Carl was the youngest son born to Jesse Woods and Beatrice Saunders in 1923. His parents were employed by Joseph C. Trees, a self-made oil millionaire, and they lived in a house on the Trees property. His father was the Trees Family butler while his mother was housekeeper/cook. They were special servants to this family which is obvious as his parents traveled to the Trees vacation home with the family, in Florida in 1940. while the children remained in the home on the estate. In the meantime, Carl attended Mars Area High School in 1938 through 1941, where he was a member of the high school football team. He was the only African American in his class as well as on the football team. His mother was active in the community with the Harriet Tubman Guild.
Carl registered for the draft on the 30 Jun 1942. At the time, he was employed by the Treesdale Laboratories on the family estate of his parents’ employer. He had completed two years of college at Penn State College when he enlisted at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi on the 25 Mar 1943, in the air corps.
By December of that year, he had completed his primary flight training at the 66th Flying Training Detachment at Tuskegee and was advance to basic flight class. By April of 1944, Carl had completed his training and received his commissions and wings. Soon after graduation, he was deployed to Italy with the 100th Fighter Squadron, part of the 332nd Fighter Group.
Flight Officer Carl J. Woods was last seen during a cloudy mission to Austria when he was reported missing and ultimately declared dead on October 7, 1944. Recorded circumstances attributed to: “Non-Hostile, Missing in action body not recovered, Air Crash”. Incident location: Adriatic Sea. The 332nd Fighter Group escorted bombers from the 5th Bombardment Wing to an oil refinery in Vienna, Austria. On the way, to the target area, three P-51 Mustang pilots disappeared.
“I was flying between layers of overcast,” 1st Lt. Spurgeon N. Ellington wrote in a military report. “Flight Officer Woods was flying my wing. I gave the signal for more power to pull up over the overcast and the number three man shot under me. At this instant my motor cut out as I pulled up to keep from running over the number three man, causing me to flip into a spin in the overcast. This is the last I saw of Flight Officer Woods.”
About 20 minutes later, 2nd Lt. Roosevelt Stiger crashed into the Adriatic Sea after reporting mechanical trouble. Lt. Robert H. Wiggins was forced to crash-land after his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire.
When he last was seen alive, Flight Officer Woods was 19. His name is included on the Tablets of the Missing at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial Florence, Città Metropolitana di Firenze, Toscana. According to a government database, he was awarded an Air Medal and Purple Heart for his military service.
Woods’ is one of four life-sized images featured at the Senator John Heinz History Center traveling exhibit “We Can Do It! WWII.”
Click here for more information about the traveling exhibit.