Luther Hartzell Godwin was born in 1921 to Hartzell Godwin and Grace Blackwood of Elkins, Randolph County, West Virginia. He was the only child of the Godwin family, and his mother died during his youth. He was well-known around his local Elkins community during his formative years, prior to him entering the armed forces.
Luther enlisted in the United States Navy in January, 1940. He was soon shipped overseas to the Pacific to serve in the Philippines as a Pharmacist's Mate 3rd Class. Luther served gallantly with the military forces in the Philippine Islands, but he was captured as a prisoner of war at the fall of Corregidor when the US troops were forced to surrender to the invading Japanese.
Luther was held as a prisoner of war in the Philippines for two years. His father received three cards from him in December, 1943; these were the only communications from his son during his entire period of captivity. While being transported to Japan on the Arisan Maru, Luther lost his life on October 24, 1944 when the unmarked ship was torpedoed by an Allied submarine in the South China Sea. His death was received by the War Department on June 16, 1945. The Clarksburg Exponent carried a large obituary on Thursday, June 28, 1945 detailing the death of Luther along with another local boy killed on the Arisan Maru, Thomas Abruzzino.
Luther was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and his body was buried at sea. In recognition of his honorable service in World War II, and for his ultimate sacrifice, Luther Hartzell Godwin's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing at the Manila American Cemetery in Manila, Philippines, and Luther's was one of the original names inscribed on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial.
Hellships of World War II
West Virginia Veterans Memorial Archives Database
West Virginia Archives and History