Progress happens when men stand on the shoulders of other men. When Marc Garneau became the first Canadian in space he rode on the shoulders of John Glenn, Gus Grissom and many others. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. He had been a pilot for only six years. Chuck Yeager made his momentous progress standing on the shoulders of Chalmers Goodlin, a former-RCAF pilot and, who I consider, an Honorary Canadian.
While not a Canadian citizen, Goodlin’s connection to Canada, through the wartime RCAF and another interesting connection that we will discuss in a later story, qualifies him for inclusion on Mysteries of Canada.
Chalmers Goodlin was born in 1923. In 1941, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force on his 18th birthday. He hoped to get some fighter combat over the English Channel. (authors note: the US did not enter the war until 1942). He became the youngest commissioned officer in the RCAF and in mid-1942, he reached England. In December 1942, Goodlin was enticed to leave the RCAF for the US Navy to train as a Navy test pilot. In 1943, he was released from active duty, never having the opportunity to fire a shot at an enemy.
In December 1943, Goodlin joined Bell Aircraft as a test pilot. After 26 missions in the X-1, the experimental aircraft seen below, he was on track to become the first pilot to take the X-1 to Mach 1. However, in June 1947, the US government took over the project from Bell and installed its own pilot, Chuck Yeager, in the machine.
Goodlin, in a recent message to this author, stated: “I believe my RCAF flight training was invaluable for my career, and the accompanying military schooling was great character building for a 18-year-old fresh off the farm.”
Approximately 10% of the RCAF enlistments at the beginning of WWII were Americans like Chalmers Goodlin.
It is estimated that there were 140 “Aces” created in the RCAF throughout the war. In addition to these heroes, 26 American Ace fliers were made “Honorary Canadians” by their comrades-in-the-air for their service in the RCAF.
The accompanying pictures were sent to me by Slick Goodlin.
For those aero-nuts like this author, Chalmers has a large number of autographed memorabilia for sale. He is also a great guy with whom to talk.
Also, look at our stories on the Canadian Car & Foundry, which involved Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin.
UPDATE: Good friend and Honorary Canadian, Chalmers Goodlin died on October 20, 2005 at the age of 82. He will be missed.