Commander Bill Goss, USN (Ret) is an internationally
known speaker and author. Enlisting in 1974,
Bill worked on underwater weapons in Europe
for the U.S. Navy until he was discharged
as a Mineman Second Class in 1977. A former New Jersey Golden Glove boxer, Bill was also the light-heavy weight boxing champion at the U.S. Naval Air Stations in Pensacola, Corpus Christi, and Jacksonville. After his enlisted tour of duty, Bill attended
Rutgers University on the GI Bill and earned
an MBA from the Southern New Hampshire University. Bill graduated Aviation Officer
Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, and
earned his Navy Wings of Gold the following
year in Corpus Christi, Texas.
As a P-3
Orion pilot, Bill flew missions against
Soviet submarines in the North and South Atlantic
and Mediterranean and deployed to a very wide
variety of sites around the world. He became
an instructor pilot in the T-44 Pegasus and
then the Assistant Navigator of the nuclear
aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, deploying
throughout the Pacific from the Vinson's homeport
in the San Francisco Bay area. Bill and his
family returned to the east coast where he
flew P-3 Orions and a variety of other aircraft
while working for the admiral at NAS Jacksonville.
While there, Bill was diagnosed with a rare
form of cancer called amelanotic malignant
melanoma, had surgery, and retired from the
Navy. Bill is the author of The Luckiest
Unlucky Man Alive: A Wild Ride Overcoming
Life's Greatest Challenges -- And How You
Can Too. His second book, published by
Simon and Schuster's newest hardcover imprint,
Atria Books, is titled There's a Flying
Squirrel in My Coffee: Overcoming Cancer With
the Help of My Pet.
Bill is a contributing writer to many other
books including the New York Times bestseller,
Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul.
Bill's life story has been featured on national
and international radio shows, and in publications
such as the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles
Times, New Jersey Star Ledger, The Dallas
Morning News, The St. Petersburg Times,
and Maxim Magazine.
A motivational and inspirational speaker,
Bill is featured every month on the Discovery
Channel's Animal Planet. Bill's mailing address
Bill Goss International
P.O. Box 7060
Orange Park, FL 32073
Email Bill Goss at email@example.com
Luckiest Unlucky Man Alive -- Bill
Goss' bestselling book.
a Flying Squirrel in My Coffee --
Bill Goss' latest book, chronicling his inspirational battle
July 15, 2003
[Have an opinion on this column? Sound
My last op-ed piece on Post Traumatic Growth got some very positive
and interesting responses, but the email below from a WWII
veteran was so noteworthy, that I thought my loyal readers should
get a chance to read it themselves in its entirety. In fact I asked
the writer to send me some photographs of himself to include with
his fascinating email.
To me, this remarkable man, Hap Halloran, is an unsung living hero.
And somehow I feel that you too - after you read his amazing story
- will consider him an unsung living hero also.
Hap Halloran and medal, in 2001.
Here's the email Hap Halloran sent to me:
I was extremely intrigued and interested in the "Post Traumatic
Growth" op-ed piece you recently wrote for Military.com.
Prior to reading your article, I was not familiar with the term
"Post Traumatic Growth." I reread your article and it caused me
to reflect back on some of the traumatic experiences I had personally
endured during the last world war.
During WWII, I was the navigator of a B-29 bomber based out of the
Island of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean. Our mission was to bomb targets
on the Japanese mainland. These were very high altitude and
long range missions of 14 to 16 hours duration. The average age
of our eleven man crew was 21. I was 22.
On January 27, 1945, our B-29 was shot down by a Japanese fighter
plane over Tokyo at 32,000 feet. Fear and denial set in immediately
among our crew, but realistically we all knew that we had to abandon
our plane - it was on fire with two engines out. And as if that
wasn't enough for us to worry about, the normally pressurized and
heated interior of our plane had been ruptured and we were dealing
with an outside air temperature of 58 degrees below zero at 32,000
feet. We would freeze solid if we didn't act fast. We had no choice
but to attempt to parachute out of our disabled bomber, and to do
so as fast as possible.
As the order went out, "Bail out, Bail out" we were terror-stricken
young men and boys, but somehow we maintained our composure. I prayed
to God, for myself and for my fellow crewmen. We embraced each other
quickly, then we jumped from our dying ship at 27,000 feet altitude
and parachuted over enemy soil, just east of Tokyo. To avoid freezing
or passing out from lack of oxygen at such a high altitude, I elected
to free fall until I was approximately 3,000 feet above the ground,
at which time I pulled my ripcord and thankfully my parachute blossomed
above my head.
I was immediately captured by a group comprised of very angry Japanese
civilians and military personnel, who beat me so badly I thought
I would be killed. It turned out I'd been one of the lucky ones,
because some of my fellow crewmen were beaten to death that very
For what seemed like a very long time, I wavered between life and
death. Subsequently I was forced to sign documents acknowledging
that I'd been part of an indiscriminate bombing campaign which had
killed civilians. I was also forced to sign a waver of my Geneva
Conference Prisoner of War rights. I was not considered a POW by
the Japanese, but instead a Federal Prisoner. I was charged with
murder and I was held captive - with a death sentence over my head
every single day of the 215 days I survived - until I was liberated
from this living Hell at the end of the war.
The conditions I endured were almost indescribably brutal and terrifying.
I endured solitary confinement in a frigid, dark cage for long periods
of time, broken up occasional by severe beatings and interrogations
from the prison guards. Food consisted of 2 or 3 small bug infested
balls of rice per day. The pain was constant, without any medical
treatment of any kind. My body was covered with running sores, lice
and fleas, and sleep was nearly impossible because of the bed bugs.
