Wednesday, January 04, 2012

69 years after hero American war pilot died, family find his lost plane 13,000ft up a Himalayan mountain

Wreckage: The C-47 was discovered over 13,000ft up a mountain in the Chinese province of Yunnan

Transport plane: The C-47 was used to fly in supplies to China as they fought the Japanese occupation forces

It took 69 years, but at last a family has ended its grieving for a dead American airman after the discovery of a plane lost over China during World War II.

The wreckage of the C-47 transport aircraft was found 13,400ft up a Himalayan mountain - the final resting place of co-pilot Jimmy Browne.

For decades, his family had wondered about his fate and whether the plane might ever be found.

Browne was just twenty-one when the C-47 was shot down or crashed on a flight between Kunming in China and Dinjan, India, on November 17, 1942.

Now thanks to the persistence of Browne's cousin Bob Willett, a retired banker, the search for answers is over.

Mr Willett, from Merritt island, Brevard County, Florida, said: 'It could be said that these efforts were like tilting at the windmill.

'But to those involved, it is very personal and emotional.'

Browne was with pilot John J. Dean and Chinese radioman K.L. Yang on a mission for the China National Aviation Corp (CNA). during the Japanese occupation of China.

They were flying over the intimidating Himalayan mountain range known as 'The Hump' which was the only way of getting supplies to keep China fighting a million Japanese occupying forces.

Flight 60 left Kunming where it had dropped off a load of gasoline and ammunition, and was heading back to Dinjan when it disappeared.

They were first American CNA casualties. Browne, from Winnetka, Illinois, was not forgotten, but his family could not afford to mount an expedition to find out what happened to him.

It wasn’t until Mr Willett met Arizona businessman and adventurer Clayton Kuhles that the hunt became a reality.

Mr Kuhles had brought closure to other families through his self-financed searches for American pilots lost and unaccounted for during World War II in China, Burma and India.

He led the team which found and identified the wreckage in China’s Yunnan province. It was one of only a few CNA aircraft losses that had never been recovered.

The book Aluminum Trail lists official reports of all aircraft lost flying 'The Hump' at over 700.

The number of aircrews killed is well over 3,000 - many still unrecovered in the vast and rugged Himalayas.

While the U.S. Government has established agencies to deal with the airmen still missing, most of the aircraft found in recent years have been the result of private expeditions or accidentally discovered.

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