On May 8, I will release my next book Stories of the Lost, available through my author website. This is an excerpt of one chapter about Robert Brouk, a Flying Tiger.
Christmas 1941 – Burma
“CHRISTMAS IN THE TRENCHES” or more appropriately, “War in the Air”. The morning started out pretty calm, even though the Japs promised us over the radio that they would give the Americans and Rangoon a real Christmas present. About 10:30 we got a call to scramble to 15 angels – I was on Bishop’s wing in Dupouy’s flight. We took off first, but Bishop did not wait for the rest of the flight. We got up to 18 angels and cruised around for a half hour, then not hearing anything on the radio, Bishop and I dove down over the field. We just about got to 2000 feet when I heard the radio say not to pancake. We started climbing again and as I got about 4000 feet, I looked around and saw a burst and then bombs exploding on the field. We must have been directly under the bombers and did not see them. I expected any moment to hear some ships diving on us as we were slowly climbing. I quickly gave it the gate and climbed as fast as possible. I got to 18,000 feet unmolested and I then saw a tight 30 ship Jap bomber formation going southeast over Rangoon at about 20 angels. I started towards them and as I got closer I noticed a single Jap Navy #96 pursuit ship, with fixed landing gear. I had about a 1000 feet height advantage off to his left, so I turned into him on his rear and dove down below his rear and climbed up his blind spot under his tail. As I closed into within 50 yards, I opened fire with all six guns. I could see the bullets entering his ship and he suddenly made a very quick wing over to the right, and I had to turn the opposite direction to miss him. I turned around to see if I could find him, but he was probably going down too fast. I didn’t follow him down so cannot say exactly where he fell, but from my close fire, he could not have possibly escape destruction. I dove down for speed and then climbed up to 16 angels – I could not see any planes so I came in to land. Pending confirmation, I think I have my first plane.
The other fellows did very well – Hedman accounting for four, McMillan got three and was shot down himself. We thought he was a goner when he did not return, but after supper about 8:30, he walked in the mess hall with a bandaged arm and hand. He made a crash landing in a rice paddy and finally got the natives to help him. He got a horse and rode about 10 miles to Toungoo where the police took him to Rangoon on a police boat and then in a police car up to the field. He had a Jap Saber which he got from a bomber shot down on the first raid. We sure were glad to see him walk in. Overend was also reported shot down and missing, so we did not expect to see him anymore, but at about 9:30 that night, we got a telegram from a small village that Overend was safe and we should pick him up at Rangoon about 10 p.m. He was not hurt at all, but shot down while shooting a bomber down. He also had a crash landing.
Our unofficial account was 10 fighters and nine bombers. The R.A.F. got six planes and lost four. This was their first loss in personnel.
The two ships shot down and Smith’s and Hedman’s were pretty badly shot up. Dupouy shot down one model “0” and in getting away, hit his wing tip against the wing of another causing the enemy to spin in and Parker came in alright with his right wing tips off and half of his aileron missing. Another McMillan feat. Older and Haywood stuck together and counted four together. Some of the fellows thought they saw some Me 109’s but not positive.
The damage to the field was about the same as before with larger holes caused by bigger bombs. Only one Petrol dumb was hit and two casualties on the field. The greatest damage to the personnel was via food. We were very low on food and, of course, were without any kind of Christmas Dinner. In the afternoon, Mr. Bill Pawley came out with a car full of canned food and drinks which was really welcomed. So another day under fire passed with experience gained and ships lost. A sidelight of interest was that just after the air raid sounded, the British General – Wavell D.C. – 2 landed with her and General Brett of the U.S. Air Corps. They both had to take shelter in a trench and saw the raid first hand.
You can now pre-order a signed copy of “Stories of the Lost” on my website!
© 2014, Jennifer Holik, Generations, Woodridge, IL