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In the Heart of the Blackland Divide

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

RCHS Valedictorian, Salutatorian Named

Martín Luna                                            Rebecca Shaw
At Roscoe Collegiate High School, the final grades are in and have been averaged. The valedictorian for the Class of 2020 is Martín Luna, and the salutatorian is Rebecca Shaw.

Martín’s final four-year grade average is 100.25. He plans to be a Texas Tech student pursuing his teaching degree with the Teach Across Texas program. Rebecca’s final average is 97.7567. She is heading to Angelo State University to study accounting, after which she will attend law school at Texas Tech.



Graduation Invitation by EduDrone.
It won't be like any other graduation that Roscoe High or Roscoe Collegiate High has ever had, and it certainly won’t be what the graduating seniors had always expected, but it will mark the final stage of a long road that began for the Class of 2020 twelve years ago when they entered the first grade and embarked upon their public school education.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic and the requirements for social distancing, they will not be receiving their diplomas in public at the Special Events Center but at a private ceremony starting at 8:30pm Friday evening at Plowboy Field. Each student will have a limited number of tickets for family members, and attendees will need one of those tickets to get in.

However, for everyone else the school is planning a live stream video, which can be seen online on either the EduDrone or the Roscoe Collegiate Facebook page. EduDrone students will also make and post a video for viewing at a later date.

 Congratulations to all the graduating seniors of the Class of 2020!



In an executive order on Monday, Governor Abbott initiated phase two of Texas’s economic reopening. Day care centers can reopen immediately. Roscoe’s Open Door Day Care has been open, serving children of essential workers, but with the new directive is able to take on more.

Bars, bowling alleys, and skating rinks may reopen on Friday, and restaurants in all counties can increase their occupancies to 50%. Professional sports may resume but without in-person spectators, and youth sports can resume but with social distancing. Despite the easing, however, officials are still urging mask-wearing and other proper precautions.

Elective procedures have also resumed in hospitals so they can begin to recoup the financial losses from the earlier restrictions.

The meat packing plants around the country, however, have had so many positive Covid-19 tests, e.g., over 1500 at one Amarillo plant, that meat production is down, and the President ordered that packing plants be kept open. At food stores, meat shortages began popping up, causing panic buying and prompting purchase limits, especially on pork and beef. Wendy’s reported that 20% of its franchises in Texas sold out of hamburgers, and on the stock market cattle futures shot up.

Prisons have been hard hit with the virus, and testing is being done in them as quickly as possible, and in Anson, the Bluebonnet detention facility for migrants has the highest rates of any in Texas with 84.

In Abilene, 4,020 tests have now been conducted with 225 positive results according to the revised method of counting. There are still only 4 hospitalizations, which includes patients in Abilene hospitals from surrounding counties.

Here are yesterday’s numbers for the other Big Country counties (with last week’s in parentheses if different): Jones, 115 (96); Brown, 51 (38); Callahan, 8 (6); Howard, 6; Eastland, 5 (4); Comanche, 3; Coleman, 2; Nolan, 2; Runnels, 2; Scurry, 2; Coke, 1; Fisher, 1; Knox, 1; Mitchell, 1; Shackelford, 1; Stephens, 1.

Selected west Texas counties yesterday (with last Tuesday’s count in parentheses): Lubbock, 624 (598); Midland, 122 (107); Ector (Odessa), 115 (100); Wichita (Wichita Falls), 80 (75); Tom Green (San Angelo), 62 (59).

Texas now has 49,912 cases (41,048 last Tuesday) and 1,369 deaths (1,133 last Tuesday).



Sunrise over Roscoe. (Photo by EduDrone)
There were two weather events this past week, both rains—which were of course welcome—but both somewhat disappointing as neither lived up to what they might have been. The first came on Wednesday night. Forecasters had given the area a 40% chance of showers, and we got one, but it wasn’t much. Most places got no more than a tenth of an inch, and Roscoe weatherman Kenny Landfried recorded an official .06”.

Then on Friday night, we got another one. This one also came with a 40% chance, but the buildup started on Friday afternoon about 5:30, when heavy clouds rolled in and everything got dark enough outside for me to go out and see what was going on. I checked the radar, and there was a big red and yellow patch between Big Spring and Colorado City coming our way. As it arrived, plenty of cool air blew in from the cloud along with thunder and lightning, and it appeared that we might get a gully washer. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more bark than bite as the rain didn’t last all that long. I wound up with .55” in my rain gauge, which wasn’t all that much, but it was more than the .40” that Kenny Landfried recorded. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated the half-inch--it was certainly better than nothing. But it wasn’t the soaking we’re all hoping for.

