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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.

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.