Later this year, Osprey will be releasing a book on the 23rd Fighter Group, that famous unit of American flyers who painted their planes with sharksmouths and led a guerrilla war against the Japanese from secret bases within China. 126 pilots lost their lives while fighting for the 23rd, but they were far from the only Allied casualties suffered in the campaign.
To keep those famous flyers armed and to support the Chinese army, it was necessary to fly supplies over the Himalayan Mountains from India. The Americans called it “the hump,” and though there were no enemy fighters with which to contend, it was a dangerous and deadly mission. Over 400 allied aircraft were lost among those high peeks. Officially, the pilots and crews are listed as missing in action.
It is a sad testament in war that men going missing, are officially neither alive nor dead. It is sadder still when the government that sent those men off to war makes no attempt to find them. Although the US government apparently spends over $100 million each year to attempt to locate MIAs, its efforts have not reached into the Himalayas.
However, as reported in the Raleigh News & Observer, an individual has stepped in where the government has failed. Combining his love of mountaineering with a desire to help find these forgotten soldiers, Clayton Kuhles has set up his own website in order to disseminate the information from his finds. To date, he has found, identified, and meticulously recorded eight crash-sites and has leads on another fourteen.
Although in military history we tend to focus on the front-line fighters, these men are always backed by a huge support network, such as the men who flew the hump. These men also risked their lives and often lost them. They too deserved to be remembered. They deserve to be found.