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This book relives the harrowing and little known experiences of a small group of fearless daredevils, who flew terrified American soldiers in what were known as flying coffins, into open fields, behind enemy lines in the midst of raging battles. Walter Kronkite would write that the most terrifying experience of his life was when he rode a glider into Holland in September, 1944. The G on their wings, representing Guts, would become a symbol of their heroism in some of the greatest battles fought during the war which included D-Day, Market Garden, and Operation Varsity. The purpose of this book is to honor these brave heroes
J. Curtis Goldman fought in the European Theater of Operations from 1944-45 with the 99th Squadron, 441st Troop Carrier Group. Goldie, as he was known by his friends, was born looking for a fight. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps because he wanted to be a fighter pilot. After failing his eye exam, the buck sergeant told him that they would give him a waiver if he would fly gliders. J. Curtis Goldman accepted the offer, and began one of the most exciting chapters in his life.
J. Curtis Goldman is with the Lord having full life as a patriot, a preacher of the gospel, a father of three, and has been married to his wife Katherine for over 60 years. He was the pastor of the Temple Baptist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 50 years, and one of the founders of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International.
Silent Warrior is the photo journal account of J. Curtis Goldman, a World War II glider pilot who fought in the European Theater of Operations from 1944-45 with the 99th Squadron, 441st Troop Carrier Group. Goldie, as he was known by his friends, was born looking for a fight. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps because he wanted to be a fighter pilot. After failing his eye exam, the buck sergeant told him that they would give him a waiver if he would fly gliders. J. Curtis Goldman accepted the offer, and began one of the most exciting chapters in his life.
This book relives the harrowing and little known experiences of a small group of fearless daredevils, who flew terrified American soldiers in what were known as flying coffins, into open fields, behind enemy lines in the midst of raging battles. Walter Kronkite would write that the most terrifying experience of his life was when he rode a glider into Holland in September, 1944. The “G” on their wings, representing “Guts,” would become a symbol of their heroism in some of the greatest battles fought during the war which included D-Day, Market Garden, and Operation Varsity. The purpose of this book is to honor these brave heroes.
One Way Flights into Enemy Territory
When I arrived at Randolph Field at the beginning of June, they did not have enough uniforms available for the mass of would-be glider pilots pouring into Randolph Field. I took a couple of showers each day with my civilian clothes on, going outside to dry off in the sun. Believe me, it didn’t take long to dry off in San Antonio in the summer time! All were required to attend the culling out sessions every other day for two weeks, where we were told the nature of our combat missions and the anticipated causalities that we could expect. Using the German airborne invasion of Crete as the example, we were told that casualties could be as high as 50 to 85 percent. Each day, any who wanted to drop out were urged to do so immediately because once we got into training there would be no backing out. Several did drop out at each session, so by the end of the fifth and last session, only eighty percent chose to continue with the glider program. I was one of those; not because I had any special courage, I just simply wanted to fly. As the sergeant said back in Tyler, “Kid, it’s flying! You said you wanted to fly, and this is the only chance you’ll get to be a military pilot. Take it or leave it!” So I stuck with it, and I am glad I did!
Primary flight training was in Rochester, Minnesota: home of the famous Mayo Clinic. The one hundred glider pilots who arrived in Rochester in September 1942 were the first military to be stationed there. We were accorded a royal welcome; many of the townspeople invited us to their homes for meals. Four of us signed up to have a meal at a doctor’s home. Would you believe it? A chauffeured limousine came for us. Up until then, I had never even seen a limousine, a chauffeur or the inside of a mansion. I grew up in the country as an only child living with my parents in a small, three-room frame house without electricity or indoor plumbing. Until I was fifteen, I drew water from a well with a bucket on a rope and pulley. We had an outhouse at the end of a crooked path with a Sears Roebuck magazine in it, which was not for reading. I was already nervous when the limo pulled into the spacious grounds and under the large canopy at the side of the mansion. When the uniformed butler opened the limo doors for us to get out, my first thought was that he was an admiral because his uniform was black. I didn’t know whether to salute him or not. Was I ever nervous!
We were ushered into a very large room that was much larger than our entire house back in Tyler. I acted as if I may have been in an expensive furniture store; I was somewhat hesitant to sit down in any of those luxurious chairs. When the Doctor and his wife came in, we all stood to attention again, but he did his best to make us feel at ease. When we entered the dining room, my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I had never seen a table that long! It must have been at least twenty-five feet long, with the Doctor sitting at one end and his wife sitting at the other end. The two of us sat on each side all spread out. There was more silverware at each setting than we had in our house back home. We had a knife, fork and spoon for the three of us back in Tyler so it was really simple to know what to use. Now I really was getting nervous, wondering what to use when. I never did figure it out fully that night. The butler brought the next course before I could finish what he had brought before. I felt so guilty when I couldn’t “clean” every plate; that was the law of my Dad at our house.
