Lt. John J. Goodfellow, Jr.
Published April 13, 2016
Of man’s folly, only these crosses still stand in witness. On most are inscribed the names of those who lie below. They reveal little else, though we can guess at much of the rest – an American youth, born to an age historians call Progressive, to a century of unparalleled advancement and unsurpassed carnage, enjoined to forsake family and career so that his world might become a more peaceable place.
He took the name of his father, a native Missourian and surveyor, in Fort Worth, Texas, on 17 May 1895. In his twelfth year, John James Goodfellow, Jr. moved with his family to San Angelo, Texas. Graduating from San Angelo High School in 1913, where he played football and the trombone, Goodfellow took a job with the Lone Star Gas Company in Fort Worth. One year later he entered the University of Texas to study civil engineering.
It was then that Europe succumbed to a war it had seemed impatient to begin. Protected by an ocean even as it exposed its commerce upon it, America avoided the slaughter until 1917. Then, on 6 April, Congress brought a declaration of war against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey. In Austin, still a junior, John Goodfellow decided to leave the university.
He left to become an infantry officer but soon developed an interest in aviation. Graduating ground school in Austin and flying school in San Diego, California, Goodfellow was commissioned a second lieutenant in February 1918 and shipped immediately to England as an observation pilot with the 24th Aero Squadron.
On 22 July his squadron transferred to France. Following additional training at St. Maixent and Ourches, the squadron attached to the First Army Observation Group at Gondreville on 22 August in preparation for a major American offensive.
The offensive commenced on 12 September with the objective of reducing the German salient near St. Mihiel in northeastern France. On the 12th and the 13th the squadron conducted visual reconnaissance in the area of Thiaucourt, reporting the successful progress of the attack. Additional sorties on the 14th kept the German front under constant observation while six missions attempted deep reconnaissance of German movements behind the front, near Metz.
It was from one of these deep reconnaissance missions that Goodfellow and his observer, 1st Lt Elliot M. Durant, Jr., failed to return. According to one eye-witness, at least five enemy aircraft engaged Goodfellow's Salmson 2A-2 reconnaissance plane, shooting away one wing and downing the aircraft after a furious dogfight. Three days later, the American offensive a success, Goodfellow's remains were recovered at the crash site and later interred at the St. Mihiel American Military Cemetery near Nancy, France.