Until I read this book, I had only a superficial familiarity with Greenland’s status as a World War II strategic location. Consequently, I had absolutely no inkling that a group of interesting and heroic individuals existed during that time in such a forbidding land. This book chronicles their stories and goes a very long way to satisfy our natural human curiosity about what their fates entailed.
American military aviators maintained a number of locations around the coast of Greenland to ferry airplanes and supplies to the European war theater. Invariably, this led to a number of assorted mishaps, due to the unpredictable and potentially violent weather of this gigantic land mass. Many aircraft and their crews went down in various locations, and rescue crews performed unbelievable feats to recover as many men as they could. Unfortunately, as the author describes, sometimes the rescuers themselves ended up needing assistance.
Alternating between 1942 and 2012, the story unfolds of a lost bomber and the subsequent crashes of two additional planes on search-and-rescue duty. The unforgiving environment of Greenland’s glaciers becomes the backdrop for the trials and triumphs of the men suddenly forced to survive after their ships fail them. Physical and mental challenges ensue, and more rescuers become involved in finding the now-multiple groups of stranded soldiers.
Zuckoff has crafted a taut, finely told tale from a forgotten corner of the last world war. His talent forces the reader to ignore regular household duties to continue with the spellbinding account; it is hard to believe this is not fiction. Fortunately for everyone (beginning in August 2013) he is posting a blog to continue the saga.
Rating: Moderate. Two f-bombs are dropped three-quarters through the narrative, and one chapter includes vulgar references mostly to bodily waste.