18 December 1943

Excerpted from 16th CCU Monthly History, December 1943:

The day of December 18th is one that will not be easily forgotten in the minds of the 16th’s men – for this was the day upon which they received their “Baptism of Fire.” It was an entirely new experience in their young lives.

The saying that has come out of this war that “There are no atheists in a foxhole” proved quite true. Maybe the men didn’t utter prayers out loud, but within their minds, they were thinking, praying, hoping, that one of the Jap bombs would not have their name scribble on its side. No, they were by no means cowards. The fact that they risked their lives time and time again while flying on bombers over territory held by the enemy disproved any such thought. It was just natural for them to be afraid – a perfectly normal reaction that takes place with anyone viewing the sight of oncoming danger.

The enemy knew well, from its intelligence sources, that the Americans had but twenty-one fighters based at Kunming Air Base at the time. The China theater was a relatively new one for American forces and as yet, only a small amount of men, supplies and aircraft had been flown over the Himalayas. The Japanese came over in fairly large numbers – flying an eighteen bomber formation, accompanied by fifty of their top-notch fighter planes as top-cover. Some damage to the field was sustained; the motor pool received a few direct hits, and the Twenty-Sixth Fighter Squadron’s Alert Shack was destroyed by a falling bomb. The damage to the runway and taxi-strips was minor – coolies being able to fill the bomb craters in as short a period as one hour after the raid. Some of the telephone line were downed and communications were interrupted for several hours, until Signal Corps men and Chinese communications troops were able to make the proper connections in good working order once again.

No casualties were suffered by the American troops stationed at the field.

The small amount of fighter protection that the field was able to muster with so short a notice accounted very well for themselves in aerial dog fights with the enemy over the field. It provided quite a spectacle for the men on the ground in slit trenches and fox holes. It was almost like a wrestling or boxing match back home, with the men cheering on our side to victory. Five of the enemy’s plans were confirmed as destroyed, while nine were probably destroyed and five damaged. One of our intercepting Shark-mouthed P-40s was damaged. All in all, the score was about even.

The first daylight raid attempted by the Nipponese over Kunming since the arrival of the American combat flyers was over and all of us crawled out of our holes and went back to work