April 25, 2011
Pat Franken, of Sedalia, wasn’t raised with her father, but always heard he did great things in the service.
Goodson W. Merriott was inducted into the Army on Jan. 13, 1943, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at the age of 20. He was sent to air warning ground observer school at Drew Field in Tampa, Fla. He was assigned to Company B, 573rd Signal Aircraft Warning Battalion.
According to William L. Freienmuth, a veteran of the 573rd Signal Air Warning Battalion who lives in Pennsylvania, some of the men of the 573rd crossed the Atlantic in the fall of 1943 on the Empress of Australia. Others, including Merriott, crossed on the Queen Mary in January 1944.
“There were many reorganizations and transfers among the Signal Aircraft Warning Battalions in 1944,” Freienmuth said. “The 573rd spent the period from February through August training in England. We crossed the channel in late August and landed on Utah Beach.”
Merriott was a ground observer. Their job was, along with the infantry troops, to spot priority ground targets.
“If the local infantry officer in charge thought a friendly aircraft was required to destroy the target, he would ask the ground observer to, by radio, call the chief controller at the 573rd Forward Director Post, a radar station, and ask that a fighter bomber attack the target at map coordinates provided by the infantry,” said Freienmuth.
Ground observers operated in pairs. During the Battle of the Bulge, Merriott and his partner were captured by German soldiers who spoke English. They had infiltrated the area and were dressed as Americans.
“He was one of those kind who didn’t talk about it (his service),” said Bill Franken, Pat’s husband.
Merriott survived the war and was discharged as a staff sergeant on Oct. 16, 1945. He received the Purple Heart, three Bronze Stars, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
He returned to Missouri and was a member of Disabled American War Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2591 and the Prisoners of War Club.
One of his greatest loves was playing the fiddle. He taught himself how to play and became a three-time state champion. He also was a member of the Missouri Valley Boys with Joe Lender, Frank Johnson and Johnny Nace.
He died in 1978 at the age of 56.