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Aviation History Book Review: The Aluminum Trail

By Robert L. Willett
10/23/2017 • Aviation History Magazine

The Aluminum Trail: China-Burma-India, World War II, 1942- 1945: How and Where They Died

 by Chick Marrs Quinn

This is unlike any other World War II book. It has no plot, no narrative, more than 3,000 characters and 476 pages of data documenting 696 fatal airplane crashes in the China-Burma-India Theater. It gives the date of the crash, aircraft type, lists the crew members on board and their fates, and chronicles any other established facts about each incident. As such, it’s truly an encyclopedia of the cost of the air war in the CBI, from the laconic (“Aircraft left Kunming at 0900 and has not been heard from since. Crew declared administratively dead.”) to a three-page report on B-24 no. 8308, shot down November 14, 1943, over Burma (a report that describes in considerable detail the crash, capture, losses and survivors of a 10-man crew).

The Aluminum Trail, for example, chronicles the actions of Major Horace S. Carswell, who stayed with his wounded crew members, attempting to land their crippled B-24, and was killed when the bomber hit a mountain in southern China. Carswell was posthumously awarded the only CBI Medal of Honor. Equally heroic were Major Carrol D. Gregory and 2nd Lt. Ralph R. Young, who rode their C-47 down on February 7, 1945, refusing to abandon their 35 Chinese passengers. After bailing out of his C-46, 2nd Lt. Hillyer G. Maveety wandered into Japanese territory. Found by Burmese, he offered them 800 rupees to guide him to safety, but they turned him over to the Japanese, who executed him. A British intelligence agent, a Gurkha, discovered the Allied pilot’s fate and later reported: “These Burmese, their sin was great. I have executed!”

The reason Quinn devoted years of research to this book is clear: Her husband, 1st Lt. Loyal Stuart Marrs Jr., was killed over “the Hump” on February 27, 1945, while flying a C-109 from India to China. Originally published in 1989, her book has been out of print until recently, when the late Quinn’s family authorized reprints from Hunter Printing, now available via Amazon.


Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here

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