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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

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Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II

Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II - Mitchell Zuckoff

Thanks to Coach Gordon Bombay and the Mighty Ducks (D2 to be specific), I already knew that "Greenland" was a bit of a misnomer. Greenland, of course, is covered in ice, while Iceland is allegedly quite lush (although their hockey players are l jerks). However, during World War II, suddenly everyone wanted in on Greenland's oft-forgotten frozen expanse. Not only did the location make for a nice little fueling spot for B-17s en route to either side of the Atlantic, it also could have served as a missile launching pad for axis forces with their sights set stateside. 


The Setup

For those of you who have read Lost in Shangri-la, you're probably aware that WWII plane crash survival stories are kind of Mitchell Zuckoff's thing (in addition to the use of extremely long subtitles). This time around there's a sort of meta story of how the story itself was researched and modern day obsession with what happened in the past (much like in David Gran's The Lost City of Z). I was not a fan of the frame-tale for this one, but it wasn't poorly written, it just didn't add much to the thrill of the read. Also, there are a lot of names involved in this story. I had trouble keeping track of them, so I'm not going to really use them in this review, but Zuckoff's site details the cast of characters.


Greenland B17 Map WWII


Disaster Part One

If any of you have been lifeguards, EMTs or have taken basic first aid, then you'll know that a sure fire way to fail your practical is by not "surveying the scene" before attempting to help. The principle behind this is pretty basic- it's easier to rescue one person than it is two, two than three et cetera. Well, in the Coast Guard/military, that's not how things work- their m.o. is more no man left behind. So, when an American C-53 cargo plane went down with five survivors tapping out distress signals, everyone was all like "of course we'll go rescue them on that crazy-weathered iceberg."


C-47 Skytrain C-53 Skytrooper Dakota


So, after a bit of scouting involving motor sleds and possibly some dogs, a group of brave Coast Guard men, set out in their B-17 PN9E to do some rescuing.


B-17 PN9E crew 1942


More Disaster

Guess what? The B-17 crashed too. This added another nine to the count of men stranded in -40 degree weather with few supplies and low-visibility. If you're a fan of multi-national aeronautical disaster, then this is the book for you, because a Royal Air Force A-20 with a Royal Canadian Air Force crew, also had to make a forced landing on the same east coast ice cap.


RAF Douglas A20 rescued crew with USCG party

So, to sum it all up, we've got three planes down in Greenland in already horrible conditions and, not to get all Game of Thrones-y on you, but winter really was on its way. There's a lot of provisioning going on, near misses with crevasses and the thrill (for me at least) of dogs to the rescue.


Dunlop and dogs to the PN9E Rescue


Duck Hunt

The words "duck hunt" immediately make me think of the annoyingly inaccurate "zapper" and smug, snickering, pixelated dog from the 1980s Nintendo game. The duck hunt in this story, however, deals with a bird of a different feather (I make no apologies for my puns). 


Duck Hunt


Thanks to Rip Riley, everyone should by now know that a seaplane looks like an airplane had a baby with a boat.


Rip Riley Sea Plane


If we run with Rip's metaphor, then the  Grumman Duck would be the phocomelia thalidomide scare poster child because it is one weird piece of aeronautical equipment. 


Grumman J2F Duck


However, the duck and its operators proved their mettle when they were able to successfully land and rescue two of the men stranded in the B-17. The duck too, alas, was lost with its two heroic airmen to the arctic environs on the return trip, never to be seen again...unless, of course, the modern quest for lost heroes were to succeed. 


My take

It's a decent adventure story that will fascinate you if you're into planes. I am not really a plane person (feel free to correct any misnomers or whatever in this review, although I already know that the pictured J2F is the wrong version, but I thought it looked cool), so this wasn't my favorite disaster and discovery tale.