[In the article “Anatomy of a Dogfight” in our November issue, 2nd Lt. Glenn W. Goodrich of the 429th FS was last seen by two of his fellow P–38 pilots over France on July 18, 1944, with one of his engines on fire. His nephew Kent, a new member of the P–38 National Association, here fills us in on the rest of Glenn’s tragic and amazing story.]
Lt. Goodrich was initially listed as MIA. Later that summer he was confirmed as KIA when advancing US Army troops recovered his body from the small village of Longnes, France, where he had been buried in its cemetery Some limited information about the crash and a couple of letters from the village made their way home to Glenn’s family, but the circumstances and details of the event were never fully known. Nearly 60 years passed without any further details or facts emerging.
Memories faded and family members, with their minimal knowledge, passed away. Georges Bailleui is a retired French engineer with a passion for American World War II aviation and has a hobby of researching WWII crash sites. In 2002, while visiting friends in Longnes, he noticed the prominent WWII monument in the town square with the name of an American flyer, Glenn Goodrich!
He considered this quite unusual. Typically, such a monument in France does not feature an Americans name. His curiosity aroused, he began his research. Official village records were consulted and residents alive at that time were located, even a witness to the dogfight. Georges learned what happened on July 18, 1944 at Longnes. Then he wanted to learn details of the flyers unit and it’s mission that day. He especially hoped to learn more about the man who was honored on the monument.
Georges did not have a computer or access to the Internet, but he had learned that the latter was a tool that would help him with his research. He turned to his friend Jean Pierre Duriez, a French customs officer and a fellow WWII aviation enthusiast who had helped Georges with research in the past. Jean Pierre posted an inquiry on a WWTt aviation bulletin board: “Does anybody have any information about Lt. Glenn Goodrich, killed in Longnes, France on July 18, 1944?”
At that same time, 58 years after the mission, my ten–year–old son, Graham Goodrich, had also developed a keen interest in WWII aviation. When informed that he had a great uncle who was a P–38 pilot, his Lt. Glenn Goodrich at Warmwell, England, circa June 1944. (Courtesy of Kent Goodrich) interest peaked, and he went to his great aunt, Colleen Armstrong, Glenn’s little sister. What did she remember other brothers flying career and what did she know about his last mission?
Due to her young age at the time of the crash, the lack of information available and the passage of time, she had little to tell him. So she, too, went to the Internet for help. Colleen entered her brother’s name and unit number in a search engine and up popped the inquiry from Monsieur Duriez in France!
A correspondence ensued between the researchers and village officials in France and Glenn’s family in Washington State. Information was exchanged and both sides supplied some missing pieces of the puzzle.
Members of Glenn’s family made the First of three visits to France in April of 2002. They exchanged pictures and documents and even visited with an eyewitness. As a result, the full story of what happened that day, after Lt. Goodrich’s plane dropped out of sight, is now known.
Glenn’s aircraft continued to burn, the flames now reaching into the cockpit. Any hope of saving the aircraft was gone. At this point his plane was heading straight towards the center of Longnes and losing altitude rapidly. He needed to bail out, but rather than jumping from the aircraft while there was still enough altitude for his parachute to deploy, Lt. Goodrich stayed in the cockpit.
He turned his P–38 away from the town, despite the growing fire, and guided it towards a field between Longnes and the village of La Fortelle. Glenn managed to jump free just before the crash, but he was much too low for his chute to open. He landed in waist–deep wheat, a short distance from where his Lightning nosed into a farmers field. He was killed on impact.
A young boy named Roger Petit was working in the fields and observed the dog- fight that raged above him and watched as this P–38 banked away from the town and crashed nearby. Roger would grow up to become the mayor of Longnes and later tell the story of what he saw that day to members of Lt. Goodrich’s family during their visits to France. Soldiers from a nearby German garrison did not find the body concealed in the wheat as they inspected the burning wreckage; how ever, some boys from the village soon discovered it. A confrontation then ensued over the custody of Lt. Goodrich’s remains. The French people were persistent and ultimately prevailed over the Germans. The soldiers TOOK some souvenirs and then retreated from the controversy. Glenn was given a funeral in Longnes’ church and was buried in its cemetery. His remains were recovered the following month by the advancing American army and were eventually returned to his hometown of Ellensburg, Washington.
Longnes erected the monument after the war and inscribed Glenn’s name on it in appreciation of his actions to spare the village.
Exactly sixty years after his death, at 9:30 a.m. on July 18, 2004, members of Glenn’s family took part in a ceremony in Longnes honoring him. Officials from the village and surrounding communities and representatives of the Republic of France and French veterans’ groups were present to honor a young American flyer who left his home and family and gave up his life to help liberate France.
On this sunny morning, probably much like that morning in 1944, in a Frencn village not very different from how it must have looked sixty years ago, The Star Spangled Banner and La Marseillaise were played in the square to honor Lieutenant Goodrich and all of the other people who sacrificed so much during those days that changed the world.
Madame Francoise Bettinger, the current mayor of Longnes, organized this ceremony and compiled all of the information to go into the village’s historical records. Monsieur Michel Lecoq of La Fortelle presented to Glenn’s relatives a .50–caliber machine gun retrieved from the wreckage of his P–38. The Goodrich family is forever grateful for what the village did for Glenn in 1944 and for the honors that were bestowed upon him in 2004.