Dexter B. Goodwin
391st Bomb Group, 575th Bombardment Squadron
Two in back, left to right – Pilot, Captain Ed Jannsen,
Bombardier/Navigator, 1st Lt. Jerry Bacon
In my Dad’s scrapbook, this picture had “Rationed Passions, 100th
mission” written on the back. I can’t believe there were many of those
planes in existence during WW II.
|Major’s “Achtung Minen” Sign
This sign is one of only 12 commissioned by Dexter Goodwin Jr with Kent Ambler, www.kentambler.com, nationally renowned woodcut artist, to make an exact replica of the original World War II German mine field warning sign that was retrieved 3 days after D-Day from the cliffs of Normandy France near the town of Arromanches-les-Bains by then 1st Lieutenant Dexter Goodwin.
In World War II your father/ grand-father, flew a B-26 Bomber, nicknamed the “Widow Maker” by the pilots who flew them because of the number of planes that crashed during training - “One-a-day-in-Tampa Bay”!
On June 8th, 1944 while on a mission in support of the ground troops during the allied invasion of France, one of the two engines on Goodwin’s plane was disabled from either enemy ground fire or fighter plane attacks.
“Major”, as he was called by friends and family members long after the war and until he died in 2005, knew he could not get his crew and plane safely back to their base in Matching Green, England if he tried to cross the English Channel.
Faced with limited options, “Maje” elected to land his bomber on a temporary landing strip that was just being constructed on the sandy cliffs of Normandy, France.
The landing surface, a large chain fence-like surface that was not yet completed or operational was still being rolled out by a military tractor.
In the desperate situation of flying a crippled plane that was low on fuel and without a ground communication tower to guide him, Maje maneuvered his stricken plane into position to land, only being able to determine his approach and landing visually.
A reprint of a letter from Bob Vincent (deceased 2002), a door gunner on Major’s crew, recounts the experience many years later.
Major had to make his plane jump the tractor that was rolling out the steel mesh landing surface and when his plane, called the “Hoof Hearted” (say it fast 3 times and you may appreciate the humor of then young 20 year olds back in the mid-1940’s who named their planes and faced imminent death each time they went on a bombing mission), rolled to a stop at the end of the runway, the German “Achtung Minen” mine field warning sign greeted him. Knowing the mine field had already been cleared, Major removed the sign from its post and put it in the cockpit of his plane to eventually bring home with him as a “war trophy”.
Many years later Major recounted how disturbing that forced landing experience was for him. Not from the death defying, hair raising landing, but from walking over to the edge of the cliffs and looking down at the Normandy beach and seeing the ocean still red with blood of shot soldiers and the bodies of dead troops continuing to float in the surf from the invasion that happened 3 days earlier on D-Day.
When Maje’s plane finally was repaired many days later, he returned to his base to find all his personal belongings had been scavenged by the other pilots who believed Maje had not survived his last bombing mission.
Major, assigned to the 9th Air Force, 391st Bomb Group, 575th Bombardment Squadron, went on to complete a total of 68 bombing missions, when the average life span of WW II a combat bomber pilot was 15 missions, and his emergency landing may have made him the first war time pilot to land on German occupied French soil and return safely to his base.
Shortly after Major’s death in 2005 I felt it necessary to contact Major’s good friend and WW II flying partner, Bill Kirschke who at 89 still lives in Redlands, CA. Even though they lived over 3,000 miles apart, their war time experiences kept the two men very close.
During my phone conversation, Bill provided me with a story I never heard Maje recount. Bill said that on D Day, their 575th Bomber Squadron had to fly support for the invasion troops at Utah Beach. Many people know that the weather conditions for D Day were horrible, not only on the ocean, but in the air as well. Bill said the cloud cover that stormy day was at about 700 feet, so to make sure they hit their assigned targets on Utah Beach, their squadron flew below the cloud cover at 500 feet, almost at the same height as the Normandy cliffs and the German artillery guns that were positioned on them. These brave pilots, flying straight at the enemy barrels, were so successful at knocking out the enemy guns that Utah Beach had the lowest casualty rate (approx, 197 died out of 23,000 troops deployed), of any of the Beach landings.
Other beaches, such as Omaha Beach, were supported by B-17’s. Those bigger planes flew above the cloud cover and dropped their bombs blindly and somewhat harmlessly 15 miles inland, never hitting their critical targets at Omaha Beach and causing arriving the American troops to suffer thousands of casualties at that landing beach.
Bill is still angry, 67 years later, when he states how history and current D Day news reports always seem to concentrate on the mishaps at the other beach landings and rarely if ever recount the heroics of the 575th squadron successfully hitting their objective under the most adverse and dangerous of conditions.
To see other examples of WW II German mine field warning signs you can search the web under WW2 German Landmine Warning Signs or Achtung Minen Signs. As Bob Vincent pointed out in his letter, the word “Achtung” (“Attention”) in German was above the word Minen. In between the two words it is believed there was the universal sign for danger or death – a skull and cross bones that created the 3 black patches of paint above the word Minen.
Major’s war time experiences, seeing death and destruction, surprisingly never made him a bitter or depressed person, it did however make him dislike war, especially all the ones that came after what he was told would be “the war to end all wars”!
Next Veteran’s Day or D-Day Anniversary take pride in what Major accomplished.
He loved you, was proud of you, and thought of you often.
Respectfully recounted by his son from the story Major told to me.
Dexter B. Goodwin Jr