It was a pleasure to read Gen. Perry Smith’s column in your Sunday, Jan. 7, paper.
I had the privilege to grow up in a family which maintained a long friendship with Col. and Mrs. Dyess, Col. and Mrs. Goodrich, and now Gen. and Mrs. Smith.
I believe Col. Charles Goodrich is one of the least-known of America’s unsung heroes in the last world war. Of course, I knew him only in his later years when he impressed me as a quiet, unprepossessing figure with an immutable military bearing.
The background for this letter is complete when I mention my good fortune in having been a colleague of over 30 years with the late Anthony A. Alaimo, judge of the Southern District of Georgia, a personality and jurist known to many Augustans and Georgians. Apart from my father, Judge Alaimo was the hero in my life with whom I had the closest and longest relationship.
He was a courtly gentleman, possessed of an iron will and an incisive, brilliant mind. Although he was a kindly man, his toughness lay close beneath the surface. Tony Alaimo never effused excessive or unwarranted compliments. Most of the people who knew Alaimo would call him a consummate professional. In his military service as a pilot officer, he was courageous and indisputably heroic.
Alaimo was shot down near Holland on his first mission. The only survivor from his B-26, he, like Goodrich, was grievously injured and hospitalized before being transferred to Stalag Luft 3.
Acting under the command of Col. Goodrich, who governed thousands of allied airmen officers into a cohesive military unit within the prison camp, Alaimo escaped three times. He was recaptured twice with severe consequences. However, his third escape eventually landed him in Switzerland, effectively ending the war from his perspective.
Alaimo was truly a remarkable man, prisoner of war, lawyer, and judge.
However, this letter is not about Alaimo. I worked with the judge for about 10 years until, in the late 1980s, he began to share with me some of his wartime experiences. I never interrogated him; I just let him talk. On those occasions and when he spoke of Stalag Luft 3, he always used reverential tones when describing Col. Goodrich, who was “Rojo” to those who knew him well.
On several occasions Judge Alaimo told me that Colonel Goodrich was the finest man he ever met!
Tony explained that, because of the discipline and leadership employed by Goodrich in Stalag Luft 3, the lives and futures of thousands of young airmen were preserved. That is the point of this letter.
When I read Gen. Smith’s column centering on Col. Goodrich and his role as P.O.W. camp commander, I felt compelled to relay the laudatory sentiments expressed so clearly by our departed friend.
I could not have rested without writing this in Judge Alaimo’s behalf.
Dudley H. Bowen Jr.