This weekend, Enid will be celebrating two events of historical significance for Enid and Northwest Oklahoma.
Today marks the 80th anniversary of Vance Air Force Base. Since the beginning when the base was founded as the Air Corps Basic Flying School in 1941, the community and the base have had a close relationship.
In 1942, the base officially became the Enid Army Flying School. Months later the Army changed the name to Enid Army Air Field. After the end of World War II, the War Department inactivated the field on Jan. 31, 1947. Later in 1947, the newly created Air Force planned to build permanent bases on some of the temporary World War II sites and reopened the installation as a permanent facility on Aug. 26, 1948. Vance Air Force Base is named after Lt Col Leon Robert Vance Jr., Medal of Honor recipient and native of Enid.
There are many stories about the bond between the base and the community. There’s a story of the Enid Police Department donating 300 rounds of ammunition so troops at the new Enid Army Air Field wouldn’t have to defend the base with empty weapons in the wake of the attack of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, since no bullets had yet been issued for the base.
In the 1960s, Vance became one the first bases to use contractors to support the wing’s flying operations. Job positions like maintenance and base ops that were normally run by active-duty personnel were taken over by civilian contractors.
In 1995 with the threat of closure of the base looming, the Enid community rallied to keep that from happening. As the BRAC committee members were leaving the base after their tour, more than 12,000 residents of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma lined the road to greet the BRAC members. That display helped turn around that pending closure.
The residents and city of Enid continue to have a strong relationship with the base and its mission. As the current wing commander notes in his letter to residents in today’s newspaper, “We can’t accomplish our mission without your support. The City of Enid and its citizens have been our staunch allies in city hall, the statehouse and on Capitol Hill for decades.”
The public is invited to events today at Enid Woodring Regional Airport.
Also today and Saturday, residents will be participating in Cherokee Strip Celebration activities commemorating the 1893 Cherokee Strip Outlet Land Run and the founding of our community.
This year’s event will be commemorated with a lunch today. Activities tomorrow include the Walk of Fame ceremony in the morning, then the annual parade.
If you haven’t been to the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in a while, Saturday would be a good time to make a visit to learn all about the history of this land run, which was the state’s largest.
We hope everyone takes some time this weekend to attend one of these events.