Girls, girls, girls
I met a pretty blue-eyed blonde named Barbara, who I only dated three times during those last few days in Rochester. Both of us fell head over heels for each other. I promised to write as I waved goodbye when the train pulled out of Rochester, but when I fell head over heels for Beverly in Greenville, South Carolina, just a few months later, I forgot all about Barbara. Oh, I forgot all about primary flight training! Girls will do that to you when you are only nineteen. For the life of me, I can’t remember my civilian flight instructor’s name, but I do remember that he was about thirty-five years old and heavy set. He was seated in the rear seat of a T-Craft. When I walked up to him, he told me to spin the prop and get in the front seat. He immediately taxied out and took off without saying another word.
The fun of flying
I had never been in a plane before in my life; I was excited! He leveled off at five hundred feet. When he got out of sight of the airfield, he pulled the plane up into a power stall at full throttle. The nose dropped vertical at full throttle, and he looped it off the deck without ever saying a word to me. Up until then, that was the most exciting moment of my life. I loved it! After gaining altitude with level flight, he simply said that he was a professional stunt pilot. He told me to never even think of doing such a maneuver because there was no room for error. Thirty-one months would pass before I would get that maneuver mastered in France in April 1945; but I chickened out at 500 feet altitude, only having the guts to do it at 600 feet.
There was a glider mechanic named Fox who was always badgering me to take him flying in one of the Piper Cubs that we had on the base at Dreux, France. He said that he wanted to fly with someone with whom it was exciting to fly. I was coming out of the officer’s mess after lunch one day in May 1945, when Fox hit me up again to take him flying, so I did. I didn’t bother to wait until I taxied out to the runway. I took off right off the taxi strip and circled over the field to gain six-hundred feet altitude when I pulled the plane up into a full throttle stall with the nose dropping straight down with Fox screaming as we headed straight down to the ground. I just thought Fox was screaming on the first vertical; but when we came over the top of the loop and headed back down the second vertical, Fox may have set some kind of all time scream record! He was screaming for me to take him back down to earth.
I really felt sorry for the poor guy, especially when I had to pry his hands loose from the bars he was holding onto so he could get out of the plane.
Captain “Blackie” Bowman, flight operations officer, was waiting for me the moment I landed. He asked me what I was doing to do such a maneuver right over the field in plain sight of God and everybody.
“Hey, Blackie,” I answered. “Fox wanted some excitement, and I was just having a little fun.” Fox swore that he had had enough excitement to last a lifetime and would never get into another plane with a glider pilot as long as he lived.
Anyway, that maneuver in September 1942 was my introduction to flying. I soloed after only three hours instruction and took to flying like a duck takes to water.
We left Rochester by train bound for Hondo, Texas, the first of October 1942. We had a several hour layover in Chicago, where I bought a small German made Foth-Derby camera. It was one of the best buys that I ever made in my life, enabling me to take a photographic history of my adventures as a glider pilot in WWII.
Sneaking off to see my parents
Later on that trip when the train stopped briefly at midnight in Longview, Texas, I told Mueller to cover for me. I jumped the train to start walking the 25 miles to Tyler. At daylight, a farmer came along and gave me a ride to Tyler. When I arrived home early that morning, the house was locked up and no one was home. I walked over to our neighbors, the Davenports, and Mrs. Davenport told me that my Mother had gone with my Dad to Paris, Texas, where my Dad had found work. So I immediately headed for the highway to Paris, staying away from town because I didn’t want the MPs to pick me up for being AWOL. A Greyhound bus came along just as I got to the Paris highway, and the driver wouldn’t let me pay for the ride to Paris.
I didn’t have the slightest idea where my parents were living in Paris; but would you believe it, as the bus entered the downtown area of Paris, I saw my mother just as she was entering J. C. Penney’s. I yelled to the driver to stop and let me out. She was looking at some stockings when I walked up behind her and put my arms around her and hugged her, whispering, “Don’t scream, Mother, it’s me.”
