I found out today about the passing of Mr. Milton Goodridge. Milton was one of the eight veterans we interviewed in Minneapolis in 2008. He was a wonderful and gentle man and he will be missed. I would like to offer my condolences to his wife Betty and the Goodridge family.
Mr. Goodridge had a unique perspective on the war and on his own personal experiences. He was the pilot of his crew, the Goodridge Crew 812. On June 20, 1944 he and his crew were involved in one of the blackest days that the 492nd BG would endure-The Politz Mission. Crew 812 was assigned to fly with the 856th Bomb Squadron that day. Of the 12 crews that the 856th sent out that day, only one returned-The Velarde Crew. 11 crews were lost.
Over the Baltic Sea, the Wing was attacked by the Luftwaffe. They threw everything they had at the 492nd that day. ME-109s, ME-110s, JU-88s, and ME-410s attacked, firing rockets, 20mm cannon and machine guns into the 856th. It happened incredibly fast. In less than 10 minutes 9 liberators were burning, falling into the sea. 2 managed to limp to Sweden. The 856th was completely obliterated.
In my interview with him, Mr. Goodridge related an interesting note. This was his crew's 15th mission. On the previous 14 missions, he had never worn his parachute-a front chest type. He always kept it between the pilot seats, close at hand. As they waited on the flight line, waiting their turn to take off, he glanced down at his parachute. For some reason, he reached down and strapped it on. That action saved his life.
During the attack, his plane was hit by several cannon, he looked back and saw quote, "The radio operator was on fire". end quote. Not the radio. The radio operator. This hit me close to home, cause my father was also a radio operator.
Another explosion then rocked the ship. The explosion knocked him OUT OF THE SHIP and he came to, falling, outside of his own airplane. As he looked on in horror, his ship exploded. All his men were killed. He was the lone survivor. His parachute deployed and he was picked up in the frigid waters by a German patrol boat. Another survivor that was also rescued by that same patrol boat was Sgt. Bob Cash, radio operator for the McKoy Crew R-09. Cash was also the only survivor from his crew. Surely a more horrific day I cannot imagine.
As I've been making this film, I have come to realize the grave responsibility and care that the pilots, the captains of their ships, had for their crews. I can only imagine the guilt this man must have carried for all his long life-surviving, while his entire crew died that day. He apparently came to grips with his fate and lived a full, long and happy life in California before finally retiring and returning to Oklahoma. He certainly retained a sense of humor, recalling that after they were rescued from their POW camp in Germany, he and other captured officers were flown to Camp Lucky Strike in a B-17. He said it was "such an ignoble thing, for a B-24 pilot to be flown out of Germany in a B-17" he was laughing as he said this. Such a sense of humor.
A very personal note. I have "bonded" if you will, with the eight men I interviewed in 2008. I kinda think of them as extensions of my late father or possibly distant uncles. It's hard to explain, but there's something special there. After viewing these interviews over and over and over again, one becomes attached to these guys. Mr. Goodridge is now the second veteran to pass from this group of eight. I am glad and grateful that I was able to capture his words and thoughts for future generations. Rest in peace, Mr. Goodridge, reunited at last with your crew.