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A Century of Good: Local WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephanie Henry, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – A local hero celebrates 100 years of life at the First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Illinois, Aug. 28.

It wasn’t unlike a typical Sunday for Clifford E. Good, a highly decorated World War II veteran, as he surrounds himself with friends and family at church. However, this Sunday was spent celebrating his 100th birthday with a delicious meal, a well-deserved piece of birthday cake and recalling memories of the time he spent serving in the Second World War. 

Good’s military journey started in July 1942. With the intent to show support, Good accompanied his father to an Army recruiting station to watch his brother enlist, who ended up being disqualified after failing the physical. On the spot and to his father’s surprise, Good decided to enlist and was sworn into the Army on July 24, 1942.

After Basic Training, Good was sent to multiple different bases for different aspects of training.

  • Airplane Mechanic School, Keesler Air Base, Biloxi, Mississippi
  • Aerial Gunnery School, Army Air Base, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Army Air Corps Training Detachment, Boeing Field, Seattle, Washington
  • Combat Crew Training, Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho
  • Additional training at Army Air Base, Cheyenne, Wyoming

To say Good has been around the world would be an understatement. In just one trip, Good flew to Maine, either Greenland or Iceland for fuel, Scotland, England, France and finally reached his destination of North Africa.

While in Africa, Good was presented the opportunity to fly as an in-flight photographer. Having developed and printed pictures with his brother prior to WWII, Good decided to accept the assignment. During that time, Photographers were assigned to the lead plane in formations.

“What I dreaded most of all on the missions was trying to fly the bomber formation up through the clouds,” Good said. “Usually, it was futile and disastrous.”

According to Good, it was not uncommon to lose multiple planes as formations flew through cloud cover.

“On one mission, the plane on the rightwing position of the group leader blew up in the clouds,” Good explained. “The explosion blew out most of the windows on the right side of the lead airplane and bent the rudder. The pilot was able to fly the plane back to our home base and land. My best guess is the rightwing plane hit another plane in the clouds.”

This wouldn’t be Good’s first, or last, near-death experience.

During November 1943, Good was hospitalized for a month with Yellow Jaundice. There were so many severe jaundice cases that medical personnel were erecting more tents each day, Good noted. His treatment consisted of a low fat “C” ration diet and all the hard candy he wanted.

Once Good recovered, he returned to his unit only to be faced with many photographers getting sick with colds or the flu. Good was their answer. Being able to fly with any crew, he was the first alternate asked to replace an ill photographer. Good flew 21 missions in January 1944 alone.

“On one of my last two missions, we were scheduled to have P-47 escorts, which meant that we would be over the target in Germany without any escort planes – not a pleasant thought,” Good recalled. “German fighter planes appeared as we were climbing to our assigned altitude over the Adriatic sea – it was very rare we saw those German Fighter Planes over the Adriatic Sea. I was in the lead plane of the tail-end squadron and when the P-47 escorts turned back due to being at their maximum fuel range, the German fighter planes started their attack.”

The German fighter planes made two attacks – each resulting in one B-17 dropping out of the formation with a smoking engine.

“My first thought was ‘this doesn’t look good for me to get back to home base today,’” Good recalled. “I looked behind our formation and I saw a lot of specks on the horizon. My gut feeling was that they were P-38 fighter planes. Suddenly, the tail gunner said, ‘Look at those German planes scattering,’ when the P-38 fighter planes arrived. At the briefing, we were not told we would have P-38 escorts.”

Overall, Good flew nearly 50 combat missions: 33 missions over Italy, 2 missions over southern France, 5 missions over Greece, 4 missions over Germany, 2 missions over Bulgaria and 1 mission over Yugoslavia.

“When we returned from our missions, we usually went to a central location for debriefing and received doughnuts from the Red Cross lady,” Good recollected. “I don’t know where the doughnuts came from, but they were available and free. Perhaps, the free doughnuts were fringe benefits that we received for living under primitive conditions - tents.”

While Good went on to be accepted for a pilot training program, the end of the war in Europe meant he needed to extend his enlistment, which he decided not to do. Good was honorably discharged Oct. 12, 1945.

Good accomplished a lot during his three years in the Army, but this would only mark as the beginning to his military career.

After spending a year studying aeronautics, Good decided to dedicate 13 more years to the Air Force, where he met and married the love of his life, Betty, had a beautiful baby girl, Sonja, and eventually retired from active duty July 31, 1961.