This date will live in my memory and has for these so many years. My squadron was assigned to a mission to deliver our load. Our loads consisted of 12 – 500 bombs in the bellies of 16 B-24’s.
Take off was 1800 hours on the night of December 24 to hit a large rail enter at Zinchow in Southern China. Altitude over target was 17000 feet-release and return to base 4 hours (approximately) 1000 miles. It was pitch black and the planes were flying in loose formation with the only lights being the small formation lo-visibility blue lights on the wings. We were over target at approximately midnight-2400 hours. Enemy action had been light.
Our squadron was attacked by a night fighter group who immediately downed two planes. We couldn’t determine if any chutes were seen. Two more planes were hit and exploded with all crews aboard. Radio communication indicated that every American base in Southern China was under “Red Ball” alert. (The alert notices were “Yellow ball” meant enemy aircraft was within 25 miles – “Red Ball” alert indicated enemy aircraft was over the field and that the control tower was being abandoned and you were on your own.)
A number if the group was low on fuel and needed to refuel critically. It was either land or bail out, which many did.
7603 found an open field (base) at Yumanye. Scooter landed under Yellow Ball alert. There were many planes from bases all over China who were in the same condition of low or no fuel.
The base was totally dark. Scooter landed and pulled 7603 off the runway – one landed wheels up sliding in on their bellies, crew members jumping out and running as the field went “Red Ball”, bombs exploding around both ours from direct hits and those from attacking “Betty” bombers. We ran for the slit trenches for protections and stayed there for the remainder of the night.
Somewhere a group started singing “Silent Night”. “0 come all ye faithful”. Others joined in. The temperature was approximately 20 degrees below zero, but we were alive and so many others perished on that special night in Christmas 1944.
Rememberences of Russell Brookshier
Major U.S. Air Corps
Postlude: Dr. Brookshier was discharged in 2950 after which he graduated from University of Texas Medical School in 1956 and practiced medicine in Hanford for the next 41 years.