FBBA Members Get History Lesson from Cpt. Rocco Montesano

Business, Flour Bluff, Front Page, History
Captain F. W. “Rocco” Montesano (Ret’d. US Navy)

     F. W. “Rocco” Montesano, U.S. Naval Academy graduate and retired captain of the Unites States Navy now serving as Executive Director at the USS LEXINGTON Museum on the Bay, addressed a group of about 35 Flour Bluff Business Association members and guests at the regular meeting on May 10, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Montesano came to Flour Bluff in 1994 as the commanding officer at NAS Corpus Christi. “Both of my kids attended Flour Bluff Schools and got a great education there.  My wife taught and retired from Flour Bluff School System.  When I retired from the Navy, I said, ‘I want to live in the Bluff.’  It’s a unique place, and it’s really great to be in the Bluff.”

     “Normally I talk about the Lexington,” said Montesano in reference to the carrier nicknamed by Tokyo Rose as “the Blue Ghost”, which was commissioned in 1943 and was the oldest working carrier in the United States Navy when decommissioned in 1991.  “Last year we had 305,000 visitors.  We now have a brand new digital, state-of-the-art, 3-D laser projector in our theater, and we are premiering a new carrier movie simultaneously with the Smithsonian on the 24th of this month.  If you haven’t been there lately, come on out.”

    “We have one volunteer at the museum who is a Pearl Harbor survivor,” Montesano proudly said as he spoke with great reverence for the thousands of Sailors who gave their lives in WWII and how these members of “the Greatest Generation” are “fading away.”  He explained how the current Lexington’s predecessor, USS Lexington (CV2) was sunk in the Battle of Coral Sea, the battle that saved Australia from being overtaken by Japan.  Then with the aid of maps and charts, Montesano proceeded to take the audience on a trip back in time seventy-five years to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Doolittle Raid, and the Battle of the Coral Sea, all the while working his way to the story of the Battle of Midway, the decisive battle that occurred six months after Pearl Harbor.

Lexington burning fiercely after the Japanese attack.
Archival image housed at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana

   With slides of maps, Montesano walked the group through the events described by historians as the “turning point” of WWII. He spoke of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Ensign George Henry Gay, Jr., who went on to become a TWA pilot, Captain Clarence W. McClusky, CDR John Waldron, Lt. William Hall, whose daughter lives in Corpus Christi, and CDR Joseph Rochefort, who led the team of code breakers that gave Nimitz the information he needed to make the decisions that led to the Battle of Midway. Rochefort, who was denied the Distinguished Service Medal twice during his lifetime and ousted as an intelligence officer after he was first nominated for it, died in 1976. “He was finally awarded the medal posthumously in 1985,” said Montesano, explaining the Rochefort’s information, which was correct, ran counter to what Washington, D.C. put out, and awarding the medal would be a confession of their faulty thinking.

Joseph rochefort.jpg
Captain Joseph John Rochefort

     “War is about big things, big movements, movements of troops, but it boils down to people,” he said as he spoke of those who paid the ultimate price.  He told of Ensign Frank O’Flaherty and his gunner, Bruno Gaido, who were taken aboard a Japanese cruiser, interrogated, beaten, and thrown overboard with 5-gallon kerosene cans tied to them.  He commemorated Harold Smith, Dean Hallmark, and William Farrow, three of Doolittle’s Raiders, whom the Japanese captured and executed.  Montesano said that the three men were told the day before that they would be put to death and that William Farrow was able to write a letter home to his mother. Farrow wrote, “Don’t let this get you down. Just remember God will make everything right, and I’ll see you again in the hereafter.  If you want to know how I’m taking this, my faith in God is complete, so I’m not afraid.”

William Farrow

     Montesano reminded everyone a lot was going on at home while all this was occurring in the Pacific.  The United States was building ships and carriers and airplanes.  “We built 19 ‘Lexingtons’ from 1940 to 1946.  That’s in addition to the battleships, tanks, and airplanes.  We were building 30,000 airplanes a month at that time,” he added.  “Who was building them?  It was Rosie the Riveters.  There were a lot of women in the workforce because many of the men were at war.”  He encouraged those who are interested in learning more about the Battle of Midway to attend the 75th Anniversary event on June 3, 2017, at the USS Lexington Museum located on North Beach.

Other FBBA News

FBBA President Jennifer Welp welcomed new members to the FBBA:

     Welp also thanked everyone who took part in the HEB/FBBA Earth Day clean-up of Waldron Road and the Flour Bluff Citizens Council Litter Critter event coordinated on the same day.  She also recognized Jonathan Vela, FBBA Events Coordinator, for his work on this year’s Flour Fest event which will be held at Parker Memorial Park on Waldron Road, October 28, 2017, from noon to 8:00 p.m.  All FBBA members and community and school organizations are encouraged to visit the FBBA website (https://www.flourbluffbusinessassociation.com/single-post/2017/05/10/Flour-Fest-Vendor-Registration-Now-Open) to see how sign up as a vendor or volunteer their services.

     The next FBBA general meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 14, at noon at Funtrackers Raceway Cafe’.  The speaker will be the Honorable Judge Loyd Neal of Nueces County.

Nueces County Judge Samuel Loyd Neal
Nueces County Judge Samuel Loyd Neal
Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.
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