Awaken the Dead Feature: Rulon Charles Goodliffe

The Axis recovered the dead body of a British Royal Marine Pilot on a Spanish beach in April of 1943. Handcuffed to his wrist was a goldmine of information stashed in a weathered briefcase. It was Allied documents and plans, outlining in great detail their intent to take Sardinia and Corsica, two islands of Greece. 

“I heard Hitler is obsessed with those plans,” chuckled the man standing at Rulon’s right. Rulon forced a brief smile on his lips. Humorous as the situation was, it was still war.

The plans had been faked. It was all part of Operation Mincemeat[1], a rather ingenious play by the British, who dressed up the body of a homeless man from Wales who’d committed suicide and left him with the faux strategies for the Axis to find. The American and British troops were preparing to set off on Operation Husky, the real plan to invade Sicily, now that most of Hitler’s troops had been sent to reinforce the islands west of Italy.

The chatter amongst the men died as soon as Colonel “Paddy” Flint entered the room, his helmet already on with the 9th Infantry division’s famous “Triple-A Bar Nothing” slogan[2] painted on the side. Flint was new to the division, and should have been too old to fight at 56, but that didn’t stop him taking this group of mediocre soldiers and single-handedly turning them into a great fighting unit. He was crazy, or as General Patton put it, “clearly nuts, but he fights well.”[3] Flint stood in front of his men, his mouth a hard line.

“What does this mean?” he asked, pointing to the AAA-O logo on the side of his helmet.

“Anything, Anywhere, Anytime, Bar Nothing!” the men replied in unison.

“That’s right,” Flint nodded, his arched eyebrows creating a creased V on the bridge of his large nose. “The enemy sees this and knows who we are! The enemy who sees our regiment in combat, if they live through the battle, will know to run the next time they see us coming.”[4]

Flint surveyed the men before him, staring them straight in the eyes. Rulon felt a chill run down his spine, but it was invigorating. This was a man he could follow.

paddy-flint

Colonel Harry A. “Paddy” Flint

***

            Operation Husky was the 9th Infantry’s second major operation in just three months. Operation Torch[5] took place on the north shores of Africa the previous November, ending successfully in May when 250,000 German and Italian troops surrendered in Tunisia. It had been a long four months of fighting, but the war was far from over.

Operation Husky had gotten off to a rocky start. A massive summer storm rolled in just the night before, bringing harsh winds and rain. The conditions made it difficult for paratroopers to land behind enemy lines that night. Despite the weather, the U.S. troops moved in on Sicily before dawn on the morning of July 10, 1943. Fortunately, the element of surprise was on the side of the Americans, thanks mostly to Operation Mincemeat, and also because no Axis defender in Sicily would have expected an Allied commander to lead an attack in such extreme conditions of wind and rain.[6]

***

            “Mincemeat was a success,” Colonel Flint told the men several days into Operation Husky. “In fact, it was so much of a success that Hitler continues to tell his officers that this is all a diversion, and that we’ll be attacking Sardinia and Corsica any day now.”

There was appreciative laughter from the gathered men.

“Sources have told me that there are only a handful of Axis divisions still in Sicily,” Flint continued. “But that doesn’t mean that this mission will be easy. There are 150,000 us, but we’re on their turf. This isn’t some walk in the park, this is war!”

The men cheered, all of them wearing their helmets with the stenciled logo on the side, the symbol of their unity.

Rulon cheered with them. Things were looking up for the Allied forces.

aaao helmet

AAA-O Logo

***

            On August 5, just 26 days into Operation Husky, Rulon found himself in the back of an ambulance, being carried off to the field hospital.[7] He slipped in and out of consciousness on the 30-mile ride, praying all the way that he might survive his wounds. His home and family had never felt so far, a full 6,000 miles away.

