Jim Goodrich joined the Marines when he was 16 years old. He had always wanted to join the Marine Corps, ever since he was a young boy. He always liked the blue uniform and dreamed of being a Marine when he was in grade school. Growing up in Pampa, Texas, he felt that he had a better chance of succeeding in life if he joined the Marine Corps. He and three buddies went to join the Corps at age 15 in November 1941, but were rejected for being underage. He was sent back home, and went to join his father and sister in Oklahoma City until he could join up. When he turned 16, he had his father go with him. His father was reluctant, saying that Jim was too young, and that he was afraid his son would go overseas and get killed. Jim, the optimist, said he couldn’t get killed and wasn’t worried about death. After convincing his father to sign for him, being underage, he joined in May 1942.
Jim shipped out for boot camp the following day and headed for San Diego. After eight weeks of boot camp, he was assigned as a BAR gunner to L Company 3rd Battalion 6th Marines of the 2nd Marine Division. After arriving in New Zealand, Goodrich and the 2nd division landed on Guadalcanal, where Jim saw his first combat and killed his first enemy soldier. After Guadalcanal and a refit in New Zealand, Jim landed on Tarawa, and survived the ferocious 72-hour battle. His tour of duty over, Jim rotated back home to the United States.
After returning home, Jim was put into the 5th Marine Division while it was still in the United States. Shipping overseas again, he spent time at Camp Tarawa in Hawaii and eventually landed on Iwo Jima on D-Day, February 19, 1945.
"They were sending truck drivers up, men that had been in a band, cooks—everything up there for replacements. Well, they hadn't been trained with us. You can't train a guy in combat like that."
Jim Goodrich on reinforcements in Iwo Jima
Jim was wounded from machine gun fire on Iwo Jima after having fought through the battle for 20 days. When Jim was finally on a transport to the floating Hospital ship, he felt optimistic and hopeful that maybe he was going to be okay. But when he arrived, he was completely dejected and demoralized once they told him they had no more room. Jim was sent back to the beach, where a doctor crudely put him under the knife in a make shift operating room on the sandy beach head, examining all of his internal injuries and eventually removing five-feet of damaged intestines.
Eventually, Jim made it off the beach and back to Guam and Hawaii for five months of rehabilitation. The war was finally over for him. Jim was discharged from the Marines in 1946. After getting out of the Corps, Jim worked in the oilfields in Texas. He returned to Iwo Jima for the first time since the battle in March of 2009.
Seth Paridon was a staff historian at The National WWII Museum from 2005 to 2020. He began his career conducting oral histories and research for HBO’s miniseries The Pacific and holds the distinction of being the first historian hired by the Museum’s Research Department. In the 12 years he was Manager of Research Services, Seth and his team increased the oral history collection from 25 to nearly 5,000 oral histories.