Monday, May 31, 2021

This Memorial Day and Vance Air Force Base, Enid

Someone once said, "If you can pick up a book and read it thank a teacher. If you can read the book in English thank a soldier."

Today, Memorial Day,  I would like to thank the two men to the left for helping me read in English and not German. 

My paternal grandfather Reed Burleson fought at the Battle of the Bulge and received multiple medals, including the Purple Heart

My maternal grandfather Fred Cherry also fought on the battlefields of Europe, riding in his jeep that he nicknamed "John 3:16." Thanks to my mom, Mary Burleson, for the photographs. I pause to remember my grandfathers for their service to our country.

But I would like to also honor another man, a contemporary of both my grandfathers, a native of Enid, Oklahoma, and a graduate of Enid High School.

Rachelle at the American Cemetery, Normandy

This soldier's name is Leon Robert "Bob" Vance, the man for whom Vance Air Force Base is named. 

Bob is prominently featured at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy, France. 

Rachelle and I have been to Normandy to visit the American War Memorial on two separate occasions. We have spent time at Omaha Beach and toured the American Cemetery where over 10,000 Americans are buried on France's soil. 

Bob Vance's compelling story is told via a holographic image in the museum's lobby upon exiting the American Memorial Museum.

Most Oklahomans do not know about Bob Vance's heroic actions at Normandy, and that includes people who live in Enid, Oklahoma, Bob's hometown. 

Many know about Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, but few know the reason why the former Enid Army Air Corp base is named after Leon Vance. This Memorial Day, I post Bob Vance's story to honor all those American soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefield.

Col. Bob Vance from Enid, Oklahoma
Leon Robert (Bob) Vance, Jr. was born in Enid, Oklahoma, on August 11, 1916. His father was the principal at Enid's Longfellow Middle School, and his mother was an Enid educator as well. Bob graduated from Enid High School in 1933.

He had been an exceptional athlete and an honors student in high school, and after graduation, Bob entered the University of Oklahoma and the ROTC program at OU. Bob attended the university for his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to the West Point Military Academy in 1935.

Bob would spend four additional years at the Academy, graduating from West Point in 1939, part of the class that Newsweek magazine in 1999 called "The Warrior Class" because that year's graduates would go on to fight in WW II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. 

Bob was training to become a pilot for the Army Air Corp (now called the Air Force). While at West Point he met a native New Yorker, Georgette Brown, and the day after his West Point graduation, Bob and Georgette were married at the Academy's chapel.

For the next five years Lieutenant Robert Vance would first be trained, and then train, Army Air Force pilots at various Air Force bases around the United States. He would sometimes wonder if the war would be over before he actually saw combat, but his expertise as a pilot trainer was both needed and rewarded. By 1944 he had become a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Air Force. 

One of Bob's best friends in the Army Air Corps,  having met him early in his pilot training at San Angelo, Texas,  was Lieutenant Horace S. Carswell. Carswell was a native Texan who had earned his wings in November 1938 and was subsequently assigned as an instructor in the Air Corp, just like Lieutenant Vance.  

The Vance and Carswell couples became fast friends. Both Vance and Carswell would eventually leave the Air Corp training program to fly combat in B-24 bombers. 

Both would arrive in different theaters of combat in April of 1944. Both would earn the Medal of Honor within six months of each other. Both would have Air Force bases named after them - Vance Air Force Base and Carswell Air Force Base.

Bob Vance's Actions at Normandy which Led to His Medal of Honor

Lieutenant Colonel Bob Vance kissed his wife and two-year-old daughter Sharon goodbye and left for England in April of 1944. For two months he trained with other men in a B-24 bomber, preparing for D-Day and the invasion of Europe.

Vance's combat mission would be to fly with a crew in a bomber named the Missouri Sue and drop bombs on the German lines located on the shores of France twenty-four hours before the invasion, softening the beach for the infantry landings that would arrive a few hours later. 

Early on June 5, 1944, the Missouri Sue took off from England for the bombing mission.

The bombs failed to release on the first run over the target, so Lieutenant Colonel Vance ordered a 360-degree turn for a second pass. Somewhere in the process of the second bomb run Missouri Sue was repeatedly hit by German flak, killing the pilot, wounding several members of the crew, and nearly severing Bob Vance's right foot, pinning him to the floor of the plane. 

