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LT. COL. ROGER E. VARGAS USAF (RETD) MARCH 17, 1916 - JULY 25, 2013 Lt. Col. Roger E. Vargas passed away on July 25, 2013 at the VA Hospital, Loma Linda, CA. He was born March 17, 1916 in Morenci, AZ, a small town near one of the world's largest copper mines, where his father, Pascual, was a union activist. Roger was one of 10 children raised by his mother Belen, who grew up during the Great Depression. He graduated from Morenci schools in 1935 and Arizona State College, Flagstaff in 1939 with majors in accounting and business. Roger enlisted as a Flying Cadet in July 1940 and received navigator training at Miami U, FL. His first active duty assignment was with the 7th Recon. Sqdn., in Panama where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. with the U. S. Army Air Corp in July 1941. After the outbreak of WW II, he was reassigned to the SW Pacific in June 1942 as a member of a cadre of 12 B-17 (Flying Fortress) crews and aircraft to form the 63rd BS, 43rd BG in Australia. The Japanese had defeated allied forces at Raubal and were increasing their presence near Milne Bay, PNG in preparation for an invasion of Port Moresby to control the entire island of New Guinea. By August 1942 the Japanese controlled all the islands and oceans north of New Guinea and Lt. Vargas's crew's mission was to stop the invasion of New Guinea and Australia. Roger flew 44 combat missions as a navigator aboard a B-17 with the 43rd BG. He was part of a group that developed the technique of skip bombing. He flew on the first skip bombing raid in American history on the night of October 22-23, 1942 when the 63rd BS/43rd BG attacked Japanese ships near Rabaul, New Britain. The port of Rabaul was important strategically because of its close proximity to the Japanese territory of the Caroline Islands, site of a major Imperial Japanese Navy base on Truk. Flying at sea level and at night, missions were dangerous and fatalities high. On his last mission in April 1943 the crew sank 2 cargo ships and left a destroyer listing. Capt. Vargas was critically wounded and spent the rest of the war recovering. For his heroism and bravery, he was awarded a Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation, AF Commendation medal and numerous other campaign and theater medals. Roger retired Oct 1961 at 15th AF HQ, March AFB, CA as a Lt. Col., Chief of War Plans after 22 years of military service. Following his Air Force retirement he was employed by Civil Service at Norton AFB, CA and served his country 14 more years with the SR-71 Reconnaissance Program. Roger was a longtime resident of Riverside (55 yr) and raised four children, Roger, Terry, Brian, and Gina. He is reunited with his daughter Gina and dearly beloved wife Olga who preceded him in death last September. Capt. Roger E. Vargas, met Olga at a Christmas party in December 1942 in Sydney, Australia and they were married for 68 yr. Roger is survived by his brother, Gustavo (Mexico City), 2 sisters, Ester (Mexico City) and Fabiola (Manhattan Beach, CA); 3 sons, Roger (Kamuela, HI), Terry (San Diego, CA) and Brian (Seoul, Korea); 6 grandchildren, Vanessa, Tara, Terry Christopher, Noelani, Kela and Yoideth; 3 daughters-in-law, Kathlyn, Michele, and Elvira; and 1 great granddaughter, Madilynn. Roger was a good father, a man of exceptional integrity and very strong convictions. He was representative of the WWII generation that made the US what it is today. We invite you to honor and pay your respects to one of a dwindling number of WW II veterans. Fr. Louis Abdoo of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church will preside at graveside services on Monday, August 5, 2013 at 11:00 am at the Riverside National Cemetery, 22495 Van Buren Blvd, Riverside, CA Staging Area 5. The family will host light refreshments at the Vargas residence after the ceremony.



Published in Press-Enterprise from July 30 to Aug. 4, 2013
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