel Chester B. Graham. They embarked in transports at San Diego, and made two amphibious landing against barren San Clemente Island, sixty-miles off the coast of California. They re-embarked and made a third assault against the mainland at “Pendleton Island.”
Airdale’s combat team assaulted “Pendleton Island” on July 11, 1944, and as the Commander in Chief of all United States forces, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt watched with great interest.
On July 12 maneuvers planned for the 26th Marines were cancelled. Airdale returned to camp to prepare to move overseas. The 26th was assigned to floating reserve for the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade of the III Amphibious Corps for the assault on Guam.
On July 22 Airdale was embarked in a transport steaming in convoy westward from San Diego Harbor to Guam in the Mariana Islands. But the assaults in the Marianas progressed favorably, and the 26th Marines were relieved of floating reserve, and ordered to Camp Tarawa on the big island of Hawaii, Territory of Hawaii.
Camp Tarawa would be home for 5th Marine Division until the end of 1944. It was spread over 50,000 acres of the 225,000-acre Parker Ranch, and around the town of Kamuela. It sat 2,600-feet above sea level between the mile-high Kohala Mountains and 13,796-foot Mauna Kea northwest of Hilo, and approximately twelve miles from Maume Beach, the nearest coastline.
Training for Airdale continued at Camp Tarawa. And in September the 5th Marine Division was placed on alert. Operation “Stalemate” was in trouble, and needed more troops. The operation was a series of assaults in the Palau Islands, and the initial decision was for 5th Division to make the assault on Yap. However, the final decision was that neither time nor troops were available to complete “Stalemate,” and the alert was cancelled.
On Tuesday, October 3, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed General Douglas MacArthur to assault Luzon on December 20 and Admiral Nimitz to assault Iwo Jima on January 20, 1945 and Okinawa on March 1. The timetable proved unrealistic, and the assaults were reset to January 9 for Luzon, February 19 for Iwo Jima and April 1 for Okinawa.
Major General Keller E. Rockey, and key members of his staff were ordered to Pearl Harbor for a briefing. There, they learned 5th Division would be assigned to the Fifth Amphibious Corps, and would fight in the next Pacific campaign, which would be Iwo Jima.
On Christmas Day the attack cargo ship USS Athene began loading at Hilo docks. It was the first ship assigned to lift 5th Division. And from December 25 on, men and equipment moved in a steady stream east into embarkation points at Hilo docks and west to LST beaches.
On Wednesday, December 27, the 27th Marines began loading men and equipment on ships in Transport Division 47 at Hilo docks. The 26th Marines followed on January 1, 1945 in Transport Division 46. Airdale was embarked aboard the USS Deuel with Company C, 1st Battalion. On January 4 the 5th Division’s command post was closed at Camp Tarawa, and opened aboard the USS Cecil. And on January 6, the 28th Marines were embarked in transports in Transport Division 48. On Wednesday, January 10, Transport Divisions 46, 47 and 48 were in anchorage at Pearl Harbor.
Several days after arriving at Pearl Harbor, Transport Divisions 46, 47 and 48 steamed from Pearl Harbor eastward past Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head on the port side sixty miles to Maalaea Bay off the west coast of Maui to join 5th Division troops embarked in LSTs in anchorage at Maui.
The 4th Marine Division had trained at Camp Maui, and was embarked in transports in Transport Divisions 43, 44 and 45 at Maui.
Beginning Sunday, January 14, four days of maneuvers were held at Maalaea Bay off the west coast of Maui. Both 4th and 5th Marine Divisions participated, and at the end of the military exercises on the 17th, both divisions steamed for Pearl Harbor.
On Saturday, January 27, under a full moon, the reinforced 5th Marine Division steamed in convoy from Pearl Harbor westward toward Eniwetok in the Marshal Islands. After crossing the International Date Line going west, the convoy lost a day reaching Eniwetok Atoll on Monday, February 5. The ships refueled, and moved from the lagoon through the narrow channel back into the Pacific on Wednesday, and steamed westward toward Saipan in the Mariana Islands.
The fleet reached Saipan on Sunday, February 11 for refueling, and on Tuesday, a one-day invasion rehearsal was held off the west coast of Tinian followed by final briefings.
