Barry Goldwater served a dual role during World War II. By day, he flew vital supplies in and out of U.S. military installations. In his spare time, he used the empty supply planes to take war-weary servicemen, who often had to wait months for a ship home, back to the United States. Goldwater realized how inappropriate this practice was when an Army inspector ordered him to stop it. He quickly changed his mind, however, when the inspector left the premises.
- During World War II oversaw the construction of a flying school at Yuma, Arizona, where he earned his wings.
- Participated in ferrying fighter planes to Europe and as chief pilot flying supply routes to the China-Burma-India Theater.
- Elected to the senate in 1952 and co-sponsored legislation creating the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- In 1964, he was a U.S. Presidential candidate.
- As a senator, he supported NASA research programs, all-volunteer military, the National Air and Space Museum, recognizing WASP pilots as World War II veterans and building a Vietnam War Memorial.
During the Great Depression, while he was still a clerk in his family’s mercantile store in Phoenix, Barry Goldwater was bitten by the “flying bug” and started to take flying lessons. When he soloed in 1930 and his mother learned that he had secretly earned a pilot license, she scolded him, saying, “If you had told me, I would have learned with you”.
At Christmas of 1934, Goldwater received a gift of a fine camera from his beautiful new wife, Margaret Johnson. This gift turned Goldwater toward what would become his most rewarding hobby. By 1940 Goldwater had taken enough outstanding photos to publish his first book, Arizona Portraits.
In 1939, when World War II erupted in Europe, Barry was not only president of Goldwater’s (the family store), but also a first lieutenant in the Army Reserves. Meanwhile, a great buildup of American airpower was underway and a flight training school opened at Luke field near Phoenix. As chairman of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s Armed Service Committee that he visited the new field. When its commander discovered that Goldwater was both an Arizonan and a reserve officer, he quickly signed him up for a one-year tour of active duty with the Air Corps. The commander desperately needed someone who knew his way around the state.
Reporting to Luke in August 1941, Goldwater was quickly disappointed to find that his vision deficiencies and age disqualified him from pilot training. Instead, he became a public relations officer and also attended the Air Corps Supply School at Patterson Field. However, Goldwater’s camera was what finally opened the door to flying, for when he returned, he found that every new pilot wanted to be photographed flying his plane. Aloft in an accompanying plane, Goldwater took a photo of a pilot. Then his own pilot allowed him assume the controls and log the flight time.
Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Goldwater oversaw the building of an advanced flying school at Yuma, Arizona, where he earned his wings in 1942. As its director of gunnery, he helped to develop the vastly superior “curve of pursuit” training method, which revolutionized gunnery results and which the Army Air Forces adopted. In 1943, Goldwater transferred to the air transport command, ferrying warplanes and supplies to overseas war zones. Soon afterwards, he experienced his most famous war duty while serving as operations officer of the 27th Ferry Squadron. Goldwater volunteered to participate in the first and only attempt to ferry fighter planes to Europe. Taking off from New York in P-47 Thunderbolts equipped with extra fuel tanks, he and nine other pilots flew to Newfoundland. After reaching Greenland, they headed for Iceland, knowing that a forced landing in the frigid Atlantic meant certain death. Fortunately, they arrived safely in Scotland. It was an epic adventure for which Goldwater received the coveted Air Medal.
Goldwater’s next assignment was as chief pilot of the “Crescent” supply route. Operating out of La Guardia, its C-54 transports carried vital supplies across the Atlantic to the Azores, then skipped across North Africa, and ended up in India, where America’s first B-29 bombers were based. Later Goldwater became chief pilot of the “Fireball” route operating out of Miami to Brazil, then across the South Atlantic to Africa and on to India. Goldwater sometimes showed his nonconformist personality as a chief pilot. When he found war-weary servicemen waiting for months for a ship home, he gave them a free ride to the United States in his empty planes–until an irate Army inspector ordered him to stop. Goldwater obeyed, but only as long as the inspector was on the base.
Now fully qualified to fly four-engine aircraft, Goldwater repeatedly requested to be transferred to the bomber command. Instead, he received orders back to the U.S. to serve as Deputy Director of Operations with the 402nd Air Base Unit at Glendale, California, later to be redesignated as the 318th Fighter Wing and moved to Van Nuys. Upon the conclusion of the war, Goldwater left the service as a lieutenant colonel with four and a half years of active duty.
When Goldwater returned to Phoenix and took up management of Goldwater’s, he also purchased a Piper Cub and formed a flying club for store employees. Before he finished, 24 members became licensed pilots. He proceeded to use his new Navion during the “Big Snow” of 1947 to airlift in food and medicine to marooned Hopi Indians, an act that earned support for him from the Hopis. Not long afterwards, the governor of Arizona requested that Goldwater assist to establish an Arizona Air National Guard. The result was the 197th Fighter Squadron, of which he later became chief of staff.
Meanwhile, Goldwater’s began his long involvement politics when he served on a commission seeking Congressional approval of a project to divert Colorado River water into central Arizona. He proceeded to serve on the Phoenix Charter Movement Committee which successfully sponsored a new city chapter. Elected to the Phoenix City Council in 1949, he served as its vice chairman and helped the city become widely respected for its management excellence.
Goldwater’s Uncle Morris had the greatest influence on Goldwater’s thinking by lecturing him for hours about abiding by his convictions. His involvement in state politics continued when he supported Howard Pyle, the Republican candidate for governor, and flew him all over the state in his new Beech Bonanza.