I lost over 100 pounds and was failing rapidly, both physically
I lived on the very fringe of existence - and it was becoming exceedingly
difficult to maintain the desire to live. As time went on, more
of my fellow POW comrades died or were killed.
It reached the point where I never thought I would survive and make
it home. I prayed to God to help me live through another minute,
then hour, then day. I'm not afraid to admit, I cried often in that
cold dark cage.
Almost miraculously, our prisoner of war camp survived a massive
fire raid by B-29s on nearby Tokyo that took place on March 10,1945.
Much of Tokyo burned to the ground that night, with more than 100,000
people killed, more even than those killed at either Nagasaki or
Hiroshima after an atomic bomb was dropped on these two cities.
The wooden stable - where I was held captive in a steel cage - was
surrounded by a huge fire that night. Again, I don't know how I
endured the heat or the smoke. After I survived the fire bombing,
I was removed from my own cage and put on exhibit (naked) in a tiger
cage at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, where Japanese civilians, mostly
women, looked upon me in sad silence. Thankfully, I was eventually
moved to the Omori POW facility.
Throughout the entire ordeal, I was under a decree of capital punishment,
with the uncertain knowledge that, at any given moment, I could
be executed and put to death.
Two weeks after the war ended, myself and my fellow POWs, those
that were still alive, were liberated.
Great Day! Liberation from Tokyo POW camp on August 29, 1945, World War II.
Hap Halloran (circled).
That day was August 29, 1945. I remember spending two weeks
aboard the hospital ship, USS Benevolence, in Tokyo Bay - I was
too physically weak and unfit to travel back to the USA. I ended
up spending additional months in a government hospital for returning
soldiers in West Virginia, before I eventually made it home in Cincinnati.
At first, I found it very difficult to "return to normal." I tried
hard, but my progress was slow. Even now, I have not been one hundred
percent successful in eradicating all of the bad memories, but it's
so much better than it once was.
As time went on, I experienced severe nightmares with varying degrees
of frequency. I've made progress, and they are less frequent now.
The dreams tended to be of a constant nature: falling through space
and trying to reach out to hold onto something. Or being surrounded
by fire and smoke and high winds - the firestorm - or working to
avoid being beaten by guards with their rifle butts.
Yet, as the years started to pass by, I saw and felt some positive
things in my life - and I started to feel good about myself and
my life - and even life in general.
After initially declaring to myself that I would never - ever -
go back to Japan, a gradual transition in my thinking began to take
place. Perhaps if I did go back and see with my own two eyes the
Japanese people after the war (versus my totally negative remembrance
of them during the war), well perhaps this would be a good thing
Now, since my first return visit to Japan in 1984, I have been back
to this wonderful country eight different times. These trips have
been a great help in eradicating those bad memories. I now have
many friends throughout Japan. A few years ago, I had 32 Japanese
people touring the United States spend the day with me at my home
in northern California.
My thoughts and my mind over the last 30 plus years have demonstrated
gradual changes within my heart and soul. I can state without reservation
that I have experienced positive things in my life that are a direct
by-product of those terrible days as an American POW in Japan.
My feelings now are this - if you can go through adversities like
I've described and survive, the possibility exists that one day
you might actually make comparisons on events and problems in your
present day life and actually appreciate how small some of the things
we actually worry about really are. One can actually become more
positive and appreciative of life because of earlier hardships,
even the most awful of hardships.
I feel these positive changes and higher values can apply to individuals
in their personal life, in their family life, and in the world of
business and society.
As I look at myself today, I know I have a far greater appreciation
of life. Yes, even the simplest of things that I formerly took for
granted can take on a special meaning for me now.
I appreciate that I was very fortunate to survive this experience.
And I have this feeling that I should do things for others as a
form of appreciation for having been so lucky - or blessed - or
I definitely have a much higher level of confidence than I've ever
had before. I set higher goals and I have higher expectations of
myself and I've achieved a reasonable degree of success in many
of the things I've attempted to accomplish.
Most importantly, I no longer sweat or stress over the small stuff.
I guess I've finally taken time to stop and smell the roses.
For instance, I've made significant progress in the matter of speaking
before groups. Even when I was a man in my forties, I had a fear
of public speaking. Hopefully my presentations, no matter how tough
they were for me, have had a positive and motivating effect on my
audience. Sure, we all have problems - but you don't have to give
up. All of us can hang in there and solve our problems and appreciate
the incredible gift of life.
I make it a point to speak to students - I've probably spoken to
groups of young people over 200 times now. I tell them how - within
each of us -there is a power and ability to solve and accomplish
things we never before thought was possible.
I appreciate my life - and my freedom. And I love watching our Flag
flowing in a gentle breeze.
I enjoy and appreciate sunrises and sunsets - and especially the
stars. Stars that I use to navigate with during long nighttime missions
in a B-29 over the Pacific. The stars are still - and will always
be - my friends.
I guess I've come to the conclusion that it was those difficult
days during WW II that taught me a lot of things about myself -
things that have helped me over the many years of my life. Lessons
that are still helping me today. And I will always continue to use
what I've learned to help other people grow too. Especially young
people, who sometimes need a little help growing.
Bill, thank you for introducing me to the concept of "Post Traumatic
Growth." I didn't know about this powerful new concept before, but
I'm a believer in it now.
[Have an opinion on this column? Sound
© 2003 Lt. Commander Bill Goss. All opinions expressed in this
article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.