From farm boy to pilot and back again
March 8, 2010
Tom Brokaw, author and former broadcaster, wrote a best-selling book in 1998 called, “The Greatest Generation.” He wrote, “It is, I believe the greatest generation any society has ever produced. They grew up in the Depression and went on to fight in WWII. They fought not for fame and recognition but because it was the right thing to do. When they came back, they rebuilt America into a super power.”
Bill Goss, farm boy and former pilot in the Army Air Corps, is one of those American heroes. Born in western Colorado on Oct. 30, 1920, Bill was drafted in 1942 into the Army just six months after the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
Bill applied for Officer Training School and was selected for pilot training. He was taught how to fly Lockheed’s P-38, known as “Lightning.” It remained in production from late 1941 until VJ Day in 1945. It was a fighter with twin booms, and a single, central nacelle holding the cockpit and artillery between them in the front. Built according to Army specifications, it was also used for reconnaissance missions and escort duty.
“But during the war, I was also given pilot training on the Douglas’ C-47, which was the Army version of the DC-3. Nicknamed ‘The Gooney Bird,’ that is the plane I flew over there in Europe,” Bill stated. He modestly added, “We had a regular route and flew back and forth, delivering troops or supplies wherever the military said they were needed.”
The C-47s had a cargo door and heavily reinforced steel bottoms. Instead of seats, there were shelf-like places for persons to sit along the sides facing each other, similar to parachute jump planes. Douglas Aircraft produced 10,000 of these planes, and some are still flying today.
According to historical records, the C-47 played a vital part in the Battle of Bastogne, Belgium. The positive outcome of the Battle of the Bulge was due in part to the ability of the C-47s to deliver ammunition and supplies to our troops.
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When he got to Europe, they lived in tents in Paris. After that he was in Ainsbach, Germany. He was part of the Ninth Air Force Service Command with headquarters in Luxembourg. He often flew from Germany to Manchester, England.
When asked which plane he preferred piloting, the P-38 or the C-47, without hesitation he answered, “The P-38!”
Bill Goss, a farm kid, was raised on his family’s 110-acre farm, two miles west of Fruita, Colo. “I remember the Depression years growing up. We were lucky to live on a farm, not in a big city. We grew our own food and raised our own cattle, so we were never hungry. Lots of people were during that time. I was raised here and went to high school in Fruita. It was a small building that burned down years ago,” Bill said.
Bill, a father of three children and grandfather of two grandchildren, served five years active duty and 24 years in the reserves. He retired as a lieutenant colonel and lives with Wanda, his wife of 30 years, in a rural, ranch-style home on the western part of the Redlands with their cattle grazing on land about a quarter mile away. In their own back yard near the barn, their cows peacefully munched on hay, while a frisky, little calf happily frolicked nearby like a little toddler, teasing and running back and forth to the mother cow.
Wanda Goss was raised on a farm in the San Luis Valley, where her family grew only potatoes and other vegetables, but didn’t raise cattle. Over the years, she is an expert now as she and Bill work together because “this is calving time.” Wanda said, “We have 28 calves as of today and more coming. One of these days, I know we’ll have to cut back, but not yet. We did have 50 last year,” she smiled, looking over at Bill, who nodded in agreement.
On the kitchen wall behind Wanda, was her bulletin board filled with cards, pictures, and appointment reminders. Like most women who use a bulletin board or refrigerator magnets to list things they need to do, it acts as their command post. At the top is a yellowed newspaper headline, which reads “Gung-Ho: An attitude that gets it done!”
“I saw that saying awhile back in the Sentinel and liked it, so I taped it up there,” Bill explained.
After the interview, they were planning to drive over to their cows to help with the calving, just as they have done as a working team for many years before today.
The Internet’s Wikipedia, defines “Gung-Ho” as “working together in harmony; enthusiastic or excited.” That saying definitely does describe this loving, gung-ho couple, Bill and Wanda Goss.