The crew fought to complete the mission and then turned the plane toward home. Three of the bomber's engines eventually shut down and the fourth had to be shut down to prevent a stall. The damaged plane showered gasoline throughout the trip back across the channel to England. The bomb bay doors remained open with an armed 500-pound bomb dangling precariously. 

Vance was the command pilot of the craft, and as the plane continued its forced descent from 10,000 feet, he ordered that all the crew parachute to safety. Unwilling to have the plane crash into the English landscape, particularly with a 500-pound bomb dangling from the bomb bay, Vance, still pinned to the floor with his severed foot, piloted the gliding plane back into the English channel where it crashed into the water. 

The force of the crash propelled Bob Vance from the plane and knocked him unconscious. Somehow he managed to float to the surface where he was eventually rescued. Unfortunately, Bob's career as a pilot was over. His right foot had been severed.  The surviving ten men credited the actions of Bob Vance for their safe parachute landing on English land.

Vance's Recuperation and Tragic Death

Vance recuperated in England from his injuries for the next eight weeks. He wrote letters home describing to his wife and family the injuries he sustained, urging them not to worry, and that as soon as he was able, he would be on a medical flight home. 

His letters were initially filled with excitement and enthusiasm for Operation Overlord (the invasion of Europe), and he expressed pride for what his bombing crew had done in preparation for the landing.

His spirits lowered, however, when he left the hospital for the first time, hobbling on his crutches in the streets of London, and was met by a small boy who looked him over, saw his missing foot, and said, "Don't worry Yank, you won't miss it!" The emotional impact of realizing he would never fly again was enormous, and his depression increased when word came that his father had been killed in an aircraft accident.

The only thing that kept him going during his eight weeks of recovery was the knowledge that he would soon see his wife and small child. He made plans to leave England on a medical evacuation plane. Just before he left he discovered he had been nominated for the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. On July 26, 1944, Vance joined other wounded soldiers as they boarded a transport plane for the trip back to America. His wife Georgette and Sharon both anxiously anticipated their loved one's arrival. 

Sharon, just over two years old, didn't understand much, but she could say, "Daddy's coming home!"

Bob Vance never made it. Somewhere between Newfoundland and Iceland, the plane went down. The plane has never been discovered, nor has Bob Vance's body ever been recovered. Georgette received this telegram, informing her that her husband was missing in action. The family was stricken with grief. Just weeks later, the government told Georgette that her husband had been bestowed the Medal of Honor. She requested that the official ceremony be delayed until her daughter, Sharon, was old enough to comprehend what her father had done.

Two years later, in 1946, Sharon Vance, Bob's four-year-old daughter, officially received on behalf of the Vance family the Medal of Honor which the U.S. government had bestowed upon her father, the highest recognition given to American soldiers. Later, the Army Air Base in Enid would be renamed Vance Air Force Base.

On this Memorial Day,  we all say "Thank You" to Bob Vance of Enid, Oklahoma, and other men and women who gave their lives so that we might read books in English.

UPDATE: Memorial Day, 2022. It could be that the missing plane of Lt. Col. "Bob" Vance has been found. More research is being conducted as well as talk of a potential recovery mission.


Christiane said...

For Remembrance:

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; we give you thanks for all of your servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them your mercy and the light of your presence, and the assurance of your peace. Amen."

United States Air Force Chaplain Corps, Book of Prayers)

Rex Ray said...


Colonel Bob Vance is truly a hero. As General Paton died from a car accident, Vance died in a routine airplane flight that went down in the ocean.

I believe our Dad had things in common with your grandfathers; he was in the Battle of the Bulge.

As one named his jeep, John 3:16, Dad sent a picture of his hand through a hole in his jeep’s top where an 88 shell missed his head a foot, knee 3 inches, and blew the jeep motor to pieces.

Wade Burleson said...

Sweet, Rex!! We have much in common!

Great prayer, Christiane!

Rex Ray said...


“The bombs failed to release on the first run over the target, so Lieutenant Colonel Vance ordered a 360-degree turn for a second pass.”

The bomb failing to release is what killed JFK’s oldest brother.

Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. - Wikipedia

Steve Miller said...

