Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995 Page: 122
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
in a cafeteria when they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Westmoreland, with a group
of fellow students, immediately went downtown to enlist. Lieutenant Westmoreland re-
ceived his wings at Lubbock Army Flying School in October 1942.25
He and another man were killed on a routine training flight from Patterson
Field in Springfield, Ohio. Their plane crashed and exploded on the New York Central Rail-
road track in Donaldsonville, Ohio, ten miles from Patterson Field.26
Westmoreland's remains were returned to his hometown and buried at the
Eagle Lake Masonic Cemetery on Sunday, January 30, 1942 with G. A. Schulze, Pastor
of Eagle Lake's Colley Memorial Methodist Church officiating. The funeral was con-
ducted in full military style. Marion Wozencraft, who was to teach the entire next
generation of Eagle Lake school children, played piano, and a ladies' quartet sang
"Beautiful Garden of Prayer" and "Good Night, Good Morning." At the cemetery, an
honor guard from Camp Hulen accompanied the casket, while planes from Foster Field
circled overhead. Lt. Truman Salyer escorted Westmoreland's body from Ohio to Eagle
Lake. Salyer, speaking at the funeral, candidly revealed that Westmoreland had died in
his stead. Salyer had been scheduled to make the flight that day, but he had been late,
and Westmoreland had volunteered to go in his place.27
Funerals such as Westmoreland's, attended not only by family and friends
but by many people who only casually knew the deceased, provided some therapeutic
benefit to the whole community. There was a sense of shared sorrow at each such
service. The grand style of productions, featuring military color guards, and spectacular
salutes with aircraft and rifle fire, in a small way compensated the community for its loss.
Westmoreland was further honored by having his name included on the Eagle
Lake High School plaque. The inscription on Westmoreland's grave marker includes the
phrase, "died in line of duty." Westmoreland's mother, Lizzie, it will be recalled, had only
recently written a eulogy upon the death of Billy Cook. The loss of her only son in training
so soon thereafter stunned the community. Lizzie Westmoreland had taught a generation
of Eagle Lake school children, and her husband was a member of one of the old families
of Eagle Lake. The Westmorelands had been active in the city for many years, and had
had a street and an addition to the city named after them. The death of John
Westmoreland marked the end of that family line in Eagle Lake.
Since William Stapleton's death off Guadalcanal in October 1942, the battle
for that island had raged on. The First Marine Division, later relieved by the Second
Marines and Alexander M. Patch's Americal Division, fought for six long months, against
overwhelming odds, to stem the tide of the Japanese advance across the southwest
Pacific. For much of this time, the marines fought without air or sea cover. By October
1942, the U. S. had lost four fleet carriers in the Pacific, two of them, Wasp and Hornet,
directly in the effort to protect the marines on Guadalcanal. After withstanding a series
of Japanese banzai charges, the marines secured the island. On January 2, 1943, the
marines were relieved, and command of the island passed to Patch. On February 9,
25 Eagle Lake Headlight, October 16, 1942.
26 Colorado County Citizen, January 28, 1943; Eagle Lake Headlight, January 29, 1943.
27 Weimar Mercury, February 5, 1943; Eagle Lake Headlight, February 5, 1943.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 5, Number 3, September, 1995, periodical, September 1995; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151395/m1/14/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.