Baker farm becomes Enid Army Air Field during World War II

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cassidy Fisher
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – Vance Air Force Base has been training the world’s best pilots for nearly 80 years, thanks to the Baker family.

Ernest Baker sold his family farm on the south side of Enid, Oklahoma, to the War Department in 1941, according to the 71st Flying Training Wing’s historian. 

Baker even agreed to sign the deed for the land over to the city before he received payment to allow the necessary improvements to begin as soon as possible. 

The gate on Cleveland Street was renamed the Baker Industrial Gate in 2008 in honor of Ernest’s son, Ralph Baker and his family. 

Ernest Baker used to say that it was the richest soil in Garfield County which would make Vance a great base, said his grandson, Lindy Baker, when the gate was renamed. 

Selling the family farm was no small sacrifice, said Chief Master Sgt. Kristy Earls, 71st FTW command chief said. 

“That farm was their livelihood, and Ernest, as patriotic as he was, knew that selling it to the Army would mean ending the family tradition of running that farm,” she added.

Ernest’s son, Ralph Baker, had his own personal connection to Vance AFB, originally named Enid Army Air Field. Shortly after cadet training began, Ralph stepped off a bus and onto the base as Flying Cadet Baker. 

Ralph went on to distinguish himself in the Army Air Corps, flying more than 70 combat missions in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice during his time in the service before returning to Enid to live out his days. 

Earls said it’s fitting that Vance AFB began on the farm that once supported the Baker family and that Ernest’s and Ralph’s sense of service became part of the very culture of the base. 

The Baker family’s legacy and story has really shaped what Vance has become, said Earls. “When we say ‘Vance Proud’ we really mean ‘Vance Family.’”