At Saipan the huge armada was divided into three sections for the final 625-mile leg of the journey to Iwo Jima. The first five waves of assault troops were embarked aboard LSTs, which were slow, and the first to leave Saipan’s Tanapag Harbor on Thursday afternoon, February 15. The second section was the main assault force with transports carrying the remainder of the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions, plus one regiment of the 3rd Division. Airdale was aboard the USS Deuel in the main assault force, and steamed from Saipan on Friday evening. The third section left Saipan on Saturday, February 17 with the remainder of the 3rd Marine Division and attached units.
Reveille sounded over the loudspeaker systems at 4:30 a.m. in LSTs and transports in sections one and two, and Airdale would have instinctively hit the deck making his way to the head for a last shower and shave aboard ship.
Airdale may have set down to the traditional breakfast of steak and eggs for Marines on D-day. Or, like many aboard the Deuel and other transports and LSTs thought the tradition suggestive of the last meal before execution, and those opted for coffee, cigarettes and conversation.
Airdale in the main assault force arrived off the coast of Iwo Jima at 6:00 a.m. He would be in division reserves with the 26th Marines, and they would be landed several hours after H-hour, or when released by General Rockey.
Vice Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner arrived with the main assault force in his flagship the USS Eldorado. He was second in command to Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance, the overall commander at Iwo Jima and Commander of Fifth Fleet.
At 6:40 a.m., one minute before sunrise, Admiral Turner unleashed the heaviest pre-H-hour bombardment of World War II, which had been preceded by three days of pre-invasion naval bombardment that was preceded by ten-weeks of concentrated air bombardment by of the 7th Army Air Force based in the Marianas.
Iwo Jima is four and one-half miles in length, and two and one-half miles in width, at its widest point. It is roughly the shape of South America with a landmass of eight square miles. At the southwest end stood Mount Suribachi, an inactive volcano 554-feet above sea level, and joined to the broad plateau of Motoyama on the northeast by a narrow but progressively widening isthmus of brown volcanic ash and black cinders, which looked like sand, but was much lighter affording little traction. The shores along the broad plateau were rocky and inaccessible. The proposed landing beaches were along the widening isthmus on both the east and west coasts, with the east beach preferred. The entire island is volcanic in origin. Iwo Jima lies 625 miles north of Saipan and 660 miles south of Tokyo.
Around the time U.S. forces assaulted Saipan on June 15, 1944, Imperial General Headquarters placed the defense of the Volcano Islands under Tokyo. The 109th Infantry Division was organized, and shipped to Iwo Jima under the command of Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. General Kuribayashi was garrison commander, and through his genius guided the transformation of one of God’s lesser triumphs into a near impregnable fortress. He directed the creation of a subterranean garrison of caves, bunkers, command posts and hospitals with enormous stores of food, water and ammunition thirty to fifty feet below the surface of the island. This garrison was connected by 16 miles of tunnels terminating at the surface in massive blockhouses and pillboxes and in the entrance to caves. Kuribayashi’s garrison quartered 21,000 men, who were committed to die for their Emperor.
At 6:45 a.m. Admiral Turner ordered “Land the Landing Forces,” and announced H-hour at 9:00 a.m. East beach was selected as the landing beach, and assault troops would be boated from LSTs and transports, and landed near the base of Mount Suribachi extending 3,500 yards northeast along the shoreline to the East Boat Basin and high broken ground on the north leading to the broad plateau of Motoyama. The landing beach was divided into seven 500-yard sections. Each section was designated by a color and numeral. The southern most section was Green One then Red One, Red Two, Yellow One, Yellow Two, Blue One and Blue Two completing the configuration. Fifth Division would land on Green and Red sections and 4th Division on Yellow and Blue.
The spearhead wave was the first to cross the line of departure at 8:30 a.m. It consisted of 68 armored LVTs, which were conversions to lightweight tanks with turrets and 75-mm guns. Following at five-minute intervals were the first five waves of assault troops embarked in LVTs, and behind them came twelve LSMs carrying medium tanks.
The amphibious landing unfolded without a hitch until it reached land, and then the island asserted itself. The spearhead wave touched beach at 8:59 a.m., but most of the vehicles lost traction when they reached the first terrace rising as high as fifteen feet. Although some made it past through breaches blasted by naval gunfire, some losing traction floundered, and were abandoned. Most backed into the sea, and continued firing their weapons at targets inland.