Other than that, the most remarkable aspect of the weather this past week was the heat, which we experienced in the latter part of last week with Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with highs of 92°, 94°, and 90°, followed by a cool Saturday and Sunday with highs of 73° and 88°, and then a return to the heat on Monday and yesterday. Monday’s high of 99° under clear, blue skies with hardly any wind felt hotter than that, and then yesterday’s 104° broke the daily record for a May 19 by beating out the old record of 100° by 4 degrees.

Today will also be hot but under partly cloudy skies with an expected high of 96°. There is also a 40% chance of scattered showers, possibly heavy. Those chances drop to 20% tomorrow and 10% Friday, but the weekend looks more promising with a 30% chance Saturday, 50% Sunday, and 80% Monday.



Felix John Salas was a Private First Class of the 1st Platoon, D. Co., 1st Bn., 3rd Marines, 3rd MARDIV, III MAF, United States Marine Corps. He was born in Luling, Texas, on May 18, 1945, and grew up there before moving with his family to Loraine, where he attended school. He then moved to Roscoe, where he worked at Hugo Zetzman’s service station before enlisting in the Marines. He was a member of the Roscoe Catholic Church.

He began his tour of duty in Vietnam on February 2, 1969, and was killed in action on May 1, 1969, in  Quang Tri province just south of the Demilitarized Zone. According to Master Gunnery Sergeant Gary Stanley, “The company stumbled into two platoons of the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) dug in between two hills. The result was a day-long firefight. During that time, 1st Platoon, trying to slip around the NVA flank, ran into an ambush and took quite a few casualties. They managed to fight their way back to the company but left several wounded and KIAs (Killed in Action). It wasn’t until the next morning before we got to them and by then all were KIA.” Among those killed was Pfc. Felix Salas.

Sgt. Stanley also describes a second battle with the NVA on May 10 before concluding his narrative by saying, “All the Marines in these two fights fought like Marines have always fought, with pride, honor, and love for one another. The men killed on both these days died with honor. They fought and died as warriors. They will live in the hearts and minds of those of us who were lucky enough to have survived that hellhole.”

Felix Salas’s name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at Panel W26, Line 93.



A Memorial service for Leo Sabastian Ramirez, 5, of Roscoe will be held at McCoy Chapel of Memories at 3:00pm on Wednesday, May 27. 

He passed away on Thursday, May 14.



A graveside service for Arnold Ray Gonzales, 70, of Roscoe was held at 10am Saturday, May 16, at Roscoe Cemetery with Father Nilo Nalugon officiating and Cate-Spencer & Trent Funeral Home of Sweetwater directing arrangements. He passed away on Wednesday, May 13, at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo.

Arnold was born on December 29, 1949, in Jourdanton, Texas, to Frank Gonzales, Jr., and Esther Marie (Olivarri) Gonzales. He was a construction worker for Salinas Construction before retiring. He was a member of Holy Spirit Catholic Parish.

He is survived by his wife, Trinidad Gonzales of Roscoe; children, Ray and Johnny Joe Tijerina of Pleasanton, Martin Ortegon of Dallas, Linda Kay Ortegon of Roscoe, and Mario Ortegon and wife Josie of Roscoe; grandson, Anthony Micheal Ortegon of San Marcos; three brothers, Richard Gonzales of Houston, George Gonzales and wife Barbara of Pleasanton, and James Gonzales of Pleasanton; three sisters, Mary Frances Gonzales of Houston, Eva Gonzales Hoekzema and husband Peter of Harlingen,  and Linda Harrison of Lufkin; and numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles.

He was preceded in death by his mother, Esther Marie Olivarri Gonzales; father, Frank Gonzales, Jr.; maternal grandparents, Victor and Maggie Olivarri; and paternal grandparents, Frank H. and Julia Gonzales; brothers, David Gonzales, and Frank Gonzales, III; and sister, Ruth DeLeon.


Editor’s Note: The following article by Herschel Whittington is a Memorial Day extra. It is a detailed account of the events surrounding the death of his oldest brother, 2nd Lt. Hillman Whittington, who died during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. As the first Roscoe serviceman killed in World War II, Lt. Whittington’s name is part of the official name of Roscoe’s American Legion Post 227, the Frost-Whittington Post.

The account below is an adaptation of Herschel Whittington’s original article, “The Other B-26 at Midway,” published in
Dispatch, the official magazine of the Commemorative Air Force, in May/June 1992, fifty years after the event. It is appended to “Smiles and Tears of Boyhood Years,” his memoir of growing up in Roscoe in the 1930s and ‘40s.

"Missing in Action at Midway"
by Herschel Whittington

2nd Lieutenant Hillman Whittington
On May 2, 1942, U. S. Army Air Force Second Lieutenant Hillman Whittington married hometown sweetheart, Maxie Cooper of Roscoe, Texas. There was no time for a formal honeymoon. The war was being fought, and lost, at fever pitch, especially in the Pacific: to the Army, completion of his flight's combat readiness training took precedence over personal activities—even romance.

