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Coast Guard to name ship for Connecticut war hero

By Stacey Dresner

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While serving in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, Robert Goldman was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart for heroically coming to the aid of fellow soldiers during a Japanese kamikaze attack – despite the fact that he himself was severely wounded.

Now, 74 years after the fact, Goldman, who died in 2006, has been given yet another prestigious honor for his wartime valor: The Coast Guard is naming one of their ships after him.

A new Fast Response Cutter (FRC)–No. 42, expected to be constructed in 18 months, will be named the Coast Guard Cutter Robert Goldman.

According to Coast Guard News, these Fast Response Cutters “are the mainstay of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol fleet and will perform drug and migrant interdictions, ports, waterways and coastal security operations, fisheries patrols, search and rescue operations and national defense missions.”

The Coast Guard names all of its new vessels after deceased “leaders, trailblazers or hero[es] of the Coast Guard…” reports the Coast Guard News. The vessel namesakes, like Goldman, include enlisted Coast Guard veterans who received the Navy Cross Medal, the Silver Star Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Gold Lifesaving Medal, the Silver Lifesaving Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and the Purple Heart.

Goldman is one of 20 Coast Guard veterans whose names will grace new Fast Response Cutters.

“It’s obviously a tremendous honor,” says West Hartford resident Jonathan Goldman, the youngest of Robert Goldman’s three sons.

“I’m kind of blown away. It is something my father I’m sure would have said, ‘other people deserved it more that I did.’ But I think that is so common for that generation,” he says.

Robert Goldman and his wife, Gloria, with family: top, from left, sons Yale, Scott, and Jonathan; and grandsons, Alex, Richard and Ari.

Born in New York City, Robert Goldman’s parents moved to Woodstock, Connecticut when he was a young child. After graduating from Woodstock Academy and getting a degree in agriculture from the University of Connecticut in 1942, he enlisted in the Coast Guard and trained as a pharmacist’s mate at Columbia University School of Pharmacy.

In 1944, he was serving in the Southwest Pacific and the Philippine Islands when the kamikaze attack occurred on his ship, LST–66 or Landing Ship Tank–66, in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is considered to be one of the largest naval battles of World War II and was the first battle in which the Japanese used their airplanes for kamikaze attacks.

“I knew my father was injured in a kamikaze attack but that’s all. I have two older brothers, and they didn’t know any of these details except that he got a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart,” Jonathan Goldman said. “My father never spoke of it.”

Jonathan learned more details about his father’s experiences from a book, We Got Each Other Home: The Story of World War II’s Legendary LST, written by Andrew Zimmerman, and a blog written by Coast Guard historian William Thiesen. Through his research, Thiesen found a quote from one of Private Goldman’s shipmates.

“I was a passenger naval officer aboard the ship at the time of the attack and was in a good position to observe the courage displayed by the pharmacist’s mate Goldman. His back was badly burned and he refused to even sit down until every one of the other casualties had been treated…In my opinion such courage was far beyond the call of duty.”

– Lt. j.g. Collum J. deGruy, U.S. Navy Reserve

Not only was Goldman suffering from burns, but his legs were riddled with shrapnel. Despite pleas from medics, he refused to stop tending to his injured and dying mates. He went on to be honorably discharged from the Coast Guard in September of 1945.

After the war he worked for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture from 1945 until 1983, when he retired as head of its marketing division. He had also owned and operated the Gold-n-Glo Poultry Farm in Newtown from 1949 until 1959.

He and his wife, Gloria Kweskin Goldman, to whom he was married for 63 years, settled in Bloomfield where they raised their three sons, Jonathan, Yale and Scott. He was a longtime member of Temple Beth Hillel and served as a past commander of the Jewish War Veterans Laurel Post #45.

Robert Goldman passed away in 2006 at the age of 86.

Jonathan Goldman said his father’s heroic service in the military had a huge impact on his grandsons.

“One is an Air Force veteran, that’s my oldest. The youngest joined the Israeli Army,” Jonathan Goldman said. “My father-in-law also served and wrote a book about his experiences. So my sons were greatly influenced by their grandfathers.”

Jonathan said that while the naming ceremony for the Fast Response Cutter Robert Goldman–No. 42 won’t take place for another year and a half, he and other family members expect to be there to honor his father.

“We plan to be there,” he said, “even if it’s in Guam.”

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