Thank you Wade for your post and the importance of remembering Memorial Day. I did not have the honor of meeting your grandparents though it has been my pleasure to have known your parents since 1979. Your dad shared stories with me about the Burleson and the Cherry family and their military commitment while I was a seminary student in Ft. Worth. My grandfather also served in Patton’s Third Army and fought at the Battle of the Bulge. In fact his nephew, Truman Miller, my dad’s cousin, was killed at the Battle of the Bridge of Remagen in Germany. Upon graduation, I reentered the military, flew F4 fighter jets, and was stationed in Germany. Like you I have visited the same sites you wrote about to include Patton’s grave and the actual village where Truman Miller died. Growing up in Tulsa I am very familiar with Vance AFB and the legacy of Lt Col Bob Vance. Three times a year I visit a special grave sight in San Antonio of my best friend who was killed in an F4 in 1977. His death totally changed my life, led to me leaving the Air Force, going to seminary and meeting your parents. What mentors they have been for my wife and I all these years. I am grateful for the Burleson and Cherry Family heritage because of the impact it has had on me because of their legacy of service to our Lord and our country. Blessings Wade.

Steve Miller
Col (Ret) USAF
San Antonio TX

Rex Ray said...

Steve Miller,

Your comment was a very heart-felt and interesting story. My Dad was in Patten’s 4th armored division.

I only put the link above to show there was a huge battle at hedgerows. For hundreds of years, hedgerows were used instead of fences. A hedgerow was mostly thick bushes that couldn’t be seen through.

The Germans had cut ‘holes’ to see in their hedgerows. When Americans tried to cut a hole with their bayonets, the bushes would shake. When Germans saw bushes shaking, they shot the bushes and killed many Americans.

Dad went back and got hundreds of hacksaw blades. He gave them to Americans and that ended the ‘shaking bushes’.

Wade Burleson said...


Wow! Enough said.

Rex, I LOVE your stories! :) Looking forward to coming for a REVIVAL at your church and staying with you and your better half! :)

Christiane said...


I have lit a vigil candle for Sara. Let me know any news, and thank you.

Rex Ray said...


I texted your comment about having a revival for our church to out pastor. He texted back:

“I would love to have him. Been talking to Darrell” [Darrell is a retired missionary from Hungary, and is now our Fannin County missionary] “about maybe also finding a time when we can include some meetings with pastors of FBA” [Fannin Baptist Association] “Once we get a few ideas on the table, I will reach out to him. [Wade] I promise.”

Muff Potter said...

My Dad flew a B-17 in the air war over Germany (1944).
He and one of the waist gunners were the only two of the original crew who survived all 25 missions.

Christiane said...

'After the Fall' by Ben Rhodes

an interesting book that takes a dark look at where we are as a nation

Rex Ray said...

Short story:
An American plane shot down a German plane. The plane made a landing between two hedgerows where ‘sides’ were fighting. Everyone stopped shooting as they saw the plane was on fire and the pilot was unconscious.

The Germans didn’t shoot an American that ran to the plane and carried the pilot to the American side.


Your link mentioned Benghazi. Our ambassador Christopher Stevens asked Hillary Clinton several times for more protection. She ran an add in a local paper for bodyguards. Those that applied and accepted did NOT have background checks. (One that was hired was the brother of a known Theorists.) When the attack started, someone unlocked the doors.

At meetings on the subject, Hillary said, “What difference at this point does it make?


Colonel Sanders: “Did I miss one?”
Obama: “No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs.”
Hillary: “What difference at this point does it make why the chicken cross the road.”
Bill Clinton: “I did not cross the road with that chicken!”

Rex Ray said...


We hope you’re bringing your better half also. :)

Wade Burleson said...

Absolutely! :)

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Shaver said...

Ben Rhodes was/is a flunkie for Obama. He has no more clue of what America is or was designed to be than his former boss.

Rex Ray said...

Scott Shaver,

I have a book: “Obama, America’s Worst President”

I believe his Vice-President is on the way to make Obama the ‘Second Worst President’.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christiane said...

