Tipton County Veteran of the Month

PFC Russell L. (Leon) Goforth was born in 1925 in Covington, Tennessee, and spent his childhood in Tipton County.  He was inducted into the U.S. Army on 25 January 1944, and entered into active service on 16 February 1944 from Camp Forrest, Tennessee.  He was initially trained as a 90mm antiaircraft gunner at Ft. Stewart, Georgia, but was sent from there to Washington, D.C. where he guarded an unknown fenced-in building for three months!  After six weeks of infantry training at Camp Gordon, Georgia, he headed to Ft. Meade, Maryland where he boarded the Queen Mary for an ocean voyage from New York City to Glasgow, Scotland.  Several trains and ship voyages later, he arrived at his final destination in The Ardennes, Belgium. 

The snow was more than knee deep, and his unit was not equipped with boots or clothes for that kind of sustained cold weather.  His unit moved at night, loaded on 4 x 6’s, (some one way and some another) and headed to a “rest area” – an area with pits dug in the ground covered with poles and tarps for 2 people to lie down in.  They literally burned gas for light by putting a wick in the can and setting the wick on fire.  They rotated back and forth from the front to the rest area for about three months.  At the rest area they were able to have field food, but at the front they ate C-rations.  Time on the front lines varied – sometimes they were there up to three weeks.  While at the rest area, he had shifts patrolling at night looking to contact the enemy.  While on patrol, he wore a white cape in the two feet of snow so he would be almost invisible. 

Eventually a medic came by and discovered that Leon had severely frost-bitten feet and ordered him to a field hospital.  By that time, his feet had already turned black.  The field doctors transferred him to a hospital outside London where he received his Purple Heart Medal.  As he recovered, they found open wounds on his foot which they suspected were from shrapnel.  They evacuated him across the English Channel to Paris, then via troop train to Baumholder, Germany, where his duty was to guard a wine cellar for a General!  From there he headed to Czechoslovakia.  After camping in the field for a while, he received orders for the South Pacific Theater via the U.S., where he attended “Cook and Bakery” School in Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.  While he was in San Antonio, the atom bombs were dropped on Japan, and his orders were cancelled. 

He was discharged from the Army at the Discharge Center at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas on 28 January 1946 then had to hitch-hike home to Covington, Tennessee.  He used the GI Bill to build his home; and, in 1947 he married his sweetheart, Lorraine Mills, who he met at church.  They had three children (he lost his son last year.)  They have two grandchildren, three great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.  In addition to the Purple Heart Medal, he was awarded the World War II Victory Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, American Theatre Ribbon, and European-African-Middle Eastern Theatre Ribbon with Three Bronze Service Stars.   Leon enjoyed his civilian life where he worked a variety of jobs, including at Dobson Flour Company in Covington, the Coca Cola Bottling Company, Turner Dairy, and Shells’ Limbs and Braces.  He and Lorraine are members of Holly Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Leon was nominated for Veteran of the Month by Vernon Jerry Covington.