The Hunt for Jimmie Browne


The Hunt for Jimmie Browne

An MIA Pilot in World War II China

Robert L. Willett

256 pages
23 photographs, 3 illustrations, 2 maps, index


January 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2020


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

On Tuesday, November 17, 1942, aircraft CNAC No. 60 climbed slowly toward the Himalayas, growing smaller and smaller until it finally faded from sight, never to be seen again—until seventy years later. This is the story of one family’s search for answers about the aircraft and its crew, particularly the co-pilot, James S. Browne.

Browne was a pilot for China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC), an airline jointly owned by the Republic of China and Pan American World Airways and flown under contract with the U.S. Army Air Corps. CNAC’s mission was to pioneer and fly the dangerous Hump routes over the Himalayas to deliver gasoline, weapons, ammunition, and war goods. These supplies were desperately needed to keep China in the war, for if China left the war, more than one million Japanese troops would be free to control the Pacific.

Browne and his crew were killed in a plane crash while en route to Dinjan Airfield in India for supplies. Rescue missions following their disappearance were unsuccessful. Nearly forty years later, Robert L. Willett picks up where the search left off, hoping to find Browne, his missing cousin. After gathering crash-site information on a trip to China, Willett sends a search team on three ascents up Cang Shan Mountain near Dali, China, and finally strikes metal—the scattered wreckage of Browne’s C-47.

From the very beginning of the discovery eight years ago, Willett’s efforts to excavate the site and bring Jimmie Browne home have encountered bureaucratic roadblocks with U.S. government agencies and the Chinese government. His search-and-recover mission continues even today.


Author Bio

Robert L. Willett is an international bank consultant and former president of banks in Michigan and Florida. He is also a military historian and the author of One Day of the Civil War: America in Conflict, April 10, 1863; Russian Sideshow: America’s Undeclared War, 1918–1920; and An Airline at War: The Story of China National Aviation Corporation and Its Men.


"This book offers an interesting account of how one man tried to navigate the many hurdles that are involved in trying to locate MIA remains in a foreign country so many years after World War II."—Roger D. Cunningham, Journal of America’s Military Past

"The Hunt for Jimmie Browne is an engaging story, set in mountains, isolated villages, war memorials, bureaucrats’ offices, and more, with a rather bitter-sweet outcome. Highly recommended."—A. A. Nofi, Strategy Page

“Willett has poignantly captured the heroism of his cousin who went missing over ‘the Hump’ in the China-Burma-India theater of World War II in 1942. It’s a story about the pain a family experiences when one of its own is MIA and the lengths that Willett went to in order to seek closure decades later.”—Sam Kleiner, author of The Flying Tigers: The Untold Story of the American Pilots Who Waged a Secret War Against Japan

“Not only a fascinating account of the short life of the subject but also a synopsis of the various organizations and units that played some role in Jimmie Browne’s life. The book recounts the struggles to bring him home. . . . It reveals that many of our MIA processes are in need of scrutiny.”—Billy McDonald, author of The Shadow Tiger: Billy McDonald, Wingman to Chennault

“The heartwarming story of a search for the remains of a relative who died flying the Himalayan Hump and the search for the aircraft and crew show the difference between a resourceful private American effort and a bureaucratic U.S.-Chinese government approach.”—Barry Martin, author of Forgotten Aviator: The Adventures of Royal Leonard


“Jimmie Browne’s love of flying lured him early into the Second World War. He went to England in 1941 as a ferry pilot, and in 1942 he joined China's paramilitary airline, flying cargo over the ‘Hump’ of the Himalayas. He died young, his body’s location unknown until 2011 and still unrecovered, a story Bob Willett tells fondly and well.”—Daniel Ford, author of Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941–1942

Table of Contents

Part 1. Jim and China
1. James Sallee “Jimmie” Browne    
2. Air Transport Auxiliary    
3. China in the Past    
4. The Long Road to China    
5. China National Aviation Corporation    
Part 2. The Fatal Flight
6. The Flight    
7. The Hump    
8. The Crew    
9. The American Volunteer Group    
10. The Plane    
Part 3. The Search
11. The Search Takes Shape    
12. China National Aviation Corporation Association    
13. MIA Recoveries, Inc.     
14. China Beckons    
15. Planning Begins    
16. The Frustration of Fund-raising    
17. The Ascent    
18. Enter JPAC    
Part 4. The Plot Thickens
19. DPAA, PLA, and Me    
20. Beijing    
21. The Next Step    
22. Disappointment    
23. Square of the Chivalrous Friends of China    

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