Missing in the Himalayas
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Missing in the Himalayas
Anatomy of an MIA Mission
Published:
4/21/2005
Format:
Perfect Bound Softcover
Pages:
204
Size:
6x9
ISBN:
978-1-42083-694-3
Print Type:
B/W

Returning to India from China on November 3, 1944, WWII C-46 #996 calls an ominous “Mayday.” The author, himself a Hump pilot on a mission that horrendous night, recalls the violent storms. Nothing more is heard from cargo plane 996. Sixty years later, a Tibetan hunter wanders onto the crashed plane at 14,000 feet An MIA Team based in Hawaii is dispatched to Tibet to excavate and search the crash site.

Missing in the Himalayas connects the dots between the C-46’s crash in 1944 and its excavation in 2004, between a gallant aircrew in WWII and a dedicated MIA recovery team today. The book narrates the high-risk adventure in detail—an anatomy of an MIA mission.

Illustrated with dramatic photographs, Missing in the Himalayas is of special interest to pilots and aviation enthusiasts, to mountaineers, and to WWII history buffs. Aficionados of the CBI theater and the Hump will find the book of particular interest.

THIRD  AND  FOURTH  DAYS  OF  MOVEMENT  Another long and grueling day. We had a 14,600-foot peak to cross and a dangerous pass along a cliff face to negotiate. The weather continued foggy and wet.    ˜ A major problem was developing…Mike Harris began walking more slowly and showing symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness. His condition worsened as we continued to climb. Doc Larsen advised that we get him over the 13,500-foot peak and down as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the medical gear had gone forward with the porters.     ˜ Our packs weighed nearly 100 pounds now because they were saturated by rain . Mike dropped his pack and we had a porter carry it. At the next break I noticed Mike’s nose was running and he was breathing extremely hard. He continued to march on his own without a pack until we got to about 200 feet beneath the pass. Two men assisted him as we crossed the peak and began our descent. At about 13,000 feet he started moving on his own. For the next several hours we descended on Camp 4.     ˜ I note this as the most courageous display during the mission. Harris was all guts. He was hurting more than anyone could imagine. Fighting AMS and physical exhaustion of climbing this terrain at nearly 15,000 feet, he never gave up. He knew how dangerous this movement was for him. He put all his trust and confidence, even his life, in the hands of the team leadership. When we arrived at Camp 4,  just 1500 below the crash site, we knew the worst of the journey was over.      ˜ We made a decision to take a team rest day the next day. With medication and rest, Harris was able to arrive at the crash site two days later. His AMS did not recur.

From the camp site we could look up at what appeared to be one of the plane’s engines far down the slope close to the camp, probably there by gravitational pull. Our reaction was, “This is it… we’re here.” We could hardly wait to get into the cockpit of that plane.   

The next morning we conducted a leaders’ survey, climbing about two hours to reach the crash.  Mike Swam and I scouted out a final base camp just below the crash site while Andy Tyrell, with the assistance of Behn, Castro, and Serna, surveyed the site. Five porters went with us—Bobo, Denzi, Mema, Gumbo, and Puba. Bobo became very special to us and became a good friend of Swam. The porters  move much faster than we did. Bobo was always the one waiting for us, helping us with our weight and leading us to the site.      ˜ As wet and cold as the rest of us, the porters were nonplused by the elements and the conditions. Hard and difficult—this is their life. They know nothing different. Gumbo, whom I befriended, was in fact the Tibetan hunter who discovered the crash years ago. He pointed out the area where he had found the pistol. I was so excited I wanted to walk right over there and take a look. But this was Andy Tyrell’s baby, and I respected the process of how he wanted to go about it. Andy established the site like a crime scene where we would methodically search 3m x 3m grids, working left to right and upwards. It was exciting to be at the crash site, even more exciting to establish our final base camp and organize to do the job we came for.

 

Carl Frey Constein was born in the eastern Pennsylvania town of Fleetwood in 1920. After graduating from college, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet. He received his pilot’s wings and 2nd Lieutenant’s Commission at Waco, Texas, in 1944 and was sent to India to fly supplies and materiel to China across the Himalayan Hump. For his 96 C-46 missions, he was awarded two Air Medals and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war Constein earned a doctorate at Temple University in English and Educational Administration. He has been an English teacher, director of curriculum, superintendent of schools, and education writer. He is the author of six books.

Dr. Constein lives in Wernersville, near Reading, PA. He lectures frequently about the WWII Hump and the China-Burma-India theater of operations. 

 

 
 


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