you Benny Goodenberger?by Peary Perry
this column a year or so ago and got several responses. I have since
gone back and looked over the letter my uncle wrote(see info in the
article) and it now looks like he was trying to write ‘Dover, MANE’…Of
course that should be spelled Maine, but I looked up Dover, and found
there is Dover, New Hampshire right on the border of Maine and New
Hampshire. So, the Benny he is referring to may have been from New
Hampshire. I thought about running this once more this year on the
off hand chance someone new might recall this lady and perhaps she
is still alive. I think it would make a great ending to a love story.
visiting with some folks at dinner the other night, I told them about
this situation and then it dawned on me that perhaps someone out there
who reads this stuff of mine might, just might be able to help me.
In May of 1942, I had an Uncle by the name of Mark Davis. Mark was
in the Merchant Marine and was assigned to serving on oil and gasoline
tankers coming up the east coast from New Jersey to Texas. In May
of 1942, he was on the SS Virginia coming out of New Orleans when
a German submarine, the U-507 torpedoed the ship.
The Virginia went down and as I recall about 14 of the crewmen lost
their lives. I’ve never been able to find out the exact details of
what happened that day, since the records are so old and scattered.
But, in any event my Uncle must have done something to help the survivors
since as a result of his actions, a Liberty ship was built and named
after him. My Mother and Grandmother were the sponsors and when I
was growing up, I remembered the pictures of them christening the
ship in Houston.
How does this relate to today?
Well, a couple of years ago, my oldest Aunt, knew I was interested
in my Uncle’s history and she sent me a number of letters, newspaper
clippings and other items that told about the ship being sunk. She
also sent me the telegrams from the War Department that were sent
to my Grandmother telling her that her son had been killed. He was
buried out in Odessa, Texas.
I decided to contact a model ship maker and had a model made of the
Liberty Ship, Mark A. Davis. During the six months or so while the
model was being built I went back and reread some of the letters that
Mark had written.
In his last letter to my Grandmother, he told her he was carrying
a load of highly flammable aviation gasoline and anything should happen
to them, he would think it very doubtful that he would survive. Of,
course something did happen to him and he was killed.
In looking at this last letter, I found a curious notation. He writes…”Mom,
I am worried about this trip…if, by chance anything should happen
to me, there is this girl, Benny Goodenberger, in …………, and I’d like
you to tell her what happened to me.”
The problem with this letter is that no one can tell what town he
is telling us that Benny lived in. It looks like Denver, but could
be Dover. He wasn’t in Colorado at any time, but he had been in Maine…is
there a Dover, Maine or a Dover anywhere on the east coast?
Now, what occurred to me is that knowing the capabilities of the world
in 1942, I am fairly certain my Grandmother made absolutely no effort
to find Miss. Goodenberger. If I can’t read his writing 62 years later,
I’m sure she couldn’t either.
So, what do you think we have here?
Well, let’s suppose Miss. Goodenberger fell in love with my Uncle
Mark. He gets on a ship and sails away, never to return. The ship
was sunk off the coast of Louisiana during the war. The newspapers
weren’t too eager to publicize the fact that German submarines were
lurking just off our coasts. Miss. Goodenberger might never have know
what happened to Mark, since no one knew how to contact her and tell
her. So, it’s possible she has spent all of this time wondering why
he never came back.
I went on line to Google and looked at the number of Goodenbergers
listed in the entire country. There were only about 20 or so. None
of them lived in any town or city that resembled a Dover or Denver.
I mailed each of them a letter explaining what I was trying to do.
A couple called me, but sadly had no information or had ever heard
of any Goodenberger named Benny.
It’s possible that she is still alive somewhere. Of course by now,
she would have to be in her eighties, but could certainly be alive.
I’m wondering if the US Census for 1940 would have her listed and
might be available?
Anyway, it’s a long story, but one that I’d like to resolve. If anyone
out there has any suggestions on what I might do next or where to
look….drop me a line. We might just solve this thing yet…..wouldn’t
that be nice?