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Frozen in Time — a Duck on ice

11 July 2014

Frozen in Time — a Duck on ice

Frozen in Time: an epic story of survival and a modern quest for lost heroes of World War II, Mitchell Zuckoff, 2014, ISBN 978-0-06-213340-3, 393 pp.

Frozen in Time: an epic story of survival and a modern quest for lost heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff with cover design by William Ruoto

Frozen in Time: an epic story of survival and a modern quest for lost heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff with cover design by William Ruoto

Those who fly, especially in the earlier days, risk becoming stranded in remote as well as harsh locations, As author Zuckoff notes, there is hardly a more remote or harsher locations than Greenland’s ice cap. This ice cap is so vast it is a weather maker for Europe, as huge air masses form arctic temperature domes and slide over to Europe during winters, and Greenland is so expansively remote that its population density would have only two citizens occupying Manhattan (an example of Zuckoff’s wonderful gift of explanation).

Frozen in Time is a tale laden with incredible tragedy and triumph taking places in two times. One time is in 1942, during World War II, and the second time is actually now with the search for most of the U.S. Coast Guard’s MIAs, Lt. John Pritchard and Radioman 1st Class Benjamin Bottoms, who were lost in the crash of their Grumman J2F Duck with a man they risked their lives to rescue, Cpl. Loren Howarth. Mitchell Zuckoff tells the history well with his research as well as in first person since he is part of the recovery team known as “The Duck Hunt”, of course.

The story begins with the crash of a C-53 Skytrooper (a C-47 without the reinforced cargo floor or cargo door) and subsequent crash of a search and rescue B-17 Flying Fortress followed by the crash of the Grumman J2F Duck. Their story would last five months and is epic in perserverance of those surviving the B-17 crash and the continual heroics of their rescuers as they kept them provisioned and attempted several rescue plans. Zuckoff shows how being on Greenland’s ice cap north if 65º North latitude is not for the meek or the unprepared — either during World War II or in the 21st Century.

Zuckoff is an active participant in the Duck Hunt and relates well the personalities and planning involved. He is adept and agile in his descriptions of what we will call “military culture” and “civilian culture” since the operation is a hybridization of both worlds. Those who like the “why” of things will appreciate the civilian cultural aspects and those who rely on military mission mindedness will have their opinion reinforced.

The operation to find the Duck is fraught with trial as Greenland selfishly cherishes her secrets but there is success and it seems recovering the remains of the three servicemen aboard the Duck will soon be possible — and the U.S Coast Guard will have brought home their two most famous MIAs.

Frozen in Time: Those Rescued and Those Lost
Douglas C-53 Skytrooper personnel (all presumed lost on or about the 5 Nov 1942 crash date)
Capt. Homer McDowell Jr. Lt. William Springer SSgt. Eugene Manahan
Cpl. William Everett Pvt. Thurman Johannessen
Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress personnel on board during the 9 Nov 1942 crash date (* perished)
Lt. Armand Monteverde Lt. Harry Spencer Lt. William O’Hara
Pvt. Paul Spina Pvt. Alexander Tucciarone Cpl. Loren Howarth*
Pvt. Clarence Wedel* TSgt. Alfred Best SSgt. Lloyd Puryear
Grumman J2F Duck personnel on board the 29 November 1942 crash date (all lost)
Lt. John Pritchard Jr. Radioman 1st Class Benjamin Bottoms [Cpl. Loren Howarth of the B-17 crew perished with this crew]
Lt. MaxDemorest killed attempting rescue of B-17 crew
8 rescued with 10 lost
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