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In 1949, the Cold War escalating across Europe and Asia, the Tibetan Government  feared an imminent invasion by China. They decided to invite someone who could take a message back to President Truman, in the hopes that they would gain international support to halt the Chinese occupation. The invitation went out to the best known newsman of the day to tell their story to the world, Lowell Thomas. He was accompanied by his son Lowell Jr. They would visit Lhasa and meet the 15 year old Dalai Lama. The Thomases were among a handful of foreigners to ever brave this journey, others perishing in the attempt.

Traveling by horseback for many weeks from India, through the high Himalayas and on to Lhasa, the Thomases recorded their epic journey on movie film, photographs and in radio broadcasts. On their return, Lowell Sr. fell from his horse and broke his hip in eight places, making the journey almost impossible.

This film and gallery of images documents this adventure of a lifetime and is perhaps the last record of life in Tibet before it fell to the Chinese Army.

Ever since this trip,  the Thomas family has maintained ongoing relationship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to support his efforts to maintain the cultural and religious freedoms of his country.

Ten years after the Thomas expedition, despite his efforts to negotiate with the Chinese, His Holiness fled to India, where he has lived in exile ever since. Here, Thomas helped set up a school for Tibetan refugees. 

Continuing the family tradition, in 2016, the granddaughter of Lowell Thomas Sr., Anne, returned to visit the Dalai Lama to interview him for a biography of her grandfather. The interview is also available on this site.

Also available are a collection of images taken in 1949, as well as photographs taken in 2016 when a team returned to Tibet to retrace the footsteps of the original expedition.

Lowell Thomas Sr. and Jr. on the way to Tibet

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

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