CHAPIN, S.C. (WIS) - A Midlands World War II veteran will celebrate his 100th birthday in a couple of weeks -- 75 years after he boarded a B-24 bomber destined for the beaches of Normandy.
Luther Godwin, 99, vividly remembers June 6, 1944 and his assignment that day as a crew member with the Army Air Corps.
“We didn’t even know where we were going, only the pilot did,” Godwin said. “I was amazed because as I told my kids, I sat up there in my airplane after we had dropped the bombs and there were thousands of men being killed beneath my airplane. It made me glad I was not in the Army at that time, that I was flying over it.”
Godwin said his B-24 bomber was fourth in line to approach Normandy and after one pass, returned to Hethel Air Station in England. He went on to complete dozens of bombing missions, returning to the United States physically unscathed.
He is a member of the Air Force’s “Lucky Bastards Club,” for his high success rate during missions, several of which were deemed top secret by the U.S. government.
After more than two decades in the Navy, Army and Air Force, Godwin retired in 1966.
“There’s nothing that anybody does in my opinion other than what he’s supposed to do,” he said. “You have no such thing in my opinion as a hero. You just actually don’t have time to hope you don’t get hurt, you just wait to see.”
Godwin joined the Navy in 1937, and at just 18 years old he quickly joined the search for missing pilot Amelia Earhart and her navigator, who mysteriously went missing over the Pacific Ocean.
Aboard the USS Lexington, Godwin remembers the manpower in both the air and in the sea searching for the pair.
“The most impressive thing I saw were so many sharks,” he said. “We naturally hoped they were on land and had not crash landed in the water, but we never found any sign of anything.”
With his 100th birthday quickly approaching in November, Godwin said he has a lot to be thankful for, including his family. Many of his friends, both civilians and from wartime, have passed.
“When it’s over you realize how lucky you’ve been, but you also realize you were man enough to do what you were supposed to do and you want your children to know they didn’t have a coward for a father,” he said.
Godwin lives with his son in Chapin and plans to celebrate his birthday with upwards of 50 guests at a party next month.