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2017-04-20 06:40 am

We lost a Burris in the Bermuda Triangle

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.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-02-21 07:42 pm

Random musings...

The past week was a really good one for wrapping up loose ends on some of the ancestors, and getting a foothold on a couple more who have stubbornly refused to give up much detail at all in their sporadic paper trails.

In addition, I've found tantalizing little bits on a couple of people in other family trees I manage.

These are trees for some very special friends of mine, who having listened to me talk about discoveries in my family tree, have begun to reminisce about stories that came through their own families.

Usually, all it takes is for one of them to wonder aloud, I wonder if there was any truth to that... and I am ready to explain about how to start looking. These three didn't have the resources to start looking. They love the idea of having their trees online, and help me research by asking their families THOSE questions...did anyone ever mention so-and-so?

Because I'm just saying...I'll get as involved in your family history as you are.

So I have four family trees on Rootsweb that have no relationship to mine at all. Three of them are the aforementioned friends - one having a great-grandfather served with the US Colored Troops in the Civil War. Turns out his g-granddad had the same name as another man, almost exactly his age. Both men, named Orange Martin, had been slaves in Arkansas, and fought for their freedom.

It was so ironic to realize when I ripped open the envelope from NARA with Orange Martin's Civil War service record that I had the wrong one. Almost identical dates of birth, but served in different units, etc. And both lived in Arkansas.

It seemed like there was absolutely no one at all looking for the man I began to call The Other Orange Martin.

So I created that fourth tree. It has eight people in it - all of whom were identified in his military file. I keep hoping someone finds it and runs with it...and I hope they email me to say they want his records...

It may sound hokey, but when Todd Fox was preparing Nathaniel and Levi Callaway's gravesites to install their stones, and told me I could have the tops of the numbered concrete columns he took out to lay the markers...


I jumped on it.

Each was one was about 3 feet into the ground with the numbered top protruding about six inches. Nathaniel's was 102 and Levi's was 140.

Folks, that was a 125 year old concrete marker that was installed on the grave in 1886.


Right now they are on the front porch. I don't know if they will come inside (for protection from the weather in their 126th year) or stay outside.

I do know they are very heavy.

I hope I'm closing in on Margaret Ann Tipps (who married John Dillehay, then John Coffman and finally John Lockhead). If so, I'll probably be posting the saga of a woman who soldiered on against some pretty tough odds. They called her Molly.

Sounds like one of her kids kinda acted up, too. Wonder what it was like to deal with a teenager in the 1880's? At least you didn't have to worry about them wrecking the car.

And yeah, I'm wondering what was up with all Molly's Johns...

I've had my windows open for 4 days now. It has been very mild, and very humid.

And it's kind of weird to go out to my table on the porch with my laptop and not even need a sweater this time of year. But this is the south.

So I just cracked up when I finally figured something out.

I figured out why I had not been able to find the cemetery where Molly Tipps was buried. Everyone remembered being told she was buried in Blues Chapel Cemetery in White County.

Except there was no such cemetery, and I couldn't find anything that said in the olden days we called it that.

I went back and took a look at the 1930 census, when Molly was living with her son and his family in Grubbs, Jackson County, AR.

That's *real* close to White County. Molly died in 1937.

And guess what?

There's a Ballews Chapel Cemetery in Grubbs, right behind the Ballews Chapel Southern Baptist Church.


I love it when our Southern accents get in our way.

'Cause you can usually get around that.

The journey is good.
dee_burris: (Default)
2011-01-19 02:15 pm

Treasure Chest Thursday: Mt Vernon School, 1913

Mt Vernon School was in Pope Co., AR.

The text accompanying the photograph starts with identifications in the back row of the photo.

PhotobucketAt left is the teacher, Floy Beason. Others include: Front, from left - Arkie Burris, Ethel Wright, Gertha Wright, Alvis Coffman, Winford Coffman, Manuel Freeman, Melissa Coffman, Eula Wright and William J Coffman; second row - Edna Burris, Etta Coffman, Victoria Coffman, Nona Wright, Myrta Wright, and Laura Huffman; front - Hester Jobe, Iva Freeman, Minnie Coffman, Mabell Coffman, and Laura Coffman; bottom - Burris boy, Neadan Burris, Edgar Wright, Bill Jobe, Mike Jobe, Marvin Coffman, Fred Burris and Paul Burris. (Photo courtesy of Gertha Melton.)

From the surnames listed, it looks like this was a very small school and very much a "neighborhood" school.