Monday, May 31, 2021

Captain “Barney O’Goodman,” USMC (1918-1944): Lest We Forget



Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

When I was a wee lad, a couple times a year my mom would call a taxi, and send me and my big sister down to Long Beach’s West End, to visit our Aunt Rose.

The West End was close to 100% Catholic, and overwhelmingly Irish, and yet Aunt Rose had lived there seemingly forever. When we were kids, she still had the sign out front that she was a realtor, though she probably hadn’t done any work for years.

Aunt Rose always served us home-made fish cakes—the world’s worst! They tasted as if she’d breaded them with sawdust.

In the back of the first floor—the only floor I ever saw—Aunt Rose had an old-fashioned sink with two faucets, on opposite sides. The left faucet got you scalding hot water, and the right one got you ice-cold water.

By then, Aunt Rose was severely stooped, stood something like 4’8,” and shuffled around the house unsteadily.

Aside from the TV, a big, old black & white set that was surely a Zenith (Aunt Rose was a fan of the show, Millionaire), the parlor was unofficially the Howard K. Goodman Memorial Museum.

Aunt Rose had given a photograph of Howard in his dress uniform to a painter, whose portrait dominated the room.

On the mantle below the portrait, were Howard’s medals in little boxes. There were at least two, of which I recall only the Purple Heart. The other one must have been his Silver Star.

What a terrible thing, to lose one’s only child in The War.

Nana had told me about how respected Gold Star Mothers were.

Nana, Aunt Rose’s kid sister, had three children, two of whom survived military service. Aunt Ruth (1921-2016), made it to lieutenant in the WACs, and Uncle Irwin (1924-1992) made it to sergeant in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and then went back for seconds in the Korean War.

Aunt Ruth became an elementary school teacher in Bellmore, New York, while Uncle Irwin worked largely as a college reference librarian in Atlanta.

During Aunt Rose’s latter years, when she and Nana were the last of 14 siblings, all born in Hungary, circa 1873-1893, they would speak on the phone every morning, and every conversation would end with the sisters shouting, “Oh, Rose!,” “Oh, Fan (Fanny)!,” and simultaneously slamming down the phone.

For one of Aunt Rose’s last birthdays, one of the relatives took us all to a fancy Jewish restaurant on the (Long) Island somewhere. All I remember is us sitting at a long row of tables that the staff had pushed together, and everyone starting off with matzo ball soup, which I hated.

Aunt Rose died around 1966, in her early eighties; around the time I turned eight.

Only in 2012 did I learn that Aunt Rose had in fact had three children. She just organized her home, as if Howard had been her only child!

My cousin Howard explained things to me in 2012, when we met at our cousin Philip’s funeral. (Philip was only 55, and while he’d been a skinny kid, he had long been morbidly obese.)

We traveled together afterwards on the LIRR. It seems that Aunt Rose had two daughters, Ruth and Alma, of whom Ruth was Howard’s mother. (Howard Passel was born a few months after the Jap sniper killed Howard Goodman, and Ruth thus named her child after her brother.)

But of course! I’d met Ruth and Alma and their respective husbands many times, when they came to visit Nana, but never made the connection.

If memory serves, Ruth and Alma both became schoolteachers, a common trade for smart Jewish girls, before they discovered that they could become rich as shysters through extortionary lawsuits.

Although I recall Ruth’s husband, I can’t recall his name (Ben?). I’ll rectify that omission later. Alma married Raymond Kaplow (1909-1983), who had made it to at least captain in the Army Medical Corps, and who would become a celebrated orthopedic surgeon.

The West End has always been full of Irish saloons, which is where Howard Goodman would have learned all those Irish songs. He was admitted to the New York Bar about a month before he shipped off, so I doubt that he ever worked as a lawyer.

Howard Kenneth Goodman (1918 - 1944)
By Howard Passel

Captain Howard Kenneth “Howie” Goodman
Born 7 Mar 1918 in Trenton, NJ, USA
Son of Samuel (Gutman) Goodman and Rosa (Frank) Goodman
Brother of Ruth (Goodman) Passel and Alma (Goodman) Kaplow
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died 7 Jan 1944 in Cape Gloucester, New Britain
Goodman-3008 created 1 Jul 2015 | Last modified 22 Apr 2017
This page has been accessed 90 times.


Then there was “Barney O'Goodman.” The records list him as “Captain Howard K. Goodman, a New York lawyer, but they called him Barney O’Goodman because he could sing more Irish songs than any man in the regiment. They called him ‘Bugle Boy,’ too, because he blew his company’s calls in camp. It was the only company in the Marine Corps with a captain for a bugler. It was pretty much a company secret."++

Awarded a Silver Star for heroism on Guadalcanal. He was killed on Cape Gloucester because he exposed himself to spot the enemy rather than order one of his men to do it.++


+ My mother, Ruth Goodman Passel. ++ Asa Bordages, Technical Sergeant, U. S. Marine Corps, "From SUICIDE CREEK," Collier's magazine, June 2, 1945.


Howard at Columbia University