On May 14, Hillman celebrated his 24th birthday. Maxie and their landlady made a small cake, topped off by a single candle. Hillman blew it out and wished the war would soon be over.

For him, it would be. Too soon.

On May 21st, orders came down for Hillman's flight leader to depart for the Pacific, with his three best crews flying their three best Martin B-26 Marauder twin-engine medium bombers.

On May 23rd, the three bombers, with Hillman flying co-pilot in the second craft, lifted off the Wright Field, Ohio, runway: destination: Australia, via Hamilton Field (San Francisco), California, Hickam Field (Honolulu), Hawaii, and some remote South Pacific island-reef that provided refueling for the final, long leg of their journey to the "Land Down Under."

On May 26th they took off from Hamilton Field to fly the 2,200 non-stop, over-water miles to Hickam. On this flight, Hillman wrote his last letters home, one to Maxie and one to his parents and me. Mostly, he noted, the flight was boring and tiresome, but planes and crews were performing flawlessly. "It seems strange," he wrote, "that we took off an hour after sun up, will fly 11 hours in daylight, and still land five hours before sundown. This may easily be the longest day of my life... Don't worry about me."

By the time they landed in Hawaii, word had been passed to all Pacific commanders that Japanese Admiral Yamamoto's giant armada of dozens of ships, including four fleet carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Shiryu, and Hiryu) with their complements of 500 aircraft, and transporting 5,000 elite troops, was steaming toward the American Navy outpost on Midway Island, a spit of sand 1,100 miles north-west of Honolulu.

On May 29th, the three newly arrived B-26 Marauders, joined by a fourth that had flown up from Australia for retrofit work, were ferried the few miles to Pearl Harbor. There the planes' crews watched with great concern as their aircraft were jerry-rigged with torpedo racks and fitted with torpedoes. None of these airmen had ever before seen a torpedo. This equipment took four days to make and install.

On May 30th, Hillman's bride, Maxie, did not celebrate her 19th birthday.

On June 2nd the planes were flown back to Hickam, fueled and armed, and provisioned for combat. The crews were briefed. They would proceed to Midway and there cooperate with the Navy and Marines in defending the Island outpost in whatever way Fleet Commander Chester Nimitz requested.

B-26 Marauder
On June 3rd the four B-26 Marauders and crews made the six-hour flight without incident. The outrigged torpedoes caused major drag, but the powerful engines of the Marauders easily overcame the added resistance. The only serious concern for the aircraft commanders being poor performance of their planes' turret guns: when tested in flight, several jammed or malfunctioned in some other manner.

During the afternoon of June 3rd, the meager Marine and Navy aircraft contingent on Midway was reinforced not only by the four Marauders, but also by 19 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress four-engine heavy bombers, and a gaggle of miscellaneous, mostly outdated Navy craft of various denominations flown mostly by Marine pilots. Least effective of all, perhaps, were the 26 Marine-piloted, badly outdated Brewster F2 Buffalo fighter planes, which were both too slow and too poorly armed to compete with the light, fast, highly maneuverable Japanese Zero fighters.

Brewster F2 Buffalo
In addition to the potpourri of U. S. planes on the Island, Admiral Nimitz, directing (from Pearl Harbor) American forces and strategy to be thrown against Yamamoto's invasion armada, had in place a lesser armada of American ships, including three aircraft carriers: Hornet, Enterprise and the crippled Yorktown. Even so, the American force, in number of aircraft, tonnage of ships, and overall firepower was every bit as over-matched as that slingshot armed Jewish lad who went against the mammoth Goliath of Gath.

On June 3rd, mid-morning, an American Catalina search aircraft spotted the Japanese fleet. That afternoon, nine of the B-17 bombers attacked the Japanese transports from high altitude, failing to score a single hit.

Four bomb-equipped Navy Catalinas managed one hit on a tanker but did little damage. That night the B-26 and B-17 crewmen slept fitfully on the sand beneath the wings of their planes.

On June 4th, at 5:34 in the morning, another Catalina spotted a swarm of Japanese aircraft approaching Midway. The Battle—as the British say—was joined. Everything on Midway that would fly took to the air. Because they were the fleetest planes in the American defense, the Marauder bombers-turned-torpedo-carriers were the last off the ground. Their target, the lead Japanese carrier, Hiryu, was an hour or so to the northwest.

PBY Catalina
Of the aircraft arising from Midway that morning, 26 of the old Marine fighter planes lingered to intercept the attacking Japanese bombers and their fighter cover. Seventeen of these Brewsters were shot down and another seven severely damaged, but the Japanese aerial raid achieved only minor damage to ground facilities on Midway, and by a quarter past seven, the attack was over, and no further assault on the Island would be successfully mounted by the invaders.

