Vance road named for patriotic family's son

  • Published
  • By Jim Malachowski
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Historian
Running between Weaver and Channel Streets, Vance Air Force Base's McAffrey Avenue is named for Sgt. Dean G. McAffrey.
Called "Bobby Dean" by his family and friends, Sergeant McAffrey came from a family of patriots. In all, five sons and three grandsons served in uniform during World War II.
Sergeant McAffrey grew up with five brothers and five sisters in Tulsa, Okla. Despite his mother dying when he was only nine, he spent an all-American childhood playing with friends, going to school and selling newspapers on uptown street corners. He worked as a caddie at the local golf course and delivered bicycles for a local drug store chain. At age 16, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Marine Corps, but this was discovered during boot camp and he was sent home.
A year and a half later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and the world changed. Sergeant McAffrey, by then 17 years old, enlisted in the U.S. Army and volunteered for the Army Air Corps. He attended basic training and eventually ended up with a B-26 "Martin Marauder" bomber at Westover Army Air Field near Springfield, Mass.
The rest of the crew of his bomber was comprised of 2nd Lts. William Masters and R. Hansen and Sgts. Stanley Zajac, Bernard Stockley, Cecil Conklin, Anson Wiseman and Anthony Grecco. On Dec. 12, 1943, the eight men took off on an overnight training mission. The crew's flight took them over the Atlantic near Long Island, N.Y. Reports later showed they last made radio contact at 4:12 p.m.
When the bomber did not return to Westover Field the next morning, a widespread air and land search began. Bitter cold and low visibility hampered searchers throughout the night and into the next day. The Army and Navy searched extensive areas of New England and the Atlantic Ocean without success for the bomber. The search was finally called off after 11 days.
In the meantime, Sergeant McAffrey's father, Andrew, prepared for Christmas. He was living with his daughter, Mrs. R. T. Lingo, in Tulsa. A small table with photographs of the seven sons and grandsons serving their country at that time stood next to the Christmas tree. During an interview with the Tulsa Tribune, Mr. McAffrey said, "They might not be able to be here even if there were peace, but at least I would know they were safe."
He smiled for the reporter, but his eyes kept straying to that small table. A telegram from the War Department rested near the photographs. He had just received news his youngest son was missing. The last he had known, Sergeant McAffrey was in Honolulu, but the telegram did not say where he was when the plane disappeared.
The telegram he was hoping would never come was delivered on New Years Day, 1944. The Army officially informed Mr. McAffrey his son was dead. He eventually lost a second son, Lt. Jack McAffrey, who was serving with the Army's 18th Infantry Regiment fighting against the Germans and was killed 29 days before Germany surrendered.
We remember and honor the brave young man who could not wait to protect and defend his country, and his patriotic American family who sent five sons and three grandsons into harm's way where they served with honor and distinction.