It was a dark 4th of July on 1945 for Frank Godfrey, a man fighting on his country’s Independence Day while on the other side of the world. The night was empty of the fireworks that he grew up with as a boy, but there was still smoke and the faint sounds of artillery in the distance to keep him at attention as he began his patrol near the city of Marbel (now known as Koronadal) in The Philippines.
By this time, Godfrey had already served for three years in the U.S. Army, joining within a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. While there were many reasons why Americans enlisted during World War II, this infamous attack on American soil that led to the loss of more than 2,000 lives was certainly a prominent motivator during that time. And that was no different for Frank, a man dedicated to protecting his family and country.
After going through basic training in San Diego, Godfrey served throughout the Pacific as a mechanic and truck driver, starting in New Guinea and finding himself in The Philippines by 1945. And while his service would end in that country with victory in September, he had no way of knowing as he made that July patrol that would change his life.
The first hour was relatively quiet on the four-kilometer (~2.5 mile) course along a major and contested highway, but soon his unit came under enemy fire when they approached an intersection at the end of the route. Godfrey held off the enemy while the rest of his men took defensive positions, and there were several intense minutes of fire and return fire. One of his patrol members became injured and fell into the road, losing his defensive position. Immediately, Godfrey ran out to the wounded man, along with two other men from the patrol. After keeping him comfortable and protected while a tourniquet was applied, Godfrey then dragged the soldier off the road and carried him back to their outpost.
For his bravery in protecting his fellow American and carrying him for miles to safety, Godfrey was awarded the Bronze Star in August 1945. This prestigious medal can only be earned by those who perform truly heroic acts of service and was one of his most treasured possessions. His wife, Alice, had also saved a story from the hometown paper outlining his bravery and made sure that the article and the medal were always kept together.
Award of the Bronze Star Medal. Published in The Syracuse Post-Standard. 18 Aug. 1945.
“The courage of Private First Class Godfrey as displayed in his attacking a greatly superior numbered force, and his gallantry in recovering the wounded man is indicative of his high sense of aggressiveness, honor, and loyalty to his fellowman.”
Godfrey was quiet when it came to his time in the military, leaning towards humility when asked about his service. But from his return in 1945 at the end of the war to his death in 2002, his wife made sure to keep his medals and ribbons always prominently displayed in a hutch at home, along with photographs and other mementoes of his time in the Pacific.
His daughter, Sharon, has kept his history alive, keeping track of his service through postcards, photos, and official military documents saved over the years. “I never knew anything [about his service] until after he had passed away. Once my mom shared his stories with me, it just made me so proud of him. I wish I had known before so I could have told him.” And now, nearly 20 years later, his family still honors his memories, raising their flags on the 4th of July for his service and bravery on that dark night.