For those who have read the book The Hunt for Jimmie Browne, you know of our thirty-year effort to bring my cousin James S. Browne (Jimmie) home. For those who have yet to read the book here is its history.
Jim was lost on a WWII flight from Kunming, China to Dinjan, India while flying a C-47 transport for China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). Jim was lost on November 17, 1942 in the early months of the war. CNAC was the developer of the risky routes from India into China in late 1941, before we entered the war, and CNAC initiated the flights that kept beleaguered China fighting the invading Japanese. Eventually the U. S. Army Air Corps developed the massive effort to cross the rugged Himalayas, and kept CNAC under contract throughout the war.
President Franklin D, Roosevelt had made it clear to the Air Corps that ways to supply China must be found to keep China fighting the million plus Japanese troops that had invaded mainland China. Japan had sealed the northern Manchurian border, occupied the coastal cities and islands to the east, and by December 1941 had occupied French Indo-China to the south and its forces were poised to seal off Burma next. The only routes for a chain were through the air, and CNAC and the Air Corp’s Air Transport Command made it happen. China did stay in the war, Japanese troops remained tied up in China even as the war came close to Japan’s mainland.
The cost of the air effort was high. Early flights were in vastly unprepared aircraft, developed from the U.S. airlines and were two-engined, under-powered, unpressurized cargo planes developed from the early DC-3s of the airlines. Later they were converted to more rugged cargo craft labeled the C-47. But the inhospitable terrain, the horrendous winds created in the mountain chain made conditions not only dangerous, but virtually impossible. Yet the pilots persevered even as fatalities rose.
Jim’s was one of the earliest of the lost crews, and on that November day he was simply listed as Missing and forgotten. There was no search effort in those days, pilots were asked to look for wreckage but even if located little could be done toward any rescue effort. But many years later, in the 1990s, our family began researching Jim’s flight and in doing so, made two trips to China. Tips from members of CNAC Association led us to a book written in Chinese by young Liu Xiatong, which recited data transmission from Jim’s aircraft just before it disappeared. That led us to mounting a search effort by MIA Recoveries, Inc.in October 2011, and their successfully locating CNAC # 60, Jim’s aircraft, on a mountain near Dali, China.
Since then we have tried unsuccessfully to bring Jim’s crew home. We have tried the Army’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and its predecessor, JPAC. We have tried veteran’s organizations, politicians, celebrities and even the Chinese Embassy, to no avail, but we still persevere. We have asked that awards be given to the dead crew, that Jim have a place in Arlington National Cemetery, but those requests have all been rejected. In China, Jim has a bust in a Chengdu Museum, is honored on the Monument to Aviation Martyrs in the War Against Japanese Aggression, is listed on the honor roll at Beijing’s Civil Aviation Museum and is honored on the Hump Memorial in Kunming. Yet, in this country there is no recognition of his death at 21 while serving his country. So we continue our efforts, small as they are, to try to rectify the lack of respect shown Jim and others like him, hoping that the future will be more kind to him than the past.