Charles Milton Gooch Jr. was born on March 17, 1947, in Raleigh, N.C., to Charles Milton and Janie Perry Gooch. Charles Gooch Jr. graduated from Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C., in 1965. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on February 11, 1966, in Raleigh, N.C. Gooch completed basic training at Fort Gordon near Augusta, Georgia; Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma; and paratrooper training at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.
With the completion of his training in July 1966, Gooch was sent to Germany, where he served with the 509th Airborne Battalion for nine months. He deployed to Vietnam in May 1967, first arriving at Pleiku Air Base in South Vietnam. He was then sent to Bien Hoa Air Base, and assigned to serve as a Squad Leader and Rifle Platoon Sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Gooch was wounded during an engagement with the North Vietnamese Army in Dak Pek in March 1968. He was airlifted to a hospital at Camp Drake in Japan for treatment; later, he was sent back to the United States to Womack Hospital at Fort Bragg, N.C.
After he recovered from his injuries, Gooch was sent to Fort Benning to attend U.S. Army Ranger School, remaining there as a ranger instructor until December 1968. He was sent to Germany, where he served with the 509th Airborne Battalion until he was deployed to Vietnam in February 1971. During his second tour in Vietnam, Gooch served as a Ranger Team Leader with Company P, 75th Infantry (Ranger), which was based out of Quảng Trị Combat Base. He was wounded in July 22, 1971, when his company was ambushed by the North Vietnamese Army. Gooch was airlifted to the U.S. Army Hospital at Camp Zama in Japan initially. He was later sent to recover at Valley Forge Hospital in Pennsylvania, then to Martin Army Hospital at Fort Benning.
When he was released from the U.S. Army hospitals in 1971, Gooch was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, where he remained until January 1975. Gooch served as a drill instructor at Fort Polk, Louisiana, from 1975 to 1976; a drill instructor at Fort Benning from 1976 to 1977; and with a special operations unit at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso, Florida, from 1977 to 1979. He would later serve as First Sergeant in a rifle company in the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Italy from 1979 to 1982. Gooch next served as First Sergeant with the 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Lewis, Washington, from 1982 to 1984.
While he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Gooch participated in the United States invasion of Grenada—known as Operation “Urgent Fury”—in 1983. In January 1984, he attended the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. He was sent to activate the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning. Towards the end of his military career, Gooch served as Sergeant Major with the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. Later, he was with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, at Fort Bragg until his retirement from the U.S. Army on June 1, 1987. During his military career, Charles Gooch Jr. reached the rank of Command Sergeant Major. After his retirement from the U.S. Army, Gooch worked as the superintendent of the historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, N.C., from 1987 to 2011. At the time of the interview, Gooch was living in Mebane, N.C.
All rights for this interview are held by the State Archives of North Carolina. Educational or other uses for this interview, as defined under the “fair use” provision of Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act, are permitted. Permission to publish this interview (whether in print or online), or to use this interview beyond the “fair use” provision of the Copyright Act, must be obtained from the State Archives of North Carolina Registrar in writing.