***

rulon.jpg

Rulon Charles Goodliffe

Rulon Charles Goodliffe was born in Rexburg, Idaho on May 11, 1907 to parents Henry Abron and Anna Jane Goodliffe. His father was an immigrant from England while his mother was born in Idaho. The two moved to Rexburg and together had eight children.[8]

The Goodliffe family lived in Idaho for all of Rulon’s life. He attended school there with his many siblings. His education was cut short, however, when his father died in 1922.[9] Rulon dropped out of school after completing only a year of high school and joined the workforce. He continued to support his family for many years, even working as a bee worker at one point in his life.[10]

Rulon continued working like this until he enlisted in the army in 1942 and became part of the 39th Infantry Regiment in the 9th Infantry Division. They were known as the Fighting Falcons.[11]

It was with these Fighting Falcons, under Colonel Flint, that Rulon fought in Africa and Sicily. Once Operation Husky had been successfully completed, Rulon and the rest of his division were sent to England for training. It had been six weeks since Rulon had been injured, and he had since been released from the hospital and returned to active service. Rulon had more reason than most to look forward to their transfer to England: his younger brother, Irvun, was serving in the army there.[12]

***

irvun and rulon.jpg

Irvun and Rulon Goodliffe

The two brothers sat close together as the cold December air bit at their skin. It was Christmas, and by some miracle they were together for the holiday.

“Do you think we’ll ever see the house again?” Irvun asked his older brother. Before they had enlisted in the army, they had built a house for their mother. It was a white stucco California-style home, with a porch and a basement the brothers had dug out themselves with shovels. Their mother had loved it, and the two of them lived there with her when they had been home.[13]

“I’m sure we will,” said Rulon, and clapped his brother on the back.

He couldn’t have known how wrong he was.

***

            Rulon Goodliffe was killed in action on August 5, 1944 in France.[14] He was 38 years old. His body was shipped home and buried in the Rexburg cemetery. He received the Purple Heart. His brother, Irvun, did in fact live to see his mother’s house again and later married and had children.

It wasn’t quite in the way he expected, but Rulon finally returned home.

 

rulon obituary.jpg

Obituary of Rulon Goodliffe

 

[1] Information found on History.com in an article on the invasion of Sicily

[2] Logo and meaning found on 9th Infantry Division website

[3] Quote found on the website for the 9th Infantry Division

[4] Quote found on the website for the 39th Infantry Division

[5] Information found on History.com

[6] Details taken from History.com article

[7] Information taken from Ogden Standard Examiner obituary

[8] Information found on Ancestry.com

[9] Record of father’s death found on US Find a Grave Index

[10] Information found in US 1940s census

[11] Details taken from 39th Infantry Division website

[12] Information taken from Rulon Goodliffe’s obituary in Ogden Standard Examiner

[13] Details found in a letter from Margaret Goodliffe, niece of Rulon and Irvun Goodliffe

[14] Information taken from Ogden Standard Examiner obituary

Works Cited:

“Find A Grave – Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials.”Find A Grave –    Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Goodliffe, Margaret. “Rememberances of Rulon Goodliffe by Niece Margaret Goodliffe.”  Letter. N.d. MS. Rexburg, Idaho.

Idaho Southeast Counties Obituaries. Digital image. Family Search. Family Search, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

“Invasion of Sicily.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

“9th Infantry Division :: Brief History.” 9th Infantry Division :: Brief History. Easy39th Online, n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Rulon Charles Goodliffe. Digital image. Rulon Charles Goodliffe. N.p., n.d.  Web. 04 Feb. 2016

“Rulon Charles Goodliffe OBIT.” Editorial. Ogden Standard Examiner 22 Aug. 1944: n. pag. Rulon Charles Goodliffe OBIT. Family Search, 27 June 2013. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

“Sgt Rulon Charles Goodliffe.” U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

“Sicily.” 9th Infantry Division. N.p., 31 July 2012. Web. 04 Feb. 2016.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Rexburg, Madison, Idaho; Roll: T627_750; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 33-11

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