When Phil Goodwin looks at the pictures now, he sees a young man who was just 33 years old.
The photos were taken in February 1967, after Goodwin flew his 100th mission during the Vietnam War.
Goodwin, now 82, arrived in Thailand in1966. He’d fly 125 missions over North Vietnam before his tour ended in the winter of 1967.
It wasn’t by any means easy as he faced enemy on most, if not all, of those missions.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“Anybody who flies in combat and says they aren’t scared is telling you a lie,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 11 Oak Leaf Clusters, said “he was lucky.”
“I didn’t take a hit,” he said. “But I played by the rules. I was just a guy who loved to fly.”
A big city boy
Goodwin was born in Boston City Hospital in 1933. He grew up in North Quincy, Mass., a suburb located three miles south of Boston.
His father owned an automotive shop in Boston, where he sold auto parts. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston University in the late 1920s.
His mother was a housewife. “Few women worked back then,” Goodwin said.
Phil was the oldest of their three children. His sister and her husband (who graduated from Harvard) currently live in Rochester, N.Y. His brother still lives in the Boston area.
Living out his dream
Even as a child, Goodwin wanted to be a pilot.
“I can’t tell you why,” he said.
Goodwin learned how to fly when he was 15 years old on a grass field near Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, Mass.
He got his pilot’s license even before had his driver’s license.
Goodwin was sworn into the U.S. Air Force in 1951, when he was a senior at North Quincy High School in North Quincy, Mass.
“I still remember one of my high school math teachers threatening me if I didn’t do better (in school), I’d never get to fly an airplane,” he said.
A week after graduating from high school, Goodwin started basic training at Sampson Air Force Base near Seneca Lake, N.Y.
“I wasn’t ready for college,” he said. “I enlisted in the Air Force because it seemed like the right thing to do.”
And it was.
Earning his wings
Goodwin didn’t do too much flying early in his military career.
But that changed after he attended an Air Force pilot training school in San Antonio.
It wasn’t an easy transition for Goodwin, who learned to fly a plane, which had only a stick and rudder.
“I always found flying hard,” he said. “But if you want something bad enough, you’ll work hard for it.”
Goodwin was not going to be denied. In December 1955, he earned his wings when he was 22, while he was stationed at Williams Air Force Base in Mesa, Ariz.
“My mom and dad, and brother flew down (for the ceremony),” he said. “That was one of the proudest days of my life.”
Goodwin achieved something that he didn’t think he would ever do.
Goodwin had earlier completed his cadet aviation training at Lockbourne Air Force Base near Columbus, Ohio, known today as Rickenbacker Airport. While at Lockbourne, Goodwin flew a F-86 flight interceptors.
He was later transferred to Ft. Knox and Incirlik Air Base in Incirlik, Turkey. After Incirlik, Goodwin was transferred back to Cape Cod-Otis Air Force Base, where he flew F-101 interceptors for almost six years during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The F-101 carried two nuclear weapons, Goodwin recalled.
“If the Russians bombers would have come down the coast and into Cuba, we might have had to do something,” he said. “We were ready to go.”
But the Russian bombers retreated, at the last second.
Fighting in Vietnam
While Goodwin was stationed at Otis, he suspected he’d be sent to Thailand, where fighting was starting to escalate in Vietnam.
“I knew my time was coming,” he said.
Capt. Goodwin, who was then 32, ended up volunteering to go to Thailand in 1966.
“I knew I was going to be called anyway,” he said.
But before Goodwin was deployed to Thailand, Goodwin had to learn how to fly the F-105 at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan. The F-105 was the world’s largest single-engine fighter at the time. It weighed more than 53,000 pounds, when carrying full fuel and up to 16,000 pounds of external stores. Its bomb load could be twice that of a World War II heavy bomber, and, at altitude, its top speed was more than 1,500 miles an hour. The F-105 also had a six-barrel cannon which rotated like a Civil War Gatling gun, but fired 20 mm projectiles at 100 rounds per second.
After spending four months at McConnell, Goodwin was deployed to Thailand.
“Some pilots liked to extend their tour in Thailand for a year,” he said.
But Goodwin said he had no desire to stretch it out any longer than six months.
After his tour in Thailand ended, Goodwin was sent to Tyndall Air Force Base, which is located 12 miles east of Panama City, Fla., where was assigned to the F-101, again. He was also a flight examiner and attended the base’s weapon’s school.
But after the Air Force phased out the F-101, Goodwin was transferred to the Military Airlift Command (MAC), where he flew the C-141. MAC is an inactive United States Air Force major command that was headquartered at Scott Air Force Base. Established at the height of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, MAC provided long-range strategic airlift support from the United States to Military Airlift Support Squadrons (MASS).
While Goodwin was with MAC, he was assigned to Charleston Air Force Base, where he managed the 41st Tactical Airlift Squadron.
“My assignment worked out well,” said Goodwin, who met his wife, Johnnie in Charleston. Phil and Johnnie have been married for 41 years and have five grown children.
Goodwin also earned his bachelor of science in history from Charleston Southern College. In 1977, he was promoted to colonel and transferred back to Scott Air Force Base.
Looking back, Goodwin said he enjoyed his military career, which lasted almost 29 years before he retired on Jan. 1, 1980. He accumulated more than 7,000 flight hours, including more than 4,000 flight hours in combat and more than 2,000 hours in transport.
“It was a wonderful experience to have behind you,” he said. “I learned a lot. I’m glad I enlisted. I’ve done a lot and seen the world. I’ve been blessed.”
Retiring in O’Fallon
Following his decorated Air Force career, Goodwin has been self-employed in the financial services industries for the last 20 years. He was named O’Fallon Businessman of the Year in 2000.
Goodwin is also a mentor at Central School District 104. Through the youth mentoring, he has worked with social workers in three O’Fallon schools and has recruited 45 mentors for the programs.
Goodwin is also a past president of O’Fallon Rotary Club. He is presently the assistant governor for Rotary District 6510. He has co-chaired the last eight Rotary Auctions, raising more then $150,000 for community projects.
He was elected O’Fallon City Clerk in 2001. He will finish his fourth term next spring.
Goodwin has no desire to go back to Southeast Asia.
“I’ve been there and I have done that,” he said.
But Goodwin loves watching the American flag fly today.
“It is a symbol of everything we have,” he said.
When Goodwin now looks at his self portraits taken 49 years ago, he sees himself, with a mustache.
“You never dared to shave it off,” said Goodwin, who is now clean shaven. “If you did, it was bad luck. But I’m not superstitious.”
He also had a crew cut.
“I’d have a crew cut today, if it wasn’t for my wife,” he said. “She likes it when my hair is full. But what do you do?”
Mark Hodapp: 618-654-2366, ext 23