The following post is by Keith Gleason, brother of LT Dennis B. Gleason:
Dennis Baird Gleason was born in Oklahoma City on November 18, 1943 to Henry B. and Dorothy Mann Gleason. His mother was a librarian, later the founder of the library science department at what is now the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. At the time, Henry was a machinist’s mate in the Navy aboard a destroyer in the Pacific during WWII, and didn’t get word of his son’s birth until a month later. He later went on to become foreman of the jet engine test cell facility at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma City.
In 1953 Dennis moved with the family, which included his older sister Gail and younger brother Keith, to a small ten-acre farm south of Guthrie, Oklahoma. There the brothers lived the typical lives of rural kids of that era … caring for their two cows, raising chickens, skinny-dipping in the nearby pond in the summer, playing skateless hockey in the winter using bent tree branches for sticks and rocks for hockey pucks. With assistance from Pop, they set up their own lucrative business raising and selling fish worms to the locals who passed by on their way to nearby lakes. Family summer vacations were usually spent camping and fishing in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. And when Gail left home for college in 1955, the boys got move into their very own “bachelor pad” … a separate ‘Little House’ built on an old chicken house foundation … making the two brothers the envy of all their schoolmates.
According to his brother Keith, “Dennis was probably the most handsome guy you’d ever expect to meet. And the nicest. He looked after his kid brother, there’s probably never been a better mentor to anyone, anywhere, anytime. His advice to me when I was entering high school: ‘Smile and say hi to everyone you meet in the halls; treat ‘em like they’ve always been your friend, and they will be.’
Dennis was a popular student at Guthrie High School with a good but not outstanding academic record, graduating in 1961. He participated in JROTC, football, wrestling, and was a member of the senior class play. During his high school years he earned money driving tractors, working odd jobs at the nearby turkey and horse farms, and becoming an evening disc jockey for the local Guthrie radio station.
After high school, Dennis attended Oklahoma State University in Stillwater where he majored in geology; his favorite time was probably summer geology field camp in the Rockies. He also joined the college NROTC program where he fell under the tutilage of a gruff Navy chief, Kelly Swindle. Shortly thereafter he met and began dating the Chief’s daughter, Stefanie Swindle, who was also attending OSU as an education major.
After graduating from Oklahoma State in 1965, Dennis attended Naval OCS in Norfolk, Virginia where he received his commission and later attended electronics school. While stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Dennis and Stefanie were married in December 1965 in Bonifay, Florida, and moved into their honeymoon cottage on the white sands of Pensacola Beach.
After a final stateside transfer to NAS Jacksonville, in the fall of 1966 Dennis received his orders to Atsugi, Japan, as an ELINT analyst. For almost three years he and Stef enjoyed sightseeing Japan while he flew out of the VQ-1 base on EC-121 “Super Connies”, monitoring electronic signals off the coast of North Korea and interpreting radar signals to infer troop movements from China down into North Viet Nam. In the fall of 1968, Stefanie gave birth to their only daughter, Susan, and Dennis became a doting father. For Christmas, Mom and Pop Gleason flew to Japan to visit them and their new granddaughter.
Dennis loved flying, he loved geology, and probably much to his surprise, he learned to love electronics and the nuances of electronic signals interpretation. But even more, he loved the sea. He made the decision to resign from his Naval career and was making plans to attend graduate school in oceanography when, on April 15th, 1969 … a beautiful spring day in Atsugi, Japan, which Stefanie recalls as being filled with cherry blossoms … he boarded a Shadow Beggar training mission flight as an ELINT advisor and observer.
Eight hours later, Lt. Dennis B. Gleason and 30 other souls lost their lives over the waters of the Sea of Japan, shot down in the unarmed Naval electronics surveillance aircraft by an air-to-air missile fired from a North Korean MiG. He was 25 years old.
Forty-six years later, as the result of the continuing efforts of his wife Stefanie Swindle Gleason Gall and his daughter Susan Gleason Gall Harrison, in August 2015 Dennis’ memory was honored with a memorial marker in Arlington National Cemetery, which included the inscription: “One With The Sea”.
17 January 2018 at 16:45
Just found this site. I served with Dennis in VQ-1 many years ago, and remember so well the good times with Dennis and Stefanie (and John and Janice Singer). The loss of those wonderful men in 1969 has always been a painful reminder to us – every April we think of that tragedy.
Pat and Connie Connolly
17 January 2018 at 19:21
Thank you for stopping the site, for your comments and for your service!!
1 April 2021 at 02:07
I remember Dennis, Keith, Gail and their parents, Henry and Dorothy with great fondness. I was fortunate to have visited and traveled with the Gleason family during my younger years. It was a spectacular road trip across the lower eastern half of Canada. We lost a good man in 1969. Dennis is missed.
Jerry (Mathis) Weems