Conrad Henry Goerl
US Army, 84th Infantry Division – Staff Sergeant
World War II (1942-1946)
Conrad Goerl, a long time Marin County resident, is proud to be an American and a veteran that fought for Old Glory during World War II. Goerl was born in Alameda, California on September 10, 1919. Goerl eventually followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and relocated to Marin County in 1963. Goerl is the grandson of Fritz Goerl, one of the original owners of the San Rafael Brewery established in San Rafael, California in the late 1880s. According to Goerl, his grandfather made beer in Russian owned Alaska prior to settling in Marin. He had fond memories of his childhood visiting with his grandparents in Marin and Sonoma counties.
After graduating from Alameda High School in 1938, Goerl attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a degree in Journalism in 1942. Journalism was a large part of Goerl’s formative years. He was a Daily Cal reporter at Berkeley for four years and became the first Personnel Director for the newspaper where he was responsible for the training and mentorship of lower classmen reporters. Shortly after graduation, Goerl was employed by the Willows Daily Journal newspaper in Willows, California. He claimed, “I did everything at the paper but write the society column.”
Sometime after his graduation in 1942, with the onset of World War II, Goerl joined the Army. He served in the 84th Infantry Division and used his journalism experience to help edit the division’s newsletter, The Railsplitter. The Railsplitter Goerl was named for Abraham Lincoln, a former member of the 84th Infantry.
Goerl and the 84th Infantry fought in the historic Battle of the Bulge, as well as throughout France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany from 1944 through 1945. The Railsplitter only existed due to the willingness of Infantry members to cover the action from France to Berlin. Goerl was quite proud that The Railsplitter was able to cover the the 84th’s activity until the Divison returned to the United States in 1946.
After his release from the Army, Conrad Goerl returned to California and enrolled in law school. He received his L.L.B. in 1952 from the San Francisco Law School, as well as his C.P.A. license. Goerl moved to Ukiah, California and practiced law for approximately fifteen years. He was also an active contributor to the local daily newspapers in Ukiah and even toyed with the idea of purchasing a Northern California paper. In 1955, he married Laverne Geraldo of San Francisco and they had two children. He eventually returned to the San Francisco Bay Area and opened his own law firm in Oakland focusing on probate, real estate and tax law. In 1963, he relocated to Fairfax in Marin County, the home of his beer baron grandfather, Fritz Goerl. Despite his busy law practice, Goerl was able to stay active in the Cal Berkeley alumni, an avid Cal Bears athletic supporter, and involved in Marin civic activities. After a fifty year membership in the California Bar Association, Conrad Goerl retired in 2003.
Ever proud of his service and country, Goerl was an ardent supporter of his civil right to fly the American flag. In 2007, after several acts of vandalism to his personal flag, Goerl contacted news authorities and offered a $500 reward for information leading to the identity of the vandals. According to Goerl, “he would be damned if vandals are allowed to stomp on his flag in Fairfax.” “In a word, it is nuts,” he proclaimed. According to Bay Area reporter, Joe Wolfcale, Goerl wanted “to nail the culprits who desecrated [his] flag … at his home in Fairfax.”
Wolfcale further reported that, “the retired tax attorney paid nearly $1,000 for an ad in the Independent Journal seeking information leading to the arrest of those responsible for ripping down his flag and stomping on it early this month and then again last week. Goerl is so outraged, he offered a reward to catch the vandals. Goerl, who served four years as a staff sergeant with the Army during World War II, said he “saw comrades die in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany to preserve the freedoms the nation’s flag symbolizes.” “I saw guys die right in front of me during the war,” Goerl said. “I think about the guys who lost their lives. They respected this country. I expect people to be respectful of the flag.” Conrad Goerl exclaimed that this behavior and lack of patriotism “stings my conscience.”
According to Goerl, before the terrorist attacks in 2011, he flew his flag mostly during holidays and war memorials. He began leaving it out night and day, never expecting anyone would tamper with it. “It didn’t just fall lightly off the pole,” Goerl said. “It was all crumpled up and kicked around. I put it back up after the first time, and they came back and did it again.”
Goerl remains outraged by the vandalism and notes, “it is a shame these days because people have such a different attitude about patriotism.”
Interview by Joe Wolfcale, a SF Bay Area reporter, on July 23, 2007 and Narrative Prepared by Nicholas Elsbree on October 1, 2013.