Strangely, the ships of the two combatants would join in direct battle infrequently, insignificantly, and not until much later that day. It was aircraft against aircraft, and aircraft against "floating airfields" and shipboard gun platforms.

The first wave of six Navy Avenger torpedo bombers to go against the Hiryu reached the target but proved ineffective. Behind them came the four jerry-rigged Marauders. Hiryu commander, Susumi, later wrote: "We received no hits from any of them [Avengers or Marauders] ...Those torpedoes were very slow; they seemed to surface, go down again, surface, go down again. For some reason those torpedoes didn't seem to have any speed at all. There was one occasion when a torpedo came toward us on the surface. We hit it with a machine gun and blew it up."

Grumman Avenger Torpedo Bomber
Dan van der Vat wrote: "The small American wave of torpedo bombers lacked not only an effective armament but also any form of fighter protection; they were shredded by the Japanese fighters and anti-aircraft barrage. One Avenger and two Marauders, all damaged, managed to get back to Midway."

Later crew reports and Japanese ship logs clarified somewhat the fate of the Marauders. The armada was spotted by the Marauder flight leader about seven o'clock. About 20 miles away, surrounded by combat vessels of every ilk, all bristling with anti-aircraft guns, rode the four huge fleet aircraft carriers. Filling the sky between the bombers and their target were dozens of the agile Zero fighter planes. "We dropped to the deck and headed straight for those flat-tops," the flight leader later wrote.

"They gave us everything they had, but we kept going. I think our gunners were doing their best, but the damned guns kept jamming." As they bore in on their target, the Hiryu, the flight leader's Marauder was followed about half-a-mile back by the B-26 from Australia, with Hillman's plane following in the third slot, and the other plane trailing half-a-mile behind him. The first plane released its torpedo, veered left, then turned and flew over the length of the Hiryu's deck, the nose gunner/bombardier strafing as they went, destroying one emplacement and killing two Japanese gunners.

The second Marauder also released its torpedo, veered sharply right and found itself flying wing to wing with the leader as both used full throttle to escape the fury of enemy fire. Both aircraft, badly riddled with bullet holes and damaged beyond belief, limped back to Midway with dead crewmen—five of the 12 crewmen aboard these two planes died.

Hillman's plane came in third. The flight leader reported that he believed they too released their torpedo before pulling up and skipping over the carrier and crashing into the sea.*

* In an interview after the war, a Japanese deck officer aboard the Hiryu said: "That third plane [Marauder] came straight at us, about fifty feet below deck level. We thought they [the pilots] were dead, and they would crash into us. But at the last minute they pulled up, barely clearing the deck and coming straight at the bridge but again veering and diving into the water below and breaking apart. As they went by, I remember thinking the plane was in tatters and the crew must all be dead. I saw no one."

The fourth Marauder disappeared sometime before reaching the carrier. No one, American or Japanese, has been able to account for it or its crew, but they likely were blown from the sky by the ubiquitous Zero fighters.

Mitsubishi Zero
According to Dan van der Vat, "They [the Marauders] scored no hits but unwittingly contributed to the fateful moment upon which the battle hinged. Lieutenant Tomonaga of flagship Akagi, who led the attack on Midway, had called in to recommend a second strike on the atoll. The ill-fated torpedo attack ten minutes later supported his judgment, as the twin-engine Marauders could only have come from Midway, not a carrier."

Admiral Nagumo decided to follow the lieutenant's advice. "His carrier," Vat wrote, "had planes on deck armed with torpedoes, ready to attack any enemy [American] surface ships; he cleared the decks to receive the aircraft returning from Midway and ordered the waiting planes to swap their torpedoes for bombs for a second strike at the island base. As this work, which normally took a full hour, was in hand, a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft sent in the first sighting report of the American fleet....Nagumo ordered the process stopped... Total confusion prevailed... The Japanese decks remained empty, [still] awaiting the arrival of Tomonaga's pilots... Meanwhile, Midway had sent in another wave...of 16 Marine dive bombers..."

The second wave of American planes attacking the Japanese carriers—16 dive bombers—proved to be just as disastrous for our side: no hits, and all but two of our aircraft destroyed. But they added even more confusion to Susumi's situation.

A third and fourth strike by the Island based aircraft resulted in no hits as well. It was not until American carrier-based torpedo and bomber planes entered the fray that our luck began to change—but when it did, everything turned our way. By the end of the day, America had won a resounding victory—having sunk all four of the Japanese fleet carriers and thereby destroyed their complements of planes and pilots—a blow from which the Japanese navy, and especially its air arm, would never recover.

About 3:00 a.m. on June 5th, Admiral Yamamoto ordered a general withdrawal of what was left of his fleet.

The only official word from the U. S. Government or the Army to families of that "other B-26 at Midway," the one on which Hillman Whittington flew co-pilot, was "Missing in action and presumed dead."



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