The first wave of assault troops landed at 9:01 experiencing the same difficulties as the spearhead wave. Most LVTs deposited their assault troops near the base of the first terrace. The fifth wave completed the initial landing at 9:22 a.m. The surf was low, and the weather ideal for an assault against a small, exposed island in the northwest Pacific.
Unfortunately, the ideal landing conditions did not hold for D-day. At 11:00 a.m. wind blowing from a northerly direction veered to the southeast, and set the current parallel to the landing beach causing LCVPs to broach. As the rising surf broke over their sterns the backwash from the rollers flowed over the downed ramps into the bows flooding the boats preventing them from retracting. Wreckage began to amass on the sections of landing beach that had been under heavy fire throughout the morning, and chaotic conditions were rapidly building on east beach.
Approximately eight miles at sea in the transport area orders had been received to boat 1st Battalion. The USS Deuel launched twenty-four Higgins boats (LCVPs), and heaved hemp cargo nets over the railing. Airdale and others waited for their debarkation orders, and when the announcement came over the loudspeakers, the procedure was to queue up on the starboard side of the Deuel with others assigned to the same numbered landing craft. As boats came along side, the debarkation officer yelled out the number, and ordered the landing boat team over the rail. Airdale descended the net with full combat gear, and timed the rise and fall of the LCVP before releasing from the net to drop a short distance onto the corrugated deck just as the boat reached the crest of the wave.
At 1:32 p.m. 5th Division’s command post ordered 1st Battalion landed from division reserves.
At 3:00 p.m. 1st Battalion, 26th Marines began landing on Red One. Airdale was a private first class, and a Browning automatic rifleman in a BAR squad within a rifle platoon in Company C. He came ashore in high surf, and under heavy fire. His landing team was ordered to the assembly area, approximately 200-yards inland. It reached the designated area at 3:30 p.m., and was ordered to report to the 27th Marines command post for further orders. After reaching the command post at 4:45 p.m., Airdale and 1st Battalion was ordered to tie in to the left of 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, which were dug-in in the regiment area in the line facing north across the island near west beach.
Brigadier General Leo D. (Dutch) Hermle, who had come ashore at 2:30 p.m. to set up the advance divisional command post, issued the order at 5:00 p.m. to “button up,” and Marines of 5th Division began digging in for the night. The entire division line was in the open in full view of the Japanese, and Airdale was on the west coast of Iwo Jima as darkness came to the island at 6:25 p.m.
At 7:50 p.m. Airdale’s landing team notified 27th Marines command post that it could not contact 1st Battalion, 28th Marines on its left to close the gap, but could cover the gap by fire.
The first night on Iwo Jima was cold, sleepless and fatal to many. Japanese artillery and mortar fire rained down on all units on the island during the night. Several infiltration attempts and counter attacks were launched and failed. The strongest came at 2:30 a.m. in front of the 27th Marines, and was dispersed by artillery fire from the 13th Marines.
At 6:00 a.m. on February 20, Airdale’s landing team was ordered to pass through 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines to begin the attack north at K-hour, which was set for 9:00 a.m. Companies A and B would attack, and Company C, Airdale’s company, was assigned to battalion reserve.
The long night ended with sunrise at 6:40 a.m. The wind was out of the southeast, and weather conditions were unchanged from D-day.
Following preliminary bombardment, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines jumped off at 9:00 a.m.
On Friday morning, February 23, a 40-man platoon, from the 28th Marines, comprised of a handful of men from Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, and the remnants of 3rd Platoon in Company E under the command of 1st Lieutenant Harold George Schrier, executive officer of Company E, successfully scaled “Hot Rocks” the code name for Mount Suribachi. And at the top, they raised a small flag lashed to a discarded iron pipe.
The first flag, by one account, was too small to be seen through the haze of battle, and a larger battle ensign was borrowed from LST 779 that was beached near the base of Suribachi. The flag was given to a runner, PFC Rene Arthur Gagnon, who took it to the top. The first flag came down at the exact time the second flag was raised, and Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press photographer, snapped the most famous photograph of the Pacific War.
