On a steamy jungle base, Air Force crewmen prepare for the day’s mission, flying supplies from India into China over some of the highest and most dangerous mountains in the world during the second World War.
One out of every three of those crews will not return to fly again.
It’s a story of almost forgotten heroism author and Farmington-native Col. Steven Cornelius believes deserves more attention and one that sparked the idea for his latest book, “Distant Traveler: One Survivor’s Haunting Experience on a Mission Over ‘The Hump’”.
“I believe the guys that flew those missions really need some recognition. They went through hell,” he said.
Cornelius, a 30-year retired Air Force veteran, became fascinated by the stories of this nearly forgotten corner of the World War II conflict. From 1942-45 air crews flew vital supplies over the mountains in Southeast Asia from bases in India. More than one-third of the aircraft were lost either to the unforgiving weather and terrain of the mountains that pushed man and machine to their absolute limits, enemy action, or circumstances that were never to be explained.
Cornelius describes his book as an historical fiction novel and the start of a planned trilogy. The story is told through the eyes of a fictional flight crew flying from India into China. During their mission, their aircraft is attacked by Japanese fighters and forced to crash land in the mountains of Northern Burma. Only two of the six-men survive and the novel follows their hardships as they make their way out of the jungle to be rescued.
The author said he became fascinated by the heroism of these crews and soon found comparatively little had been written about them considering the massive amounts of material written about World War II’s European Theatre. Cornelius said part of the reason for the lack of historical work on the subject is likely the difficulty in traveling to the locations today.
“It’s just extremely difficult to get in and out,” he said.
Retired again from Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Cornelius lives just over the state line in Tennessee today and said he’s already working on books two and three of the new trilogy. The second and third books will continue the story of the men depicted in this first book.
“Books II and III chronicle the lives of the son and grandson of the aircraft commander lost on the mission in Book I and how his loss impacted their lives, decisions and career choices,” he said.
The books will trace their lives through the 1950s and 60s, through Vietnam and into today mixing historical fact with fictional personal stories to shed light on the heroes who continue to battle for America’s freedom.
The book is available on Amazon for Kindle.