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In early February this year, I got an email saying, I am researching James Otis Burris' son, Carl H Burris. US Air Force, went missing on Aug 28 1963. Have you heard of him?

The only information I had in my family tree database about Carl Burris was date and place of birth, date of marriages to two wives, date of death, burial location, and that he was the son of James Otis Burris and Hazel Etta Coffman.

But there was so much more.
At first, I wondered if Carl had been shot down in Vietnam. According to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official beginning of American involvement in Vietnam was on 1 Nov 1955, when Pres. Eisenhower deployed the Military Assistance Advisory Group to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). By August 1963, after horrific attacks on protesting Buddhists by the ARVN, the US was threatening to withdraw aid to the South Vietnamese Special Forces if they were not sent into battle rather than repressing dissidents.

But that did not account for Carl Burris' disappearance. As is frequently the case, fact is stranger than fiction.
Newspaper accounts the day after Carl Burris' purported death help piece together the story.

From the Courier Post (Camden, NJ), 29 Aug 1963 at page 5:

Atlantic Is Searched For Two AF Jets Lost on Refueling Mission

 photo Courier_Post__Camden_NJ__29_Aug_1963_p5_Carl_H_Burris.jpg


...A large force of planes and ships searched the Atlantic between the Bahamas and Bermuda today for two Air Force jet tankers missing on a refueling flight with 11 men aboard...The K135 aircraft, attached to the Strategic Air Command, were returning to quarters at Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami when radio contact was lost with them yesterday afternoon.

They had refueled in the air two B47 jets from Schilling AFB in Kansas. The B47s returned safely to Schilling...


Palladium Item (Richmond, IN), 29 Aug 1963 at page 2:

Two Jet Tankers Believed Down In Atlantic; 11 Aboard

 photo Palladium_Item__Richmond__IN__29_Aug_1963_p2_Carl_H_Burris.jpg


...The air force said the two tankers had enough fuel to remain airborne until about 7 p.m. EDT...

The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), 29 Aug 1963, at page 2:

Plane Spots Oil Slick, Debris

 photo The_Eugene__OR__Guard_29_Aug_1963_p2_Carl_H_Burris.jpg


...Radio contact was lost about noon Wednesday as the huge tankers returned toward Homestead. At that time, they were 800 miles northeast of Miami, or about 300 miles west of Bermuda...
The area described in all the news reports I found is commonly known as the Bermuda Triangle. There have been many unexplained disappearances of all kinds of ships and aircraft, documented as far back as Columbus' description of strange lights, and the sea rising up suddenly when the water had been calm and smooth.

As I continued to search, I also found research attributed to Larry Kusche (a critic of the phenomenon of the Bermuda Triangle) that said...the unclassified version of the Air Force investigation report stated that the debris field defining the second "crash site" was examined by a search and rescue ship, and found to be a mass of seaweed and driftwood tangled in an old buoy...

And then I found this:

On 28 August 1963, two KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the 19th Bomb Wing (then at Homestead AFB, FL), completed their scheduled Reflex 33 air refueling with B-47s from Schilling AFB, Kansas (both of which landed safely) when contact with them was lost. It is believed they were conducting navigation exercises when both disappeared over the Atlantic between Bermuda and Nassau, all eleven crew aboard the two jets were lost. Debris and oil slicks were found ~750 miles ENE of Miami, Florida. The search was suspended Monday night, 2 September 1963, when wreckage recovered by the Air Rescue Service, and the Coast Guard cutter Owasco, 34 is positively identified as being from the missing tankers.
Injuries: All 11 crew killed
Crew killed:
A/C: Capt Donald G. Edson, 30
A/C: Capt Richard A. Larson, 34, Minneapolis
Capt Allan C. Ferguson, 29
Capt Gerard A. Garner, 28, Lincoln, NE
Capt Keith R. Goffin, 29, Bellevue, IL
Capt Julius O. Womack, 30, Pioneer, LA
1Lt Melvin C. Pump, 29
Lt William E. Smith, 26, Memphis, TN
BO: MSgt Carl H. Burris, 39
BO: TSgt Ray L. Fish, 30
SSgt Lyle E. Overlees, 25

Source: Voices From an Old Warrior, Christopher J B Hoctor, (publ. Espresso Book Machine, Mizzou Bookstore, Mizzou Publishing, University of Missouri, 2013), at page 31.

In a footnote to his work, Mr. Hoctor says:
The author does not subscribe to the many myths associated with ‘The Bermuda Triangle’. Not all these losses were inexplicable, and the boundaries of the ‘triangle’ are not clearly defined. In fact, a similar ‘triangle’ could be laid over almost any part of the earth’s oceans, marking the area of many lost aircraft and ships that have not been solved.

Bully for him. I don't believe in coincidence. So I guess we're even.
There is a Boom Operator Memorial at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma on which are inscribed the names of the men who perished on 28 Aug 1963. I obtained written permission from the photographer to use his photo of the memorial for Carl Houston Burris' Find a Grave memorial noting his burial in Westlawn Memorial Cemetery, Grand Island, NE, and here in this blog entry. The Find a Grave memorial notes a section and plot for burial, so there must be a centotaph stone there, because Carl Burris' remains were never recovered.

 photo Monument.jpg
Photo of MSgt Carl Burris' name on the Boom Operator Memorial at Altus AFB in Oklahoma.
Photo used with written permission. The original can be found at this website.


 photo Monument closeup.jpg
Close-up of inscription for MSgt. Carl H Burris

Maybe I'll find out the truth, if I meet Carl on the other side.

Date: 2017-04-20 09:49 pm (UTC)
oakmouse: (Default)
From: [personal profile] oakmouse
I remember reading about that when I was a teenager researching Fortean phenomena. Fascinating that you have a personal connection to it!

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Dee Burris Blakley

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