On February 24 Airdale wrote his first letter home to his family, and especially to his two younger brothers, William and Robert. He wrote, “Old Glory is flying over this island now. Need I say more? It is the most beautiful thing here.”
“Old Glory” flying atop Suribachi lifted spirits, and was seen by many as the icon of a quick victory, but the fighting that moved north was just beginning. Casualties continued to mount, and on Monday, March 5, General Schmidt ordered a day of no attack for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions. Frontline units were reorganized, replacements were assigned and letters were written. Airdale wrote his third letter home on the 5th. He wrote that he had visited with Dooney on that very day, the day of no attack. Airdale’s battalion replaced Dooney’s in the vicinity of Nishi Village, and they met for the first time on Iwo Jima.
On March 6 and 7 the Japanese defense line stubbornly refused to yield to the assault companies of Fifth Amphibious Corps. And on Wednesday night, March 7, General Schmidt issued orders to the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions to seize the remainder of the island in their zones.
Sunrise came at 6:26 a.m., and in the beginning the day was cloudy with scattered showers, but a gradual clearing was forecast. The 13th Marines unleashed a rain of artillery shells on enemy positions in the preliminary phase of the morning’s offensive, and as the shelling ended, the three regiments of 5th Marine Division moved forward and abreast to engage the enemy. Airdale was in the center of the line with Company C, 1st Battalion.
March 8 marked the 16th day of combat, in the front lines, for Airdale’s landing team. They were worn and torn and bloodied by the duration and high casualties. But on Wednesday night, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marines was ordered to replace the 1st beginning with Headquarters Company and Company A on the morning of the 8th. Replacement was successfully accomplished by 7:30 a.m. Company B and C, Airdale’s company, would be replaced on the morning of the 9th. But the promised respite for Airdale came one day too late. On Thursday morning he was shot in the abdomen, and taken by stretcher to 1st Battalion Aid Station, and transferred to 5th Marine Division Field Hospital by jeep ambulance. He was taken into surgery, and later evacuated aboard the USS Samaritan, a hospital ship bound for Guam. But prognosis for Airdale was gray, roughly 70-percent of stomach wounds resulted in death.
On Friday morning the USS Samaritan was at sea steaming toward Guam, and Chaplain Clarence F. Crouser had done his best to comfort Airdale. He had prayed at his side for his recovery, but death was too near, and Airdale’s life stopped at 9:16 a.m. He was 21.
The Samaritan reached Guam on Sunday, March 11, and PFC James Wesley “Airdale” Goodwin was buried in the Army, Navy and Marine Cemetery at plot C on row 20 in grave 2.
The official casualty report released at 6:00 p.m. on March 27, 1945 listed 21,872 Marines and 2,728 Navy personnel. Within these casualty numbers were the dead: 5,885 Marines and 433 Navy. Forty-six Marine and 448 Navy casualties were listed as missing in action, and presumed dead. The combined total was a staggering 24,600, which was a 61-percent increase over the 15,000 figure estimated by Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith, the top ranking Marine at Iwo Jima. General Smith expressed his fear of 15,000 casualties at the press conference held aboard the USS Eldorado on February 16 at Saipan. He said later, “Iwo Jima was the most savage and the most costly battle in the history of the Marine Corps.
On Wednesday, March 21, 1945, at 9:40 p.m. a telegram was delivered by Western Union to Rev. Robert C. Fling, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church. He opened and read the missive addressed to Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Goodwin, and drove to the Goodwin home to deliver the news of Airdale’s death to his dad, Wesley.
In the fall of 1947 Mr. W. H. Goodwin received a letter from General A. A. Vandergrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps:
“The return of American dead of World War II from overseas cemeteries has now been provided for by the Congress. The records of this office indicate that you are the person authorized to direct the final disposition of the remains of the late Private First Class James Wesley Goodwin, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.”
Airdale’s final interment was at Myrtle Cemetery at Ennis, Texas in the family burial plot with military honors.
Surviving was his dad and stepmother, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Goodwin, and two younger brothers, William and Robert. Ruby Ione, Airdale’s mother, preceded him in death on November 1, 1941. She was 48.
Airdale, Dooney and Joe Ennis Lions 1941 Jack Lummus Memorial Park Ellis County Veterans Memorial Those Young and Brave Marines
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