September 23, 2005
Oroville Mercury Register July 20, 1944
Picture Caption “Russell Brinkerhoff (center, first row) returning
to the United States on leave after a 9 months of the most hazardous
over-water flying in the world.”
Brinkerhoff’s Tough Missions
Flight from the navy air base in the Aleutians to bomb Paramushirs
in the Kurile islands of Japan, calls for a hop as long as from
Oroville to an exact area six to eight blocks square near Vancouver,
B. C. And, in this treacherous, fog-shrouded, bleak, icy stretch
there is no sanctuary for the pilots and crews of the Navy’s “Empire
Express,” which has been running loads of death and destruction
to Japan’s Kurile Island bastion for almost a year. They must take
their Lockheed VENTURA (PV) search planes over the target quickly
and head homeward without loss of time, for their life expectancy,
should their plane go down in the water, is from 20 minutes to an
hour. WORST IN THE WORLD It’s “one of the toughest over-water two-engine
bomber hops in the world,” says Commodore Leslie E. Gehres, U. S.
N., of Seattle, Washington, Commander of Fleet Air Wing Four.
An Oroville boy, Russell A. Brinkerhoff, 21, AOM 1/c, is returning
home after 9 months’ duty in the Aleutians with the first section
of the “Empire Express”, a task unit of Fleet Air Wing Four. He
is coming with his fellows for leave, rehabilitation and reasignment.
The pilots and crews of these Venturas are the first to have consistently
bombed and photographed Japanese home territory. The “Empire Express”
has not stopped with the return of these airmen to the United States.
Other sections of the “Express” under command of Commodore Gehres,
are still bombing and photographing Japanese installations of Paramushiru.
FATHER IN SERVICE TOO
Brinkerhoff took part in six such missions. He is the son of Taylor
R. Brinkerhoff, who is himself in the navy, a mail specialist in
the South Pacific. The main battle is weather-night take-offs, icy
runways, and heavily loaded planes. Once the fast VENTURA bombers
overcome this initial hazard, the pilots, navigators, and air-crewmen
settle down for the round-trip in temperatures that have registered
as low as minus 59 degrees Fahrenheit. With the large crews which
the VENTURAS carry on these missions, it was necessary for the crewmen
to take turns plugging in their heated flying suits. Pilots seldom
wore them. The suit hampered their movements too much. In a twin
engined bomber which is faster than Japan’s No. 1 fighter, the pilots
prefer freedom of movement to the comforts of a heated suit. These
flying missions call for superb flying and navigational skill. This,
the pilots and navigators had. In the nine months of operations
in the Aleutians only two planes were lost.
Brinkerhoff graduated from Oroville high school with the class of
1940. In school he made good in basketball, track and baseball.
One of the first things Russell will do when he gets back to California
is to get married. He will marry Miss Margorie Jackson, of Oakland,
sister of his best pal. Mrs. Taylor Brinkerhoff, of Bridge street,
said today that she had heard from Russell on July 5. He had arrived
in Seattle on the 4th and expected to get leave. She has not heard
from him since.
Stu’s Notes: Another story of a long ago brave Oroville man,
but now he is Not Forgotten, at least in Oroville. Our POW/MIA day
went well. Hope to have more of you next year. Saturday, Sept. 24th
from 12-4pm I will be at the Thermalito Grange Open House at 5th
Street & Plumas Ave., across from Colllins and Denny. There will
be free food, and displays. I will have my collection of memorabilia
of Building Oroville Dam and what we have done on the Veterans Memorial
Park. We have come a long way, property is being bought.