Lucas Family Member Not Lost at Sea during WWII
Walter “Dub” Burt Vincent, Jr. was a navigator bombardier in the Marines during World War II. Lucas resident, Kim Anderson, is his niece. Kim reports that mid-war, Dub’s parents received a letter at their home in Oklahoma that Dub had gone down in an airplane crash in the ocean. His mother wouldn’t believe that her son had died. Kim remembers her grandmother saying that Dub could still be living on an island. In 2005, Kim and husband Craig Anderson were preparing to attend Kim’s family reunion. Craig felt that Dub should be represented at the reunion and began to research in order to create a packet to share with the family. Kim’s mother, also a Lucas resident, is 94-year-old Georgia Kendall. She is Dub’s sister-in-law. Kim’s father was Dub’s older brother.
Dub enlisted in 1942 when he was 19 years old. He died in 1944.
Through Craig’s research, he was able to connect with members of Dub’s squadron. These connections revealed that on a stormy night on Luganville, Espiritu Santo (located near Fiji on the island group Vanuatu) Dub had tapped the shoulder of a member of marine bomber squadron VMB423, known as the Seahorse Marines, and asked if he could go on the flight with them because he needed flight hours. The flight had a seven person crew, including Dub. Dub was the only person on this flight that was not a member of that squadron. Craig spoke with veterans who remembered very clearly that the plane had not returned and he could tell they wanted answers. He found out that some family members of VMB423 had been told that the plane had landed on the island and not in the ocean.
In 2007, a group consisting of Craig and Kim Anderson; their eldest daughter, Navy Lt. Brooke Anderson Desrochers, her husband; Navy Lt. Max Desrochers; and author Dr. Dan Bookout headed out on a discovery mission to see if they could find Dub. Dr. Bookout had been to the island numerous times and had documented numerous Vanatu crash sites for a book. They went to JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command - a joint task force within the United States Department of Defense) in Hawaii which led them to alter their search course due to difficulty of terrain. JPAC requested they not disturb the crash site if it was found.
Kim said a local missionary served as the group’s cultural liaison as they met with local tribes. Dr. Bookout, on a previous trip to this island, had brought antibiotics which one of the chief’s sons had needed. Because of this relationship built 10 years prior, Kim reports, their group was treated with great kindness. She said being amongst the tribe members was like stepping back in time in that women were not allowed to make eye contact with men; they bathed in ponds and were woken up in the morning by the squealing of a pig being slaughtered for an upcoming festival.
From base camp, it was a two day walk. During the hike they could see that storms were coming in. They found the crashed plane, a WWII B-25 bomber on the mountain at a 45-degree angle. Brooke, being a bit ahead of the group, shouted out when she saw the engine. They realized they were standing on the vine covered plane. They had been given directions from JPAC on how to find the plane number to identify the plane. They noted the coordinates, had a shot of scotch for Uncle Dub, left a memorial sign and did not disturb the site. That was it; they had to hurry back because a storm was coming. They flew back to Hawaii and reported their findings to JPAC.
In 2009, JPAC began the excavation. The debris site was the size of a football field. They were able to identify all crew members on the plane and contacted the family members.
In 2011, members of JPAC arrived at the Anderson’s home in Lucas to discuss the details of the type of funeral they would like. Brooke (1998 graduate of Allen HS) had been accepted into the Naval Academy and was the appropriate rank required to escort her great-uncle home. Kim reports that the academy was very supportive of Brooke performing this military responsibility. In 2012, Brooke escorted Dub home to the family plot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At each airport, Brooke had to go out and have eyes on Dub, this was her military assignment at the time. Kim said that a water salute and a moment of silence occurred at airports along their route.
At the funeral, Freedom Riders (a veterans motorcycle group) provided protection for the processional along the streets. Some of his remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery with crewmen from squadron VMB423. Kim’s mother was handed the folded American flag. Kim said, “It was such a beautiful thing to see him honored and to see strangers so emotionally touched. God used us to touch other people.” They shared a video of the entire experience with family members of the squadron and were able to give them closure.
Regarding why this was important to Kim, she said, “I think that our warriors should never be forgotten and it is joyous to know that you can bring them home to their home, the country, and the people they gave their life for.” She said repeatedly that this entire adventure was a God thing.
Craig’s advice to those searching for MIA is to get in touch with the squadron group their loved one was affiliated with because they have memories, have researched and are a wealth of help.
The Andersons have lived in Lucas since 1995.