roger boles


Lieutenant Roger Stanley "Smiley" Boles


Birth:  Feb. 17, 1917 Santa Paula Ventura County California
Death:  Nov. 5, 1944 Manila, Philippines

Awarded the Navy Cross for "Extraodinary Heroism" during aerial operations against an enemy fleet on October 24, 1944 in the Philippine Sea. Boles used his Navy Hellcat to strafe two Japanese battleships and a destroyer from 100 feet. His actions supressed the enemy fleet's anti-air fire, which enabled bombers and torpedo planes to successfully attack them. Boles actions saved the lives of many pilots and their crews. Two weeks later Boles led a flight from the USS Lexington to Manila, where they shot down four enemy planes. As they were departing the area, his plane was shot down by anti-aircraft & he was killed. Boles was given the nickname of Smiley by his crewmates, because he never smiled. 


Watch returned to family 70 years later


Forward: This email was sent to me through this website. 7/16/2014


My name is Bryan Newton. My grandfather's best friend was Roger Boles. When I was a teenager in the '70's my grandfather would sometimes mention, with misty eyes, how his best friend Roger was killed in WWII.


On my fiftieth birthday my father gave me a watch he thought belonged to my grandfather, but when I looked at the back of the watch I realized it had been my grandfather's best friend's watch, Roger Boles. I have attached a photo. I would like to return this watch to Roger's family if that is possible. When I googled Roger's name up came your USS Lexington site and lo and behold, Roger's name. If you are able to contact anyone in Roger's family I would like to send them his watch.

Bryan Newton



When I recieved this email I started searching for Roger's family. With the help of I found his military records and then after 6 days I found his sister and nephew.


To Bryan:


Hello Bryan, I’ve got wonderful news. I found Roger’s family! Here is a response from his nephew


From: Roger Custer

Sent: July 23, 2014 5:46 AM


Subject: Re: Subject: Lt. Roger Stanley Boles US Navy Served on the USS Lexington CV-16


Subject: Lt. Roger Stanley Boles US Navy Served on the USS Lexington CV-16


Born 2/15/1917 – Died 11/5/1944

Hello.  My name is Christopher Roger Custer (but I go by Roger) and I am named after Roger Boles.  My father forwarded me your message about him and I wanted to introduce myself.  My mother, Sharon Del King Custer, is the daughter of Bernice Boles King who is the sister of Roger.  We honor Roger with a scholarship at Santa Paula High School (his alma mater and my mom's) each year and we sometimes make it to put flowers on his grave in Santa Paula - however, my parents moved to the east coast last year so we don't make it there as frequently.  I live in Virginia just outside Washington, D.C.  

We named our son (5 months old now) Peter Roger Custer in order to keep Roger's legacy alive through another generation. 

Please keep me informed of your efforts because I want to keep his memory and legacy alive. 


C. Roger Custer

Oakton, VA


Picture below shows Roger Boles (center) onboard the USS Lexington CV-16




Picture at left is Roger Boles in uniform


From Roger Custer to Bryan


Hello Bryan.  Thanks again for getting in touch with us.  Please find attached a photo of Roger Boles, Roger Custer, and Peter Roger Custer we took at my parents' house in Williamsburg, VA. 


As for the watch, we would be honored to include it in a collection of his belongings, including his Navy papers and his Purple Heart.  Please send to my parents Steve and Sharon Custer

July 24, 2014

From Bryan to Roger


Dear Roger,                                                                                        

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found Roger Boles’ family.  I certainly couldn’t have done it without the help of Paty Cannon and her USS Lexington website.  I honestly thought I wouldn’t find a relative who still remembered my Grandpa Bob Wood’s good friend, Roger Boles, from Santa Paula, Ca. 


And to find a family who not only remembers him, but honors him by naming their children Roger.  Wow, I’m thrilled. 


