On New Years Eve 1944, a lone B-24 heavy bomber took off from a small, dusty airfield in southern China. Reaching their cruising altitude at 11,000 feet, the pilot set a southeasterly course and switched on the auto-pilot. Passing over the eastern terminus of the Himalayas, then out over the Gulf of Tonkin, the eleven man crew settled in for the long and exhausting mission ahead. Shortly after takeoff, they experienced a small electrical glitch, but decided they could override the system and continue on with their mission. Their decision would have a profound impact on the fate of all aboard.
The co-pilot, Frank D. Padgett, was 21 years old, from Vincennes, Indiana. Growing up during the Great Depression, he had worked hard in school and earned a scholarship to Harvard College in Massachusetts, but before finishing his second year as an undergraduate, he was called to active duty in the U.S. Army/Air Force and for the next 13 months, trained as a pilot.
The mission that night for the bomber nicknamed the “Bobcat”, was to attack a Japanese naval convoy south of Hainan Island in the Gulf of Tonkin. Approaching the target at 600 feet altitude, it became apparent the target selected by the radar operator was not one ship, but two, a cruiser and a destroyer, side by side. The two warships, bristling with anti-aircraft guns and auto-cannons, simultaneously turned their spotlights on the Bobcat and opened fire.
In the heat of battle they say what can go wrong, will go wrong. What moments before had been routine, suddenly became life or death as the fate of the crew hung in the balance, second by nerve-racking second. Thus dawned the New Year 1945, for the eleven men of the Bobcat.
Mission Over Indochine is the coming of age story of a young man from the Heartland who’s life exemplifies the courage and humanity to which all men aspire. Through the darkest hours, his faith comforts, restoring his determination to survive and make it home. A truly inspirational book for an unsettled time, when steadfast and honorable leaders seem so hard to find.