Veteran's memories bring history alive for students
For Meverell Good, remembering veterans is more than an annual one-day holiday. For the past six years, the 85-year-old World War II veteran has shared memories of his wartime experiences in presentations to high school students, bringing to life a period in history most of them have only read about in textbooks.
"I think because you're giving them your personal history, they can relate to it," Mr. Good said in an interview on Monday, at the home he shares with his wife Anne in Vineyard Haven.
While working as a substitute teacher at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, Mr. Good met Elaine Weintraub, head of the social studies and history department. She asked him about sharing his World War II experiences with her students.
Her question inspired Mr. Good to put his thoughts, along with some photos, into a small booklet that he has handed out to many students ever since.
"My hope is that 'Memories of World War II' will show what war was like and how it affected me and many other young men and women," Mr. Good wrote on the title page. "May you never have to go through this."
Mr. Good grew up in St. Louis. In 1940, at the start of World War II, he was a sophomore in high school at St. Louis Country Day School.
That same year, his future wife Anne, age 5, and her mother left their home near Liverpool and went to live in Old Colwyn, England, in the north of Wales, to escape the German bombing.
"Coming home after playing football, I learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor. My world changed forever," Mr. Good wrote. In 1942, his high school issued all the young men uniforms and wooden rifles. Later he would learn that every member of his class went into military service or the American Field Service.
Mr. Good said he never forgot a quote about the coming war, read at a school assembly: "Look to your left, look to your right - some will not return."
Those words proved prophetic, as his friend Willard B. Shelp, who appears on Mr. Good's right in two school photos, was killed in the line of duty in Egypt in September 1944. Six other classmates also were killed, from 1944 to 1945.
Going to war was a matter of when, not if, Mr. Good said. After graduation, he attended his freshman year at Princeton University and pondered what to do, as he heard from friends who had joined the Armed Forces. Mr. Good enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942.
For a young man with a sense of duty and a thirst for adventure, a notice posted at his college in November 1943, from the National Ski Association of America, said it all: "The Army still wants tough outdoor men for its mountain troops...Candidates need not be skiers or mountaineers. It is not sufficiently known that we are glad to consider the applications of any young men who are merely first-class raw material... In brief, the requirements are primarily an ardent desire to serve in the mountain forces and the physical fitness obviously needed."
Undeterred by his total lack of skiing or mountaineering experience, Mr. Good completed a questionnaire to apply and sent it in with three letters of recommendation. No one was more surprised than he when he was accepted.
In April 1943, he headed as an enlisted men to Camp Hale, Colorado, as a member of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division.
Later Mr. Good was transferred to the 126th Mountain Engineers, and he shipped out to Italy. After the war ended in Italy, an invasion was planned for the rocky coast north of Tokyo. Mountain troops would be deployed to scale the sheer seashore cliffs.
Mr. Good and the 126th Mountain Engineers were put on trains from Florence to Naples to head home to the states to train for the invasion in Japan. When the war ended in Japan with the explosions of two atomic bombs, so did Mr. Good's next scheduled deployment.
In talking about his wartime experiences with students, Mr. Good said one of the points he makes is that it touched everyone's life. "Everybody was in it," he said. "World War two cut across all social and economic lines."
At the very least, Mr. Good said, he asks students a question that puts the concept of blessings and freedoms won by the sacrifice of those in wartime in simple terms: "How many of you slept in a bed last night?"
When asked about students' questions and reactions, Mr. Good said he has been surprised that some were unaware of the fighting that went on in the Pacific and the roles that women played in the war effort.
Reading the written critiques he requests from students at the end of his presentation, Mr. Good said many of them remark on the emotional toll they never realized the war took on the young soldiers and their families.
Mr. Good finished his military service in 1946, and spent his civilian career in the insurance industry, retiring as a senior administrator of training from Aetna Life. Mr. Good and his wife bought property in Vineyard Haven in 1981 and retired to the Vineyard in 1989. Since then, he has served on many town committees in Tisbury and is an active American Legion member.