I want to share with you some of my memories of Grandpa Bob Wood and what he told me about his friend Roger Boles.  My Grandpa was my hero.  He was a very intelligent, humorous, hard working, likable man.  After he graduated from Santa Paula High School, he graduated from UCLA in horticulture.  He was a farmer in the Salinas Valley, in Greenfield Ca. 


He was on numerous agricultural boards and committees.  He was elected to be a county supervisor in Monterey County.  Later, he was elected, as a write-in candidate with 72% of the vote, to be the Assemblyman for Monterey County.  Needless to say, he was very well respected, and liked. 


When my grandpa was assemblyman, Ronald Reagan was the governor and my grandpa and Reagan became good friends as they had many things in common, including both being horse lovers. 


When my grandpa was dying of cancer at the age of 63, he pulled out an old scrap book and was sharing many of his memories.  As he was telling the story of his good friend Roger Boles he choked up with emotion.  He told us Roger was killed in WWII when his plane was shot down.  I had never seen my grandpa get choked up until that moment.


A few months ago, for my 50th birthday, my dad gave me a watch that he believed to be my Grandpa Bob’s.  But when I read the inscription I realized it wasn’t my grandpa’s watch, but rather his good friend Roger Boles’.  I had the thought of trying to track down Roger’s family but figured I probably wouldn’t be successful or no one would really remember Roger.  Boy, am I glad to be wrong.  Not only is he remembered but he is honored by his family.  You named your sons Roger.  That thrills me.  Both Roger Boles and Bob Wood are honored each year by having a scholarship in their name giving to a student at Santa Paula High School, and King City High School. 


My Grandpa Bob came to many of my little league baseball games, something Roger was denied.  Roger gave his life so grandfathers can watch their grandsons play baseball in the greatest country in the world.  It is my honor to return Roger’s watch to his family.  It is because of men like Roger that they are called, “The Greatest Generation”.  And they are.   



Bryan Robert Newton………..yes, the Robert is from Bob Wood. 



Bryan, that was a beautifully written letter. I’m sure they will enjoy reading about  Roger’s best friend. Maybe they will remember his name from an old memory or two. What a beautiful gift you are giving Roger’s family. You are a very compassionate, kind and considerate man. I’m honored to have met you.


Your friend,




By Jannette Jauregui



In the spring of 1952, Phil Harvey sat in the auditorium at Santa Paula High School listening as he and his classmates were awarded college scholarships. The name Roger Boles was announced, preceding an award given to an outstanding graduating male.  Like most other students there that night, Harvey knew little more than that Boles was considered a great athlete and model student. The explanation was enough to convince Harvey that Boles’ legacy ended there.


As an adult, however, Harvey’s interest in U.S. Naval history led the Santa Paula resident to a deeper understanding of Boles’ life that happened to also include four years as a Navy pilot. For two years Harvey researched military records and wrote letters to some of Boles’ comrades.  He recorded meticulous notes from after action reports and logs. But his greatest resource, perhaps, was a wooden box handmade by Boles’ father – a box that houses the original letters, telegrams, and photographs chronicling Boles’ time in the Navy. It is a history that, without Harvey and the Boles’ family efforts, would have otherwise been lost.


New Lipa


Nov. 5, 1944. 7:15 a.m. Roger Boles leads a Navy fighter sweep of 12 Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Fighters off the U.S.S. Lexington. The target? A Japanese airfield located just outside of New Lipa, Philippines.


“Lt. Boles, the squadron commander, was seen to be in trouble with his engine cocked at a 30-degree angle and one of his wings looking like an accordion,” the Aircraft Action Report read. “He climbed to nearly 1,000 feet and was about three miles from the field when he was seen to go into a 45 -degree dive and then crash into the ground. Several pilots circled and saw his parachute 20 to 30 feet from the plane and open with no one in it. It looked as though it had been thrown from the plane as it crashed.”


Reports were unable to confirm the cause of the crash. Boles was believed to have died on impact. The Santa Paula native was just 27.