Almost a hundred years ago, the famous 'muck-raker' Sinclair Lewis took up his pen and wrote about the coming time of tyranny in the US, under the title 'It Can't Happen Here' (1935)
and it was also a dark book filled with the memes of those leaders who 'hate losers' and didn't want disabled veterans on display, for example:
“When Buzz gets in, he won't be having any parade of wounded soldiers. That'll be bad Fascist psychology. All those poor devils he'll hide away in institutions, and just bring out the lively young human slaughter cattle in uniforms.”
(Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here)

This haunting book from the 1930's also testifies to the RECURRING struggle of democracy versus tyranny:
"The only one of Sinclair Lewis's later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression,
it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a President who becomes a dictator to "save the nation." Now finally back in print, "It Can't Happen Here" remains uniquely important, a shockingly prescient novel that's as fresh and contemporary as today's news." (critical review)

In our search for 'effective' government of our country, we do need to remember 'never forget' as a mantra to keep from repeating the worst of the past mistakes politically.

Beware of those who want to 'keep things quiet', to 'hide the past' .. .. as was said, 'there is nothing new under the Sun'. 'Move along, nothing to see here' is what it sounds like, so we need to be vigilant, not bury our heads in the sand.

Scott Shaver said...

Trump 2024

Scott Shaver said...


Biden is not running the show. He's a puppet and a daily disaster. Obama was all show and no substance. Both represent the weakest "leadership" America in its history has ever displayed. Biden makes Jimmy Carter look like Ronald Reagan.😎

Scott Shaver said...


What America needs more than "memory of the past" at present are voter IDs and election integrity.

Or "the past" won't matter.

Scott Shaver said...


If we are to "beware of those who try to hide the past" what do you suggest we do with those removing historical markers and monuments?

Christiane said...

"Jones is the first Marine with an above-the-knee amputation to deploy to Afghanistan. There have not been many of these amputees to redeploy to a combat zone to date.

Jones continues to push his personal, mental and physical limits. When he returns to the U.S., he wants to train in Utah in early December and represent the Marine Corps in adaptive snowboarding. Competitions will be held in Colorado, Canada, and possibly Italy. He said the competitions will help him prepare to compete in the 2010 Paralympics for snowboarding in Vancouver, Canada.

Corporal Jones wants to continue serving with the 1st Marine Division as an intelligence specialist. He also wants to keep helping fellow amputees continue their service in the Marine Corps. He said he is sending a letter to the commandant entitled, “Back on their Feet and Back in the Fleet.” The letter entails getting PLD packages completed for more wounded Marines in a timelier manner for those who desire to stay in the Marine Corps.

“Just because you have an injury, it doesn’t mean you have to leave the Marine Corps,” Jones said. “You just have to work hard. I want to let those guys know back in the States that there is a place for you. I plan on being one of those examples.”

Rex Ray said...


Talk about handicap wanting to stay in ‘action’, our father in World War One and Two wanted to go to Vietnam. He kept trying to see President LBJ until the Secrete Service said, “Go home old man, or we’re putting you in jail.”

Christiane said...

Wow, REX RAY, something to be proud of that your father tried to serve in a third war.

I was thinking about those young soldiers who lost limbs and who worked so hard to go back into battle, that the word 'courage' comes from the French word 'coeur' for 'heart', and that they may have lost a limb but still had far more heart than some who today call them 'losers'.

The ones who served and sacrificed will always be the best of us.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Ray said...


Just woke up thinking about you. We all agree in the Greek there are no commas. When did the thief on the cross go to Paradise?

Some believe Jesus told him: “I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.” (That would mean no one is in heaven now except Jesus.)

I think you said you don’t like the New Living Translation, but it states: “And Jesus replied, “Today you will be with me Paradise. This is a solemn promise.” (Mark 23:43)

Scott Shaver said...


You should be spinning copy for CNN. Your veiled reference to Trump is not only cowardly and cheap, it's a lie.

Trump did more good for this country in 4 years than you and your socialist choices for leadership have done in the last 40.

A pox on your house for continuing with that BS here.

Scott Shaver said...

Additionally Christianne:

Cloak yourself in the valor of of those who did serve and die in order to criticize a commander in chief who was and is still held in very high esteem by every branch of the armed services reflects your passive-aggressive revulsion AGAINST what our warriors actually represent.

Were I a military serving member of your family, I would disown you.

Believe that.

Rex Ray said...

Scott Shaver,

Did you know what the link below states?

Obama Told Military Leaders: Accept Gays In Military Or Step Down, Admiral Says

“In a meeting with the heads of the five service branches in 2010, President Obama offered the leaders a choice: Support my efforts to end the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, or resign, the Commandant of the Coast Guard said.

