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Frozen in time: An epic story of survival and a modern quest for lost heroes of World War II

1 rating: 3.0
A history by Mitchell Zuckoff
1 review about Frozen in time: An epic story of survival...

Baby it's cold outside

  • Jan 9, 2014
So this might be one of my least favorite holiday songs (the combination of desperate male, sultry female, and Christmas just doesn't work for me) but it is an appropriate title for this review.  Especially because I was reading a book about being trapped on a glacier during one of the coldest fronts to hit the northeast in years (our temperature dropped from mid-40s to below zero in less than 24 hours.

But the good news is Zuckoff has turned in another fascinating gem in the small sub genre he has created with his last two books:  accounts of military plane crashes in non combat situations and unlikely locales--here a glacier in Greenland, in Lost in Shangri-la a tropical paradise populated by cannibals.

No cannibals this time, in fact no animal life of any kind, not even the feared polar bears.  Just an American cargo plane with a crew of five lost over Greenland, where the U.S. had several small bases and outposts to forecast the weather in the war zone to the east and to track down Nazi subs and planes.  Then nine men aboard a B-17 bomber sent to find the first lost plane (sadly it is now believed none of the five survived the first crash).  Then tragically a third plane with crew of three went down looking for the B-17! 

Despite the multiple tragedies Zuckoff's story is about the "no man left behind" mindset of the military and the individual heroism and endurance of those who survived (some did; I'll say no more so you can experience the highs and lows as Zuckoff reveals them) and those who risked their own lives and limbs in the search and rescue efforts that extended over an incredible period of months.

The villain of the piece is the vast unfriendly confines of inland Greenland, where vile wind-whipped weather freezes exposed flesh instantly, and hidden crevasses in the glacier surface are always ready and willing to swallow men and equipment whole.   After American planes could locate the survivors and sometimes drop them supplies,  even then despite well known coordinates and a military base or ship just a few miles away, the men on the ice were isolated stranded and utterly alone for weeks at a time.  The near-Arctic winter is unforgiving.

Zuckoff weaves the modern day attempt to recover equipment and remains from the still forbidding glacier Into his account.  While this account pales next to the extraordinary account of heroism and survival of the World War II era, it also has its own share of drama and ends with a bit of a cliffhanger.  Zuckoff clearly marks each section with when it occurred so the "flash forwards" don't detract from the main thread.

Even in the most isolated of places with the most minute of contribution to the war effort, this was truly the Greatest Generation.  Zuckoff has told another tale worth remembering.

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