On January 21, 1943, Captain Godwin was killed while on active duty in plane crash that was returning from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to San Francisco, California.
Captain Donald C. Godwin’s biography follows:
Captain Donald Clark Godwin, USN
September 13, 1888 – January 21, 1943
Captain Godwin was born in Williamston, North Carolina, September 13, 1888, and was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1907 from his native state. After graduation from Annapolis in 1911, he was assigned to Tennessee-class armored cruiser North Carolina (ACR 12) and served in that vessel until June 7, 1912, then he was detached and transferred to the USS Rhode Island (BB 17), reporting on July 4. He was detached from the Rhode Island in March 1916 and assigned to duty in the USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and in January 1917 was transferred to the USS Fulton (AS 1) for duty and instruction in submarines.
Captain Godwin detached from the Fulton in June 1917 and assigned to the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, Bridgeport, Connecticut, in connection with fitting out the Submarine N-4 (SS-56) and to duty on board when commissioned.
On September 20, 1918, he was ordered to the Staff of the Commander, Battleship Division Eight, Force Two, Atlantic Fleet, flagship USS Utah (Battleship No. 31) and in January 1919 was transferred to duty as Flag Lieutenant and Aide on the Staff of the Commander of Battleship Division Five. During the next two years, Captain Godwin served on the staffs of flag officers in the Pacific Fleet. He was on duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department, assigned to the Office of Naval
Captain Godwin served in communications from August 2, 1921 until May 5, 1924, followed by the USS Richmond (CL 9). After completing this assignment he was ordered to command USS Goff (DD 247). A year later he detached and was ordered to duty in the Asiatic Fleet, taking passage from San Francisco and served two years as Aide to the Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet with additional duty as Fleet Intelligence Officer. In June, 1927, Captain Godwin was ordered to the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, for instruction and upon completion he was ordered to Naval Training Station, Newport, R.I., from May 29 until August 25, 1928. Following this assignment, he transferred to the Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, where he remained until June 1929. Following this assignment, he was ordered to USS Nevada (BB 36) and served as the navigator. After two years duty with the Naval Examining Board, Navy Department, he was ordered to the USS Chester (CA 27) and served as the ship’s First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer until June 1935.
He then received orders to the Naval Academy, Annapolis, as instructor in the Department of Marine Engineering until May 1938, when he was ordered to the USS Mississippi (BB 41) as Executive Officer. Captain Godwin was detached from the Mississippi on May 15, 1939, and ordered to take command of the USS Whitney (AD 4), Destroyer Tender, Battle Force of the Pacific. On April 15, 1940, he detached from this command, and served has a Professor of Naval Science and Tactics at the University of California, Berkeley, California, in connection with the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Unit until May 15, 1940.
Captain Godwin received the Mexican Service Modal, 1914, USS Rhode Island; Victory Medal, Submarine Clasp, Submarine N-4, World War; Yangtze Service Medal, USS Huron, 1926; “Al Merito” First Class and Diploma from Chile, 1927.
On January 21, 1943, Captain Godwin was killed while on active duty in plane crash that was returning from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to San Francisco, California. The cause of the crash was poor weather conditions over mountainous terrain about 7 miles southwest of Ukiah, California. The aircraft was a Martin M-130 flying boat nicknamed the Philippine Clipper. There were 10 passengers on board, included Rear Admiral Robert H. English, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Submarine Fleet, the submarine component of the United States Pacific Fleet, accompanied by Captain Godwin and two other senior staff officers. Another passenger was Lieutenant Edna Morrow, a Navy nurse diagnosed with terminal cancer who was on her way home to die and Captain Robert Holmes Smith, formerly in command of the USS Sperry (AS 12) submarine tender, recently promoted to Commander of Squadron 2, Pacific Submarine Fleet.
Captain Godwin is buried in Arlington National Cemetery (section 4/site 3019-A).
NCVA/Echoes of Our Past
Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War Against Japan