Scott Shaver said...

Yes Sir Rex Ray:

Since our friend and resident Franciscan monk Christianne refuses to address me directly on these issues, perhaps since you have repoire with her, yoi might ask if she support positive tolerance grids for "queering" the military.

Betting she's in favor.

Scott Shaver said...

Come on Christianne:

Let's get down to it and see and what we are both idealogically and spiritually made of rather than the veiled passive aggressive banter back and forth. All comments from all quarters encouraged until Mr Wade moderates his intellectual property.

Christiane said...

sometimes there are no words.

Sometimes, nothing that you can say, as heartfelt as it might be, is what another person needs to hear at that time.

Sometimes, the most powerful thing that we can do to bear witness to someone’s pain is to be in their presence in silence and to allow our own silence to speak in consolation.

Scott Shaver said...

Your "pain" is a ploy Christianne.

Why no underhanded or veiled references to your hatred for the immediate ex president now on this retort.

Rather scummy IMO

Scott Shaver said...

I don't believe for a moment Christianne, that your primary goal is to assuage the pain of others.

Christiane said...

Tuskegee Airmen Legacy

"By the time the 332nd flew its last combat mission on April 26, 1945, two weeks before the German surrender, the Tuskegee Airmen had flown more than 15,000 individual sorties over two years in combat.

They had destroyed or damaged 36 German planes in the air and 237 on the ground, as well as nearly 1,000 rail cars and transport vehicles and a German destroyer. In all, 66 Tuskegee-trained aviators were killed in action during World War II, while another 32 were captured as POWs after being shot down."

it was my privilege to meet some of the Tuskegee Airmen (now very old) when we took our students to the Hampton Va. Air and Space Museum, to shake their hands, and thank them for their service, and introduce them to our students. I made a point of telling the children to 'remember' the name 'the Tuskegee Airmen' and that they had the opportunity of some of them in person . . . that these memories were important, as these men were a part of our national history.

I suppose you could say that the Tuskegee Airment and all of our WWII service men who fought against the Nazis were the original 'Antifa': anti-facists, which as Wade has said, is why today we don't speak German.

Today's fascists are still around, yes. And the American people KNOW they are not also 'good people'. They preach a strange mixture of white supremacy and anti-Semitism and they do this openly.

Examples: Charlottesville, the tiki torch marchers shouting Nazi slogans, and this example openly done and recorded:

we have a history in this country of opposing fascism - as long as our WWII veterans live, there will be witnesses to the spirit of 'anti-fascism'

When the actual witnesses are all dead, I hope some of our young will remember meeting them and speaking with them; as many of us have heard the war stories of our granpas and how they personally experienced the battles against the Nazi terror

Christiane said...

We remember.

Scott Shaver said...

WHO are these "preachers of a strange mixture of white supremacy and anti-Semitism", Christianne?

Like we will get an answer.

I never read you mentioning the fascism of the left (i.e black lives matter and critical race theory).

Christiane said...

From my own faith tradition, this:

"...any kind of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design." (Gaudium et Spes)

Concerning RESPECT for the dignity of our humankind as made in the imago Dei, some 'things to think about' along The Way going forward,
in the hope that the lives of our children and of future generations to come
might be enabled to more strongly respond to the Light of Christ:

Christiane said...

FOX News refused to show this:

I hope the Capitol police find justice for the attack they suffered. It is time for our nation to find out the full truth of that attack. Without the whole-hearted cooperation of the Republican Party, who refuse to support an Independent Commission to investigate, it will be much harder for our nation to come to terms with the insurrection.

I guess Fox News couldn't bring itself to understand the truth of this.

Scott Shaver said...


I would say your Catholic tradition, in this regard, needs much work to find itself in agreement with the teaching of Scripture.

But then again, Roman Catholics embrace more than one source of spiritual authority, which only serves to add to the confusion IMO.

The nation has already come to terms with the so called "insurrection". Good idea to quit wasting both time and tax dollars on behalf of Democrats seeking to further divide the country.

Scott Shaver said...

The Capital police need better training. Shooting an unarmed protestor in the head and not disclosing the name of the shooter is far more ominous to me than the other events of that day.

Guess CNN won't touch that Chriatianne.