Jim Goss recalls his World War II European Theatre experiences

November 13, 2010 • Local News

With the winter months soon approaching, focus is put on staying warm and bracing for the freezing weather. And although many have experienced what it means to be cold, few people can say they’ve lived to endure the winter with scant shelter while in the mountains of Belgium. James E. “Jim” Goss happens to be one of those individuals.

In the winter of 1944, he was one of thousands of U.S. soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. “It was God awful,” said Goss, who recalled the weather when first asked about his experience while serving as a private in the Army during the battle. “It was ugly winter weather, with snow, overcast and someone shooting at you all the time,” he said. “I guess the main thing that sticks out in my mind is being scared and cold.”

Goss, 84, is one of many U.S. veterans to whom many others have expressed their thanks and gratitude this week, as Thursday marked Veterans Day. The Roswell resident was born in Kansas City, Kan., and moved with his family to about a half dozen other areas of the country while growing up. “I come from a long line of fiddlefooted people,” he said, with a smile before pausing, “Then, the Army came and got me.”

[auth] After registering for the draft on his 18th birthday, little time went by before he was called into service and learned he was to serve in an Army engineer combat battalion. “I couldn’t spell engineer, but I knew what combat meant and I was scared from then until the war was over,” he said.

He left the U.S. from Manhattan and spent 12 days crossing the Atlantic. He was still in England when the Battle of the Bulge began, but soon headed east across the English Channel toward the fight. It was his 19th birthday. “We were just one (small part) of the whole battle,” he said, recalling the missions he was tasked with during the battle, the gun and artillery fire, and, of course, the cold.

“We wore five pairs of woolen socks,” he said, adding to the numerous other layers of clothing and how it “felt good standing next to the exhaust of a truck” for warmth. Following the arduous battle, his battalion made its way through a number of countries, before the war in Europe ended. Although battle around him mostly concluded, everything wasn’t complete. “We were headed directly for … the South Pacific,” he said.

“We were in the process of getting our shots … and we were on our way there.” Goss says he was within a day of being shipped out when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and everything stopped. He credits the bomb with likely saving his life.

“They said we were going back to the States and I said, ‘When I see the Statue of Liberty I’ll believe it,’” he said, before being shipped home. Goss was finished with war fare and spent his remaining time in the Army on U.S. soil. Despite having spent years off the battlefield, the thoughts of war are far from gone.

“It’s definitely an emotional experience,” he said. “I can’t get up today and say anything about the war without tearing up.” Following the Army, Goss went to college and switched majors a few times before graduating with a degree in psychology.

After school, he “hopped from job to job” and says he did a little of everything for a number of years, including being a salesman, truck driver, private investigator and much in between. When he was about 30, a friend assisted him in getting his career started in human resources in the civil service sector.

Around that time is when he met his future wide, Vonnie, and the moving began. The couple followed their jobs across the U.S. and lived in about 20 cities over the course of their careers. The longest they ever stayed in one area, about seven years, was while living in Washington, D.C. After years of traveling from one location to the other, the couple moved to Roswell in October 1986.

Although the both may have finally retired, they weren’t ready to take it easy. “I didn’t retire to play golf or sit on the couch and watch TV,” he said. “We wasted no time in getting involved.” Aside from business ventures, Goss volunteers at Chaves County CASA, the Roswell Community Little Theatre and the Roswell Symphony Orchestra.

And despite being in his 80s, he has not slowed down. “I’m going like a house on fire all day,” he said. Currently, he is the vice president of the Roswell Community Little Theatre’s board of directors, after having served on it since 1987.

Goss is heavily involved with the theater’s many productions, especially when the topic is one very familiar to him. One of the most recent productions was Memories of War, an hour-long play which is a prelude to DDay.

The live performance was given at the Peachtree Retirement Community Home, Tuesday. Goss, like many others who deserve thanks and praise, was in the audience, thanks, in part, to his sacrifice and that of others like him.

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