She screamed anyway, more excited than I had ever seen her. You would have thought that I had just resurrected from the dead as she was broadcasting to everyone in the store that I was her son whom she hadn’t seen in five months and whom she had never seen in uniform. She and Dad were renting a bedroom with kitchen privileges in a house close by, so she and I visited until suppertime. I told her all these amazing things that had been happening to me as I was learning to fly, all of which terrified her. After supper, I told my dad all these things, probably embellishing them just a wee bit for effect, and he was delighted that his son was about to fight the Germans. My dad, John Goldman, had been an infantryman in France in WWI, and he said that he would gladly fly as long as he could keep one foot on the ground at all times. My Dad never did set foot inside any plane of any type.
I caught a bus for Hondo the next morning arriving in late afternoon, and security was so lax that I just walked right into the base with no questions asked. Mueller had covered for me at roll calls, so there were no problems about my being away without permission for a brief interlude with my parents.
A week later, the ninety-nine of us arrived at Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where the big wigs were billeted in the downtown hotel while all of us little wigs were billeted in a large warehouse. Temporary restrooms and showers had been installed with all of us sleeping on cots dormitory style in one big room. A major was the commanding officer, and he was an arrogant guy. His arrogance came across big time when he lined us up for our first formation and informed us that a minimum of fifty percent of us would wash out in dead stick training. Dead stick flying was the preparation for actual glider flying, and I loved it. In no time at all, I was really good at coming in dead stick from different altitudes to land my plane right in the bull’s eye circle without ever touching the brakes.
Oh well, I might as well tell it
On that particular day, an Oklahoma storm blew in while several of us were in the air. The wind blew so hard that it was impossible to land those Piper Cubs. Naturally, I was down wind from the field, and it took me an hour to cover two miles. When I finally got to the field, the wind was so strong that I couldn’t keep the wheels on the ground even for a few seconds.|
Four glider pilots came running out to take hold of the wing struts and literally tow me over to the tie downs so they could anchor the plane. Had they turned loose while the plane was facing into the wind, I would have literally taken off backwards! Right after I was pulled down, another glider pilot made the mistake of turning his plane in his effort to get it to stay on the ground. Those powerful wind gusts flipped that little plane upside down before you could count to three. It must have scared the pilot, because he immediately unbuckled his safety belt, forgetting that he was hanging upside down. He fell on his head and broke his neck. Hopefully he lived, but it sure wiped him out as far as being a glider pilot in WWII. After one month’s training, time came for our final flight tests. This was the test that the major had said a minimum of fifty percent would wash out. We were all nervous. We were even more nervous when the first pilots to go up for their flight checks did not do any dead stick landings. They flew out of sight of the field and returned later and taxied to an area far from where we waited. There was no communication from anyone as to what was going on.
The check pilots had been flown in from Tinker in Oklahoma City. None of us knew any of them and vice-versa. My check pilot was a first lieutenant who simply told me to hold 500 feet altitude as soon as I got out of the pattern. As soon as we were out of sight of the field, he told me to do a two-turn spin to the left. I remembered the rule about aerobatics being fully completed with a minimum of 2500 feet actual altitude when any maneuver is completed. When I verbalized that to him, he simply said that he knew that and for me to do a two-turn spin to the left. I asked him if he would take full responsibility, and when he said he would, I did the turn. He literally yelled, “You’ve got it” the moment I completed the full two turns. He never said another word as he flew the plane back to the field and landed, taxiing to the opposite end from where we had taken off. I was literally heart sick, just knowing that I had flunked the test, whatever it was. But when we both got out of the plane, the lieutenant grinned at me and said, “Congratulations, kid, you passed the test with flying colors.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather when he said, “The only thing we are checking for is guts. Had you pulled out before completing the full two turns, I would have washed you out.” About 40% did wash out that day.
G stands for guts
I have heard several stories about how “the G stands for guts” came about, and I am sure that most of them are true. This was the first time that I ever heard it. “Guts” would become the standard answer when people would ask us what the G on our wings stood for. Later when we began training for night landings in the CG4A cargo gliders, we began to understand just a little more the significance of that G.
In 1943, the poor guys that flew into Sicily really learned big time what that G stood for. So did those who flew into Normandy at H minus on D-Day, June 6, l944. It is reported that when Eisenhower saw the casualties from just the crash landings of the gliders in those night landings, that he cancelled any further night landings. Whatever the case, there were no more night combat glider landings in enemy territory in Europe for the rest of the war. We were all greatly relieved, for it is just a little bit scary to land a fully loaded glider in a place you have never seen before in the darkness of night. If it was scary for the pilots, you can be sure it was terrifying for those poor glider riders who were trapped in those flying coffins, unable to do anything about it. Walter Cronkite wrote that the most terrifying experience of his life was when he rode a glider into Holland in September l944, and that was in broad daylight!