When Goldwater became dissatisfied with the domestic policies of domestic policies and their unwillingness to assure victory in Korea, Barry decided to run for the Senate. He told his family, “the good Lord has been good to us, and perhaps by helping to preserve our freedoms, I can make a real contribution.” Despite a lop-sided Democratic registration in Arizona, Goldwater won, but later confessed: “I rode in on Eisenhower’s coattails.” After taking the oath of office, Goldwater joined the Senate committees in banking, commerce, labor and public welfare. He kept his silence until debate began on price control legislation. At that point Goldwater spoke his mind, proclaiming that a day of reckoning would arrive when government deficit spending would threaten to destroy the nation.
In 1953, Goldwater was assigned to the Air Force Reserves and attached to the Continental Air Command’s Fourth Air Force with a “top secret” clearance. While he spent weeks of active duty in his new assignment, he made a special point not to accept the reservist pay to which he was fully entitled. After attending the Senior Officers’ Jet Aircraft Instrument School in 1955, he participated in a simulated SAC war mission by making a 16-hour flight in a B-47 Bomber that included fighter attacks, radar bomb runs and in-flight refueling.
In late 1955, Goldwater received an assignment as a ready reservist to Air Defense Command Headquarters as assistant to the Deputy Director for Personnel. Following this assignment, he transferred to the office of the Director of Legislative Liaison at Air Force Headquarters, and traveled to Germany and Austria to study the military air transport system’s overseas operations, and those of the Hungarian refugee relief organization. As a result of such special flight duties, he was elevated to “Command” pilot, and a year later graduated from the senior officer’s extension course of the Air War College.
Meanwhile, Goldwater continued to speak out, saying that he would not break faith with the American people by supporting the almost frenzied rush to give away the resources and freedoms of America through federal spending programs. He now planted his conservative flag. But despite his conservatism, he supported the expansion of government with regard to matters affecting national security. He supported Alaskan statehood and the creation of the Federal Aviation Agency. By the end of his first term, Goldwater had earned the title, “Mr. Conservative”.
After he easily won re-election in 1958, Goldwater was promoted to brigadier general in the Air Force Reserves. He not only piloted a U-2 reconnaissance plane to 50,000 feet, but later made an extensive inspection of the defense early warning line of radar alert stations stretched along the Arctic circle by flying all the way from Greenland over the North Pole to Alaska. After completing a course on guided missiles in 1960, he received an assignment as Assistant to the Deputy Chief for Personnel in Air Force Headquarters, while also training with the 101st Air Base Wing at Andrews Air Force Base. Meanwhile, he co-sponsored the bill suppoprting Hawaiian statehood, as well as one to establish the National Wilderness Preservation System.
A movement now began to nominate Goldwater for President, but it was something he did not desire. Though he was greeted by a tumultuous ovation at the Republican National Convention, Goldwater graciously withdrew in favor of Richard Nixon, who later lost a close election to John F. Kennedy. In 1961, Barry traveled to Vietnam to gain first-hand knowledge about the war situation. Later in the year, he and other leaders visited West Germany, Italy, Turkey, Iran and Spain to assess American military strength and influence.
In 1962, the Goldwater family sold its stores to Associated Dry Goods. However, Barry remained as chairman of its board. That same year, after he receieved a promotion to major general in the Air Force Reserves, he publicly promoted the construction of the controversial RS-70, saying that there must be an appreciation of its reconnaissance, information gathering, and strike potential capabilities. He also visited SAC headquarters, where he flew an 8-hour simulated war mission in an airborne command post involving multi-missile attacks on the United States. By late 1963, the “Draft Goldwater for President” movement swept the nation. If successful, his nomination would pit him against President Kennedy. But instead, an assassin’s bullet made Lyndon Johnson his opponent. In accepting his party’s nomination, Barry stated that it would be a campaign of principles, not personalities, and promised that it will be a direct confrontation between the welfare state and a society of free, independent, and responsible citizens. But his loss to Johnson was a classic in American politics. Though he put up a valiant fight and risked his political future, his conservatism was a generation too soon to find majority acceptance.
After his defeat, Goldwater continued his Air Force Reserve activities, attending the Senior Officers Orientation Course at the Air War College, and receiving briefings on personnel problems at numerous Air Force bases. In 1967, he retired from the Reserves as a major general with 37 years of devoted service. Re-elected to the Senate by a landslide in 1968, as a member of its committee on aeronautical and space sciences, Goldwater was thrilled when American astronauts step upon the moon in 1969. He said, “An age is beginning when man will move toward the planets and perhaps even reach the stars.”
In 1969, Goldwater represented President Nixon at the Paris Air Show, and flew the French Concorde SST. He inspected the Russian SST, and fortunately for him he was not permitted fly it. The plane crashed on its next flight. During this period, Goldwater was one of the few political leaders pushing for the building of the National Air and Space Museum, for he had an unusual appreciation for the history of aviation and its pioneers. Fortunately, as a result of his and other’s efforts this great museum stands today as a monument to flight and space.
In 1970, Goldwater published his book, The Conscience of the Majority, in which he presented a positive outlook at the great issues shaping the 1970s. During these years, he also supported legislation providing for an all-volunteer military, supporting NASA research, funding the purchase of F-14 fighters, and the development of the supersonic B-1 bomber.
After his election to the Senate in 1974, he became the ranking member of its Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee. Among the important legislation that he sponsored was exempting general aviation from emergency fuel allocations, prohibiting unionization of the armed forces, and increasing military pay and benefits.
Senator Goldwater died suddenly on Friday, May 29th, 1998.
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