The following is an excerpt of a biography of Cedar Grove native Carl Bradford Goodson, written by cadets Cade Graham and Noah Spence, and Maj. T. Brad McGee (Ret.), George Washington High School JROTC. The biography in its entirety and others are posted at www.wvculture.org.
Carl Bradford Goodson (“Punkin”) was born on Oct. 14, 1948, to Vernon Floyd Goodson (1918-1999) and Dortha W. Smith Goodson (1917-1987) in Cedar Grove.
He grew up through the 1950s and 1960s and most likely lived a fairly normal life before the inception of the Vietnam War. As a kid, he enjoyed playing baseball and eventually played for three years while in high school. He graduated from Cedar Grove High School in 1966 and was a member of the Church of God in Ward. He was not married and did not have any children.
During the later years of the ’60s, the expansion of military forces for the Vietnam War required the draft to be utilized. Goodson was drafted into the U.S. Army on May 22, 1969. He graduated basic training and AIT (advanced initial training) from Fort Benning, Georgia, as a specialist fourth class (SP4). Goodson’s military occupational specialty (MOS) was 11B, which is light weapons infantryman.
He would be sent to Vietnam on Oct. 28, 1969, and was assigned to 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division.
During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division fought in several major campaigns and battles. Goodson’s battalion was sent in early March 1970 to reopen the strategic Fire Support Base Ripcord. The firebase was to be used for a planned offensive by the 101st to destroy the North Vietnamese Army’s supply bases in the mountains overlooking the A Shau Valley.
FSB Ripcord had been carved out near the top of a 2,800-foot-high mountain. Soon after the infantrymen arrived, the level of the NVA activity increased around the Khe Sanh plain and the A Shau Valley. The NVA were watching and began a series of attacks. From the beginning, the North Vietnamese would sporadically attack the base. The battle for FSB Ripcord would be considered the last great fight of the Vietnam War.
On April 1, Charlie Company would conduct an assault onto Hill 927, which was adjacent to FSB Ripcord. Other companies were spread out to provide security for the base to operate.
However, on April 6, 1970, members of 1st Platoon, Charlie Company came under attack from the NVA trying to overtake FSB Ripcord. After a grueling, two-hour battle, three members of 1st Platoon, Charlie Company lost their lives that fateful day defending FSB Ripcord: Cpl. Lawrence Christman, Sgt. Steve Seward and Spc. 4 Carl B. Goodson.
Gary Gilliam recounted this about Carl and the circumstances of his death on April 6, 1970: “He was a brave young soldier who died serving the country he loved. Carl was part of the battle of Firebase Ripcord. The elements of this battle began as the 101st Airborne Division began the effort to reopen the strategic firebase [Ripcord] located overlooking the infamous A Shau Valley in March and ended July 22. With almost continual daily contact throughout the campaign, on April 6 on Hill 927, 25 miles west of the city of Hue, Carl, along with his brothers, Lawrence Christman and Steve Steward of Charlie Company, fought bravely to hold their position to protect Firebase Ripcord against an overwhelming force of the North Vietnamese Army. After two brutal hours of battle, these three brave soldiers gave their lives to save the lives of their brothers of Charlie Company.
“Over the next four months, Charlie Company would lose 19 men leading to siege on Firebase Ripcord. Carl and his fallen brothers would become part one of the most deadly battles of South Vietnam.”
In total, around 138 service members would give their lives to defend the firebase, including the brother of actor Chuck Norris, Wieland Norris, who was assigned to Alpha Company.
Goodson’s remains were recovered and returned to the U.S., where he was buried in Ward Cemetery at Cedar Grove. He is memorialized on Panel 12W, Line 101, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and at the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston.
In his brief military career, Goodson became a highly decorated soldier. Among his awards were the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Combat Infantryman Badge.
On March 9, 2019, the West Virginia Legislature introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 63 wherein they renamed the U.S. Route 60 Cedar Grove Overpass 3565 Bridge. In honor of three local veterans, the bridge is named the U.S. Army PFC Earl Russell Cobb, SP4 Carl Bradford Goodson and SSGT George T. Saunders Jr. Memorial Bridge.
Goodson is also remembered at the Cedar Grove Veterans Memorial.