Four days later, Navy Comm. Hugh Winters mailed a letter to Boles’ parents. In part it read, “It is with deepest regret that I write you of Roger’s loss, but I know you will want to know the worst….As much as I would like to write otherwise, I must tell you that I have not the slightest hope of his being alive….As you know, he had commanded the squadron since Lt. Comdr. Cook’s loss on Oct. 12, and the squadron had come to think so highly of him, that it was a deep personal loss to everyone in it, and to myself one of the saddest of this war.”


Cadet to Commander


Boles’ had been overseas for less than a year before he was killed. He enlisted in the Navy in May 1940, just a month before he graduated from USC with a degree in mechanical engineering. He became an aviation cadet and was sent to Pensacola, Fla., for flight training, earning his wings in May 1941. His skills so impressed those in command that he was assigned duties as a flight instructor – an order that seemed to dishearten the young pilot. His goal was quite simple. He wanted to go to war.


Stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, the now lieutenant stayed on as an instructor until August 1943 when he was transferred to Los Alamitos, Calif., as a member of Air Group 19 (AG-19).  The group trained for Pacific maneuvers in Maui until they boarded the USS Lexington to replace AG-16. Boles was finally headed to war.


Boles and the other members of AG-19 flew combat missions throughout the Pacific, arriving to the Philippine Islands in the fall of 1944. By November AG-19 was notified that they were to destroy Japanese planes at nearby airfields – planes that posed a serious threat to American ships in the region.  Those orders led to the fighter sweep on Nov. 5. It was to be Boles’ final mission. In all, AG-19 lost 17 pilots from July to November of that year. Boles had kept a handwritten log of his fallen comrades. On Nov. 5, a friend added Boles’ name to that list. After just a short time in combat, Boles had become a highly decorated pilot, earning the Navy Cross and twice the Distinguished Flying Cross.


Among the Filipino residents that found Boles’ body was Dr. Kitigbak, the headmaster at the nearby Mabini Academy, a grammar school that served a community devastated by the war. Kitigbak assisted in the burial of the young pilot’s body, and eventually came in contact with Boles’ family upon the request that his body be returned the United States and buried at what is now the Pierce Brothers Santa Paula Cemetery. For his efforts, Boles’ parents and sister sent what little money they could afford to Kitigbak to help pay for food and supplies for his students.


Hometown Hero


Boles’ loss hit his hometown community hard. Known for his strong athletic and academic skills, Boles had become a hometown hero.


“I can tell you exactly how I feel about Boles – here’s just a bit that says he has all the makings of a real man,” Santa Paula High School principal Freeman M. Eakin wrote to his young graduate.


Even from combat zones, Boles made efforts to contribute to his community. He was determined to have a pool built near the gymnasium (now girl’s gym) at his high school alma mater, writing to his friends 10 days before he was killed, “If our pool doesn’t come through the chain of command as it were, I have a couple of ideas I am working on. The time to get it, I think, is right after the war is over, and that is when you will need it most. Perhaps we can make it a memorial for those that won’t be back.”


Today, the Santa Paula High School swimming pool stands to the left of the girl’s gymnasium.


About a year after Boles’ death Bob Wood, who was a friend and fellow member of the Santa Paula High School class of 1934, had an idea about how to keep his fallen classmate’s memory alive. He got in contact with Eakin regarding a scholarship in Boles’ name that would be awarded to the outstanding graduating male student. Wood funded the scholarship, but asked to remain anonymous. The scholarship was awarded for the first time in 1947, and continues to be awarded each year.


In a letter dated Jan.  20, 1946, Wood wrote the following to Boles’ father, Alvin:


“Read about Roger in the Santa Paula paper. Although he wasn’t on this old material world as long as you and I Chief, I believe he will be remembered long after you and I have passed from the memories of our friends.”




Copyright 1998 by Patty Cannon all rights reserved