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Who was Thomas Mack Wilhoite?

Thomas Mack Wilhoite was born on February 12, 1921 in Guthrie, KY.

He enlisted in the Naval Reserve on June 16, 1941 in Atlanta, GA and received his aviation indoctrination training at the Naval Reserve Air Base in Atlanta.

On August 7, 1941 he reported for flight instruction at the Naval Air Station (NAS) in Pensacola, FL, and was appointed an aviation cadet the following day. Transferred to NAS in Miami, FL, on January 15, 1942 for further training, he became a Naval aviator on February 6, 1942. Three days later he was commissioned an Ensign and at the end of February had reported to the Advanced Carrier Training Group, Atlantic Fleet, NAS in Norfolk, VA. There he joined Fighting Squadron (VF) 9, then preparing to go to war. He became the Assistant Navigation Officer for that squadron.

Operation Torch–the World War II invasion of French North Africa–saw VF-9 assigned to the aircraft carrier USS RANGER (CV-4). It was that aircraft carrier that provided air superiority during the amphibious invasion of German-dominated French Morocco (commencing early November 8, 1942). It was still dark at 6:15 a.m. that day when RANGER, stationed 30 miles northwest of Casablanca, began launching her aircraft to support the landings made at three points on the Atlantic coast of North Africa. Each section of the squadron had drawn assigned tasks on that morning, the first day of the amphibious landings. Wilhoite flew one of five Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats which attacked the French airdrome at Rabat-Sale, the headquarters of the French air forces in Morocco. Despite heavy anti-aircraft fire, Wilhoite pressed home a determined attack and set three French bombers afire with his guns.

In a second strike directed at the Port Lyautey (now Kenitra) airdrome later that day, Wilhoite flew his Wildcat, Bureau Number (BuNo) 02023, as part of the RANGER’s third flight. He destroyed one fighter–a Dewoitine 520–by strafing. However, the Vichy ground gunners served their weapons well; and Wilhoite’s Wildcat took hits from the intense flak and crashed about one mile from Port Lyautey. After all was said and done, the RANGER’s aircraft destroyed more than 70 enemy planes on the ground and shot down 15 in aerial combat, immobilized 21 light enemy tanks and destroyed 86 military vehicles. Casablanca surrendered to the Americans on November 11, 1942.

Thomas Mack Wilhoite received a Silver Star posthumously, for displaying “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” during the strikes at Rabat-Sale and Port Lyautey. The citation also cited Wilhoite’s “superb airmanship and tenacious devotion to duty” in pressing home his strafing attacks.

The Entire Graduating Class of 1956!

From Left to Right, Becky (Hornsby) Snow, Pat (La Fleur) Jones, and Larry O. Miller

From Left to Right, Becky (Hornsby) Snow, Pat (La Fleur) Jones, and Larry O. Miller

Remembrances from Becky (Hornsby) Snow:

I’m the third graduating senior,1956, from TMW High School. Larry, Pat and I got together for a senior reunion several years ago for dinner at the Hungry Hunter in Thousand Oaks. We are all three living in Southern California. Pat and I went to a TMW/Kenitra reunion a couple of years ago in San Diego. It was fun seeing those who came after us.

The times in Morocco were enjoyable and basically carefree. I stayed a few months after graduation until my Dad was transferred. I worked in the office at the Navy Exchange and my hobbies were riding the Arabian Stallions at the stables, going to different functions on the base, and trying to stay out of trouble! I gained a hearty respect for dueling animals, and still have a hard time relating to docile horses after the experiences of the spirited horses in Port Lyautey. My career was real estate and I still maintain my licenses.

Becky (Hornsby) Snow

Remembrances from Pat La Fleur Jones:

That picture brings back memories and I’m still into the 50’s music. My dress was pink and I ordered it out of a catalog. Don’t wear glasses much anymore since contacts came in.

We got to Morocco in 1954 just as I was going into the 11th grade. At that time there was one senior and several juniors. We had correspondence courses from the University of Nebraska and all sat in one big room. Our teacher or “monitor” was Mrs. Duborg, the base captain’s wife.

In my senior year we had another school with real live teachers. Our English teacher, Mrs. Ryan was a Shakespeare lover and she celebrated his birthday. In those days we diagrammed sentences. Sure was a good way to learn sentences. By that time there were about 7 juniors. Chemistry class was read and memorize. No lab. Our principle was Mr. Humperdink. These were civil service teachers.

Both Becky and Larry lived in outlying areas so only saw them at school. In 1954 we lived in town and then moved on the base – in back of the Marine Corps barracks – in a Quonset hut. Very convenient because I dated Marines. Spent many evenings watching my date spit shine his shoes. The base movie was about all there was to do on the base but spent a lot of time at the Red Cross Center in town. I was allowed to drive our car so had transportation for the “gang.”

The first year we were there, I was chosen Navy Relief Queen. Every time someone bought a ticket for a new car, they got to vote for a Queen. The winner of the car didn’t even give me a ride….

My Dad was the terminal officer so I also spent time at the terminal and “Greasy Spoon” as they called the snack bar.

On Saturday, some of the girls took turns putting on a radio show called “Teen Timers,” which was on Armed Forces Radio. We had scripts and selected our own songs to be played.

Our graduation was at the Seabee auditorium. All three of us sat on the stage while the glee club sang. Graduation was June 5, 1956.

We left Morocco in August 1956 and I went to Florida State University. My Dad was stationed in Pensacola at the time.

To this day, I keep in contact with Becky (Hornsby) Snow, Leila (Griffin) Applewhite, Sue (Greksouk) Kerry, Larry Miller and some of the wonderful people I met at the reunion last year in Imperial Beach, CA. Let’s have another reunion before we all get too old to travel.

Enjoyed remembering the “good old days.”


Pat La Fleur Jones

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