George William Goddard – Brigadier General, United States Air Force

Courtesy of the United States Air Force

Retired June 30, 1949, Died September 20, 1987

George William Goddard was born in London, England, in 1889. He came to Rochester, New York in June 1904 to live with his aunt and uncle. He was naturalized April 27, 1918.

General Goddard graduated from Washing Irving Preparatory School in New York in 1910, attending Keuka college in Keuka, New York,  for two years, then studied commercial art in Rochester for a year. He was a free-lance cartoonist in Rochester until January 1916, when he became a staff artist for the Coke and Iron Monthly in Chicago, Illinois.

On December 14, 1917, General Goddard enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps and entered the aerial photography course at the School of Military Aeronautics at Cornell University. Upon completion of the three-month course, he became an instructor in aerial photographic interpretation.

General Goddard was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Aviation Section Reserve on August 8, 1918, and assigned to Taliaferro Field, Fort Worth, Texas, to organize and take to France the 43rd, 44th and 45th Aerial Photographic sections.

When the World War I armistice was declared, General Goddard was transferred to Carlstrom Field, Florida, where he graduated from flying school and was rated a pilot in May 1919. He then was assigned to McCook Field, Ohio, as officer in charge of aerial photographic research. In that capacity, he started developments in the infra-red and long-range photography, special aerial cameras, photographic aircraft and portable field laboratory equipment and formed the nucleus of the present Photographic Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

On July 1, 1920, General Goddard received his regular commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Service, and was promoted immediately to first lieutenant the same date. He then was appointed officer in charge of aerial photography in the Office of the Chief of the Air Corps, Washington, D.C. While on that assignment, he received a presidential appointment as Air Corps representative on the Federal Board of Surveys and Maps. He organized the first Army aerial photographic mapping units that pioneered in mapping Muscle Shoals, Tennessee River Basin, Teapot Dome, Mississippi River and many other areas.

In August 1945, General Goddard was appointed chief of the Photographic Laboratory at Wright Field. He retired June 30, 1949, but was recalled to active duty the following day, retaining his position as chief of the Photographic Laboratory.

In May 1952, General Goddard was transferred to headquarters of the Allied Air Forces in Central Europe at Fontainebleau, France, for duty as director of reconnaissance, Operations Division.

In July 1953, General Goddard was assigned to Headquarters Air Material Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

General Goddard was sent to Bikini in 1946 in connection with the atomic bomb test. In July 1950, he was awarded the Thurman H. Bane Award for his development in low-altitude high-speed night photography. Immediately thereafter he went to Korea to introduce this new system of night photography and the latest type strip camera, which has been highly successful in the low-altitude jet aircraft operations under adverse weather conditions.

In August 1951, he was awarded the honorary degree of master of photography by the Photographers' Association of America, and also received the Progress Medal for 1951 at the annual convention of the Photographic Society of America, held in Detroit, Mich.

In addition to the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, General Goddard has been awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for his work in the organization of French Aerial photographic research and operational units. He is rated a command pilot, combat observer and technical observer.

George W. Goddard, director of reconnaissance for the Allied Air Forces of Central Europe, was presented the George W. Harris award by the Photographers' Association of America at its 61st annual national convention in Chicago. General Goddard received the award, highest single honor the profession of photographers can bestow, for his contributions to the art of aeria1 photography in supervising development of aerial cameras, equipment and techniques.

The 63-year old general, the Air Force's leading aeria1 photo expert, now directs headquarters in Fontainebleu, France, where he is working with Central European countries to develop unified standards in aerial photographic methods.

General Goddard retired three years ago from active service, but was recalled by General Hoyt Vandenberg, Air Force Chief, to take over his present command. He started his Army career as a buck private in 1917 at the U.S. Signal Corps ground school at Cornell University, became a pilot the next year and has since specialized in aerial photography. For 18 years he was chief of the Air Force's photographic research laboratory in Dayton, Ohio.

“Aerial photography has come a long way even since World War II, General Goddard said. “Present advances in cameras, equipment and particularly in night photography, have great1y restricted maneuvers of the enemy in Korea.”

“Fast jets, traveling at 600 miles an hour and at either 3,000 or 40,000 feet, are able to take continuous film strips of miles of territory that are as clear as day-time pictures. They are so clear that on pictures taken from 40,000 feet, you can count the ties in a railroad track, or the rivets on the wings of an airplane.

“Efforts to camouflage installations also are detected by new electronic aerial photo equipment,” the genera1 added.

General Goddard declared that advances in aerial photography have been greatly speeded by Congress' recognition of its value and its willingness to provide funds. Helpful, also, the general said, are the research experiments of three leading American universities. He referred to Boston University, Ohio State, and Wesleyan (Conn.) as contributing significant advances.

General Goddard personal1y developed and holds the patents on the Air Force's system for taking night pictures. Developed in 1926, the system, with improvements, is still in use.

General Goddard was buried with full military honors in Section  59, Arlington National Cemetery.

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